Authors: Kristian Stokke, Nyi Nyi Kyaw


Resistance against autocratization is an important contemporary issue that calls for increased scholarly attention. The global wave of autocratization has generated a proliferation of research on the drivers of autocratization, but fewer studies on the possibilities, strategies, spatialities, and effectiveness of resistance. This article responds to these knowledge needs through a case study of revolutionary resistance against full autocratization in Myanmar after the 2021 military coup. The article examines the junta’s strategies for autocratic control, trace the development of the resistance movement and analyze its strategies, spatialities and effectiveness. The article shows that the coup has been followed by a mass resistance movement that is remarkably successful in countering the regime strategies for authoritarian consolidation and survival. We argue that this effectiveness rests on the movement’s ability to deploy mutually reinforcing strategies of economic, symbolic, political, and armed resistance to contest the military’s claims on state authority, legitimacy, economic resources, and monopoly of armed force. The Myanmar case thus confirms the centrality of civil resistance under full autocratization, but also points to the importance of insurgent political institutions and armed resistance to counter authoritarian repression, legitimation, and co-optation strategies. The case study also shows that the spatialities of resistance strategies – being both embedded in places and territories and extended through spatial networks and scalar strategies – are key contributors to the effectiveness of the movement. This broad mobilization behind a common revolutionary goal offers the best prospect for defeating military dictatorship in Myanmar and provides relevant lessons for similar cases elsewhere.