PNAS2014-12-02 7:05 PM

Brothers in arms: Libyan revolutionaries bond like family

Abstract

What motivates ordinary civilians to sacrifice their lives for revolutionary causes? We surveyed 179 Libyan revolutionaries during the 2011 conflict in Libya. These civilians-turned-fighters rejected Gaddafi’s jamahiriyya (state of the masses) and formed highly cohesive fighting units typical of intense conflicts. Fighters reported high levels of “identity fusion”—visceral, family-like bonds between fighters and their battalions. Fusion of revolutionaries with their local battalions and their own families were extremely high, especially relative to Libyans who favored the revolution but did not join battalions. Additionally, frontline combatants were as strongly bonded to their battalion as they were to their own families, but battalion members who provided logistical support were more fused with their families than battalions. Together, these findings help illuminate the social bonds that seem to motivate combatants to risk their lives for the group during wartime.


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