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

Fall 2009

SOC 308 • Revolution, Power, Nonviolence

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46417 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
WEL 2.308

Course Description

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

Students are expected and encouraged to attend class. The instructor will not provide class notes to students. There will be 11 attendance assignments spread out over the course of the semester that will account for your attendance grade. To receive full credit for attendance you will have to complete 10 assignments (10 assignments = 100%, 9 assignments = 90%, and so on). The assignments are not graded, but may be used to help determine final grades in borderline cases. Attendance assignments are worth 10% of the final grade.

There will be three exams given in this course, all three of which are in-class exams. Each exam is worth 30% of the final grade. Exam 3 is not comprehensive. Make-up exams will only be given in rare and justifiable cases. The instructor reserves the right to revise make-up exams both in content and form. Exams are worth 90% (3 x 30%) of the final grade.


Kimmel, Michael, Revolution: A Sociological Interpretation, 1990
Kurzman, Charles, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, 2004
Schock, Kurt, Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies, 2005
Sharp, Gene, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, 2005
Additional readings available on Blackboard


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