Recent studies of peasant rebellions in colonial countries have tended to focus attention on the persons who rebelled. The egregious conditions that aroused their indignation, the social and economic transformations that gave them the capacity to act, the leaders who came forward to mobilize them—these are the questions most commonly asked to explain peasant militancy and rebellion.

This perspective can yield only a partial view, for it leaves in the shadows one of the two major actors in such a confrontation; the regime. It is too easily assumed that the fate of traditional or colonial regimes is sealed, and need elicit little interest except as a source of grievances. Yet comparing regimes that have experienced rebellion with those that have not reveals that some have dealt much more successfully with modernization than others. While the attempts of some to modernize institutions only exacerbated the grievances of their restless populations, others have developed new capabilities for ruling. Indeed, the capabilities of political systems are probably more various than either the grievances or the capabilities of the groups challenging them.

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