States and Social Revolutions

States and Social Revolutions

"States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China" is a 1979 book by political scientist and sociologist Theda Skocpol, published by Cambridge University Press and explaining the causes of revolutions through the structural functionalism sociological paradigm comparative historical analysis of the French Revolution, Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution.

Skocpol distinguishes social revolutions, in which the fundamental social order of a society is changed, from political revolutions in which one group of office-holders is simply replaced with another.

She centers her explanation for social revolutions on state social structures, international competitive pressures and international demonstration effects, and class relations, drawing on the Marxist (class struggle) and structuralist (revolution equals response to destabilization of social system) schools, and favouring the latter. She empasizes how international events and relations between states (like threats of invasion, defeats in war, political dependency and economic inequalities) can impact the outcomes of domestic events (like revolutions), by leading to increased destabilization and political crises (a state financial emergency, severe elite divisions, a power vacuum, and a potential and propensity for popular groups to mobilize) which in turns create an opportunity for the revolutionary forces to act. Skocpol notes that while elites play an important role, the masses - ordinary citizens - are also vital, and most successful revolutions were aided by urban and especially peasant rebellions.

In terms of long term impact, her emphasis of the importance of the state (visible in the very title of the book) and (that's one of the crucial points Skocpol differs from Marx) the conception of the state as an independent actor within society and partially autonomous from other interests has been important in shaping later thought in political science.

The book is structured as a comparative historical analysis of the French Revolution of 1787 through the early 1800s, the Russian Revolution of 1917 through the 1930s, and the Chinese Revolution of 1911 through the 1960s. Skocpol argues that these three cases, spread over about a century and a half, are fundamentally similar instances. By analyzing how the social institution of the state changed and influenced the social change, the book can also be placed within the historical institutionalism paradigm.

Criticism of Skocpol book centers around her deemphasis of agency (role of individuals and ideology) and her mixed use of comparative methodological strategies.

External links

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*PDF| [ Reviews of the book] |48.8 KiB

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