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States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China

3.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521294997
ISBN-10: 0521294991
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Editorial Reviews


'With lucidity and care, Skocpol has laid out a challenging comparison of three great revolutions ... Here is a book worth studying, refuting, testing, elaborating, and emulating.' Charles Tilly

'I am convinced that States and Social Revolutions will be considered a landmark in the study of the sources of revolution.' Lewis A. Coser, The New York Times Book Review

Book Description

Why have social revolutions occurred in some countries but not in others? How and why have prerevolutionary regimes come into crisis? This study offers important new theoretical strategies within a comparative historical analysis of the causes and outcomes of three major cases.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 28, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521294991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521294997
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew P. Arsenault on October 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Theda Skocpol seeks to explain the causes of social revolution through a structural paradigm. Her level of analysis is the state. This paradigm, holding the state as the level of analysis and concentrating on structure, is defined well by Migdal. "This is a system-dominant perspective in which structuralists see states as interchangeable to the degree that they expect them to act similarly if facing the same array of forces" (215).

Skocpol contends that external forces can lead to economic and military instability within a state. This instability weakens both the structure of the state, and subsequently the nation's societal structure. In turn, this creates an environment well-suited for social revolutions. Skocpol defines social revolution as causing two important changes which separate it from other forms of political upheavals: "societal structural change with class upheaval" and "the coincidence of political with social transformation" (5).

In order to discover similar phenomena common across states which lead to social revolution, Skocpol uses a method of comparative historical analysis. She seeks to establish relationships between "causal variables referring to the strength and structure of old regime states and the relations of state organizations to class structures" (35). Her analysis spans three revolutions: France 1789, China 1911 and Russia 1917. In looking for commonalities across state boundaries, Skocpol is using what she referred to in Bringing the State Back In as the Toucquevillian approach. In this case, Skocpol is using the Toucquevillian point of view to explore how "state structures and the activities of states" influence social revolution.
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Format: Paperback
A new way of studying political sociology was first initiated when Skocpol's "States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China" was published in the 1970s.
Skocpol's discussion in the book is based on Marxist class struggle revolution, combined with the consensus theories which explain revolution as response to disequilibum of social system. In the very beginning, Skocpol attended on a fundamental question on most revolutions happened in old-regimes: Why revolution occurred in predominantly agrarian countries? (refer to "Old-Regime State in Crisis") He clearly stated a logical development from the three cases. Revolutionary crises developed when the old-regime states became unable to meet the challenges of evolving international situations. Disintegration of centralized administrative and military machinaries had therefore provided the sole unified bulwark of social and political order. Skocpol concluded that in most cases the pre-revolution states were fully established imperial states. They had a proto-bureaucratic: some officers, especially at higher levels, were functionally specialized. State not in a position to control directly over local agrarian socioeconomic relationship. Before social revolutions could occur, the administrative and military power of these states had to break down. Finally, the old regimes to their downfall were not due to internal conditions alone. Intensifying military competition with nation-state abroad that possessed relatively much greater and more flexible power based on economic breakthroughs to capitalist industrialization or agriculture and commerce.
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Format: Paperback
Four the past several weeks, I have been attempting to obtain copies of reviews of States & Social Revolutions that would have been written at the time of the book's initial publication. In fact, I had hoped that I could find whole books dedicated to rebutting much of the flawed argument that Skocpol puts forth in this book. I could find neither. But first, let me state my case against Skocpol.
First, there exists the problem of mid-level political theory. There is deep level theory, mid level theory, and what I deem specific political commentary. In deep level theory, one can make certain broad, rather common arguments: when states come under external military pressure, it impacts their economy. On the specific level, one could comment on how a specific war impacted a specific economy. But in the mid level, the arguments become tenuous. This happens when a scholar attempts to take a handful of countries, and to claim that a rather specific series of events (X, Y, Z) impacted those countries, took place in those countries, and had the same results in those countries. This is mid-level theory (in my understanding), and it is often highly flawed.
Skocpol advances three test cases to "prove" her argument. Indeed, she writes as though her book is empirically proving a mathematical equation to be true. This is one of the more superficial (though irritating) aspects of the book. Notwithstanding her penchant for a heavy-handed egotistical tone of writing, her argument is still tenuous. Her three test cases are France, Russia, and China. Essentially, Skocpol argues that all of these countries were impacted by their international situation and/or conflict.
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