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Comparison of Revolutions

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Why and What Do We Compare? The Story of Revolution and Democratization
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University
The field of comparative politics starts with the assumption that knowledge in the social sciences must proceed by way of the search for comparisons, or what has been called "suggestive contrasts." Scholars of comparative politics compare in order to discover similarities and explain differences. As infrequent and highly complex events, revolutions have attracted a great deal of attention from comparativists.
In this article, we will address the following topics: • The Concept of Revolution • Why Revolutions Happen? • Can Revolutions be Predicted? • What Do Revolutions Accomplish? • What Are some of the Failures of Revolutions? • Comparing Characteristics and Outcomes of Some Revolutions • Questions
The Concept of Revolution:
According to the American philosopher Richard Rorty "revolution," like such other words as "reason," "democracy," and "socialism" is a "thick word" which can be contrasted with such "thin words" as truth, dialogue, and justice.
How do we define a "revolution?" How are revolutions distinct from other forms of political change such as Coup d'état, rebellion, mutiny, insurrection, or uprising? All of the above nouns may denote acts of violence aimed at changing or overthrowing an existing order or authority. However, there are important legal and political differences among them as well. Coups d'état is a sudden seizure of state power by a small faction that does not necessarily change the social system. It can be regarded as a "palace revolution." Insurrection (or uprising) refers to popular revolts that are limited or can be viewed as a dress rehearsal for a more extensive rebellion. Mutiny is revolt against constituted authority. For example we can speak of a mutiny by the sailors over low pay. Rebellion (or revolt) is an armed, open, and organized resistance to a system of political authority that often fails to achieve its purpose. It can be considered as a violent expression of grievances such as when we speak of a rebellion by the officer corps. Revolution is an all-encompassing and often violent change of the social structure and the political order of a given society leading to the overthrow of one government and its replacement with another. Revolutionary change entails a fundamental alteration in the distribution of power in a nation and the modification of social values, social structures and political institutions. Revolutionaries insist that changes be instituted at once and in full so that the society could develop rapidly. As such, revolutions often involve utopian dreams, hybrid ideologies, and jagged constituencies.
Why Revolutions Happen?
Revolutions can take place for a variety of factors: poverty, socioeconomic paralysis, uneven economic development, lack of opportunities for social mobility, curtailment of political rights, failure to fulfill electoral commitments, success or failure of reform initiatives from the top, illegitimacy of the chief executive, etc. A number of theoretical frameworks have been proposed by scholars to explain why revolutions occur.
Aristotle argued in Politics that "inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions."
Karl Marx presented a class analysis approach that stresses the inevitability of revolution as a consequence of contradictions in economic base. He considered a revolution as the replacement of one mode of production by another (i.e., feudalism by capitalism) and maintained that all the principal sources of human unhappiness can be removed by the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Marx viewed the English, French and American revolutions as "bourgeois revolutions" led by middle-classes who were responding to the expansion need of new capitalist forces of production.
James Davies’ "J-curve" theory of revolution maintains that a revolutionary crisis occurs when a period of rising economic prosperity suddenly gives way to disappointment. The J-curve theory challenges the commonly held view that "misery breeds revolt" by arguing that not all oppression stirs revolt. Instead he posits that revolutions are caused not by absolute but by relative deprivation.
Samuel Huntington’s Political Order in Changing Societies (Yale University Press, 1968) maintains that autocratic modernization in developing societies breeds revolution. This happens due to the fact that modernization expands educational and economic growth, which in turn gives rise to a revolution of rising expectations. However the gap between desire for change (i.e., greater political participation) and accomplished change causes popular frustration that leads to revolution.
Ted Robert Gurr’s Why Men Rebel? (Princeton University Press, 1970) presents a social-psychological approach which views revolution as an individual act. Gurr argues that popular frustration caused by unmet aspirations is the motive force of revolutions. Disoriented individuals faced with tension, marginality and disorder can become the foot soldiers of a revolution.
Charles Tilly’s From Mobilization to Revolution (Addison-Wesley, 1978), presents a resource mobilization theory of collective action which suggests that revolutions are a form of collective action whereby groups act collectively to pursue a common goal. Tilly argues that political discontent is not in and of itself sufficient for a revolution to occur. For this to happen, the aggrieved parties must have the resources and the organization to take collective action. So according to Tilly, revolutions must be studied in terms of the structure of power, the mobilization process (gaining control over resources) as well as the correlation between the two.
Theda Skocpol’s States and Social Revolutions (Cambridge University Press, 1979) presents a "social-structural" approach that argues social revolutions are caused by the breakdown of the state and of the political system. She maintains that three sets of conflicts (dominant and dominated classes; state and dominant classes; and the state in the international context) are central to when and why a revolution takes place. Combining organization theory with class analysis, Skocpol argues that international pressures (particularly military competition or incursion) often reveal the weaknesses in the Old Regime (bankruptcy, military collapse). As state leaders attempt to remedy these weaknesses, they come into conflict with vested political, economic, and social elites. Such conflicts further weaken or paralyze the government thereby creating the opportunity for popular groups to mobilize and express their grievances. This conjecture leads to revolutionary change. Therefore, contrary to Lenin’s main thesis in What is to be Done?" which maintained that a highly centralized vanguard party of professional revolutionaries is a prerequisite for a successful revolution, consolidation of power and eventual construction of communism, Skocpol contends that "revolutions are not made, they come." According to her theory, the difference between successful revolution and the failed ones has to do with the power of the state. Her distinctive criterion for a "social revolution" is mass participation in a project that alters both polity and society (i.e., economy, state, elites, and political culture).
Jack A. Goldstone’s Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (University of California Press, 1993) posits that early modern revolutions (in England, France, China, Ottoman Empire, Japan) were ultimately caused by demographic growth since demographic explosion can give rise to a series of economic and social crises such as growing unemployment, state financial distress, food shortages, and increasing prices. This spiral of crisis can encourage revolutions.
Can Revolutions be Predicted?
It is said that revolutions are better understood than predicted since not every revolutionary situation ultimately leads to revolution. The likelihood, timing, and ferocity of revolutions are difficult to predict since such factors as chance, cultural uniqueness of a country, and interactions of circumstances can impact the outcome. Jack Goldstone has compared the study of revolution to the study of earthquakes. He writes: "When one [revolution] occurs, scholars try to make sense of the data they have collected and to build theories to account for the next one. Gradually, we gain a fuller understanding of revolution and the conditions behind them. And yet the next one still surprises us. Our knowledge of revolutions, like that of earthquakes, is still limited. We can detail the patterns in those that have occurred, and we can list some of the conditions conducive to them; but a better and more exact understanding of precisely when they are likely to occur still lies in the future."
The difficulty of predicting a revolution was manifested in the case of the 1979 revolution in Iran which almost no scholar had predicted. The Iranian revolution took place in the same year in which Skocpol’s States and Social Revolutions was published. However, many of the factors that scholars such as her had identified as essential prerequisites for a revolution were clearly absent. There was no defeat in a war for the Iranian state, the army was intact, there were no serious financial crisis facing the Shah’s government, and finally the peasants played virtually no role in the success of the revolution. Furthermore, with the exception of financial crisis, the revolutions of 1989-1991 in the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe also defied Skocpol's hypothesis.
Despite the above problems, it is still possible to advance a few general propositions: 1. Revolution is the most extreme political option of a dissenting group and is a course taken generally when more moderate attempts to achieve reform have failed. 2. Revolutions occur after long bouts with dictatorship and one of the earliest signs is the mass desertion of intellectuals when they condemn the ruling regime and demand reforms (i.e., England, France, Russia, and Iran). The regime tries to respond to criticisms by undertaking major reforms that are often too little, too late. 3. The fact that during the course of the twentieth century there was a dearth of revolutions in advanced democratic industrial states while revolutions took place in numerous undemocratically-ruled developing countries (Mexico, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran) has given rise to the argument that democracy seems to preclude revolution.
What Do Revolutions Accomplish?
Besides being hard to predict, revolutions are also hard to judge! Should we understand and judge a revolution by its original goals (i.e., development, freedom, liberty, republicanism), its causes (i.e., cultural alienation, rising and unmet expectations), or by its tangible results (i.e., land distribution, health acre improvement, greater role of citizens in governance)? The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky (1879—1940), reminded us that (a) "revolutions are always verbose" and (b) that it is difficult to judge a revolution by its original goals since revolutions hardly ever fully correspond with the intentions of their makers." Furthermore, if we consider a revolution not as "an event in time" but as an "evolutionary process" then how can we account for all the intervening variables that can and often do change the eventual outcome?
Proponents of revolution can correctly argue that modern societies owe much to past uprisings against repressive governments. After all, great social revolutions -- such as the ones that took place in France, Russia, Mexico, and Iran — have been important turning points in domestic, regional, and international politics. They brought forth social and ideological transformations, established new touchstones of legitimacy (i.e., a new constitution), fundamentally altered the developmental routes of the respective states, and managed to embody new ideas in the structure of national governments and political institutions. The English Revolution forced the king to give royal assent to the Declaration of Rights, thereby guaranteeing constitutional government. It also promoted religious toleration and commercial activity. The French Revolution (1789) ended aristocratic rule, brought along nationalism and democracy, and famously declared that the state is a possession of the people rather than of the King since political authority resides and emanates from people. The American Revolution introduced the Bill of Rights which enshrined libertarian principles as the foundation of modern democracy in the United States. The series of violent uprisings in Europe, known as Revolutions of 1848, undermined the concept of absolute monarchy and established an impetus for liberalism and socialism. The Russian Revolution (1917) provided an important alternative to liberal capitalism both economically and morally and thereby helped create two ideological camps in the world. The Iranian revolution (1979) led to the establishment of a state based on political Islam and set in global motion the political phenomenon of "Islamic fundamentalism."
The above positive view of revolution was championed by Barrington Moore Jr. in his important book, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Beacon Press, 1966). Focusing on the cases of "bourgeois revolutions" in Britain, France, and the United States, Moore argues that liberal democracy requires a radical break with past political experience and social structure. He summed up the contributions of these revolutions by saying that the Puritan Revolution permanently changed the role of the monarchy in Britain; the French Revolution eradicated royal absolutism and launched the political rights of modern citizenship; and the American Civil War smashed the landed upper classes and prepared the way for the continued growth of industrial capitalism. According to Moore, all three of these historical revolutions were set in motion by economic development and their victorious outcome eventually laid the foundation for the emergence of liberal democracies. The implication of Moore’s theoretical model was that efforts at a "negotiated" transition to democratic rule were not likely to result in a liberal democracy.
Other scholars have questioned Moore’s proposition that democracy is dependent on a revolutionary break with the past, by reminding us that (a) not all radical breaks contribute to the breakthrough of liberal democracy since throughout history, we have witnessed ample cases of radical social revolutions which instead of paving the way for the formation of a liberal democracy have resulted in the coming to power of more authoritarian regimes; (b) that in many small European countries (i.e., Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) working-class mobilization was the true source of democratic drive and not a revolution; and (c) that since the 1980s, we have seen a series of cases of negotiated transitions to democracy in such places as Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and South America.
What Are some of the Failures of Revolutions?
Revolutions may be festival of the oppressed (or festivals of hope) but they often leave us with a set of ominous lessons as well. First and foremost among these is the eruption and pervasiveness of violence. Marx used to regard violence as "the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one." Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, famously said that "you cannot make a revolution in white gloves," and Lenin’s Chinese counterpart, Mao Zedong further elaborated on the same logic by writing: "A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another."
The problem, however, is that violence does not end with the overthrow of the ancient regime. During the daunting transition process from revolution making to state building, former revolutionary colleagues find themselves engulfed in various power struggles, policy differences or ideological disagreements. In this ambiance violence is established as a corollary of dissent as revolutionary governments ratify a sweeping set of laws dealing with "state security," which treats dissidents as "counterrevolutionaries" and takes away many of their political rights (i.e., France, Russia, and Iran). Hence, it has become a common development in revolutions that the initial supporters of the revolution end up being persecuted. As the French-Algerian philosopher and author, Albert Camus, has put it "every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.
Another problem pointed out by the critics of revolutionary change is that revolutions often replace one evil with another, sometimes leading to opposing counterrevolutions. It is an oft-touted fact that revolutions lead to more centralized and muscular governments than had existed under the pre-revolutionary regime. Revolutionary states often do not allow a multi-party political system or a free press. Hence, it is a paradox of revolution that despite mass mobilization and socioeconomic upheaval, new forms of authoritarian rule often emerge. This authoritarianism often manifests itself in the emergence of a cult of personality around an all-powerful leader (Emperor Napoleon after the French Revolution, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Khomeini) which is ironic considering that many Third World revolutions were launched to overthrow the personalistic rule of a discredited executive in the first place (Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iran).
Comparing Characteristics and Outcomes of Some Revolutions
In teaching students about revolution, teachers may wish to highlight some of the following similarities and differences about characteristics and outcomes of revolutions. • Revolutions are conducive to utopian and Manichean ideologies that divide the world into a simple binary opposite between the good and the evil. • At first it is the moderate reformers who seize the reins of state only to be displaced by the more radical elements. • The peasantry was the greatest single social force supporting the revolutionary cause in Mexico, Russia, and China. • Iran and Russia are the only two countries that experienced two twentieth-century revolutions (Russia in 1905 and 1917; Iran in 1905 and 1979). • Unlike Czar’s army in 1917, the Shah’s remained intact and loyal until he left the country. • Pre-revolutionary Iran and Russia can both be described as "modernizing autocracies." • The Mexican president Porfirio Diaz who twice served as head of state (1876-80 and 1884-1910) and the Shah of Iran (1941-1979) both believed in the modernization of the socioeconomic infrastructure of their respective countries but did not undertake any serious attempt to create dynamic and open political systems. • The leaders of both the Chinese and the Iranian revolutions (Mao and Khomeini) personified charismatic authority. • The founding fathers of the Russian and Iranian revolutions (Lenin and Khomeini) each spend many years in exile. Khomeini’s exile took him to Turkey and Iraq while Lenin had to go to Siberia and then Western Europe. Furthermore, both developed much of their original theoretical contributions to the theory of statecraft while in exile. • The Iranian revolution was the first contemporary revolution in which dominant ideology, forms of organization, leadership cadres, and proclaimed goals were religious in form and aspiration. A revolution led by the clergy, financed by the bazaaris (traditional merchants) and fought by the urban poor, it led to the establishment of the first revolutionary theocracy in the modern era. In other words, while Western revolutions were all against church and state, in Iran it was only directed against the state. • The ascendancy of clerics to political power in 1979 can be attributed to a host of comparative advantages such as financial independence from the state, strong communication networks, capable full-time orators, legal centers of mobilization (mosques, seminaries, Islamic councils, religious foundations), numerous religious occasions, historical/mythical figures, populist slogans, bazaar support, a centralized leadership with a well-defined hierarchical structure, a ready blueprint for action, and the help given to them by the Shah’s regime to counter the leftist forces. • The Iranian revolution also remains the only modern social revolution in which the peasantry and rural guerrilla warfare played a marginal role. • Just like in China, the new revolutionary elites in Iran started a campaign of "Cultural Revolution" to purge their enemies. The "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976) was a movement aiming to "purify" Chinese Communism through a purge of the intelligentsia while the Iranian Cultural Revolution (1980-1982) aimed to purify Iran’s educational and cultural scene from non-loyal and "undesirable" elements (i.e., liberals or communists). In China, the wrath of the "Red Guards" was directed at the head of state, Liu Shaoqi, and party secretary, Deng Xiao-ping while in Iran the "Hezbollahis" [armed gangs of hooligans loyal to the hard-line clergy] targeted leftist forces and liberal intellectuals. In both cases the debate was framed in terms of "revolutionary zeal" being more important than "technocratic expertise." In both countries, the educational system came to a standstill while the cultural revolution was going on. • Like the Soviets who faced the question of "Socialism in one country" or "permanent revolution," the revolutionary elite in Iran faced the question of "Islam in one country" or "World Islamic government?" In both cases the ruling elites ended up opting for the first option which proved to be more pragmatic. • Deng Xiao-ping, Gorbachev, and Khatami were three reformist leaders who ventured to change the direction of a state born through revolution. • There has been no real succession crisis in Iran like we witnessed in USSR or China.
• Why do revolutions happen in some countries but not in others? • Are revolutions inevitable or can they be evaded? • Are revolutions the cause of change or is it the other way around, namely that change prepares the ground for revolution? • Do revolutions conform to one or a few basic patterns? • What are some examples of "atypical" revolutions? • What types of political institutions or public policies help reduce the chances of revolution? • What constitutes a "revolutionary condition"? • What theories of revolution are most useful in cross-national studies covering different world-historical periods? • Did the Russian revolution of 1917 correspond to Marxist theory? Why or why not? • What attitude did the Chinese communists adopt toward such Confucian virtues as filial piety, respect for authority, belief in consensus, hard work, education, prudence, and a willingness to put society's interest before the individual's? • Was the 1979 revolution a liberating force for Iranian women or did they emerge as one of the major losers? • Do post-revolutionary societies have a greater propensity for socio-political unrest than those which do not experience a revolution? Why or why not? • How do revolutionary governments attempt to reform themselves in the face of globalization and increasing popular appeals for participation and democracy?

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...Industry 4.0: The future of manufacturing Technological developments, over the years have driven dramatic increases in industrial productivity since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In the times since, however, these advancements were only incremental, in comparison to the ground-breaking innovations that have occurred in the IT Industry. Now, though, the rapid globalization over the past has led to establishment of many new competitors, competing for the resources necessary for success. Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution or the Techie Industrial Revolution It will have a higher impact and require less implementation of new equipment (40-50%)1. Industry 4.0 is enabled by disruptive technologies that are expected to change the manufacturing sector by 2025 through significant innovation2. The first industrial revolution involved saw the adoption of steam power. The second industrial revolution or Industry 2.0 was all about the rise of electricity and the 3rd revolution was the digital revolution when electronics broke the market. The transformation to the new age Industry entails the inclusion of sensors, machines, workpieces, and IT solutions along the value chains and beyond a single enterprise. This will enable the connected systems to interact for predicting failure and adapting to such circumstances. Consequently, manufacturing productivity increases, fosters industrial growth and in turn will change the face of competition in the factories...

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A Midwife's Tale Analysis

...A Midwife’s Tale The American Revolution affected the lives of many people, including those living ordinary lives on the Maine frontier. Martha Ballard was a midwife during the years following the American Revolution. Through studying Martha Ballard’s recorded thoughts on life and her surroundings, she provides a description of the daily life of those living on the Maine frontier during this time. Citizens during this time period were greatly influenced by their jobs, concerns, religion, gender differences, customs, and changes after the American Revolution. Living in Maine after the American Revolution brought frontier land disputes, troubles in connecting with the outside world, and declines in deference. According to Martha Ballard’s...

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...What major prerequisites allowed the industrial revolution to begin in Britain? Somewhere between 1740 and 1780, Britain experienced a series of rapid economic and social changes. This was to be the beginning of the Industrial revolution. Whilst this revolution would spread to other major countries around the world, it is undeniable that it all started off in Britain. There are many reasons for this, and it is important to note that there was nothing particularly unique about Britain in comparison with the rest of Europe, it was simply a combination of factors came together at the right time for Britain and allowed it to gain a head start in its own industrial revolution. One of the reasons why Britain’s industrial revolution began first actually has a large element of luck involved. Britain was very fortunate in that it had a large amount of natural resources, especially coal, that could be mined. This meant that Britain did not have to rely on foreign trade in order to manufacture their own goods, they could simply mine it for themselves. Iron was another natural resource that Britain was lucky to have in abundance. Both coal and iron would prove to be crucial in the construction of railways, which were vital for transporting resources, goods and people around the country at a much faster rate than had previously been possible. Coal and iron would also be required to build and, subsequently, fuel the factory machines that would manufacture all of Britain’s industrial......

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