Navigation auf


Soziologisches Institut

Publication: Explaining mobilization for revolts by private interests and kinship relations

A deep dive into a tale of Swiss family rivalries in 17th century Basel.

A study by the Department of Sociology explores why people in Basel, Switzerland in 1691 joined revolts, even when it seemed against their rational self-interest. The researchers find that distant family connections to those in power can motivate individuals to participate in revolts, suggesting that mobilization for revolts is mainly driven by distant kinship relations to the ruling elite rather than close kinship relations to the rebels.

The study authors are: Niccolò Armandola, Malte Döhne and Katja Rost

Published on December 6, 2023, in Rationality and Society.


Mobilization for revolts poses a significant challenge for rational choice theory because revolts are vulnerable to free-riding, which disincentivizes rational actors from mobilizing. Strong, informal relations such as kinship ties have been identified as factors that can shift the rational calculations of individuals and lead to mobilization for revolts. In social networks that are polarized by the presence of mobilized individuals, such as rebels, and actors opposing the mobilization effort such as the elite, kinship relations have not only a bridging effect but also a diverging one. Building on Tullock’s private interest theory, we develop a framework in which kinship relations determine the extent of individual’s payoffs and costs of mobilization for revolts against an elite. We posit that distant kin of the elite expect high payoffs of mobilization for revolts and face the lowest costs of mobilization for revolts by virtue of their position in the network of kinship relations. Using a unique, hand-collected dataset that reconstructs a revolt in Basel, Switzerland, in 1691, we test our framework and contribute to a better relational understanding of the mechanisms that lead rational actors to mobilize for revolts. Our analyses show that mobilization for revolts is mainly driven by distant kinship relations to the ruling elite rather than close kinship relations to the rebels.

Read the full article here (open access):

Niccolò Giorgio Armandola Malte Döhne Katja Rost

Weiterführende Informationen

This article is part of the SNF project "Aleatoric Governance: Elite transformation in Basel, 1688-1798". 

In this project, we consider the use of lotteries as a governance mechanism for the recruitment of leadership positions in society and in expert organizations. We focus on the use of lotteries in the Swiss city state of Basel in the 18th century. In Basel, lotteries were introduced in the late 17th century in response to an increasing consolidation of power by an inner circle of elite families who had come to dominate the economic, cultural, and political spheres of the city and canton. The declared aim of the lotteries was to mitigate nepotism and restore a balance of power in various areas of local social life, including politics, the guilds, the clergy, and the University. Our analysis focuses on the shifting role of the social networks of the elite families of the Baseler Daig. We will analyze the candidate pools of lotteries, the appointments that resulted, and the social relations that were forged in different spheres of social life: economic, political, religious, intellectual, and kinship. Our analysis will examine whether and how the introduction of lotteries was effective in dissolving the insider relations that pervaded the city at that time.

Project members:
Katja Rost, Malte Döhne, Jonas Geweke, Niccolò Armandola

Instagram Facebook