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Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Fall 2008

SOC 308 • Revolution, Power and Nonviolence

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
1 F

Course Description

This course sociologically and historically examines the phenomenon of revolution and its relation to power in order to answer the following question: can repressive societies be changed without the use of violence?

In her book On Revolution Hannah Arendt famously stated that "only where change occurs in the sense of a new beginning, where violence is used to constitute an altogether different form of government. . . can we speak of revolution" (1963:28). However, almost forty years later sociologist Jeff Goodwin noted that "beginning with the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9, moreover, a growing number of nonviolent or at least unarmed popular insurgencies have arisen against authoritarian states (2001:294-5). So who are we to believe? Must revolutions be violent events as Arendt proposes, or is Goodwin correct in suggesting that revolutions can in fact be"nonviolent or... unarmed?"

The objective of this course is to sociologically examine the phenomenon of revolution so that this question can be answered. The first part of the semester will be dedicated to theories of revolution. Although empirical examples of historical revolutions will be used to illustrate concepts and ideas, heavy emphasis will be on theory. Since revolutions to some extent can be defined as the transfer of state power from one group to another, the concept of power is crucial to any understanding how and why revolutions occur. Therefore, the second part of the course will focus on different notions of power. Was Mao correct in assuming that "power grows out of the barrel of a gun," or is the nature of power more complex than that? Finally, the last part of the course will focus on theories and empirical cases of nonviolent social change.

By combining notions of the concepts of revolution, power, and nonviolent social change, it will become clear that in the 21st century powerful states can fall, and have indeed done so, at the hands of nonviolent popular movements in revolutionary episodes of social change.

Grading Policy

3 exams 30% each
Attendance 10%


Goodwin, Jeff, No Other Way Out 2001
Kimmel, Michael, Revolution, 1990
Schock, Kurt, Unarmed Insurrections, 2004
Reading Packet


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