World Politics

Research Article

The Dynamics of Informational Cascades: The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, East Germany, 1989–91

Susanne Lohmanna1*

a1 Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles

Abstract

This article analyzes the dynamics of turnout and the political impact of five cycles of protest, consisting of forty-two mass demonstrations that occurred on Mondays in Leipzig over the period 1989–91. These demonstrations are interpreted as an informational cascade that publicly revealed some of the previously hidden information about the malign nature of the East German communist regime. Once this information became publicly available, the viability of the regime was undermined. The Monday demonstrations subsequently died a slow death as their informational role declined.

Susanne Lohmann is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has published a number of articles on the informational underpinnings of political action. She is currently working on a book analyzing the informational dynamics of political action and emigration in preunification East Germany and of public opinion polls and elections in postunification East Germany.

* Financial support for this work was provided by the James and Doris McNamara Faculty Fellowship 1991–92, and generous research assistance and field research funds were made available by the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. I would like to thank Christophe Crombez and James Reinhold for their research assistance, and Jonathan Bendor, Carsten Johnson, Timur Kuran, and Achim Ramesohl for useful comments. I am especially grateful to Miriam Golden for her careful reading of two earlier drafts of this article. Parts of this study are based on an interview with Peter Forster (cofounder of the Central Institute for Youth Research in Leipzig and former head of its department for public opinion research) in June 1992, and I thank him for his insights.