Forum: a coup at the Capitol? Conceptualizing coups and other anti-democratic actions

Jonathan Powell, Salah Ben Hammou, Amy Erica Smith, Lucas Borba, Drew Holland Kinney, Mwita Chacha, Erica De Bruin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term “coup” has been used to describe a diverse range of events. Although recent decades have seen the academic study of coups focus on an increasingly narrow type of military intervention in politics, the general public, governments, and international organizations frequently apply the coup label to a broader set of antidemocratic actions. This was dramatically illustrated after the overrunning of the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, when discussions of the event led to debates about whether or not it constituted a coup. More than a mere matter of semantics, describing an event as a coup can have analytical, normative, and practical implications. The scholars in this forum explore the challenges inherent in distinguishing coups from other types of antidemocratic actions, highlight gaps between academic and popular conceptions of the term, and identify ways in which scholars can productively contribute to public debates around contentious events.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberviab062
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number1
Early online date11 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Mots clés
  • Palabras clave
  • civil–military relations
  • coup d'etat
  • golpe de estado
  • insurrection


Dive into the research topics of 'Forum: a coup at the Capitol? Conceptualizing coups and other anti-democratic actions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this