Revolution

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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, motivating 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 center 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.

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[edit] Etymology

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.<ref name="word">EtymologyOnLine:revolution. Last accessed on 27 October 2006</ref>

[edit] Political and socioeconomic revolutions

Perhaps most often, the word 'revolution' is employed to denote a socio-political change in the socio-political institutions.<ref name="Goldstonet3">Jack Goldstone, "Theories of Revolutions: The Third Generation, World Politics 32, 1980:425-53</ref><ref name="Forantorr">John Foran, "Theories of Revolution Revisited: Toward a Fourth Generation", Sociological Theory 11, 1993:1-20</ref><ref name="Kroeber">Clifton B. Kroeber, Theory and History of Revolution, Journal of World History 7.1, 1996:21-40</ref> 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."<ref name="NOWO:9">Goodwin, op.cit., p.9</ref> 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."<ref name="Goldstonet4">Jack Goldstone, "Towards a Fourth Generation of Revolutionary Theory", Annual Review of Political Science 4, 2001:139-87</ref>

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.<ref name="NOWO:5">Jeff Goodwin, No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p.5</ref>

Jack Goldstone differentiates four 'generations' of scholarly research dealing with revolutions.<ref name="Goldstonet4"/> 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.<ref name="Goldstonet3"/>

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.<ref name="Goldstonet3"/> 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).

Image:Communists enter Beijing (1949).jpg
Revolutions differ in many aspects. Soldiers of the victorious People's Liberation Army entered Beijing in June 1949 after many years of armed struggle...

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).<ref name="Goldstonet4"/> 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.<ref name="Goldstonet4"/>

Image:Berlin-wall-dancing.jpg
...but the fall of the Berlin Wall and most of the events of the Autumn of Nations in Europe, 1989, were sudden and peaceful.

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.<ref name="Goldstonet4"/>

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.<ref name="Goldstonet4"/>

[edit] Types of political and socioeconomic revolutions

Some popular types of revolutions as discussed in social science literature include:

[edit] Cultural, intellectual, philosophical and technological revolutions

Image:Maquina vapor Watt ETSIIM.jpg
A Watt steam engine in Madrid. The development of the steam engine propelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the world. The steam engine was created to pump water from coal mines, enabling them to be deepened beyond groundwater levels.
Image:Pb1253.jpg
Playboy became one of the symbols of the sexual revolution.

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:

[edit] See also

Look up Revolution in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

[edit] References

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[edit] External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

bg:Революция cs:Revoluce da:Revolution (politik) de:Revolution et:Revolutsioon es:Revolución eo:Revolucio eu:Iraultza (gizartea) fr:Révolution gd:Ar-a-mach ko:혁명 id:Revolusi he:מהפכה lv:Revolūcija lt:Revoliucija jbo:sutra binxo hu:Forradalom nl:Revolutie ja:革命 no:Revolusjon nn:Revolusjon pl:Rewolucja pt:Revolução ru:Революция sq:Revolucioni simple:Revolution sl:Revolucija sr:Револуција fi:Vallankumous sv:Revolution th:ปฏิวัติ vi:Cách mạng tr:Devrim (tarih) uk:Революція zh:革命

Revolution

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