2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Politics and government
A revolution (from Late Latin revolutio which means "a turn around") is a significant change that usually occurs in a relatively short period of time. Variously defined revolutions have been happening throughout human history. They vary in terms of numbers of their participants ( revolutionaries), means employed by them, duration, ideology and many other aspects. They may result in a socio- political change in the socio- political institutions, or a major change in a culture or economy.
Scholarly debates about what is and what is not a revolution centre around several issues. Early study of revolutions primarily analyzed events in European history from psychological perspective, soon however new theories where offered using explanations for more global events and using works from other social sciences such as sociology and political sciences. Several generations of scholarly thought have generated many competing theories on revolutions, gradually increasing our understanding of this complex phenomenon.
The word derives from Late Latin revolutio- "a revolving," from Latin revolvere "turn, roll back". It entered English, from Old French révolution, in 1390, originally only applied to celestial bodies. Only circa 1450 was it being used to mean " [an] instance of great change in affairs". The new sense of the word came in connection with the publication of Copernicus' On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, which overthrew the official cosmology decreed by the Catholic Church. From that point on, the word "revolution" acquired its subversive political connotation. The presently dominant political meaning is first recorded 1600, again following French, and was especially applied to the expulsion of the Stuart king James II of England in 1688 and transfer of sovereignty in Britain to William III and Mary. Revolutionary as a noun is first attested 1850, from the adjective.
Political and socioeconomic revolutions
Perhaps most often, the word 'revolution' is employed to denote a socio- political change in the socio- political institutions. Jeff Goodwin gives two definitions of a revolution. A broad one, where revolution is "any and all instances in which a state or a political regime is overthrown and thereby transformed by a popular movement in an irregular, extraconstitutional and/or violent fashion"; and a narrow one, in which "revolutions entail not only mass mobilization and regime change, but also more or less rapid and fundamental social, economic and/or cultural change, during or soon after the struggle for state power." Jack Goldstone defines them as "an effort to transform the political institutions and the justifications for political authority in society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and noninstitutionalized actions that undermine authorities."
Political and socioeconomic revolutions have been studied in many social sciences, particularly sociology, political sciences and history. Among the leading scholars in that area have been or are Crane Brinton, Charles Brockett, Farideh Farhi, John Foran, John Mason Hart, Samuel Huntington, Jack Goldstone, Jeff Goodwin, Ted Roberts Gurr, Fred Halliday, Chalmers Johnson, Tim McDaniel, Barrington Moore, Jeffery Paige, Vilfredo Pareto, Terence Ranger, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Theda Skocpol, James Scott, Eric Selbin, Charles Tilly, Ellen Kay Trimbringer, Carlos Vistas, John Walton, Timothy Wickham-Crowley and Eric Wolf, to name just a few.
Jack Goldstone differentiates four 'generations' of scholarly research dealing with revolutions. The scholars of the first generation such as Gustave Le Bon, Charles A. Ellwood or Pitirim Sorokin, were mainly descriptive in their approach, and their explanations of the phenomena of revolutions was usually related to social psychology, such as Le Bon's crowd psychology theory.
Second generation theorists sought to develop detailed theories of why and when revolutions arise, grounded in more complex social behaviour theories. They can be divided into three major approaches: psychological, sociological and political. The works of Ted R. Gurr, Ivo K. Feierbrand, Rosalind L. Feierbrand, James A. Geschwender, David C. Schwartz and Denton E. Morrison fall into the first category. They followed theories of cognitive psychology and frustration-aggression theory and saw the cause of revolution in the state of mind of the masses, and while they varied in their approach as to what exactly caused the people to revolt (ex. modernization, recession or discrimination), they agreed that the primary cause for revolution was the widespread frustration with socio-political situation. The second group, composed of academics such as Chalmers Johnson, Neil Smelser, Bob Jessop, Mark Hart, Edward A. Tiryakian, Mark Hagopian, followed in the footsteps of Talcott Parsons and the structural-functionalist theory in sociology; they saw society as a system in equilibrium between various resources, demands and subsystems (political, cultural, etc.). As in the psychological school, they differed in their definitions of what causes disequilibrium, but agreed that it is a state of a severe disequilibrium that is responsible for revolutions. Finally, the third group, which included writers such as Charles Tilly, Samuel P. Huntington, Peter Ammann and Arthur L. Stinchcombe followed the path of political sciences and looked at pluralist theory and interest group conflict theory. Those theories see events as outcomes of a power struggle between competing interest groups. In such a model, revolution happen when two or more groups cannot come to terms within a normal decision making process traditional for a given political system, and simultaneously possess enough resources to employ force in pursuing their goals. The second generation theorists saw the development of the revolutions as a two-step process; first, some change results in the present situation being different from the past; second, the new situation creates an opportunity for a revolution to occur. In that situation, an event that in the past would not be sufficient to cause a revolution (ex. a war, a riot, a bad harvest), now is sufficient — however if authorities are aware of the danger, they can still prevent a revolution (through reform or repression).
Many of such early studies of revolutions usually concentrated on the four classic "Great Revolutions", seen as famous and uncontroversial examples fitting virtually all definitions of revolutions: the Glorious Revolution (1688), the French Revolution (1789–1799), the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Chinese Revolution (1927-1949). In time, scholars began to analyze hundreds of other events as revolutions (see list of revolutions and rebellions), and differences in definitions and approaches gave rise to new definitions and explanations. The theories of the second generation have been criticized for their limited geographical scope, difficulty in empirical verification, as well as that while they may explain some particular revolutions, they did not explain why revolutions did not occur in other societies in very similar situations.
The criticism of the second generation led to the raise of a third generation of theories, with writers such as Theda Skocpol, Barrington Moore, Jeffrey Paige and others expanded on the old Marxist class conflict approach, turning attention to rural agrarian-state conflicts, state conflicts with autonomous elites and the impact of interstate economic and military competition on domestic political change. Particularly Skocpol's States and Social Revolutions became one of the most widely recognized works of the third generation; Skocpol defined revolution as "rapid, basic transformations of society's state and class structures...accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below", attributing revolutions to a conjunction of multiple conflicts involving state, elites and the lower classes.
From the late 1980s a new body of scholarly work begun questioning the dominance of the third generation's theories. The old theories were also dealt a significant blow by new revolutionary events that could not be easily explain by them. The Iranian and Nicaraguan Revolutions of 1979, the 1986 EDSA Revolution in the Philippines and the 1989 Autumn of Nations in Europe saw multi-class coalitions topple seemingly powerful regimes amidst popular demonstrations and mass strikes in nonviolent revolutions. Defining revolutions as mostly European violent state versus people and class struggles conflicts was no longer sufficient. The study of revolutions thus evolved in three directions. Firstly, some researchers were applying previous or updated structuralist theories of revolutions to events beyond the previously analyzed, mostly European conflicts. Secondly, scholars called for greater attention to conscious agency in the form of ideology and culture in shaping revolutionary mobilization and objectives. Third, analysts of both revolutions and social movements realized that those phenomena have much in common, and a new 'fourth generation' literature on contentious politics has developed that attempts to combine insights from the study of social movements and revolutions in hopes of understanding both phenomena.
While revolutions encompass events ranging from the relatively peaceful revolutions that overthrew communist regimes to the violent Islamic revolution in Afghanistan, they exclude coups d'états, civil wars, revolts and rebellions that make no effort to transform institutions or the justification for authority (such as Józef Piłsudski's May Coup of 1926 or the American Civil War), as well as peaceful transitions to democracy through institutional arrangements such as plebiscites and free elections, as in Spain after the death of Francisco Franco.
Types of political and socioeconomic revolutions
Some popular types of revolutions as discussed in social science literature include:
- Great revolutions - revolutions that transform economic and social structures as well as political institutions, such as the French Revolution of 1789 or Russian Revolution of 1917
- Political revolutions - revolutions that change only state institutions
- Social revolutions - revolutions that involve autonomous lower-class revolts,
- Elite revolutions or revolutions from above - sweeping reforms carried out by elites who directly control mass mobilization
- Proletarian or communist revolutions - revolutions inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism
- Failed or abortive revolutions - revolutions that fail to secure power after temporary victories or large-scale mobilization
- non-violent revolutions (popularly known as colour revolutions in the post-Cold War period) - relatively recent phenomena where revolutionary political change is combined with very low level of violence
Cultural, intellectual, philosophical and technological revolutions
The term revolution has been used to denote great changes outside the political sphere. They are usually recognized as having transformed in society, culture, philosophy and technology much more than political systems. Such revolutions include, in alphabetical order:
- Agricultural Revolutions, which include:
- Neolithic Revolution (perhaps 10000 years ago), which formed the basis for human civilization to develop. It is commonly referred to as the 'First Agricultural Revolution'.
- Green Revolution (1945- ), the use of industrial fertilizers and new crops greatly increased the world's agricultural output. It is commonly referred to as the 'Second Agricultural Revolution'.
- Biogenetic Revolution (1990s-), the use of genetically modified plants and animals. It is sometimes referred to as the 'Third Agricultural Revolution'.
- British Agricultural Revolution (18th century), which spurred urbanisation and consequently helped launch the Industrial Revolution.
- Scottish Agricultural Revolution (18th century), which led to the Lowland Clearances.
- Cultural Revolution - a struggle for power within the Communist Party of China, which grew to include large sections of Chinese society and eventually brought the People's Republic of China to the brink of civil war, and which lasted from 1966 to 1976
- Digital Revolution - the sweeping changes brought about by computing and communication technology during the later half of the 20th Century
- Industrial Revolution - the major shift of technological, socioeconomic and cultural conditions in the late 18th and early 19th century that began in Britain and spread throughout the world
- Second Industrial Revolution (1871–1914)
- Price revolution - a series of economic events from the second half of the 15th century to the first half of the 17th, the price revolution refers most specifically to the high rate of inflation that characterized the period across Western Europe
- Quiet Revolution - a period of rapid change in Quebec, Canada, in the 1960s
- Scientific revolution - a fundamental transformation in scientific ideas around the 16th century
- Sexual revolution - a change in sexual morality and sexual behaviour throughout the Western world, from 1960s till today