Revolutions are radical changes in political power brought about by people’s dissatisfaction with the regime prevailing in the country. One of the most popular beliefs about the origins of revolutions is that “misery breeds revolt.”1 This idea presupposes that people are likely to rise against their rulers if the latter makes the life of the former unbearable. While this argument is a viable explanation of revolutions, it is still not sufficient since revolts occur in some countries but do not happen in others.
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Several circumstances can affect the development of revolutions, such as the level of impoverishment in a society, the degree of inequality, and the division along with ethnic connections. Other factors include officials’ corruption, military forces’ dedication to the people, the level of armament, the country’s traditional ways of protesting against social injustice, and the likelihood of other states interfering with the country’s revolutionary movements.2 However, as DeFronzo remarks, despite the existence of a variety of circumstances, there are five principal factors most likely to cause the correct climate for a revolution.
The first of such crucial elements are the mass frustration of the people that leads to popular uprisings in rural or urban locations. In this case, many citizens become dissatisfied with the authorities’ methods, which results in rebellions and protests against the government.3 Historical evidence indicates that peasant rebellions play an important role in agricultural societies that are not well-developed in terms of technology.4 The second factor is dissident political movements in which elites are engaged. Due to the emergence of divisions among different elite groups, some of their members become opposed to the government.5 The third decisive element is represented by “unifying motivations.”6 Under these circumstances, compelling catalysts for revolution “cut across” major social classes of the country and bring together the majority of the population under the pretext of the revolution’s aims.
The fourth prominent factor serving as a ground for revolution is a severe political crisis, which weakens the country’s coercive and administrative potential. When such a crisis takes place, the state is highly likely to experience a revolution.7 The character of a crisis may be of various origins, including such possibilities as experiencing natural disasters, being defeated in a war, suffering from economic depression, or losing significant support from other states.8 If a country encounters any of these hardships or a combination of a few, it is no longer able to perform its functions effectively, which causes an opposition revolutionary action. Finally, the fifth factor likely to bring about a revolution is associated with a “permissive or tolerant world context.”9 This issue comes into action when other countries’ governments do not take any intervening measures to hinder the development and success of a revolutionary movement.
An example of recent revolutionary activities is the Egyptian eighteen-day revolution of 2011. During only a few weeks, the young people of Egypt managed to express their dissatisfaction with the president’s rule quite firmly. The revolutionaries protested the injustice and demanded “a new country.”10 The events happening in Egypt served as “a shining example” of how people could support their right to freedom and to a leader whose decisions and government style they would respect.11 With the help of numerous demonstrations, strikes, and non-violent civil resistance, protesters gained much more in just eighteen days than their predecessors in several decades. As a result, the country’s president for nearly twenty years, Hosni Mubarak, resigned. Hence, the people of Egypt were able to pursue new goals in the spheres of police treatment, political freedom, state-of-emergency laws, employment, and others.12 The example of Egypt’s revolution demonstrates how organized action involving many civil individuals can be more effective than military campaigns in terms of reaching the goals and settling the conflicts.
Based on the differences between wars of rebellion and revolutionary wars, it is possible to contrast their origins, maturation, and resolution. What concerns origins, a revolution presupposes an overthrow of the country’s government or the emergence of a new system of social order. Rebellion, in its turn, is initiated when a certain group of people refuses to obey some political order or starts an uprising.
The maturation of a revolution is reflected in the refusal of protesters to support the current government to such an extent that it leads to abundant mass protests. In this process, the prominent place belongs to the person organizing the revolution.13 History knows cases when the weaker opponent was able to overthrow the stronger one due to the carefully selected strategy and support from the people. The difference between the maturation of a revolution and a rebellion is in the two processes’ goals. Whereas a revolution pursues the politics of hope, a rebellion follows the principles of the politics of hatred.14
Finally, the resolution of the two actions is quite different, which is logical, taking into consideration their origin and maturation. Rebels’ final aim is the cancellation of some governmental policy that makes people dissatisfied. Meanwhile, revolutionaries’ goal is to change the dissatisfactory system or government into a new one that will be favored by the majority of people. Therefore, while revolutions and rebellions have some points in common, their nature is quite different in terms of origin, maturation, and resolution.
Anatomy of a Revolution. 2010. Web.
DeFronzo, James. Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements. 5th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2014.
Goldstone, Jack A. Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage, 2003.
- Jack A. Goldstone, Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies, 3rd ed. (Belmont, CA: Cengage, 2003), 1.
- James DeFronzo, Revolutions, and Revolutionary Movements, 5th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2014), 12.
- DeFronzo, Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements, 12.
- DeFronzo, 12.
- Ibid., 12.
- Ibid., 13
- Anatomy of a Revolution, 2010, Web.
- Anatomy of a Revolution.
- Moyers & Company: How People Power Generates Change, 2013, Web.
- Moyers & Company: How People Power Generates Change.