Sociology Index


A revolution is a fundamental change in political power that takes place in a short period of time when the population rises up in revolt against the political power. Revolution in the sense of representing abrupt change in a social order has occured in history. Revolution is the Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism through the conscious revolutionary action of the organized working class. Four classic cases fit virtually all definitions of revolution, such as the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Xinhai Chinese Revolution, and the American Revolution. The term revolution has also been used to denote great changes outside the political sphere. Such revolutions transformed society, culture, philosophy, and technology, and are known as social revolutions. Charles Tilly defines Revolution as "a social movement advancing exclusive competing claims to control of the state, or some segment of it."

Marxist typology divides revolutions into pre-capitalist, early bourgeois, bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic, early proletarian, and socialist revolutions. Political and socioeconomic revolutions are studied in social sciences, like sociology, political science and history. Ideology and culture are important in shaping revolutionary mobilization and objectives. Revolutions and social movements have much in common.

Social movements may become more radical and revolutionary, or vice versa. Revolutionary movements can scale down their demands and agree to share powers with others, becoming a run-of-the-mill political party. - Jeff Goodwin (4 June 2001). No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991. Cambridge University Press.

Jeff Goodwin distinguishes between a conservative and radical revolutionary movements, depending on how much of a change they want to introduce. A conservative or revolutionary movement will want to change fewer elements of the socio-economic and cultural system than a radical reformist movement. A radical revolutionary movement will thus want both to take an exclusive control of the state, and to fundamentally transform one of more elements of its society, economy or culture.

According to Jeff Goodwin, an example of a conservative movement would be the American Revolutionary movement of the 18th century, or the Mexican Revolutionary movement of the early 20th century. Examples of radical revolutionary movements include the Bolsheviks in Russia, the Chinese Communist Party and other communist movements in Southeast Asia and in Cuba, the movements of the 1979 Iranian Revolution against the shah, and Central American guerrilla movements.

 The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) described two types of political revolution: Complete change from one constitution to another, and modification of an existing constitution.

Political usage of the term 'Revolution' had been well established by 1688 in the description of the replacement of James II with William III. This incident was termed the "Glorious Revolution".

Revolutions in a nutshell:

The Agricultural Revolutions.

The Neolithic Revolution which accured 13000 years ago formed the basis for human civilization to develop. It is referred to as the First Agricultural Revolution.

The First Industrial Revolution brought a major shift in technological, socioeconomic and cultural conditions in the late 18th century and early 19th century that began in Britain and spread throughout the world.

The Green Revolution, commonly referred to as the 'Second Agricultural Revolution' from 1945 onwards brought the use of industrial fertilizers, and greatly increased the world's agricultural output.

The British Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century spurred urbanisation and helped launch the Industrial Revolution.

The Scottish Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century led to the Lowland Clearances.

The Commercial Revolution which brought a period of European economic expansion, colonialism, and mercantilism lasted from approximately the 16th century until the early 18th century.

The Counterculture between 1960–1973 was a social revolution that originated in the United States and United Kingdom, and spread to other western nations. The themes of this social revolution included the anti-war movement, civil rights for African-Americans, rebellion against conservative norms, and drug use.

The Sexual revolution brought a change in sexual morality and sexual behavior throughout the Western world during the 1960s and 1970s.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution brought the People's Republic of China to the brink of civil war, and lasted from 1966 to 1976.

The Iranian Cultural Revolution was a struggle for power within Iran after the return to Tehran February 1, 1979 of Ayatolla Khomeini after a 15-year exile, who was declared ruler for life in December of the same year, and lasted from 1979 to 1989.

The Digital Revolution brought sweeping changes in computing and communication technology, starting from 1950 with the creation of the first electronic computers.