HS-102 Readings

CAUSES AND PHASES OF LIBERAL REVOLUTIONS         Prof. West

Causes:

1. There is a long and unresolved struggle between the monarchy and the lesser nobility, over political power and revenues.

2. There is a continuing exploitation of the peasantry, and a huge gap in the standard of living between rich and poor.

3. Gradual and long-range effects of the Commercial and Industrial Revolutions bring about:

a. The rise of the middle class based on urbanization, and mercantile, and industrial growth.

b. The rise of the working class. (19th century or later)

c. Structural unemployment and re-employment created by changes in modes of production caused by industrialization.

4. There is a more "enlightened" philosophy and greater political awareness as a result of more widespread education, greater expectations, and ideas of equality and liberty.

5. Immediate factors which trigger unrest and unleash the revolutionary process usually include economic problems associated with war, financial indebtedness, privation among the lower class, and an inefficient and corrupt government.

6. A crisis, usually of a financial nature, divides the ruling elite and paralyzes the government.

Phases: Crane Brinton (1) analyzed the French Revolution in terms of three phases. There are logical reasons why these phases occur. and the same analysis can be made with all of the other liberal revolutions.

1. The revolution begins with a moderate phase led by the upper middle class and some elements of the aristocracy, during which a liberal, constitutional government is formed. That is, a constitution and a bill of rights are usually written, and a legislature is elected. The legislature shares power with a monarchy or an elected executive.

2. In the second phase, unless there are already existing institutions and experience related to representative government, there is a loss of control to more ruthless leaders; demagogues who appeal to popular sentiment. More radical, and republican forms of government are attempted. The legislature, while usually elected, is dominated by a dictator or a dictatorial faction. This is the radical phase, which is usually accompanied by violence and terror, which evoke fear, conflict, and, sometimes, provoke foreign intervention.

3. Instability and a demand for order lead to the counter-revolutionary phase, usually involving a return to power of the upper middle class and some elements of the aristocracy. If this government is unstable, the demand for order may result in the establishment of a dictatorship.

Permanent changes resulting from the revolution include a sweeping away of government based solely on the aristocracy, and the establishment of a government which appeals to national sentiment and draws support from citizens regardless of class. Feudal practices are eliminated, and farmers usually become landowners. There are also many administrative and legal changes, and a change in the bureacracy. Government becomes more efficient and rational, and less bound by tradition. The government has mass support crossing class boundaries, and based upon a sense of nationalism.

The process will vary considerably from one country to another depending upon:

a. the culture and the institutions and the historical experience of each country.

b. foreign intervention and foreign wars.

c. the influence of neighboring countries, particularly if the neighbor is a great power.

1. Brinton, Crane, The Anatomy of Revolution

HS-12 Readings