Skip to main content

Sociology: Events


The Changing Face of Revolution, 1900-2014

The Changing Face of Revolution, 1900-2014
Hosted by: Sociology # University of Edinburgh; Speaker: Mark Beissinger # Princeton University
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
6th Nov 2015 13:00 - 6th Nov 2015 15:00
CMB Seminar Rooms 1 & 2 - Ground floor

Defining a revolutionary episode as a mass siege of an established government with the aims of displacing the incumbent regime and substantially altering the political or social order, I explore the changing character of revolution as a mode of regime-change using a new dataset on revolutionary episodes from 1900 to 2014.   I show that we live in a revolutionary era in which attempts to overthrow government through large-scale mass mobilization occur at a significantly greater pace than was true during the first half of the twentieth century or the Cold War.  A combination of social and political forces--global urbanization, geopolitical change, and the emergence of new communications technologies--have led to a shift in the character and frequency of revolutionary activity worldwide.  While social revolution has grown marginalized, and the agrarian-bureaucratic societies that Skocpol identified as so central to social revolution have now urbanized, a new model of urban civic revolt has emerged that aims to mass as many people as possible in central urban spaces in a concentrated period of time with the aim of precipitating defections from an incumbent regime.  Along with this tactical shift, the constituencies mobilized in revolution have altered from peasants and workers to a precarious but emerging middle class, the issues used to frame mobilization have changed from land tenure and social inequality to government accountability and containing government abuse, the organizational models underpinning revolution have shifted from vanguard parties to loose coalitions of opposition forces, and the communications technologies connecting revolutionaries have evolved from print and radio to television and new communications media that emphasize visual representation and simultaneity.    The talk will explore the causes and consequences of these and other patterns in the shifting practice of revolution over the past century.

Seminar Series