Norms and Coups d'etat

Christopher Ankersen's picture
Call for Publications
September 15, 2017
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Law and Legal History, Political Science, Political History / Studies, Public Policy



Call for Papers: Norms and Coups d'état


Most countries (either explicitly spelled out in their constitution or contained in other legislation) have laws prohibiting the military's involvement in politics, let alone an outright seizure of power. Moreover, a number of international and regional organizations have passed resolutions aimed at deterring coups. For instance, the OAS, The Commonwealth, and the African Union all have anti-coup principles and have, to varying effect, applied a variety of sanctions on their members who have resorted to, or even attempted, military takeovers.

This notwithstanding, the coup d'etat—the usurpation of a government (usually by a military force or faction) is alive and well. According to recent research, by Naunihal Singh (2016), 55% of countries with a populations more than 100,000 had at least one coup attempt between 1950 and 2000. During that same period, Singh claims, non-Western countries had at least 30% more coup attempts than democratic elections for the executive. And, since the turn of the new millennium, the world has witnessed 66 coups or coup attempts, in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific, and South America.

In his classic work on the subject, Edward Luttwak believed that one of the reasons for the prevalence of the coup was a underlying acceptance of it by some as an effective, if somewhat illicit, means of political change. As he put it, in countries where coups are frequent

the tacit convention has been established that men on the losing side will not be seriously penalized (after all, they might be on the winning side some day), the risks of committing oneself to an uncertain adventure are further diminished. (Luttwak 2016)

Furthermore, outside of the state, recent scholarship suggests that

While the international prohibition against coups has become increasingly entrenched in recent years, it remains highly contested and lacks robust support even from those countries and international bodies that claim to embrace it. (Oduntan 2016)

Oisín Tansey sums up this trend in the title of his 2017 article: The Fading of the Anti-Coup Norm.

Research Focus


The aim of this project is to explore the relationship between coups d'etat and norms, both permissive and prohibitive, at the domestic, regional, and international levels. Where do these norms come from? How are they transmitted/enforced? How effective are they?


Papers are sought that explore this topic from a variety of perspectives. Papers may be theoretical in nature, or be empirically grounded, examining a single case or adopting a comparative viewpoint. Research methods may be qualitative or quantitative.


All submissions should be analytical in nature, rather than simply descriptive. Therefore, it is important that the analytical/theoretical framework used in the research be made explicitly clear in the abstract.


The output of this project is intended for publication in a special issue of a journal or (depending on number of acceptable submissions received) in an edited volume. Therefore, all abstracts submitted should refer to original work (i.e. that which has not been previously published).

Submission Details

Interested authors should submit the following information:


  1. Abstracts (250 words) of the proposed paper; and
  2. Brief (100 word) biographies for authors.



Submissions should be sent to no later than 15 September 2017.

Acceptance decisions will be sent to potential contributors no later than 3 October 2017, with full papers (8000 words) expected by 2 February 2018.


Singh, N. (2016) Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Luttwak, E. (2016) Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook. Revised Edition Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Oduntan, G. (2016) “Can you Really Pull off a Coup D'état these days?” Global Policy.19 July.

Tansey, O. (2017) “The Fading of the Anti-Coup Norm,” Journal of Democracy, 28.1: 144-156.