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This chapter studies the curious concept of revolutions and how social forces use different tactics and types of revolutions to achieve their end goals. The ITMC cites social and political conflicts, which are inherent and constant in any societies, as the initial source of revolutions. Most revolutions aim for the pursuit of the greater goods (which is coined contention by political and social scientists) through collective actions. The chapter also focuses on different types of revolutions and explores the relationship between different social concepts, namely resources, politics, power and equality, and revolutions.

  • Concepts
    • Revolution consists of a collective action that attempts to bring drastic change to society.
    • Contention refers to the pursuit of the collective goods, including social movements, social revolutions, insurgencies and civil wars. The list also includes terrorism and everyday forms of resistance.
  • Types
    • Social movements are a healthy part of civil society, organizing collective actions to achieve a certain goal.
    • Revolutions are transformative and involve mobilization or change in the structure of society.
    • Insurgencies are prolonged armed actions challenging the power of the current regime.
    • Civil wars are caused by different groups of insurgents
    • Terrorism is the use of coercion that induces fears to achieve a certain goal or even power over state
  • Cause and Effects: Why revolutions happen
    • Relative deprivation happens when one feels that they have less than the other group.
    • Resource mobilization argues that there will be constant social conflict and political opportunities can solve the problems.
    • Rational theories focus on the conscious choices that people as individuals make that lead to the engagement of collective actions


RevolutionA form of collective action in which some large-scale structural change is either attempted or accomplished.
ContentionThe name, most associated with scholars like Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilly, referring to the pursuit of collective goods, largely outside of formal political institutions.
Collective actionJoint efforts of individuals and groups to bring about a shared, preferred outcome.
InsurgenciesContention with formalized military conflict.
Civil warsSustained military conflict between domestic actors.
Social revolutionSudden changes in the structure and nature of society
Political revolutionThe form of government altered in which property relations are predominantly left intact.
Coup d’etatThe overthrow of an existing government using military force.
Terrorism In the context of revolutions or insurgencies, a tactic used by some participants that involve violence directed at non-military targets.
– Demonstrative vs. destructive
Iron Law of OligarchyThe idea that collective action always produces new elites.
Subaltern Occupying lower rungs in a hierarchical system.
Social movementsOngoing organized collective action oriented toward a goal of social change
Civil society A space in society outside of the organization of the state, in which citizens come together and organize themselves
MobilizationThe engagement of individuals and groups in sustained contention

Essential Questions

  • Do social and political revolutions support of hinder the democratization process?
  • Why are there sustained conflicts in a society? When does a conflict produce instability and when does it really help a society?
  • How do revolutions differ from other types of contentions?


#DemocracySpring A call to revolution. #MoneyOut— Revolution News (@NewsRevo) April 11, 2016

Past AP Questions

2016 Q3 (2016 Q3)

2013 Q3 (2013 Q3)

Comparative Chart

The UKMexicoNigeriaRussiaChinaIran
The first industrial revolution in the late 18th century propelled the economic development of the UK.Mexican Revolution took place in 1910-1917 as the struggle between two groups for power over the state. The middle class uprise against the dictatorship of Diaz.In May 1967, the southern Igbo region seceded from Nigeria and declared its own nation, the Republic of Biafra.The Russian Revolution of 1917 (Bolshevik): the Russian revolution took place when the working class revolted against the government. They were led by Lenin and Bolsheviks (a group of revolutionaries). This revolution led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Revolution of 1949: Led by Mao and the Communist party of China, it resulted in the People’s Republic of China. 1906 Constitutional revolution
-1979: overthrow of the last monarch of Iran (Reza Shah Pahlavi). Ayatollah Khomeini comes into power.