Toward a Fourth Generation of Revolutionary Theory

50 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2010

See all articles by Jack A. Goldstone

Jack A. Goldstone

George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government

Date Written: January 1, 2001


Third-generation theories of revolution pointed to the structural vulnerabilities of regimes as the basic causes of revolutions. In the last decade, critics of structural theories have argued for the need to incorporate leadership, ideology, and processes of identification with revolutionary movements as key elements in the production of revolution. Analyses of revolutions in developing countries and in communist regimes have further argued for incorporating these factors and for the inadequacy of structural theories to account for these events. Rather than try to develop a list of the “causes” of revolutions, it may be more fruitful for the fourth generation of revolutionary theory to treat revolutions as emergent phenomena, and to start by focusing on factors that cement regime stability. Weakness in those factors then opens the way for revolutionary leadership, ideology, and identification, along with structural factors such as international pressure and elite conflicts, to create revolutions.

Keywords: Revolution, social theory

Suggested Citation

Goldstone, Jack A., Toward a Fourth Generation of Revolutionary Theory (January 1, 2001). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 4, pp. 139-187, 2001. Available at SSRN: or

Jack A. Goldstone (Contact Author)

George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government ( email )

3351 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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