Revolutionary revolutions

Social scientists study revolutions, large collective action aiming for change, and contentions, conflict outside the realm of formal political institutions. There are many different types of contentions such as social movements, organized protest over a common goal that is formed over time, social revolutions, insurgencies, civil wars, terrorism, and “everyday forms of resistance”. It is believed through the iron law of oligarchy theory that contentions always lead to a new elite. One of the most important aspects in any revolution is mobilization, the ability to have individuals engage in discourse but compromise and move forward. (1)


In a New York Times article, Beverly Gage discusses what turns an organized political moment into a social movement in today’s world. With the prevalence of social media, mass gatherings are easier to come by, but it is hard to cause them to stick, no matter how much initial potential they have. She states that the modern leader-less, wide sweeping protests struggle to last long term, but the turnover rate may indicate their success. (2)


How do different regime-types affect the type of contentions that occur within the state?


America, as a democracy, has a relatively strong civil society that frequently holds protests and attempts to create new movements often. In weaker democracies or authoritarian regimes that do not allow for strong civil societies, people might have to resort to more aggressive forms of contention such as insurgencies or civil wars in order to promote their message. For an example, India has little freedom of speech or expression or freedom of assembly, and, therefore, they have a poor civil society.

(1) Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, “Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases”, Oxford University Press, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(2) Beverly Gage, “When Does a Moment Turn Into a ‘Movement’?”, New York Times, (May 15, 2018).

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