Rebellious collective action is rare, but it can occur when subordinates are severely discontented and other circumstances are favorable. The possibility of rebellion is a check—sometimes the only check—on authoritarian rule. Although mutinies in which crews seized control of their vessels were rare events, they occurred throughout the Age of Sail. To explain the occurrence of this form of high-risk collective action, this article holds that shipboard grievances were the principal cause of mutiny. However, not all grievances are equal in this respect. We distinguish between structural grievances that flow from incumbency in a subordinate social position and incidental grievances that incumbents have no expectation of suffering. Based on a casecontrol analysis of incidents of mutiny compared with controls drawn from a unique database of Royal Navy voyages from 1740 to 1820, in addition to a wealth of qualitative evidence, we find that mutiny was most likely to occur when structural grievances were combined with incidental ones. This finding has implications for understanding the causes of rebellion and the attainment of legitimate social order more generally.
Michael Hechter, Steven Pfaff and Patrick Underwood
Steven Pfaff, Michael Hechter and Katie E. Corcoran
How do insurgents engaged in high-risk collective action maintain solidarity when faced with increasing costs and dangers? Based on a combination of process tracing through qualitative evidence and an event-history analysis of a unique data set assembled from naval archives concerning a mass mutiny in the Royal Navy in 1797, this article explains why insurgent solidarity varied among the ships participating in the mutiny. Maintaining solidarity was the key problem that the organizers of the mutiny faced in confronting government repression and inducements for ships’ companies to defect. Solidarity, proxied here as the duration of a ship’s company’s adherence to the mutiny, relied on techniques used by the mutiny leadership that increased dependence and imposed control over rankand- file seamen. In particular, mutiny leaders monitored and sanctioned compliance and exploited informational asymmetries to persuade seamen to stand by the insurgency, even as prospects for its success faded.