Revolutions, Authoritarianism, and Democracy
-->Do revolutions contribute to the democratization of social and political life? Or do they
reinforce or establish tyranny, contradicting the libertarian and egalitarian hopes of their
-Marxist vision: “Bourgeois revolutions” lead to historically progressive but socially
limited forms of liberal democracy.
“Proletarian revolutions” create the conditions for universal social and political
-Russian Revolution 1917 established a proletariat dictatorship while exploiting workers.
-Liberal theorists agree that the only successful revolutions are the moderate ones: the
least violent and the least suddenly transformative of existing political and social
institutions. Severe revolutions create authoritarian regimes rather than liberal
They see revolutions as inefficient.
-Realist theories: the most successful revolutions are those which strengthen national
political institutions through mass mobilization (involvement of society in the political
Even in authoritarian regimes, governments succeeded in mobilizing a mass majority.
-Three types of revolutions.
1)English, Dutch, and American revolutions (ideal, according to liberal-modernization
2)Classic peasant-based social revolutions (with the overthrow of monarchical regimes
of Bourbon France, Romanov Russia, Manchu China.)
3)Nation-building social revolutions that have transformed Third World countries (Iran).
Liberal Political Revolutions in the Early Modern Era
-For liberal-modernization theorists, the best model of mild revolution with a democratic
outcome is the English Revolution (17th century- from the calling of the LOng
Parliament in 1640, through Civil War to the defeat and execution of Charles I and the
military rule of Oliver Cromwell, to the removing of James II through the Glorious
Revolution of 1688-89.
-Outcomes of the English revolution: the rise of the middle class, the creation of an
urban proletariat and the broadening of political access and civil rights for both of these
classes. Democratic outcomes in the Western Liberal sense.
-Principles of parliamentary sovereignty triumphed over monarchical absolutism.
However, rule belonged to an upper-class oligarchy.
Result of English revolution wasn’t democracy, but oligarchical parliamentary liberalism
that left room for democracy later on (after England’s industrialization that resulted in
major social transformation for rural and urban lower strata- democratic rights at that
-Dutch and American revolutions liberated the countries from imperial powers and
established upper-class dominated liberal regimes.
Netherlands//England (democratization came later.) Revolutions, Authoritarianism, and Democracy
In the United States, universal suffrage for white males came 10 years after the
revolution due to the british institutions already in place. Institutionalization of black
-Revolutions in the US and the Netherlands established liberal national regimes, a result
of the evolution from liberal oligarchy to liberal democracy.
BUT immediate victories of upper class limited democratic and social movements of the
lower class population.
-This norm of revolutions is more efficient compared to violent revolutions that result in
AUTHOR: liberal modernization theorists’ approach contains some unclear points:
-pays insufficient attention to the changes the English, Dutch and American did and did
-ignores the fact that these countries already had social and political structures
compared to other traditional agrarian states
-ignores the fact that England and the US experienced geopolitical circumstances
during and after their liberal political revolutions
-if these countries weren’t so dominant in the capitalist world, their revolutions wouldn’t
have been considered so successful.
Classic social revolutions in France, Russia and China
-French revolution, unlike Dutch, American and English was a social revolution, which
means that the revolts came form the peasants and the lower class strata against
-The French revolution wasn’t “bourgeois” in the Marxist sense, or liberal in the liberal-
The Russian Revolution wasn’t proletarian in the Marxist sense.
->The French, Russian and Chinese revolutions despite their differences had some
striking similarities of context, cause, process and outcomes.
-Context: previously independent, large-scale, agrarian monarchical states that were
militarily pressured by more economically advanced competitors.
-Causes: a)Disintegration of the centralized, semi-bureaucratic administrative and
military organizations of the old regimes due to international pressure and disputes
between monarchs and landed commercial upper classes
b)emergence of widespread peasant revolts against landlords.
Result of all 3 revolutions: more centralized and mass mobilizing states, more powerful
in relation to social groups and foreign competitors than the pre-revolutionary regime.
-Variations in the mass-mobilizing and authoritarian outcomes and accomplishments of
the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions are due to the geopolitical context and the
relationship between state-building leaderships and rebellious lower classes and not
Marxist an liberal modernization theories. Revolutions, Authoritarianism, and Democracy
The French Revolution
-Revolution characterized as a modernizing liberal-democratic/bourgeois capitalist
-Economically, the revolution wasn’t necessary for the economic modernization or
capitalist development of France since the old regime was promoting commercialization.
-Politically, the French revolution wasn’t led under any form of liberalism but under
Napoleon’s nationalist military dictatorship which let behind a highly centralized and
bureaucratic state seeking national glory through military exploits.
-Attempts to institutionalize civil liberties and electoral democracy, legalization of
undivided private property rights for peasants and bourgeois.
-One of the most important accomplishments: military mass-mobilization (sans-culottes
with old army militaries.)
Russia and China
-Social revolutionary transformations that resulted in communist party led states. Under
Leninist party leaderships/state-managed economy. The mass-mobilizing