● Minimal definition:
○ State or political regime is overthrown due to a popular movement in an irregular
● Maximal definition:
○ Rapid, fundamental, violent transformation of a country's state structure, social
structure, that is accompanied and caused by mass-based revolts from below
● State transformation, destruction of the old army, creation of a new one (rare)
● Social structure transformation: (rarer)
○ Class structure: large scale nationalization of private property
■ Major land reform, destruction of land owning class
○ Religious transformation
■ e.g. Introduction of Sharia in Iran through morality laws
● Examples of revolution:
○ France 1789
○ Russia 1917
○ Cuba 1959
○ China 1949
○ Iran and Nicaragua 1979
● NOT a revolution: Arab Spring (overthrow of regime but preservation of existing state
structures), US 1776 (class structure is not altered), Eastern Europe (class and state
structure changed but weak)
■ Smashing class and state is not easy without violence
■ Mass repression in Russia, China and France
○ RARE! ■ Mass mobilization, state collapse, major social transformation, FEW
cases and hard to study
○ Durable authoritarian regimes in USSR 74 years, Mexico 80 years and China 65
○ Fostered new ideologies
● Why do they occur?
■ Economic theories which focus on grievances
● Misery and poverty causes revolution
○ People have nothing to lose but their chains
○ People are pushed to the point where they can't take it
anymore, things have to be pretty bad for you to take that
○ Is it always true where the poorest people take action? Not
always, cause then the world would constantly be in revolt.
■ Misery actually breeds passivity. They are barely
surviving and you don't have time to go out and
protest. You just focus on surviving. Adverse to risk.
■ Lack of resources for rebellion. Don't know how to
influence the wealthy and important (no cultural
capital). Lack of education.
■ Low expectations. Enduring poverty makes their
condition seem like a fact of life.
■ Relative Deprivation (Robert Davies):
● When does poverty lead to a revolt? Have to look at relative
misery instead of absolute misery. Expectations can onl be
frustrated if they are high and rising.
○ The J-Curve. You have it good, then it goes down. "What?!
I thought things were getting better!"
■ e.g. Garbage strikes in Toronto. Bank sick days
toward their retirement. Something they had that
was being taken away. ■ e.g. Russian revolution. The serfs were freed and
the economy grew. The loss of war caused
economic collapse and it lead to mass frustration.
■ e.g. Boston Red Sox. The fans were upset when
they don't get a cup, because they are used to
○ Revolutions require much more than dashed expectations
■ Lots of cases of dashed expectations in Latin
America but no revolution occurred.
■ Marxist theory of revolution
● Class based analysis
○ Actions and beliefs are rooted in economic hierarchy
○ Haves vs. have nots
● Feudalism => Capitalism => Communism
○ Most communist revolutions happen to countries that
haven't had capitalism
○ Predicted that England would go through it first
● Change is violent and conflict. People don't give up without a fight.
● Two types:
○ Bourgeois revolution where feudalism and elite is replaced
by capitalism (French revolution)
■ Wealth is based on land and birth. Power is
centralized in a small elite.
■ Rise of capitalism
● Base on money rather than birth, throws this
● A parliament that represents the interests of
commercial class rather than the monarchy
■ Creating a competitive system that excludes most
of the population. ○ Communist revolution
■ Capitalism is accompanied by fierce competition
between capitalists as they try to reduce costs to
■ Desire to reduce costs leads to capitalists to force
down wages of th