Public Choice

, Volume 150, Issue 3, pp 561-578

First online:

Why is there no revolution in North Korea?

The political economy of revolution revisited
  • Thomas ApolteAffiliated withCIW Center for Interdisciplinary Economics, University of Münster Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The paper critically assesses the Acemoglu–Robinson approach to revolutions, as it is focused on inequality of wealth or income rather than on collective-action problems. We show that income inequality is not a sufficient and not even a necessary condition for a revolution to occur. Rather, a necessary condition for a revolution is that any subpopulation can expect net benefits from it, for which inequality is not a precondition. As a result, a certain structure of commitment devices or their absence rather than inequality is crucial for explaining why revolutions sometimes occur and sometimes not.


Credible commitments Dictatorship Political economy Redistribution

JEL Classification

D72 D74 O15 P16