Originally published 08/06/2013
Alyssa's posting, like Peter Stearns' earlier, implicitly touch on the questions of leadership and revolutionary stages. Perhaps in any discussion of revolutions it may be worth keeping in mind that those who begin revolutions rarely are the ones who finish them. (The American Revolution, perhaps better called by its other common term, the War for Independence, is an anomaly that perhaps misleads Americans about revolutions.) In comparing revolutions and leadership, perhaps several variants are worth keeping in mind:1) Places where the revolution “succeeds,” in the sense of the old regime being swept away, but successive leadership changes and even mini-revolutions and regime changes occur before things are stabilized in a new order, as in France after 1789 and Russia in 1917.2) Those (rare?) instances where the original revolutionaries successfully sweep away the old regime and replace it by something genuinely new that is reasonably stable and permanent, such as Turkey with Ataturk.3) Instances where revolutionaries have temporary success but the old regime soon reconstitutes itself in slightly altered form (“Revolution of 1905” in Russia, 1848 in Central Europe).
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