What Comprises a Revolution? Background

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What Comprises a Revolution?


Human history has witnessed changes that have led to significantlevels of alterations in the society carries out its functions. Someof these drastic changes can stand as revolutions. Most of thechanges have been projects of various people who do not share similarsentiments with the authorities, and they lead the people against thegovernments of the day (Inglehart, 2015). Scholars coined the wordrevolution from the Latin word revolution that literary means turningaround. It is a fundamental change in the political organization andstructure that last for a short period but comes with long lastingchanges (Lenin &amp Chretien, 2015). It takes place when onesegment of the society feels dissatisfied with the way theauthorities rules them leading to the need to alter the structure ofgovernance (Marcuse, 2013).

As indicated by Aristotle, there are two main types of revolutions.The first involves a complete change of the rules that governsociety, for example, a complete change of a country’sconstitutions to reflect the need of the majority. The secondinvolves the modification of existing rules to get rid of oppressiveand contentious facets that make a portion of the societydissatisfied (Kuhn, 2012). Both forms o revolutions lead to changesin the political, cultural and economic institutions. The societycontinues to experience changes in its institutions. Understandingwhat comprises a revolution is imperative since it will help to placethe rampant experiences in the different parts f the world in theirrespective categories.


Scholars from different fields find themselves outlining varyingthresholds that define a revolution. For this reason, this researchwill discuss the various theories that explain a revolution andconsequently try to outline the features that make a movement in thesociety a revolution. The research will incline to the qualitativemethod by drawing its conclusions from existing literature. By citingthe ideas of different authors, it will be easy to make an informedconclusion.

Informing Literature

Gustave Le Bon, a French-born sociologist, and anthropologist usesapproach the subject of revolution from the psychological angles.According to him, revolutions do not exhibit their effects until theinvolved multitude conceives the ideology in their minds (Le Bon,2015). A revolution is, therefore, a consequence of the collectivepsychology of the involved crowd. According to Bon, an individualbehaves differently when in isolation and when participating in theunconscious personality of a crowd. According to this theory,material elements are not necessary to instigate a revolution. Sharedpassions and sentiments provoked in the right way are enough tocreate a collective mind. The formed collective reasoning falls underthe dominance of unconscious elements, and it is subject tocollective logic (Weber et al., 2013). The crowd in a revolution hasan infinite credulity, and exaggerated sensibility and they cannotrespond to the influences of reason. The crowd does not bow to theyoke of reality, and it has the perception that nothing can beimpossible to them.

In his theory of revolution, Aristotle introduces two forms ofrevolution. That is, the complete change of a country’sconstitution and the partial modification of the rules governing agiven society (Goldstein, 2001). According to him, a revolutionoccurs when the political institution fails to correspond to thedistribution of property, and it leads to tensions in the socialstratification. The people start raising questions of the injusticesthey experience and these give birth to a revolution. Aristotle goesahead to point out that people engage in a revolution as rebels togain honor by taking advantage of the collective thinking that peopleadopt (Goldstein, 2001).

Hannah Arendt also tries to define revolution, and she takes the mostunpopular route that many political institutions and the perpetratorsof revolutions may find easy to oppose. According to her, arevolution is a movement that devours its children as if terror andviolence were its inevitable cause (Disch, 2011). Her theory refersto the America and the French revolutions. The American Revolutionwas successful because it had a deep concern for the form ofgovernment that would result. Conversely, the French revolution didnot achieve its mandate due to its short-term goal of toppling thepolitical structure of the day without paying attention to the resultin the political environment (Disch, 2011). Ironically, the Frenchrevolution became more famous than the American Revolution. Hertheory asserts that the presumption that a revolution takes thepredictable course is only a virtual ideology that masks its reality.

Karl Max also tries to explain revolution from the approach of socialstratification. According to him, capitalism resulted in the creationof social classes whereby the aristocrats owned the factories andplantations. To prevent the poor from amassing wealth, the wealthypaid them poorly. Socialism was the only way that could help in theredistribution of resources in the society (Callinicos, 2012). Thealienation that people had with their work and with the rich promptedthe wave of socialism with the aim of bringing a revolution.

Another definition that tries to address the gray areas surroundingthe people’s perception of a revolution comes from Lawrence Stone.According to of his theory, people take part n a revolution byfollowing the thoughts of a leader or a secret military organization.These organizations mostly aspire for short-term changes (Lawson,2011). The factors that lead people t revolt against the politicalinstitution spark randomly and although each of them may not drivethe agenda autonomously, it comes with enough frequency to sparkconcern in the society (Lawson, 2011).

The Egyptian Revolution

By using the theories developed by these scholars as a point ofreference, it becomes easy to study the Egyptian movement of 2011popularly known as the January 25 revolution I the right context. Themovement comprised of demonstrations, marches, and civil disobediencewith the aim of ousting Hosni Mubarak. The movement was led bynationalists, anti-capitalists and feminist leaders. Violenceeventually broke out leading to the death of 846 people while morethan 6,000 others sustained injuries (Cambanis, 2015). Refereeing toArendt theory, a revolution devours its people. The Egyptianrevolution led to mass deaths, yet no one could predict suchdevelopments. Gustave also describes a revolution as a result of acollective ideology, and this was present in the Egyptian revolutionthat brought together leaders from different segments of the societyAbed, 2011). Borrowing from the Aristotle theory, the Egyptianrevolution sought for the change of various laws in the constitutionthat denied them the freedom of speech, elections and the rules thatsubjected to police brutality.

In conclusion, the unpredictable nature of the Egyptian revolutionand the hared ideology that took away people individual consciousnessgives it the characteristics of a revolution. Those who led therevolution targeted the political institutions being led byreligious, anti-capitalism and feminist leaders. Violence wasinevitable in the revolution, and nobody could have predicted such anoutcome. What the people of Egypt wanted was the partial change ofthe rules of the country as well as ousting President Mubarak, and itresulted in a revolution.


Abed, M. (2011). Revolutioin in Cairo. PBS. Retrieved fromhttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/revolution-in-cairo/day-to-day/

Callinicos, A. (2012). The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx.Illinois: Haymarket Books.

Cambanis, T. (2015). Is Egypt on the Verge of Another Uprising?Assessing the country`s revolution, four years later. The Atlantic.Retrieved fromhttp://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/the-egyptian-revolution-four-years-later/384593/

Disch, L. (2011).How could Hannah Arendt glorify the American Revolution and revilethe French? Placing On Revolution in the historiography of the Frenchand American Revolutions. European Journal of Political Theory,10(3), 350-371.

Goldstein, L. F.(2001). Aristotle`s theory of revolution: Looking at the Lockeanside. Political Research Quarterly, 54(2), 311-331.

Inglehart, R.(2015). The silent revolution: Changing values and politicalstyles among Western publics. New York N.Y: Princeton UniversityPress.

Kuhn, T. S. (2012).The structure of scientific revolutions. Illinois: Universityof Chicago press.

Lawson, G. (2011).Halliday`s revenge: revolutions and International Relations.International Affairs, 87(5), 1067-1085.

Le Bon, G. (2015).The Evolution of Civilization and the Arts. Los Angeles: MediaGalaxy.

Lenin, V. I., &ampChretien, T. (2015). State and revolution. Illinois: HaymarketBooks.

Marcuse, H. (2013).Reason and revolution. New York N.Y.: Routledge.

Weber, K., King, B.,Adler, P., du Gay, P., Morgan, G., &amp Reed, M. (2013). Socialmovement theory and organization studies. Oxford Handbook ofSociology, Social Theory and Organization Studies. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

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