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A survey of classical perspectives on revolution with criteria for a structural theory of revolution

Revolution

A Sociological Interpretation

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Michael S. Kimmel

The concept and reality of revolution continue to pose some of the most challenging and important questions in the world today. What causes revolution? Why do some people participate in revolutionary events while others do not? What is the role of religion and ideology in causing and sustaining revolution? Why do some revolutions succeed and some fail? These questions have preoccupied philosophers and social scientists for centuries. In Revolution, Michael S. Kimmel examines why the study of revolution has attained such importance and he provides a systematic historical analysis of key ideas and theories.

The book surveys the classical perspectives on revolution offered by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theorists, such as Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Tocqueville, and Freud. Kimmel argues that their perspectives on revolution were affected by the reality of living through the revolutions of 1848 and 1917, a reality that raised crucial issues of class, state, bureaucracy, and motivation.

The author then turns to the interpretations of revolution offered by social scientists in the post-World War II period, especially modernization theory and social psychological theories. Here, he contends that the relative quiescence of the 1950s cast revolutions in a different light, which was poorly suited to explain the revolutionary upheavals that have marked the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. With reference to the work of Barrington Moore, Theda Skocpol, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Charles Tilly, among others, Kimmel develops the criteria for a structural theory of revolution. This lucid, accessible account includes contemporary analyses of the Nicaraguan, Iranian, and Angolan revolutions.

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About the Author(s)

Michael S. Kimmel teaches Sociology at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Subject Categories

Sociology

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