Contentious Politics in the Trump Era
by Charles Crabtree, University of Michigan, Christian Davenport, University of Michigan, Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver, Dana M. Moss, University of Pittsburgh, Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona, Emily Hencken Ritter, University of California, Merced, and Christopher Sullivan, Louisiana State University
In our paper, we identify a potential problem in recent works on repression in the American context. The concern here is that papers, popular articles, and blog posts often use the term ‘repression’ in a non-standard way, sometimes even confusing it with two other related concepts: oppression and discrimination. By including a large range of state activities under the ‘repression’ label, we limit our ability to discuss the phenomenon with any precision. We also might potentially prevent scholarly accumulation and synthesis by a creating a conceptual wedge between researchers.
In light of these concerns, we construct a conceptual map that distinguishes between repression, oppression, political discrimination, and non-political discrimination. In line with Goldstein (1978), we think that ‘repression’ is defined by two key features: (1) it involves the threat or application of physical violence and (2) that it is meant to deter political opposition (in action or thought). This is in contrast to ‘oppression’, which is commonly used to describe violent behavior by the state that does not target individuals or groups for political purposes. As we show in the paper, both of these concepts can be viewed as subtypes of discrimination.