How Do Intergroup Grievances Develop in the Absence of Oppression? Revolutions and Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Uruguay


  • Nicolás M. Somma

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    • Nicolás M. Somma is an assistant professor of sociology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He may be contacted at The author thanks J. Samuel Valenzuela, Rory McVeigh, Juan Andrés Moraes, the members of the Notre Dame Working Group on Politics and Movements, four anonymous reviewers, and the editors of the Journal of Historical Sociology for excellent comments and suggestions.


Political sociologists often assume that widespread grievances require a long legacy of intergroup oppression. Yet in nineteenth-century Uruguay, supporters of the White and Red political parties developed intense grievances against each other even though a legacy of oppression was missing. For explaining this puzzle I present an alternative perspective. It states that grievances first originate among political elites, which mobilize the masses through selective incentives in order to impose their will. If elites and masses are bound by close ties, sustained mobilization facilitates cross-class group identification and allows grievances to “trickle down” from the top to the bottom of the social structure.