Different types of revolutions produce various effects on the people participating in them as well as those living in the same country with the revolutionaries. Each kind of revolution, be it cultural, social, or religious, has its specific goals. Depending on these objectives, the time used to prepare and conduct the revolution, and the effectiveness of its leaders, some of the actions are short-lived, and others are long-lived.
In my opinion, the most transitory type of revolution is the religious one. The rationale behind such an argument is that this type of action typically involves only one country. What is more, religious revolutions involve not the whole country but only a part of it. Sometimes, religious issues have a considerable impact on the country’s political life.1 However, in general, this type of revolutionary action does not have a prolonged effect on the country’s life.
On the contrary, social revolutions seem to be the most permanent of all. These revolutions typically involve a large part of the population and lead to considerable long-lasting changes in the country’s political, economic, and military life. As an exemplification of this opinion, the Chinese Communist Revolution may be used. The revolution’s leader, Mao Zedong, fought tirelessly against private property and individualism.2 Thus, he employed all the human and military forces to alter the country’s social vector of development. As a result of the revolution, China became one of the largest communist nations in the world. Not only did the revolution last for several years but also its aftermath could be felt for many decades following it.
Another significant revolution in China, which can serve as an example of permanent action, was the Cultural Revolution. Despite its name, it was also a social revolution, which aimed at invigorating socialism. However, instead of reaching this goal, the revolution led the country “down a capitalist path.”3 Again, the aftermath of this revolution was long-lasting and impressive, causing many profound changes in the country’s political and social systems. Social revolutions’ major goals involve the endeavor to overthrow the dictatorship, change the unjust economic system, or gain positive social changes in the state.4 Most commonly, they last over several years and involve many human and capital losses. Additionally, social revolutions typically involve the seizure of power by the people who have been feeling underrepresented and oppressed for a long time.5 This is yet another proof of why this type of revolution is the most permanent.
It is impossible to neglect the interests of many thousands or even millions of people. Whereas cultural and religious revolutions follow important goals, their value cannot be compared to that of social revolutions. The latter pursue much more crucial objectives and result in much more impressive changes. Also, social revolutions give countries new leaders under whose guidance the reformatory directions are fulfilled. Alongside considerable alterations, social revolutions cause bloodshed and harsh measures against those who do not agree with the new trajectories of the countries’ development. However, it is impossible to overestimate the long-lasting effect of social revolutions in comparison with religious or cultural ones. The discussed reasons justify my argument concerning the effects of different types of revolutions.
One of the most famous revolutionary leaders, Mao Zedong, made a prominent statement about revolutions which is frequently used in the discussions about such movements. According to Zedong, a revolution is not “a dinner party” but “an act of violence whereby one class overthrows the power of another.”6 This quote is a perfect exemplification of the difference between revolutions and social movements. The former involves harsh methods, bloodshed, military campaigns, and radical measures. Also, revolutions involve almost the whole society unlike movements, which typically attract the attention of only a part of society. Meanwhile, social movements aim at changing some crucial aspects of people’s lives by using peaceful methods. Some of the most significant ideas reflected in social movements involve antinuclear activity, equality of rights, and freedom of choice.7 Throughout the history of mankind, there were many revolutions and social movements which caused considerable changes not only in the countries where they originated but also in other nations.
A social movement that exemplifies the most criteria of a revolution in the 1950s-1960s Civil Rights Movement in the USA. The critical component it was missing to make it into a “real” revolution was the involvement of the whole nation. The principal goals of the movement were the abolishment of slavery and the equality of people belonging to different races. Therefore, the movement a priori lacked the support of a considerable part of the population. What is more, that part of the population was the one making the most crucial decisions in the country. Hence, the movement’s leader, Martin Luther King, who was black, failed to gain support from the opposing party, which was composed of whites. However, apart from this feature, the movement had most of the characteristics about revolutions. There were violent campaigns against the initiators and participants of the movement, as it is usually during revolutions. Also, the movement aimed at radical changes in society, which is another element of a revolution.
- Geert H. Janssen, “Quo Vadis? Catholic Perceptions of Flight and the Revolt of the Low Countries, 1566–1609,” Renaissance Quarterly 64, no. 2 (2011): 474.
- Jack A. Goldstone, Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies, 3rd ed. (Belmont, CA: Cengage, 2003), 271–272.
- Yiching Wu, “Coping with Crisis in the Wake of the Cultural Revolution: Rehistoricising Chinese Postsocialism,” Historical Materialism 21, no. 4 (2013): 145.
- James DeFronzo, Revolutions, and Revolutionary Movements, 5th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2014), 331.
- Goldstone, Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies, 288.
- 1958-1969: Not a Dinner Party ― The Cultural Revolution, 2005. Web.
- Laurence Bell, “Interpreting Collective Action: Methodology and Ideology in the Analysis of Social Movements in France,” Modern & Contemporary France 9, no. 2 (2001): 183.