Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions” provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between states and social revolutions. Skocpol’s argument that social revolutions are shaped by the structure and functioning of the states they confront or seek to transform is a compelling one, and it is backed up by numerous examples throughout history.
One of the most compelling parts of the reading was Skocpol’s discussion of the French Revolution. On page 11, she highlights the fact that the French Revolution was the first of the great modern revolutions and the model for many that followed. This observation underscores the importance of the French Revolution as a historical event and its ongoing influence on our understanding of revolutions.
Another intriguing aspect of the reading was Skocpol’s emphasis on the role of the state in shaping and responding to social revolutions. On page 4, Skocpol suggests that “revolutions are shaped by the structure and functioning of the states they confront or seek to transform”. This notion is significant because it highlights the complex interplay between social and political forces during periods of revolution.
However, one of the least compelling aspects of the reading was Skocpol’s tendency to focus primarily on the political and institutional dimensions of revolutions, while neglecting the cultural and ideological factors that also shape these
This week’s reading, Theda Skocpol’s introduction to “States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China,” offers a compelling and innovative approach to studying social revolutions. Her focus on structural conditions and state roles in revolutions stands out most strikingly compared to our earlier discussions on individual leaders or ideologies as the driving forces of change (Skocpol 3).
Skocpol’s argument that social revolutions only occur under specific structural conditions (Skocpol, 4) appears less persuasive. While well-supported, it leaves little room for any possibility that revolution could arise outside these conditions and may oversimplify matters. Still, her insistence on considering structural conditions adds an exciting and unique viewpoint to studying revolutions. Skocpol’s account challenges ideas developed earlier in the course by shifting focus onto state institutions and their role in revolutions. This new perspective illustrates the significance of understanding their context while emphasizing state institutions’ influence over revolutionary change either facilitatively or prohibitively.
Skocpol’s analysis of the French Revolution emphasizes the significance of state fiscal crisis as a precondition for revolutionary forces to emerge (Skocpol 10). This approach challenges notions that Enlightenment ideas or individual leaders solely drove the event; instead, it emphasizes structural factors as preconditions to revolution, providing a complete picture.
Skocpol’s approach to studying revolutions emphasizes the significance of internal pressures and state responses as key contributors (Skocpol, 15). His analysis contrasts with earlier ones who placed more importance on leaders like Lenin or Bolshevik Party leaders (in his earlier works). His approach emphasizes the necessity of considering external forces such as war when studying revolutions.
Skocpol’s account of the Chinese Revolution emphasizes its cause: state breakdown and warlord rule (Skocpol 21). This perspective draws attention away from Mao and the Communist Party; instead, it highlights structural conditions which enabled revolutionaries to emerge, its success being due in large part to fragmented Chinese state structures that allowed for their rise (Skocpol 22). By emphasizing the fragmented nature of Chinese state formation in his analysis, Skocpol gives us greater insight into factors contributing to it. Skocpol’s work emphasizes the significance of studying social revolutions within their larger historical and structural context. Focusing on state institutions and the circumstances under which revolutions emerge, she provides a more nuanced understanding of the revolutionary processes. This week’s readings have broadened my perspective on revolution, highlighting its significance for state structures as key contributors alongside individual leaders and ideologies. Moreover, Skocpol’s analysis enhances our knowledge about all the factors contributing to social revolutions by showing the value of considering structural conditions as part of any comprehensive analysis of such transformative events.
Very interesting read, I believe however the theory of social revolution is very accurate. She agrees and conveys Karl Marx ideas and understanding of revolutions that it is merely class-based movements growing out of objective structural contradictions within a historically developing and conflict ridden societies. Both Skocpol and Marx convey that the key to society is the mode of production that ultimately builds the socioeconomic forces within a society. The levels of productions then separate people by class and levels of capitalist social structures.
On the other hand, by referencing the Chinese Revolution gives great factual evidence of the reading’s analysis but I can’t help to point out that from the other readings it seems that those political activist believed that the third world countries like Cuba and Vietnam achieved revolution by removing the class social structure. I also agree that this reading reiterated state and social revolutions.
Lastly and just to add, by the reading , I believe that it not only provided clarity but also touched on explaining the successful political transformations both at state and class levels of structures. Skocpol always referencing Marxism and emphasizing what are unsuccessful transformation of political societies and also conveying the power of transformation with its ability to successfully breaking down the state organization and its regimes and building up a new, revolutionary state.
While reading Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions”, the part of the text I found most interesting was her idea that social revolutions are rare in history. (5). This comes after her distinct separation of other similar movements, rebellions, political revolutions, or industrialization, on page 4. By making this distinction and then saying they are uncommon occurrences she is giving the social revolutions the recognition they deserve for successfully pulling off a “rapid, basic transformation of a society’s state and class structures…” (4) which is very difficult to do. By comparing the American Revolution to a political revolution and the French Revolution to a social revolution, I can finally understand why the other authors we read (Kumar, Arendt, Hobsbawn) were all so fixated on the French Revolution. And its because it was so rare!
I also liked the aggregate psychological approach that Skocpol mentions on page 9. I believe that political decisions, like all decisions, are based on ones experiences and emotions, so I understood this approach a lot. Skocpol however believes that this theory is incomplete because it does not take into account societal structures or social conditions that can also lead to revolution. I disagree with this; the structures and conditions of a society were created by people and other people have reactions (either good or bad; depends on their emotions and experiences) with those conditions. Furthermore, people must choose revolution. They make this choice based on their emotions and experiences! Their choices will then decide strategy, points to change, and inevitably whether or not their movement will be successful. So I believe that the aggregate psychological approach is a strong way to approach the phases of a social revolution because it can show why it started, how it went, and how it ended on an individual or group level.
In comparison to other works we have read this semester, I was drawn to Kings work. Applying Kings movement to Skocpols definition of social revolution, we see that the Civil Rights movement was a change of class structure, but there was no regime change in the government, and it definitely was not rapid. Though you could argue it was carried out through class based groups (since Black people tended to be of lower classes), it was most distinctly based on race. There was societal structural change, political transformation (Civil Rights Act 1964), and overtime social transformation. So though this fits about half of her definition, it cannot be considered a social revolution. I was surprised by this because I had always thought of the Civil Rights Movement as a social revolution.
We have been dissecting what a revolution is, whether violence is needed to different events that should or should not be considered a revolution. This week’s reading gave a more in-depth analysis of what should be considered a revolution. Base on Skocpol a revolution or I her terms a social revolution is one where there is a transformation of state organizations, class structures and dominant ideologies. She believes that in order for it to occur class struggles play a key role in it. Most ‘revolutions’ based on Skocpol’s analysis is deficient in theory. For a revolution to be a revolution it should have both a social structure change as well as a political structure change. Most revolutions have either a political structure change or a social structure change. She states that Political Revolutions only transforms the state but not the social structures and are not necessarily achieved through class conflict. Also, another revolution that is known through history is the Industrial Revolution, which she stated that this concept of revolution can transform social structures without a change in the political structure. Skocpol feels that the uniqueness of a social structure is that it both encompass a structural and social change which is a rare occurrence. It is also successful and never failed.
Skocpol’s theory is rooted heavily in Marxist and Political Conflict approach. Marxist as in class upheaval and political conflict with governments or other organizations contending for power. What I found most compelling is the statement “Social revolution makes successful sociopolitical transformation, actual change of state and class structure”. (pg. 5) A revolution should be both a social and political transformation. This do make sense, if there is to be a change it needs to happen in those two areas. The political structure is not what makes up a society it is the people who makes up the society and their interactions with one another as well as their ideologies that creates a social structure. The political structure is to govern and create a just society, so if there is a lapse in that area it trickles down to the social structure as well. Social structures have many different facets to it that can cause inequalities. In order to rectify these issues both structures, political and social, need a change to go in a new direction. For this week reading changes my view on what revolution is. From this perspective many ‘revolutions’ are incomplete of failed. I thought of revolution of just a political change or a social change not combining the two which makes better sense to do. Hence why we are still struggling today in the USA we have not have a true revolution or as Skocpol says a social revolution. We are still plagued with systemic racism which can be classified as a social structure problem.
The reading “States and Social Revolutions” by Theda Skocpol is intriguing due to its detailed examination of the relationship between sates and social revolution. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this reading because Skocpol is able to write concisely and because it made me think a lot about instances in history where these definitions, examples, and henceforth can be applied to various historic events.
The most compelling takeaway from this reading was when Skocpol defined social revolutions as “rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below.” (Skocpol 4). She further explains that it is both a political and economic transformation in the structure of a society, in the lecture we referred to the French Revolution or the Chinese Revolution where economic class was a major factor in these events. While I believe her definition and connection to these historic events is valid, it also drives a bigger picture when she begins to define political revolutions “Political revolutions transform state structures but not social structures, and they are not necessarily accomplished through class conflict.”(Skocpol 4). This is very interesting because this has been said before in past modules by other authors, and it also reinforces the idea to make the distinction as such: The American Revolution was political while the French Revolution was social.
I equally admire her examination of the Chinese Revolution’s success, in part due to the fact that Chinese was a lot of independent and often warring states, therefore it was a major factor in encouraging those to support the cause for a unified country with more benefits than that of a state tucked in between dozens of others. However, what I found least compelling was the lack of acknowledgement for cultural or ideological factors to be part of her definition of a social revolution, while I guess in writing this, has made me realize adding in cultural or ideological factors could complicate the definition. In other words, this complicated definition of a social revolution could not be applied on a broader scale in relation to historic events, which appears to be its true intent.
I really enjoyed this reading by Skocpol due to its breadth of detail while also reinforcing prior authors and assigned readings like Kumar, Arendt, and King ideas on revolution, essentially echoing their ideas and somewhat evolving it by stating the following, “It is, rather, a set of administrative, policing, and military organizations headed, and more or less well coordinated by, an executive authority.”(Skocpol 29). This is what hit it on the nail for me because it is similar to what King said, what Arendt said, etc. Skocpol connects to a lot of past authors and has reinforced my understanding in the concept and definition of revolution and more so the various types of revolution. Furthermore, these readings helped me understand how we can not only analyze and define revolution, but use these assigned readings as a form of guide or toolbox to examine past and current events.
The most compelling part from this week’s reading was when Skocpol defined social revolutions as “rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below.” (Skocpol 4). Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions” provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between states and social revolutions. Her focus on structural conditions and state roles in revolutions stands out most strikingly compared to our earlier discussions on individual leaders or ideologies as the driving forces of change. Skocpol’s argument that social revolutions are shaped by the structure and functioning of the states they confront or seek to transform is a compelling one, and it is backed up by numerous examples throughout history. She further explains that it is both a political and economic transformation in the structure of a society in which transforms different aspects of that part of the world. “Nor have social revolutions had only national significance. In some cases social revolutions have given rise to models and ideals of enormous international impact and appeal especially where the transformed societies have been large and geopolitically important, actual or potential Great Powers,” (Skocopl 7). To be sure, social revolutions have not been the only forces for change at work in the modern era. Social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below. Political revolutions transform state structures but not social structures, and they are not necessarily accomplished through class conflict.
This week’s reading really brought the concept of revolution full circle from what we read during the first few weeks tying together these last few weeks. After reading Skocpol’s introduction, the key difference between previous modules and her approach to defining revolution is the simple interaction of the state in social revolutions being so fundamental. She begins by noting a lot of prior theories which we have touched on in previous modules, such as Marxist class theories and political-conflict theories. Out of all the theories she lists, I found the most compelling would be the “aggregate-psychological theories, which attempt to explain revolutions in terms of people’s psychological motivations for engaging in political violence or joining oppositional movements.” (Skocpol, 13) I found this approach compelling because I too agree that emotions and the psychological aspects of human nature have a major impact on social revolutions. If it weren’t for the anger, repression, and emotional urges to fight back, revolutions would not occur. She quotes Ted Gurr, stating that the “theory is complex and full of interesting nuances in its full elaboration but is simple enough in essence: Political violence occurs when many people in society become angry, especially if existing cultural and practical conditions provide encouragement for aggression against political targets. And people become angry when there occurs a gap between the valued things and opportunities, they feel entitled to and the things and opportunities they actually get- a condition known as “relative deprivation.”’(Skocpol, 13) This approach resonates with me and we have seen this be the true force behind many revolutions and upheavals in society.
Reverting back to Skocpol’s structural arguments though; despite all the other theories and approaches she mentions, she makes a key distinction that without the aspect of the state, none of these revolutions would have happened. Unlike Marxist approaches where they view the state as simply an “arena” where revolutionaries interact versus a foundation for which these revolutions are even possible. She states “An assumption that always lies, if only implicitly, behind such reasoning is that political structures and struggles can somehow be reduced (at least “in the last instance”) to socioeconomic forces and conflicts. The state is viewed as nothing but an arena in which conflicts over basic social and economic interests are fought out. What makes the state-as-political-arena special is simply that actors operating within it resort to distinctive means for waging social and economic conflicts- means such as coercion or slogans appealing to the public good.” (Skocpol, 29) But it is more than that as she explains: “we can make sense of social-revolutionary transformations only if we take the state seriously as a macro-structure. The state properly conceived is no mere arena in which socioeconomic struggles are fought out. It is, rather a set of administrative, policing and military organizations headed, and more or less well coordinated by, an executive authority.” (Skocpol, 33) This goes deeper than just the socio-economic/class argument that many revolutionary theories follow suit with. This generalization of revolutions being reduced to solely socio-economic factors is what Skocpol’s whole analysis is separating itself from. Her hypothesis is stated clearly on page 37 stating “social revolutions” as defined at the beginning of this work – rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures, accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below-have been relatively rare occurrences in modern world history. Each such revolution, furthermore, has occurred in a particular way in a unique set of social-structural and international circumstances.” (Skocpol, 37)
Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions” is a fascinating text that gives an insight to the impacts that social revolutions have on states. She makes some very important distinctions in the text between what makes a social revolution versus what makes a political revolution and why social revolutions are so rare. She goes into depth about the structural conditions that have to be present in order to make a revolution a social one. Skocpol finds that the most compelling social revolutions are the class driven revolutions where political conflict comes second to changing the social structures of a nation. She stated, “Social revolution makes successful sociopolitical transformation, actual change of state and class structure.” (Skocpol 5). I find this definition of a social revolution most compelling because in order for there to be a true revolution class systems must be overruled. This means that the people who are struggling in the nation will no longer be subjected to such anguish if the revolution is successful. Instead of continuing to toil away and be exploited by the government or the upper classes the social structures will go to a more natural human condition where we are all living equally.
A very compelling point Skocpol makes is that there is a reliance on the majority when it comes to making a revolution. She wrote, “For one thing, it strongly suggests that societal order rests, either fundamentally or proximately, upon a consensus of the majority (or of the lower classes) that their needs are being met” (Skocpol 15). Once there is no more order in a society the steps towards a full upheaval are in motion. This argument really puts into perspective the basis for which all revolutions begin and that is a class of dissatisfied citizens. Whether they are dissatisfied with the government or the social conditions or both of the majority rally up then there will be some sort of revolution.
According to the definition that Skocpol puts out there that a complete successful revolution needs a sort of class upheaval leaves plenty of the revolutions as seen by the previous authors as failed or incomplete. For example, the American revolution was a complete political revolution where class upheaval never occurred due to the obvious fact that there was still a class of slaves. This writing was very interesting because it both reinforced and lessened the idea that I had from the previous readings. I came to the conclusion that a revolution must have a majority of the population backing its cause which was reinforced by this reading. The main difference between my conclusion of a revolution and Skocpol’s are what makes a revolution a success in my opinion the most successful revolutions are those that change the government/political structure while also ensuring that there is an era of relative stability and peace. In Skocpol’s opinion, the French Revolution was an incredible success but for me it was a bit of a failure because of the instability and suffering that occurred as a result. In contrast I view the American revolution as more successful because of the peaceful and stability that the new government gave in the decolonized nation while she would see it as a failure because the class dynamics remained the same. Overall, this was an incredible insight into what a revolution is and it gave some new perspective while also reinforcing what needs to happen for a revolution to have a chance.
Parts of this week’s reading that I found the most compelling is through a number of notorious ways of thinking that Skocpol had mentioned in such reading. A detailed examination that I’ll thoroughly explain within the concepts of social revolutions, and its way of thinking in more of an initial step and concluding ways of response.
Theda Skocpol has deeply explained the concepts of political revolutions and its meaning. Such meaning that can come from a surrounding of people whom have deeply analyzed such thought of how revolutions are brought upon because they are not made, ‘’Revolutions are not made, they come.’’ (Skocpol 1979) Theda Skocpol had emphasized on the critique of how historical revolutions are truly correlated within aspects of international misforms of how it deeply correlates to outcomes in how ‘’Historical revolutions, differently situated, motivated groups have become participants in complex unfoldings of multiple conflicts. These conflicts have been powerfully shaped and limited by existing socioeconomic and international l conditions.’’ (Skocpol 1979) Theda Skocpol had demonstrated the attributions that correlate to revolutions and hows so many categories fit in such place because of how the intentions of ones are not really initiated within the case taking fruition, ‘’in fact, revolutionary movements rarely begin with a revolutionary intention, this only develops in the course of the struggle itself.’’ (Skocpol 1979) Skocpol demonstrated significantly how things in revolution occur during the movements from the people, it shows perservernece. insert other two quotes and explain
The account of revolution from this week’s reading definitely has affected, and reinforced my ideas about revolutions that I have developed in earlier weeks in the course. Such an idea has deeply supported my idea, most likely because it supports my vision that the people do matter during terms of revolutions. Such moments occur when people work collectively to support an idea to successfully challenge a contradictory government, it becomes successful within the people. People do matter, and that revolutions do come but they come stronger during the process because many are challenges due to the suppression. I believe that ‘’challenges only make you stronger’’ and it shows through our studies from all the scholars we have examined that the will of the people only comes stronger during the process of revolutions. This has demonstrated to me that the struggle from the people has shown to develop with the process of revolutionary movements.
Hi Edward! Thank you so much for your post! I love how you concluded Skocpol’s arguments about people working collectively. It truly does not matter what “class” they belong to, as we have thought just because the French and the Russian revolutions were predominantly one “class” against the other. It ultimately narrows down to people. I love how Skocpol challenges us to see the bigger picture of what a revolution might be, and presents the different ways of studying it without truly telling us which one is right or wrong. Great post!
In Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions,” the introduction provides a unique perspective on the factors that contribute to revolutionary change. On page 5, Skocpol argues that successful revolutions require three key factors: a weak state, a mobilized population, and a cross-class alliance. She states that to completely understand this topic, “we cannot make progress by starting with objects of explanations that isolate…..We must look at revolutions as wholes, in much of their complexity.” These factors contribute to a situation where popular uprisings can effectively overthrow the existing government and create a new social and political order.
Skocpol’s emphasis on the importance of a weak state challenges conventional assumptions about the role of the state in maintaining social stability. Many theories of revolution, such as Marxist theories, emphasize the role of the state in maintaining the status quo and promoting the interests of the ruling class. Skocpol’s argument, however, suggests that a weak state can actually contribute to revolutionary change by creating a power vacuum that allows popular movements to gain traction. Skocpol’s emphasis on the importance of a mobilized population, as well, challenges conventional assumptions about the role of individuals in revolutionary change. Many theories of revolution, such as liberal theories, emphasize the importance of individual agency and the power of individuals to effect change through collective action. Skocpol’s argument, however, suggests that it is not just individuals, but rather a mobilized population, that is essential to successful revolutionary change.
Finally, Skocpol’s emphasis on the importance of a cross-class alliance challenges conventional assumptions about the role of class in revolutionary change. Many theories of revolution, such as Marxist theories, emphasize the importance of class conflict and the role of the working class in driving revolutionary change. Skocpol’s argument, however, suggests that a successful revolution requires a broader coalition of interests, including both the working class and other social groups. Overall, Skocpol’s analysis of revolution challenges conventional assumptions about the factors that contribute to social and political change. By emphasizing the importance of a weak state, a mobilized population, and a cross-class alliance, Skocpol offers a unique perspective on the complex social and political processes that underlie revolutionary change.
Hi Ciara! Thank you so much for pointing those three points out! I was actually going for the bigger picture about Skocpol’s opinions on how to study revolutions. I love your point about Skocpol’s emphasis on the cross-class alliance, this definitely challenges what we think a revolution is (because I am pretty sure the majority of us are familiar with the Marxist definition of revolution). There are no classes, but a clash of interests! Also, “classes” was a very 19th-century and early 20th-century concept. Classes are very differently defined nowadays, think about how Skocpol is challenging our thoughts here! Great post! 🙂
I absolutely loved the reading from this week. Even though this was written in the 70s, I believe all the points that Skocpol makes are compelling. And this is why:
First, it places revolution as not only an event of “national” significance, but it puts into perspective an international impact (Page 3). Skocpol demonstrates that the French, Russian, and Chinese Revolutions not only made an impact in their nations (their own society and political entities), but they also made an international impact by affecting, in one way or another, the nations that interacted with these three regions. This is mainly argued with this quote: “major revolutions affect not only those abroad who would like to imitate them. They also affect those in other countries who oppose revolutionary ideals but are compelled to respond to the challenges or threats posed by the enhanced national power that has been generated.” (Page 4).
Secondly, the reading argues that we cannot simplify revolution into a single definition: the revolutions are relative to their historical instances: “We must look at the revolutions as wholes, in much of their complexity” (Page 5). This is later argued on the following pages along with the different methods of study revolution. This brings me to my third point: There is no way to study revolutions. Skocpol goes through different scholars’ theories and methods, such as Marx (page 8), Gurr (Page 9), Tilly (Page 10), and so on. To this, it is argued that the purpose of the chapter is not to point our strengths and weaknesses of any of the theories, rather, “to take issue with certain conceptions, assumptions, and modes of explanation that they all, despite their evident differences, in fact share.” (Page 14). In a few words, there is no right or wrong theory of revolution. This is essential to understanding everything we have learned in this course by reading different scholars and their perspectives on revolution and violence: What IS revolution? What IS violence? It depends on the person, the circumstances with which they find themselves while writing, and many other factors.
Lastly, and this is my favorite point as a future historian: No perfect theory fits with the events that ACTUALLY happened in history. This quote resonated with me: “More important, the purposive image is very misleading about both the causes and the processes of social revolutions that have actually occurred historically.” (Page 17), which he supported with Wendell Phillips’ quote: “Revolutions are not made; they come.” (Same Page). This is essential for our understanding of revolutions and violence. As for everything we have read so far, we cannot try to fit each scholars’ opinion into little boxes; it would be like when we check boxes in a “Race and Ethnicity” section in a survey. They can fit many boxes, or no box at all!
These are my reasons why I believe the points Skocpol made are valid and compelling. The points put our thoughts and opinions into perspective, and challenge us to look at violence and revolutions as very complex concepts that we would probably never find a specific definition, theory, or perfect example.
Reading this week’s text, I found Theda Skocpol’s to one of the most compelling texts we’ve read all semester because of her different perspective and insightfulness when examining the relationship between states and revolutions – social ones to be exact. Skocpol’s analysis concludes that social revolutions are rapid and basic transformations within a society, the state of that society and class structures. This specific perspective and insistence on structural conditions and state institutions is an account that was perhaps not necessarily neglected but passed over throughout the other authors we read from during this course.
Skocpol thoroughly differentiates revolutions from mere rebellions – which involve a revolt from subordinate classes but do not create structural change. Meanwhile political revolutions change state structures as opposed to social structures. She argues that what makes social revolutions unique is that social and political structures occur in a mutually reinforcing fashion and that these changes could occur through intense socio-political conflict.
Skocpol’s approach to analyzing Revolutions emphasizes the significance of internal pressures and state responses as key contributors (Skocpol, 15). This specific approach challenges the ideals set forth by earlier leaders which placed more importance on external factors rather than internal ones.
It is because of ideals like the aforementioned that I personally found Skocpol’s analysis and approach of the French Revolution particularly fascinating. In her analysis she emphasizes the significance of the state fiscal crisis as the underlying condition for Revolutionary forces to emerge (Skocpol, 10). This in particular I found thoughtful because this specific approach challenges notions set forth by the Enlightenment Era – notions like the idea that individuals/ leaders could be the only ones to drive a social event, like a Revolution – instead Skocpol challenges this ideal and emphasizes the structural factors as underlying conditions leading up to a Revolution, hence providing a more complete picture. Skocpol’s deemphasis of agency I assume has been a cause for massive criticism because with the specific type of analysis she creates she diminishes the role of individuals and ideology.
While I did find Skocpol’s text to be the most compelling one, I did find that although she primarily focused on the political and institutional dimensions of Revolutions, she did neglect the cultural factors of it that shape Revolutions as well. Despite this, Skocpol presented a new way to look at social revolutions and analyze them from a structural and state-centered perspective.
Overall, I really did find her text to be the most compelling one as I genuinely found myself delving into her uniquely different approach.
Great discussion, I agree a revolution needs a social structure change in a political structure change she also mentions that political revolution only transforms the state and not the social structure. I believe a revolution consists of both a social transformation and a political transformation. To me it’s the people and the way they interact with each other, and we can also add their ideologies is what makes the society.
In the reading this week I found one quote to be particularly interesting when discussing revolution, the reading says “What is unique to social revolution is that basic changes in social structure and in political structure occur together in a mutually reinforcing fashion. And these changes occur through intense sociopolitical conflicts in which class struggles play a key role.” The part that I find so compelling about this quote is that we are currently living this quote in the United States and one must question if we are going to soon be starting a social revolution in the states. The reason I suggest that a Social Revolution is possible is because when you look at the social unrest that the US is currently up against, you have to understand we are on the brink of losing it. The Black American community currently is being oppresed not only by the criminal justice force but also other social issues while half of America believes they’re overreacting. While all of this unrest is happening to the Black communities, much of the country is living paycheck to paycheck, not being able to afford the basic neccesities of life, can’t go to the doctor because it might completely bankrupt their family. I can name numerous issues and write an entire book on all the social issues going on in the United States but I want to get to the point. While all of these issues I just named are going on, Citizens will look on social media and see the rich 0.1% own all of the wealth, with 30 cars, 10 homes, etc etc, and they are currently struggling to find their next meal for their family. With all the being put together, it’s as easy as a simple math equation. The equation comes out to revolution. Sooner or later American’s will feel they have nothing left to lose and end up Revolting against the current system. It is natural in our ways to fight oppression when we have nothing left to lose.
Another quote that I agree with in this weeks reading is on page 12. The quote goes “Such a movement will not engage in the first place unless the existing social system comes into a crisis.” Using my American example again, this makes sense because for a massive social revolution to take place, you have to have enough citizens be willing to revolt against the system in place. This means the citizens really have to reach a point where they feel the only way to have a sovereign life is to revolt against the system where they have nothing left to lose. The fall of Rome happened because of the same type of current issues that the modern day United States is facing, it really isn’t to hard to imagine this happening in the United States when you look at the data.
Skocpol’s writing made numerous points I agree with, such as there being no such thing as an unsuccessful social revolution, however I mainly agreed with the setbacks past approaches carry. She makes it clear she is not reviewing past approaches but rather isolating what they all lack – “the overriding purpose of this chapter is not to weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various families of theories of revolution. It is rather to take issue with certain conceptions, assumptions, and modes of explanation that they all, despite their evident differences, in fact share.” This allows her to single out three new principles that haven’t been addressed and understood: Non Voluntarist Perspective, International and World-historical contexts, Potential Autonomy of State.
The non voluntarist Perspective focuses emphasizes social conditions, not ideas or goals. At the same time, revolutions are tailored and inspired by their international environment therefore International and World-historical contexts matter. Revolutions are not entirely independent from one another. For example, the revolution in China was a result of the revolution in Russia. Finally under the concept of the autonomous state, the state is not an arena nor a tool by the dominant class. It is rather an agent with a degree of independence, it has separate interests. This last concept is quite innovative and moves past a lot of unnecessary class reductionism, it brings a more accurate mechanism to the model. The state, with its own interest, can be more willing to make concessions relative to other groups who also have noticeable power or leverage in society.
One thing I have a reservation about is the definition presented of social revolution: “Social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below.” This definition potentially filters out events which transformed the way society is organized and concentrates among the revolutions which eventually betray their core principles, as opposed to the definition of someone like Eric Hobsbawm. Although the American Civil War can be considered to have caused rapid change in the way society is organized, under Skocpol’s definition it is not a clear Social Revolution. Furthermore, those events obviously inside the definition are overwhelmingly revolutions which have a tendency to quickly betray their core principles such as the Chinese and Russian revolution. The condition of class-based revolts from below leads to these complications. Would the critical transformations of China under Deng Xiaoping even be considered a Social Revolution?
Skocpol’s reading is very compelling to her analysis between state and social revolution. State revolutions are those that change the structure of the state but do not transform social structures. While social revolutions are can “transform state organizations class structures, and dominant ideologies” (Skocpol, 1979, 3). Social revolutions have risen their ideals to get international impact. Many of these ideals such as the French Revolution’s “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” have reached places such as Latin America, India, etc. They all were after social and national liberation.
Additionally, social revolutions transform the structure of society within a country. Skocpol’s reading is very insightful I find it very compelling how she emphasizes that social revolutions must be analyzed from a structural perspective. “Marx understood revolutions, not as isolated episodes of violence or conflict but as class-based movements growing out of objective structural contradictions within historically developing and inherently conflict-ridden societies. For Marx, the key to any society is its mode of production or a specific combination of socioeconomic forces. of production” (Skocpol, 1979. 7). This was an emphasis on the importance of class struggle.
I find her ideas to be the most compelling out of all of the readings from previous weeks. She argues that political and social structures occur because of sociopolitical conflict, but social revolutions are class-based revolts. This week’s reading affects and reinforces my ideas about Revolution that I have developed in earlier weeks because she makes it extinct between revolutionaries in rebellions. As previously mentioned, revolutions especially, social are transformative of social structure. While rebellions according to Skocpol, “may involve the revolt of subordinate classes- but they do not eventuate in structural change. Political revolutions transform state structures but not social structures, and they are not necessarily, accomplished through class conflict” (Skocpol, 1979. 4). She affects my ideas because she claims social revolutions completely change every single structure in the country for nothing is left the same. She also talks about the structure of the state and how the reaction is important. In previous readings, they didn’t talk about the structure of the state because depending on the structure different outcomes can happen. For example, if the state can react rapidly then a revolution is more than likely to not happen.
Ultimately, Skocpol puts a big emphasis on, a complete change in a social structure where a new system is implemented. Also, class conflict is necessary for there to be a social revolution. Lastly, it is very important to differentiate social revolution from rebellion.
Referring back to the discussion in week 1 regarding our personal definition of revolution I would say that with the readings since then in combination with this weeks module has rounded out my understanding of revolution. Skocpol is able to more clearly define what I had tried to convey from the start of the semester.
The three most compelling ideas in my opinion are presented as the state being at least partly autonomous in relation to the goals of the dominant class (Skocpol, 30), the forces of revolution and their effect in the face of the international political economy (Skocpol, 39) and the need for success at least in social-revolutionary cases (Skocpol, 5).
Skocpol presents the state as being on the outside of the socioeconomic order in that it tries to function as its own entity and act in accordance with its own interests rather than in alignment with the dominant class (Skocpol, 30). This is compelling and shifts my perspective of what a state is because from my point of view as an American citizen it’s easy to say the state is “We the people” when it’s a part of our nationalist identity. But, broken down by Skocpol it allows me to see that the state takes on a shape of its own when attempting to serve the needs of its citizens on every point of the spectrum while maintaining order.
This also leads into how the international system affects the outcomes of revolution and other internal conflicts. Skocpol states that, “these phenomena occur in unique world-historical contexts that change over time, and they happen within international structureen that tie societies to one another” (Skocpol 39). This is consistent with international political economy in that it cedes the domestic affairs of states participating in the international arena can impact regions far beyond their original starting point. Skocpol alludes to this being a subject later in the book when comparing the French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions as influences on one another. Skocpol briefly mentions the “macro-structure” that is built by the intertwining system and how one action or event in one state can lead to a chain of events that indirectly leads to the same in another and thus the chain of events can be called a “macro-phenomenon” where each revolution is just a globally unified continuation of the original event wherein the French Revolution is often labeled as a starting point.
This further exemplifies and establishes that in agreement with Skocpol that, “…successful sociopolitical transformation actual change of state and class structures-part of the specification of what is to be called a social revolution…” (Skocpol, 5). With the success of the French Revolution and others, it is clearly seen on the world stage what the impact of a revolution that has fully brought societal change is, as it is synonymous with the word revolution itself. The same can be said for relatively unsuccessful revolutions effects on both the domestic and international system.
This week’s material takes the Marxist conception as the original and precise. It reveals a new concept of social Revolution as an actual emergent change of great complexity in the macro-structural and historical contexts, which occurs through intense sociopolitical conflicts in which intensifying class struggle plays a key role (Skocpol, p. 7), not merely a conflict or isolated episodes of violence. It is able to affect not only those abroad who would like to imitate them but also those in other countries who oppose revolutionary ideals and need to respond to the challenges or threats imposed by the new power. Revolutions change state organization, class structures, and dominant ideologies (Skocpol, p. 3), such as the existing power holders (Skocpol, p. 11). They can even change the mode of production with new social relations of production. They were also get influenced by the subsequent revolutionary theorists and depended on the multiple sovereignty as much as the formation of coalitions between both contenders’ sides, such as their control of substantial force. A revolution can be pacific or violent, depending on the flexibility (by reforms implementation) or intransigency (like in totalitarian tyrannies) of the ruling authorities, finally resynchronizing the social system’s values and the environment.
Thus, I feel compelled by this concept and, in my opinion, it also reinforces the previous concept that revolutions imply freedom told by Arendt and Kumar, but avoiding the discussion of war and of justifiable use of violence; once revolutions can change states, classes, and ideologists it is implicit the freedom of great part of the society, which takes a new road of developing in several orders: economic, social, and politic. Arendt and Kumar also recognize that Revolution changes in the traditional way, but always looking at the future and consisting of a cycle that arises and falls. That is why it is true what Elbaki Hermassi says: “The world-historical Character of revolutions means that they exert a demonstration effect beyond the boundaries of their country of origin, with a potential for triggering waves of revolution and counterrevolution both within and between societies” (Skocpol, p. 4).
However, I do not feel compelled by the Marxist theory that the Revolution is only possible through intensive and violent class struggle, such as unique ideological propaganda and terror imposed on the masses. Despite the generalized consideration of the growing mutual dependence on revolution and war, there are, throughout history, revolutions that took effect by nonviolent means, like in the Philippines, against Dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Mahatma Gandhi in India overthrowing British colonialism through civil disobedience in 1944 (Stiehm), keeping after the triumph the same power of transformation. Other examples of nonviolent revolutions were the one in East Germany against Erick Honecker in 1989-1990 and even the “pragmatic nonviolence” of Martin Luther King against racism in the 1960s (Stiehm).
Since this is our last post, I would like to thank you guys for sharing this class with me, and also, thanks to our professor for his teachings and guidance throughout the semester. Thank you all; I wish you all the best in your academic and professional careers 🙂
Hello Virgen! I enjoyed reading your response and felt like your opinion added to great insight to this discussion. I liked how you mentioned philosophers/authors perspectives from previous readings we had. Like you, I felt that Hannah Arendt had a good perspective on her definition of revolution and her analysis was similar to Skopcol’s. However, I felt like Skopcol primarily focused on the states role. Additionally, I liked Kumar’s perspective on revolution and how he considered the social and economic aspect of it because I feel like those two things are crucial when it comes to defining revolution and adds more complexity. I also agree with you in that the Marxist theory that a revolution can only happen if its due to violent class struggle and other violent means is not exactly true. All in all, I really liked your response and found it to be very informative!
The discussion that I found most interesting from this week’s reading centers on the structural view, international and global historical settings, and the comparative historical technique. The structural approach looks at how economic and social factors influence the formation of political regimes and how political powers may spark social revolutions (Skocpol, 15). Internal and external elements, such as the existing situation of the globe, were examined in this reading as potentially interacting with one another and contributing to the onset of revolutions. Ideas, ideologies, and foreign players were all covered in the documentary section that focused on the global and historical backdrop of processes. Understanding the similarities and differences between several social revolutions is the goal of the comparative historical approach, which was covered in detail.
The section explaining why France, Russia, and China were picked for this comparison is less attractive than the remainder of the text (Skocpol, 43). While this portion explained some of the backstory surrounding the uprisings, it needed a more in-depth analysis of the other chapters. During the debate section devoted to explaining why these specific countries were selected, less attention was paid to the causes of the revolutions in each of these three nations.
The reading completed this week on social revolutions enhanced my understanding of revolution. It provided a comprehensive analysis of the factors that might influence the spread of social revolutions and their potential outcomes. The reading underlined the need to consider the interconnection of political, economic, and social aspects while analyzing social revolutions. This perspective was shown to have the potential to shed light on the complex dynamics at play in social revolutions, such as the interplay between a society’s internal and external surroundings that yields opportunities for radical change (Skocpol, 40). Previously, I understood there was a need to examine how national and global contexts may foster or stifle the growth of social revolutions. There should be more discussions on the potential autonomy of the state in determining the path of a revolution and the need to adopt comparative historical perspectives to understand the complexities of different revolutions. Besides, comparing and contrasting social upheavals from different eras is essential. This week’s discussion emphasized the need to compare and contrast previous revolutions to identify commonalities and differences that may influence future revolutions’ success (Skocpol, 30). It explained how looking at many revolutions at once may help us grasp the interplay of factors at play in social change. One example of how this kind of reading could provide insight into the complexity of these events and the relative relevance of many contributing elements is by comparing and contrasting the French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions.
Theda Skocpol’s States and Social Revolutions presents an insightful analysis of the causes and nature of revolutions, focusing on the role of states and social structures in shaping revolutionary outcomes. Skocpol’s assertion that state institutions play a crucial part in influencing the dynamics of revolution is one of the text’s most compelling arguments because it offered insight into the challenges that come into play when trying to transform existing systems. She also argues that the strength or weakness of state power can have a significant impact on the outcome of revolutionary struggles.
After reading Skocpol’s analysis on revolution, I realized it offered a different perspective than the ones I’ve read before. For example, Hannah Arendt’s account of revolution emphasizes the importance of public action and the creation of new political institutions as central to revolutionary change. In contrast, Skocpol’s argument focuses more on the role of existing state’s role in shaping revolutionary outcomes. According to Theda Skocpol she states that, “Social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below… the coincidence of societal structural change with class upheaval; and the coincidence of political with social transformation (Skopcol, 1979 pg. 4).”
Furthermore, Skopcol’s account of revolution reinforced the ideas about revolution that I’ve developed from reading Hobsbawm. Eric Hobsbawm’s perspective was like Skocpol’s in that he emphasizes the importance of social structures in shaping revolutionary outcomes. Hobsbawm argues that revolutions are driven by the struggles of social classes, and that the success of these struggles depends on the ability of the revolutionary forces to mobilize and organize effectively. In States and Social Revolutions Skopcol writes, “class relations are always a potential source of patterned social and political conflict, and class conflicts and changes in class relations actually do figure prominently and successful social revolutionary transformations (Skopcol, 1979 pg. 13).” Skopcol argues that revolutionary change is often driven by the mobilization of subordinate groups who seek to transform social structures.
Based off these readings my definition and perspective on revolutions have changed to address the complexity of this topic. I believe that a revolution can be classified as a significant social and political event that ushers in a new political system and is marked by the creation of new institutions, social norms, and political structures. A revolution occurs when people’s grievances reach a critical point, leading to the collapse of the existing political order. A revolution can change society in ways that go beyond politics, such as in the social, economic, and cultural aspects.
Skocpol gives a complex and insightful view on the dynamics and causes of revolutionary transformation in her analysis of revolution. Her emphasis on how state institutions and societal structures influence the course of revolutions added to other authors viewpoints, such that of Eric Hobsbawm. Skocpol provides a compelling description of the way in which social movements can modify preexisting power structures and effect significant societal change by emphasizing the value of collective action and the mobilization of disadvantaged groups.
In “States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China”, Theda Skocpol argues that social revolutions are not mere products of economic or class contradictions, but rather complex political processes that involve the mobilization of mass armies, the transformation of state structures, and the creation of new social institutions.
The book opens with a theoretical framework that describes social revolutions as “rapid, basic transformations of society’s state and class structures, accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below” (Skocpol, 1979). Skocpol then applies this framework to three social revolution cases: the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution. In each case, she examines the pre-revolutionary social, economic, and political institutions, the role of peasant and worker mobilization, revolutionary elite strategy and tactics, and the changes in state power and authority that happened as a result of the revolution.
One of the most compelling arguments of the book is that Skocpol believes that social revolutions are not necessarily driven by the most oppressed or exploited classes, but rather by a diverse array of social groups who have both grievances and resources to participate in collective action. Skocpol identifies the role of the state as a critical factor in social revolutions, “Revolutions are made by people, but not in circumstances of their own choosing” (Skocpol, 1979). Skocpol’s primary argument is that social revolutions are driven by structural and historical circumstances rather than by intentional actions by individuals or groups. According to Skocpol, social revolutions take place when a crisis in state authority, a mobilized populace, and the creation of a formalized revolutionary movement produce circumstances that allow for a significant restructuring of the preexisting social and political order.
Another compelling argument of Skocpol’s is the analysis of the different paths that social revolutions can take. According to Skocpol, the outcomes of social revolutions depend on the strategies and tactics of the elites leading the revolution as well as the broader international context. For instance, the Russian Revolution resulted in the foundation of a communist dictatorship that aspired to revolutionize not only Russia but the entire world, but the French Revolution resulted in the consolidation of a powerful, centralized state that helped modernize France. On the other hand, the Chinese Revolution resulted in the establishment of a socialist state that mixed aspects of traditional Chinese culture with Marxist theory.
As the semester is nearing its end and I compare earlier texts to current ones, my ideas on revolution have not changed. To me, why revolution occurs has always been clear: people are unhappy or exploited and they have the means to fight against it. Revolution has the ability to occur in any given nation by any group of people. What makes it memorable and historical is the drive behind it, not the outcome.
Theda Skocpol’s arguments and conceptualization of Social Revolutions are very useful and compelling. She departs from most theorical scientists in this field and basically says that social revolutions feature two different processes at the same time. On one hand, it combines social class upheaval within the society, and on the other hand, it combines social transformation with political transformation. In this sense, “social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below” (4). Her classification of types of revolutions is practical and applicable because it helps to understand better different historical events and even modern ones. In regard to this she explains that Rebellions “may involve some revolt but they do not eventuate in structural change” (Skocpol 4). Political revolutions transform the structure of the state but not necessarily the structure of the whole society itself and these are not necessary accompanied by class conflicts. Finally, processes like industrialization can cause major economic shifts and social structural changes but they are not related to political, or class struggles by themselves. The key component to understanding Social Revolutions is that these bring about changes in the social structure and political structure simultaneously “in a mutually reinforcing fashion” (Skocpol 5).
In addition to the above mentioned, the author adds success as feature element to her definition of social revolutions (Skocpol 5) and perhaps this is the only questionable argument that I find in the reading. Per Skocpol for a revolution to be a Social Revolution it needs to be successful, there are no unsuccessful social revolutions or attempts of social revolutions, either the revolution crated the social and political changes that it intended, or it didn’t. I think this conception if a little narrowed, especially when compared to so many modern attempts of social revolutions that were not successful because of uncontrollable factors such as long-lasting tyrannies, so deep rooted and internationally backed up that it is almost impossible to break them (as it is the case if Venezuela).
Finally, it is valuable that the author compares different perspectives from other political theorists, she especially draws for Marx’s theory of revolution because as she explains on page 13 “class relations are always a potential source of patterned social and political conflict” (Skocpol), she relies heavily on Marx throughout the text because this is a very compelling and provable argument, which is why she uses France, Russia, and China to exemplify her conception.
Theda Skocpol’s compelling argument establishes the makeup of social revolutions through structural analysis and instantly disqualifies rebellions or political revolutions as events that have the capacity to actualize structural change. Skocpol explicitly states that “social revolutions are rapid, basic transformation of a society’s state and class structure…social revolutions are set apart from other sorts of conflicts and transformative processes above all by the combination of two coincidences…societal structural change with class upheaval…and…political with social transformation” (4). It is the structure of the system that makes revolutions possible.
While breaking down the reading, it was clear to see that Skocpol has a more three-dimensional and modern perspective on social revolutions. Rather than focusing on the mere feeling of discontent of a group of people, Skocpol takes into the equation the interaction between different factional interests, essentially shaping revolutionary outcomes. A statement, written by Wendell Phillips, that caught my attention as I was reading was “[r]evolutions are not made; they come” (17). I feel like the statement is a reflection of Skocpol’s structural analysis. Skocpol’s perspective on revolutions focused less on the anger of the people as the glue that groups individuals together or creates ‘mass-mobilization’, eventually developing a revolution, instead, she focused on the array of components that influence revolutionary transformations. In addition, Skocpol places an emphasis on modernization as an element that “…gives rise to revolution through changing the temper, value commitments, or potential for collective mobilization of people or groups in society…revolution itself creates conditions for… further socioeconomic development” (20). Unlike our past readings, there is stress on the significance of modernity and its influence on revolution over the years, ultimately, pushing away from Marxism’s theory of revolution. Another very important component that caught my attention was the importance of transnational relations and world-historical developments in Skocpol’s argument. Revolutions are not isolated developments that are caused by domestic conflicts or tensions, instead, they must be “…closely related in their causes and accomplishments to the internationally uneven spread of capitalist economic development and nation-state formations on a world scale” (19).
Skocpol’s understanding of revolution is more complex and humanistic, she doesn’t simplify revolutions in a two-dimensional manner. The reading helped me to better understand the intricacy of revolutions in general. The structuralist perspective on revolutions augments the significance of the state, not as a mere ‘arena’, but as an integral facet of a revolution. In addition, it accentuates the influence revolutions have worldwide.
Revolution has been characterized in ways which attach certain connotations to it. Whether it is violent revolution, political revolution, or many others, revolution itself has its foundation in what is attached to it. The revolutions -as seen in previous lectures- of for example King’s nonviolent revolution, the Maoist revolution, as well as the French Revolution all greatly differ from each other. In detail, each of these revolutions may have had some fundamental goal which through further examination can be found, but moreover, the societal structures, in their “interests of whatever socioeconomic or sociocultural” themes present, have their proceedings rooted in their “objective function…to preserve the existing mode of production” (Skocpol, 25, 28). Thus, revolutions to Skocpol are the overturning of these structures into ones whose interests are changed.
Her view of the state is uniquely different from a traditional Marxist view, which only theorizes that the means of production can only match the will of the dominating powers, while ignoring the potential autonomy of the state to become something which does not serve those interests. A “state-centered approach”, she says, is possible, and should not be ignored. Such approach -rather, the rapid transformation of state structures which its function is changed- is social revolution. Her way of viewing the existence of the state is certainly compelling, and her emphasis of class relations as the “materialized concentration” of the state pushes forward a structuralist view which challenges current ideas (Skocpol, 28).
As related to King’s ideas of nonviolent revolution, both Skocpol and King sought to change the structural relations -in one way or another- of the state, which ultimately transforms its function and purpose. However, Skocpol’s idea of the state as a manifestation of class relations yet autonomous is but one of many other structures which apply to the state, and King’s nonviolent revolution proves that the function of a state can be changed through the alteration of unique structures besides class relations. Even though race relations may better apply to society rather than the state, the state still -at that time- was a vessel for the dominating class to exert their power through their will, which at that time, was to implement racist policies.
Moreso, class relations were a significant area of discussion in race-relations, as during King’s time, certain groups were denied opportunities which may have propelled them further economically, and hence, the issue of race is now an issue of class. Rather, it can become another way; class relations are innately bound in state structure, whatever that structure may be. Additionally, class relations itself can exist only through the vessel of state structure, and that it is not one in and of itself. Class relations do not change on their own, they change through -as shown with King- the other state structures in which it is the goal of social revolution to change.
Overall, Skocpol’s ideas of social revolution have certainly altered my view of revolution as a whole, as the intricate and various types of revolution are better outlined, contributing to a broader yet specialized perspective on the topic. Notions of state autonomy can propel revolution to where its compatibility with the state’s existence lies not in its defense or permanence, but through its transcendence; its structures to be dismantled and built back again.
Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions” is a seminal work in the field of comparative politics, which aims to explore the relationship between states and social revolutions. The introduction of the book lays out the central questions that the author intends to address and provides a roadmap of the book’s structure.
Skocpol initially aimed to discuss that social revolutions are fundamentally different from other forms of political change, such as coups or rebellions. Personally, whilst reading, this is the principal idea that I found the most compelling. Specifically, on pages 4-5 Theda describes how Social revolutions involve the mass mobilization of ordinary people, and they seek to fundamentally transform the social order. Skocpol argues that social revolutions are not caused by economic or cultural factors alone, but rather they are the result of a complex interplay between structural factors and political processes.
I found this perspective interesting and complimentary to ideas I began to acquire throughout this entire course and I too found myself agreeing that there are inherent different kinds of revolutions and that not all manifest their desires for progress in the same manner. As I continued with the reading I found the claims that reinforced my initial beliefs within the discussion of revolutions and the multitude of variables that arise out of a state or society’s prospect of change. I initially described such multifarious facets to this conversation in my other discussion posts and enjoyed how she differentiates between the types of revolutions and emphasizes all factors contributing to social revolutions.
Ultimately, not just this week’s reading but the plethora of texts examined have broadened my point of view on the topic and I found that this piece in particular showcased a central underlying notion that should be emphasized in the discussion of revolutions (their past, present, and future), that being the idea that revolutions cannot be condensed into one definition, instead one – during their understanding and analysis of the subject – must seek to present an observant demeanor not ruled by a monochromatic perspective, remaining cognizant to the diversity of approaches and interpretations.
Among the things that seemed very sounded to me in his introduction was first his reasons for how and why revolutionary analyzes should be through her proposal comparative analysis.
The study of the revolution should be carried out through the comparison of other cases. Considering their similarities, aspects in which they are related and thus be able to understand a little better events that are not exact but that have a certain tendency or that end up under the same characteristics of the country or the time in which one lives. This author’s approach seems quite sophisticated, methodological, conceptual and theoretical to analyze these social and historical processes. “The units being compared are independent of one another… Comparative historical analysis is no substitute for theory. Indeed, it can be applied only with the indispensable aid of theoretical concepts and hypotheses” (Pg 43, Skocpol)
Also, when she presents the method that she considers to be available to bring explanations of revolutions in particularly sensitive historical cases. She calls it “comparative history” (Pg 36, Skocpol) which is used to track the history of two states, their institutions or civilizations. What it indicates is that the benefit of this type of study is that they show sociological models with their different national contexts but still viable to arrive at a good analysis. “Social revolutions as such can be treated as a theoretical subject; there is no inescapable requirement to formulate explanotory hypotheses only about categories with large number of cases.” (Pg 36, Skocpol) Here, she also reveals that it is not necessary to take many cases into account to arrive at a theoretical analysis and in its context, nor to focus on applying general concepts, it is enough to use the historical analysis of a few cases. That is why I consider these three countries in their historical processes and characteristics to be able to compare them in their revolutionary processes.
Another of the concepts that caught my attention in this reading was “states are actual organizations controlling (or attempting to control) territories and peopIe. Thus the analyst of revolutions must explore not only class relations but also relations of states to one another and relations of
states to dominant and subordinate classes. (Pg 31, Skocpol) Therefore, what she brings to this concept is that the approach must be made by understanding the intention or purpose of a state, to control its people and therefore its territory. So, it is important to consider the relations of the state both externally and internally. And of course how international circumstances affect socioeconomic structures internally.
Finally, but very important, another of the concepts that seemed interesting to me when she pointed out that “we can make sense of social-revolutionary transformation only if we take the state seriously as a macro-structure. The state properly conceived is no mere arena in which Socioeconomic struggles are fought out. It is, rather, a set of administrative, policing, and military organizations headed, and more or less well coordinated by, an executive authority. Any state first and fundamentally extracts resources from society and deploys these to create and support coercive and administrative organizations” ( pg 29, Skocpol) Because she shows key points from which to focus to make a comparative analysis of the revolution, the State. And presenting the state as what it is, what it is made up of and where to analyze it is key to choosing from each country and understanding this type of event or social phenomenon.
Many ideas, lessons, and perspectives can be taken from Skocpol’s texts. Still, its most insightful quality, with regard to all discussed in this course, is its ability to echo in on the readings we have collectively consumed as a class. From Marx to Wolff to Arendt, we see all their ideas superimposing each other in a fashion designated to the individual perspective.
However, when highlighting specific aspects to convey significance, I found that Skocpol’s emphasis on the masses spurred by circumstance was the bridge gapping all other ideas. This best fit my belief of “revolutions” being the product of an environment rather than the spontaneity founded by ideal men. As cited: “Societal order rests, either fundamentally or proximately, upon a consensus of the majority (or of the lower classes) that their needs are being met” (Skocpol 15). Here we can take a reference to Nepstads readings, which follow along the path of structural circumstances that allow for uprisings to take hold in the first place. Without a certain social climate and intricate specifics purging the stability of a political body’s foundation, no resemblance of challenge or change can be observed; or at least meaningfully. As we see time and time again throughout the weeks, there is always an emphasis on the “third estate”, if you will, that maintains all social order and regime standing. In discussions of violence and nonviolence, methods and practices, thoughts and theories, we consistently see the first in any explanation is the people. Marx argued that the mass urban proletariat would rise up against the elite bourgeoisie, Nepstad believed that the general consensus of the upset majority was the first push in revolutionary endeavors, and Arednt poised that the masses always maintained power since their support equaled the longevity of any regime. Skocpol’s position illuminates all of these ideas by filtering the words of aforementioned scholars into a single message that hands the meaning of change in the hands of those that, I would say, create their environment.
Must I also add, Skocpol indulges in the definition of “revolution” that subtly reveals the extent to which his writings drape our course discussions. Debatle to some indeed, but I feel that his distinction between “social” and “political” revolutions respawn the question of “what is revolution?” and beckons the classification of the term( Skocpol, 5). Tying in with the ideas of week one’s Kumar and Arendt texts, there is a reasonable discussion to be held that ponders what constitutes an event to be deemed an act of the revolutionary drama. Her emphasis on class struggle and its restructuring as a result of mass change, which I would add be either violent or non-violent, synced with my belief in the Krishan Kumar thought that argued that revolution was only designated its term when a total reincarnation of society had occurred. We tend to focus strictly on the power transfer aspect of political upheaval, however, the culture of our predecessors will always remain firmly entrenched in the soil of a ruined society. This is why Maoists sought it necessary to launch their cultural revolutions, and the radical French government to break down the nobility and royalty that dictated the societal positioning of the populace. When the oppressed burn the banners of “class”, and reorder the consumption of the vintage can a new standard be birthed under the term “revolution”.
This week we focused on Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions”, which ultimately provides an understanding to the relationship between social revolutions and states. This reading also examines the causes of the social revolutions. Theda Skocpol talks about how social revolutions are basic and fast transformations of a society’s class structure and state. It can change at any given time.
The part of this reading I found the most compelling is the structural perspective component of revolution. I found this section to be the most compelling because there is a lot to dissect and learn here. One small change in any and they are no longer the same but just similar. All four approaches to this, is the basics. “What seems most striking is the sameness of the image of the overall revolutionary process that underlies and informs all four approaches.” (Skocpol, 14). Revolutions are different from rebellions and from political revolutions, but which go hand in hand with social and political structure.
This week’s reading did not really change my idea of revolution I developed over the past few weeks, but rather expanded on it. I think it’s fascinating that there are so many factors into the different types of “revolutions”, but at the same time there is not much difference since they share a common base. Skocpol argues that social revolutions only occur under certain specific structural circumstances. Based off her definition of the different terms, I can see her point of view and agree. One of the reasons I say it expanded my view on my understanding of revolution is because it makes you think about what would happen if there were a time where a social revolution did occur outside of the specified conditions or if ever possible. Skocpol also explained the differences and similarities in a way that was easy to understand. Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this weeks reading.
In Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions,” the most compelling part was her discussion on the role of states in shaping the outcomes of social revolutions. On page 5, Skocpol asserts that “in all cases, state power was crucial in determining the specific form, outcome, and consequences of revolutionary upheaval.” (Skocpol 5). She argues that the pre-existing state structures in France, Russia, and China shaped the trajectory of their respective revolutions. For instance, in France, the revolution emerged from a weak state structure and aimed to establish a centralized and modern state, while in Russia, the revolution aimed to transform a strong, centralized state into a socialist state. On the other hand, the Chinese Revolution aimed to destroy the pre-existing state structure and establish a new one based on communist ideology.
This argument reinforces my earlier understanding that revolutions are complex events that involve various factors beyond the mere overthrow of a particular regime. The success of a revolution is not only determined by the oppressed and marginalized groups seeking to overthrow the existing power structure but also by the pre-existing state structures and the revolutionaries’ ability to mobilize the masses effectively. Thus, the outcomes of revolutions are shaped by various factors, such as the nature of the state structure, the extent of mobilization of the masses, and the ability to establish new political and social structures.
Moreover, Skocpol’s analysis of the French Revolution’s impact on the state is insightful. On page 10, she argues that “the French Revolution created an entirely new basis for state power,” as it established a centralized and bureaucratic state structure (Skocpol 10). This new state structure was crucial in the subsequent development of modern state power, which became a model for other European countries. Skocpol’s argument reinforces my understanding that revolutions can have far-reaching consequences beyond the overthrow of a particular regime. They can create new political and social structures that shape the course of history.
Skocpol’s analysis provides a valuable framework for understanding the processes of social and political change that accompany revolutions. Her focus on the role of pre-existing state structures in shaping the trajectory of revolutions challenges traditional Marxist interpretations of revolutions as the result of economic contradictions and class struggle. Instead, she emphasizes the importance of state structures, which serve as critical actors in the transformation of societies. This approach provides a nuanced understanding of revolutions that takes into account the complex interplay between state structures, social movements, and political change.
In conclusion, Skocpol’s analysis of the role of states in shaping the outcomes of social revolutions was the most compelling part of this week’s reading. It reinforced my earlier understanding of revolutions while also highlighting the critical role of the state in the success or failure of a revolution. Additionally, her analysis of the French Revolution’s impact on the state provided valuable insights into the far-reaching consequences of revolutions. Overall, this reading has deepened my understanding of the complex factors that influence the outcomes of social revolutions.
In Theda Skocpol’s “States and Social Revolutions she speaks on how theories doesnt focus on the important part of revolutions such as structural elements that causes thre to be a revolution to begin with. Most concentrate on how purposeful behavior causes revolutions but instead she analyzes revolutions from a structural perspective so that it isnt questionable.
One of the most compelling parts of the reading was Skocpol’s discussion of Marx’s theory and how the Mexican Revolution provided the country with the power to declare independence. It is interesting how it is one of the most industrialized countries after colonialism and the least vulnerable to revolutions by the military. This article starts by defining social revolution and which is described as an important political and social structure changes which take place immediately and promote one another. These changes result in long socioeconomic arguments, in and this is the reason why class tensions play a major part along with social tension. Marx viewed revolution as something simply centered around classes and it is a movement emerging from fundamental problems inside violent environments that are still developing and not as small acts of violence or conflict. For Marx, the key to any society is its mode of production or a specific combination of socioeconomic forces of production such as technology, division of labor, etc.
The account of revolution from this week’s reading reinforces the ideas about revolution I have developed in earlier weeks of the course because earlier in this course I believed that the process of social revolutions took time to make changes but in this book, it was stated that they are rapid. Indeed, it isn’t the only route to get something done or to be heard. Fundamental changes to the state and class structures of society are partially carried out by social-based movements. Even successful riots can involve the uprising of weaker classes and will not lead to any changes being made. It stated, “marx sees revolutions as emerging out of class-divided modes of production, and transforming one mode of production into another through class conflict.(Skocpol, 8).This shows that the social shift in structure and class causes social revolutions to be set aside from other conflicts as the processes are occurring. Political revolutions change the state structures but not social structures even though I thought it would mean it changes the society as a whole. Instead, social structures can result in industrialization without having to be the reason behind unexpected political events or changes.
An interesting part of the introduction of States and Social Revolutions, by Theda Skocpol, is her depiction of the various historical analysis on social revolutions and that the conflict over resources is not seen as violence, but instead a symptom or byproduct of a deeper kind of conflict.
We learn that the Marxist approach believes that capitalist production conflicts with social and class relations, which holds them back, like in the French revolution. The most intriguing part was analyzing the Marxist approach through the following quote: “The Marxist conception of class relations as rooted in the control of productive property and the appropriation of economic surpluses from direct producers by nonproducers is, in my view, an indispensable theoretical tool for identifying one sort of basic contradiction in society. (13) “. The examination of the French Revolution by Skocpol emphasizes that it served as both a template for many subsequent revolutions and the first of the great modern revolutions. This insight highlights the historical significance of the French Revolution and how it continues to shape how we perceive revolutions.
The aggregate psychological approach interprets peoples psychological dynamics and the origins of social revolutions. Examples of anger, resentment, frustration, aggression were used by Skocpol as a result of deeper conflicts, “a condition known as “relative deprivation.” (9). The systems/ value consensus approach examines the political institutions that exist and how they express shared values, and act in a way that benefits them. Skocpol states that “this image suggests that the ultimate and sufficient condition for a revolution is the withdrawal of this consensual support and, conversely, that no regime could survive if the masses were consciously disgruntled. (16). The political conflict approach emphasizes the revolutionary process which is carried out by organized groups, which also emphasizes the mobile interest of the community. This approach from Skocpol emphasizes the interests of revolution, which includes resources, power relations between groups.
Ultimately, a revolution must alter both the social and political structures in order to qualify as a social revolution. Skocpol names her method “Comparative historical analysis” and uses the case study of France, Russia, and China and how their politics or social structures typically alter as a result of revolutions. She claims that political revolutions do not necessarily result in class conflict and merely change the state, not the social structures.
In this week’s reading, I found Chalmer Johnson’s analysis of social revolution to be the most compelling and thought provoking. Johnson proposes that the purpose of a revolution is to change the current value set within a society and challenge the socialization influencing the way a group thinks and operates. Johnson claims the onslaught of a social revolution can be attributed to a dis-synchronization of societal contentment and the deterioration of the status quo (Skocpol pg. 12). When a new set of ideals is proposed through growing discontent with the current system or the introduction of new technology, people can become unsettled as their thought process is questioned. Once this discomfort grows, society begins to harbor resentment toward the current regime and look for change. This can put a social system at risk of crisis and thus a breeding ground for revolution. Johnson states that in order for the revolution to successfully implement the changes to the societal structure, it must include violence (Skocpol pg. 11). This will force either the current government to adapt and implement reforms to bring the society back into synchrony, or the government will crumble and be replaced by an entirely new system that represents the desired values.
I find Johnson’s analysis of revolution to be the most compelling because I feel it accurately represents revolution and its causes. It parallels Marxist thinking as the revolution can only occur through dismantling the socialization that forces approval of the current governmental system and proposing new ways of thought that call the current system into question. As both Johnson and Marx discuss, this is only possible when the population becomes conscious of what they are lacking. Johnson calls it dis-synchronization and Marx refers to it as the raising of class consciousness. Regardless, it is the inherent questioning of what the current governmental system is providing and proposing new ideas to reach higher levels of contentment within society. I do disagree with Johnson, based on readings from prior weeks, that the only way to achieve a successful social revolution is with the inclusion of violence. Previously, we have discussed many successful social revolutions that were nonviolent. I believe the power of thought and the unification of a population is much more powerful than weapons of war. Yes, violence is one way of resolution, but it is not the only way. The issue, as both Marx and Johnson mention, is getting the impacted class on the same page of revolting against the status quo in order to achieve greater equality within society. This does not necessarily need to be violent.
To begin with this week’s reading goes on to explain a definition of what a Revolution is, how it plays a role in different societies, what triggers a Revolution to take place, and who is most affected by it. The part that I found most compelling was the way Skocpol defines what a revolution is. The voluntaristic theories popular in the field of politics, according to Skocpol, leave missing an essential aspect of transformations. These hypotheses miss the fundamental elements that produce an unprecedented scenario because they concentrate on how purposeful behavior causes revolutions. Skocpol analyzes transitions from the point of view of structure to close this disparity. A revolution involves simultaneously a shift in social frameworks and governmental authorities. It connects back to when we first started the course and how we got to define a Revolution. According to Skocpol, “revolution is that basic changes in social structure and in political structure occur together in a mutually reinforcing fashion. And these changes occur through intense sociopolitical conflicts in which class struggles play a key role.” I believe this definition is very similar to that which I mentioned in previous discussions. Taking into example the Chinese Evolution, which according to his definition was a social revolution since along with the transformation in government structures, every aspect of social structure also underwent transformation. Moreover, Skocpol’s concept is a radical reinventing founded on new analyses of the data that holds that governments are independent administrative structures that operate in their respective purposes. The groundbreaking indicate that endures is the one which effectively executes a comprehensive improvements scheme, according to the writer’s evaluation, which goes above the root causes of rebellion to include its effects. This claim assists in clarifying that the rebellions she investigated have proven to be so significant over time as well as why many are unsuccessful ones are hardly recalled in the present. “Consequently, analysts are inexorably encouraged to consider peoples’ feelings of dissatisfaction or their consciousness of fundamentally oppositional goals and values as the central problematic issues.” This feeds into the ideology of Revolutions and why most of them take place. Citizen’s emotions are vital towards society, since most decisions happen for a feeling of dissatisfaction as she mentions in the reading. In conclusion, the most compelling aspect of Skocpol’s writing was the definition of what Revolution means, and how individuals act on it as an act of change.
I found much of Skocpol’s writing to be compelling. Her definition of social revolutions as “rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures” (Pg.4) fits perfectly in line with many other definitions of revolution. She does not include the specific use or lack of violence as a method of revolution. However, this definition does differ significantly from the simple fact that she states that revolution occurs when significant changes to structures occurs in response to any kind of revolt, whether it is violent or peaceful. I would agree with her over other scholars in including this detail in the definition. Without significant change, there is usually little evidence that a “revolution” ever occurred and Skocpol would argue herself that you should not even call these events “Revolutions”. Skocpol goes on to discuss three theories that attempt to explain revolutions called “aggregate-psychological theories, systems/value consensus theories, and political conflict theories” (Pg. 9). She goes on to describe how these theories are somewhat useful in explaining how revolutions come about but they all miss key details which she believes could give a better explanation.
Skocpol’s writing has reinforced some ideas and changed other ideas about revolution that I have developed in earlier weeks. The idea that first came to mind while reading is the practice of nonviolent revolutions. I was glad to see that, while she does address the role violence has played in revolutions, she does not explicitly state that violence is needed for a successful social revolution. Previous readings showed me that nonviolent revolutions could be successful as seen in British controlled India by Gandhi, runaway and protesting slaves during the Civil War, and Martin Luther King Jr during the Civil Rights Movement. Other ideas that this reading reinforced was the need for state and social change as a definitive trait of a successful revolution. A revolution without change cannot and should not be labeled a revolution because it would better be described as a simple change in power. Some ideas that this writing had changed was the importance of looking into a country in order to explain its revolution. Skocpol did discuss that internal factors do play a role but there can also be numerous external factors that can also affect how, when, and if a revolution takes place within a country, as can be seem in this quote “political environments create tasks and opportunities for states and place limits on their capacities to cope with either external or internal tasks or crises” (Pg. 30). I had not considered how external factors like the actions of nearby and even distant countries could affect revolutions in another one,
I found this passage to be really important when it comes to putting perspective like Arendt, Marx, and Kumar together. In This weeks reading by Theda Skocpol on the States and Social Revolutions I found his perspective to be quite interesting. Skocpol emphasizes the significance of using social revolutions as a distinct form for political change, rather than a revolt.
He also states that social revolution is not only about overthrowing the current government but instead is to re-organize a society as a whole. He mentions “rebellions, even when successful, may involve the revolt of subordinate classes but they do not eventuate in the structural change. However political revolutions transform state structures but not social structures and they are not necessarily accomplished through class conflict and processes such as industrialization can transform social structures without necessarily bringing about, or resulting from, sudden political upheavals or basic political structural changes”(pg4) What I found very compelling is his approach seems to resonate with that of Martin Luther King Jr. from previous weeks. Martin Luther King Jr. beliefs aligned in the category of conscientious and pragmatic nonviolence.King believed nonviolence was the way to seek peace and justice. I also enjoyed Skocpol breakdown of different revolutions and how they resemble social revolutions.
This weeks reading has made me stick with my original opinion on revolution . Though I enjoyed the passage and questioning and explanations from Skocpol, I would still prefer to stick with my original understanding of revolution. I believe a revolution should mean transformative, political, economical, and social change driven by beliefs, living circumstances, and the right to assemble. This will also involve the overthrow of a current government or organization in hopes of meeting the needs of their citizens and country.
Throughout this course I have been able to gather so many views on what a revolution should mean, and the argument of violence versus non-violence. However, I still do believe a single definition of revolution will alway be up for debate, As we move forward the meaning will continue to change. I really enjoyed passages from Kumar and how he emphasized on revolutionary movements needing to be clear with citizens about the kind of society they are aiming to form once the movement is over.As well as Gandhi and his non- violence approach.
After reading Theda Skocpol’s introduction to States and Social Revolutions, it becomes intriguing to understand how Skocpol defines social revolutions as she believes they are rare, complex, and should be distinguished from other kinds of conflict and political changes. Skocpol defines social revolution as “rapid, basic transformation of a society’s state and class structures” (Skocpol P4). Skocpol believes social revolutions do not only transform society as a whole but more specifically, state and class in a way that combines with structural change and political transformation. Therefore, Skocpol sees social revolution as both a political and economic transformation in the structure of a society. Skocpol emphasizes the importance of not confusing social revolutions with other kinds of conflict and political changes such as industrialization and the American revolution. Thus, Skocpol notes three distinctions from social revolution such as rebellion, political revolutions, and broad base social and economic change. Skocpol sees rebellions, even those that are successful and involve the revolt of subordinate classes, as unable to result in structural change and do not transform the structure of society. Skocpol’s distinction between political revolution and social revolution is her conceptual point. “Political revolution transforms state structures but not social structures”. Furthermore, Skocpol sees other revolutionary processes such as industrialization as transforming social structures without bringing about sudden political and structural changes. Skocpol believes changes in political structures and social structures should “occur together in a mutually reinforcing fashion” (Skocpol P5) Skocpol believes social revolutions are uncommon processes that are incredibly complex and should be distinguished from other conflicts.
Skocpol identifies four early approaches to theorizing causes and dynamics to social revolutions such as a traditional marxist approach, an aggregate psychological approach, a value consensus approach, and a political conflict approach. The aggregate psychological approach is a way of interpreting revolutions that place emphasis on psychological dynamics and seek the origins of social processes such as anger, deprivation, frustration, and the causes of resorting to violence. This approach is not one she favors and views all approaches to have inadequacies yet encompasses these approaches to form her own comparative historical analysis.
Skocpol’s theoretical and historical approach is drawn primarily on the marxist approach and political conflict approach but goes beyond as she produces three major principles of analysis. Her first principle of analysis is a non voluntarist structural perspective, in which Skocpol believes we must look at complex social conditions and social structures in order to understand social revolutions. Ultimately she understands that revolutions do not happen through spontaneous voluntary mobilizations but because of conflicts and dynamics of social processes, conditions, and background structures. That being said, Skocpol argues one major flaw in theories of revolutions is treating revolutions as things that can be explained by internal dynamics and instead thinks you have to understand international dynamics and international structures. Furthermore, she sees it as a mistake to see the state itself as a tool and views the state as a serious actor and a decision maker with forms of power for or against revolutionary processes. “We can make sense of social revolutionary transformations only if we take the state seriously as a macro structure” (Skocpol P29). In other words, Skocpol argues in theorizing revolutionary processes we should see the state as more than an “arena” for playing out interest and other dynamics. The role of the state is fundamental and sets her analysis apart from other theories of revolution. Additionally, Skocpol’s emphasis on social revolution sets her apart from Ardent who emphases political revolution, comparing the American revolution to the ideal model as Skocpol sees the American revolution as a different thing. To be frank, the complexity and research conducted in Skocpol’s analyses is in depth but potentially overlooks the revolutionary process as a whole and focuses more on origins, causes, and dynamics of social revolutions therefore it is a different analysis from previous approaches that still offers valuable insight.
Primarily, this reading reinforces Nepstad, Marxism and the Maoism and reflects the basic revolt of a social class both the peasantry or the bourgeoise. Skocpol breaks down the states and social revolution and outlines Karl Marx theories of social revolution. Skocpol although challenging breaks down the key factors need for a successful revolt and overall social structure transformation. She uses the prime examples of the French Revolution and the mid- century Vietnam revolutions noting the importance of state organizations, class structures and dominant ideologies. Inherently, she notes the importance of revolutions not only restructuring states but also transforming nations. I find that Skocpol has a similar definition approach to the earlier authors revisited in the course. She states that “social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations in a society and its states, this primarily affects class structure and is ultimately caused by a social class-based revolt” (Skocpol 4). Comparatively speaking, Taylor in Maoism in the Andes also conveys Lenin’s classic argument that a revolutionary party cannot be built on the quicksand of ideological confusion; it was therefore necessary to “first divide and then unite” around a common programme, the guiding principle being: “better fewer but better” (Taylor 6). Skocpol also mentions Lenin and similarly conveys that the revolution is accomplished by class action in unity who are led by the self- conscious and rising revolutionary classes” (Skocpol 14).
Furthermore, Skocpol outlines and addresses the strong connection of state and social class structures when it comes to social transformation. She notes that a successful revolution marks the shift from previous production theories and ideologies to a new social relation in production. More importantly conveying the new social relations and new political ideological forms needed to bring in a new triumphant revolutionary class and overall different social development. Nonetheless, Skocpol apart from the other articles read this semester breaks down the macro-sociological theory. She dives into the large-scale approach of social systems within a state and the outlined the structural level of production. Skocpol focuses on the societal integration and overall physiology and pathology of a society when there are no crisis and further notes that social revolutions cannot be explained without systematic references to social structures and overall world- historical developed revolutions. Overall, I believe the importance and relevancy of this book connects with the prior readings and underlines the overall transformation of a society or nation when a revolution is successful. In my own words, it is important to know that although it can result in violence, it first starts in the mind and thought. It is a place of value and worth for the people at either lower- or middle-class levels and as Skocpol states then sets the stage of their development of material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production resulting in overall conflict. This collective action in unity with common ideologies and interests come together in pursuit of establishing a different social structure that favors their needs. It is almost like the greater the oppression the higher the possibility of revolution and in this case liberation.
I enjoyed reading your outlook towards Skocpol’s position on what it means to endure a social revolution. You’ve included important references to historical transformations that support her definition like recaps of the French Revolution and mid-century Vietnam. I found her critique of comparisons between “fundamentally similar cases” of revolution for France and Russia very interesting. On page 41 of States and Social Revolutions, the French Revolution was described as “bourgeois-capitalist” and “liberal-democratic” while Russia was noted as “statist-developmental” and “proletarian-communist.” While they shouldn’t be grouped together, changes from their “old regimes” can classify them as alike in nature. I appreciate your wording of how transformation starts with mind and thought no matter the result, like violence. What I like about Skocpol’s text is the emphasis of verbal communication always preceding any type of revolution. Overall, this was a great interpretation of States and Social Revolutions.
Social revolutions rapidly transform society’s status quo. I’m compelled by the way Skocpol breaks down how fundamental structural changes are typically carried out “by class-based revolts from below” with reference to other philosophers (Skocpol, 4). This explanation implies that when the minority comes together to challenge the majority, solidarity can rapidly recondition any social climate. Skocpol’s notice of Karl Marx’s theory of class struggles smoothly ties together her definition of what she sees drive basic revolutionary changes. She draws various connections to the texts that we’ve reviewed throughout our course so far which makes States and Social Revolutions a great finale. A society’s state is subject to change when the citizens it doesn’t serve gain awareness of the unfair division, inciting anger. Whether it be of religious, cultural, or socioeconomic differences, society will always be questioned by those it doesn’t serve. It’s when the negatively affected people acknowledge this and unify that the nature of society may change. Her framework of the causes, modes, and products of a social revolution have helped me better understand the most influential measures towards successful shifts. We’ve learned from many different interpretations of revolution from Arendt to Gandhi to Nepstad and each principle was directly or indirectly touched on by Skocpol.
The summary of Ted Gurr’s idea about relative deprivation was a great demonstration as to why people revolt. It’s unjust for anyone to experience “a gap between the valued things and opportunities they feel entitled to and the things and opportunities they actually get” (Skocpol, 9). Revolutions being grouped as an internal-war under the same umbrella as large-scale terrorism was an interesting explanation to read. At their core, both are mass-based and organized but really couldn’t be any more different in terms of pacifism and war. In my opinion, this hasty comparison suggests that peaceful revolutions are just as if not more effective than violent revolutions. Both are capable of success because they share the same basic strategy. Skocpol and Gurr describe how an imbalance in society fuels uprisings that affect everybody, even those with preexisting advantages described as “both masses and elite aspirants” (Skocpol, 10). This relates back to Marx’s theory of the proletariat versus bourgeois circumstance, just in different terminology. It’s fascinating to see how philosophies of social revolutions spread across a wide spectrum but share the same premise when it comes down to it. In simple terms, there can’t be a social revolution without an established oppressive authority and angry group fed up with the normalized mistreatment towards them.
The reading that I found most compelling was ‘Predicting Attitudes toward Violence’ by Monica Blumenthal. Blumenthal (1972) states that violence has been a vivid feature of American life in the past decades i.e., seen through “assassinations, riots, student disruption and violent crime which is increasing in proportion to the population”. The reason I found Blumenthal’s definition and approach to violence most compelling is because she outlines what events that characterize America as a violent place. She further outlines a model that was formed to predict attitudes towards violence. I also second what she says about measuring attitudes toward violence as it is a crucial venture. She also goes ahead to describe one feature of American modern life that is believed to expose people to violence i.e. the extent to which mass media exposes us to violence e.g. through crime stories.
I found it interesting how Blumenthal analyzes violence based on certain factors and forces for instance how people have different attitudes towards violence as the same individual that supports violence to maintain the status quo would not accept violence to for revolutionary transformation. On analyzing violence, she also states that it is crucial to consider whether the level of violence is as a result of opposing forces some which hold any violent act as unjustifiable and those that justify extreme violence e.g. simple cultural values against violence e.g. the Christian ethic “thou shall not kill”, and the basic cultural values in favor of violence e.g. the Bible influences the development of values that are anything apart from love for instance “eye for eye, tooth for tooth”.
The account of revolution from this week’s reading change, affect, or reinforce the ideas about revolution that I have developed in earlier weeks in the course as this week I have learnt of how the meaning of revolution truly came to be. I have learnt that various parts of the world had their own definitions of the term ‘revolution’. Kumar (1971) states that the term ‘revolution’ has no single meaning and that it is a European invention and that the meaning of the word varies in different parts of the world. Kumar (1971) states that for instance, the Russian definition of revolution varies from that of the French and is also different from that of America, Germany, Africa, Asia and Spain and it was not until the eighteenth century during the American and French Revolutions that the term got “its modern connotation of fundamental and far-reaching change” (Kumar 1971).
In our final discussion, week seven we are to discuss if whether violence is needed instead of a revolution. Our course work has been focusing on the previous Revolutions, and giving us an overview of what it lead to. This week we read Skocpol’s Thought in regard to the revolution. The most interesting part in week sevens reading was Skocpol’s definition of social revolutions “rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below.” (Skocpol 4).
She states that in a social revolution there is a transformation of state organization, Class structures, and dominant ideologies. In other words, a revolution needs a social structure change in a political structure change she also mentions that political revolution only transforms the state and not the social structure. She also thinks the industrial revolution played a role that transforms social structure.” Social revolution makes successful sociopolitical transformation, actual change of state and class structure.” (Skocpol 5). Another interesting part of this weeks assignment was ” when Skocpol, mentions the French Revolution and the great impact it brought world wide. Some can say it was a step forward in the right direction, and brought great advancement. I mean look all that came from it Code laws, model of scientific and technical organization, and even the metric system (Week 2, pg 53). Yes, what we use to measure. I believe a revolution consists of both a social transformation and a political transformation.
To me it’s the people and the way they interact with each other, and we can also add their ideologies is what makes the society. You know before reading this week’s assignment, I just grabbed revolution as a large mass of people who lost their trust to a failed government. But after reading this week’s revolution continuation I was able to understand that there is more and it’s sad that I compared it to today and we are still experiencing So much today. And then asking for revolution because I am against violence, but we need to do better.
Skocpol’s also discusses the Chinese Revolution and the reason for the collapse, state breakdown and warlord rule (Skocpol 21). This viewpoint deflects emphasis from Mao and the Communist Party and instead emphasizes structural factors that allowed for the emergence of revolutionaries; its success is largely attributable to the disintegrated state institutions in China that allowed for their growth. (Skocpol 22).
States and Social Revolutions, written by Theda Skocpol, provides a thought-provoking examination of the nature and causes of revolutions, with a particular emphasis on the role of states and social structures in determining revolutionary outcomes. Skocpol’s argument that state institutions play a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of revolution is one of the most compelling arguments in the book, as it offers valuable insights into the difficulties that arise when attempting to transform existing systems. Furthermore, she contends that the strength or weakness of state power can significantly influence the result of revolutionary conflicts.Upon reading Theda Skocpol’s analysis on revolution, I came to appreciate its unique perspective which differed from other accounts, such as Hannah Arendt’s. Arendt stresses the importance of public action and the creation of new political institutions as crucial to revolutionary change, while Skocpol’s argument emphasizes the impact of the existing state in shaping revolutionary outcomes. Skocpol defines social revolutions as rapid and fundamental transformations of a society’s state and class structures, carried out in part through class-based revolts from below. She highlights the significance of the coincidence of societal structural change with class upheaval and the coincidence of political with social transformation (Skopcol, 1979, p. 4).
In addition, Skopcol’s analysis of revolution reinforced my understanding of Hobsbawm’s perspective. Like Skocpol, Eric Hobsbawm highlights the role of social structures in shaping the outcomes of revolution. Hobsbawm asserts that revolutionary movements are fueled by the struggles of social classes, and that the success of such movements depends on their ability to mobilize and organize effectively. In States and Social Revolutions, Skocpol also notes that class conflicts and changes in class relations play a crucial role in successful revolutionary transformations. Skocpol argues that revolutionary change is often initiated by subordinate groups who mobilize to transform social structures.
After reading Skocpol’s and Hobsbawm’s works, my understanding and view of revolutions have become more nuanced. I now define a revolution as a significant event that brings about fundamental changes in a society’s political, social, and economic structures, leading to the creation of new institutions and norms. It typically arises when people’s grievances against the existing political order become unbearable, resulting in the system’s collapse. A revolution can transform society in various ways beyond the political realm, including economic and cultural aspects. In her analysis of revolution, Skocpol offers a nuanced and perceptive perspective on the causes and dynamics of revolutionary change. Her focus on how state institutions and social structures shape the course of revolutions complements the views of other authors, such as Eric Hobsbawm. Skocpol provides a persuasive account of how social movements can alter existing power structures and bring about profound societal transformations through collective action and the mobilization of marginalized groups.