Stages of revolution?
March 2, 2006 8:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a certain political theorist's description of the different stages of national revolutions. I think it's Max Weber, but I'm not sure. The basic theory says that there are three stages to any revolution, starting from an elite core, to a larger mainstream body, and then ending in a larger synthesis upon which the revolutionary group becomes indistinguishable from the mainstream. Does anyone know where this is from?
posted by kensanway to Law & Government (6 answers total)
It sounds similar to Goldstein's 'Book' in Nineteen Eighty-Four. A wikipedia description:

[There are] three groups or classes: The High, who are the rulers; the Middle, who yearn to take over the position of the High; and the Low, who are typically so suppressed that in their drudgery they have no goals beyond day-to-day survival (if they are at all able to formulate any "political" agenda, it is to establish a society where all people are equal). Time and time again down the ages, the Middle have overthrown the High by enlisting the Low on their side, pretending to the Low that after the revolution a just society will emerge. However, once the Middle have taken over, they simply become the new High and thrust the Low back into servitude, and as a new Middle group eventually splits off, the pattern repeats. The Middle only speak of justice and human brotherhood as long as they are seeking power; once they are in power, they simply become the new oppressors of the Low.
Of course, the idea could go back much further than Orwell.
posted by matthewr at 8:56 AM on March 2, 2006

You might be looking for Hegel.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:07 AM on March 2, 2006

I think you may find what you are looking for in Kant. He discusses this in relation to the process of human enlightenment, not soley as a political phenomenon. Check out his essay "What is Enlightenment?"[PDF]
posted by lovejones at 10:32 AM on March 2, 2006

Response by poster: It is Crane Brinton's. A MeFi member named Eli amazingly emailed me about five seconds after I posted this message. I wanted to post this earlier, but the site wasn't working for me. Thanks everyone for your help.

Is it a good book? How deterministic is it? Is it outdated? I know he's rather concerned with specific historical details of the Russian, French, American, and English revolutions, but I want to see how well his theory of stages would apply to other disciplines, for example avant-garde movements in the arts. Is it too historical for me to transport it like this?
posted by kensanway at 1:01 PM on March 2, 2006

You're going to find a lot of this in the pre-Soviet Marxist literature. There were lots of arguments for years about the structure of revolution with some proposing stages theories (which Lenin disclaimed but also paradoxically hung on to in his concept of the Vanguard), others permanent revolution (Trotsky), and people like Rosa Luxemberg with other opinions. Gramsci of course turned the whole thing on its head and re-envisioned the moment of revolution itself.

As others have mentioned these ideas relied on the work of others, in particular Comte and Saint-Simon, Hegel, and others on the Continent.
posted by mikel at 8:35 AM on March 3, 2006

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