THREE PHASES of the European and World Revolution

Table of Contents =
(1) Phase One = The Liberal Revolution [EREV#1]
(2) Phase Two = The Rise of Social Democracy [EREV#2]
(3) Phase Three = The Statist/Managerial Revolution [EREV#3]

Bibliography = Academic Theories of Political Culture (War and Revolution, gnr plt.clt etc.) ALWAYS cross-check BYD

A 4-part definition of "revolution" =

(1) Revolution is a conscious assault on an existing structure of ruling or governmental institutions.

An assault simply to change who is in power is, by itself, not revolution. We call that "coup d'état". Therefore =

(2) Revolution seeks to put another set of ruling or governmental institutions in the place of the old.

So far, this definition of revolution is a lot like the definition of war, especially wars of conquest. In fact, revolutions have historically been associated with wars -- before, during and/or after revolution. A research group once concluded that revolution ought to be called "internal war". Thus a third component is necessary to distinguish revolution from inter-state or international war (between two existing governmental systems) =

(3) Revolution originates from within the targeted governmental authority, and
participants from within that authority are at the center of the action.

To be a revolution, events must be largely "home grown", not introduced from beyond the limits of the institutional system under revolutionary assault. Thus modern revolution is understood within a widely accepted world view that includes "sovereignty" [ID]

The most famous revolutions involved great masses of participants and a degree of violence, though the numbers involved and the levels of violence are not essential to the definition. Certainly the effects of authentic revolution will always involve great masses of people, whether they actively participate or not. That is so because sovereign governmental institutions are always intertwined with the life of all within the systems' jurisdiction.

Let's add a final component to our definition, at least for consideration =

(4) Revolution is a distinctly modern experience

Not all epochs experienced revolution. For one thing, revolutions are unlikely in times or places where there does not exist the idea of "progress" or "restoration" and the belief in the possibility -- maybe we should say "the democratic imperative" -- of popular political mobilization toward fulfillment of progressive or restorative goals. Only in the modern historical epoch has revolution become one of the standard (if ultra extreme) forms of domestic political behavior. Three early modern European "thinkers" captured these modern ideas or sentiments and left a legacy that has proved controversial but enduring and globally influential = John Locke [ID], Jean Jacques Rousseau [ID], Jeremy Bentham [ID]. Into the 19th century, four further figures gave wide credence to related but different visions of history as progress = Charles Fourier [ID], Saint-Simon [ID], Auguste Comte [ID], and Karl Marx [LOOP]


The era of European liberal revolution began with what some call the "Atlantic Revolution"

The central liberal concept, the guiding revolutionary social-political idea or ideal, both in the American and French revolutions, was "constituency" =

Ideas and ideals were only part of the equation. Great changes caused by revolutionary transition from pre-modern ways ("feudal" in Europe) to modern ways have everywhere forced a rebalancing of traditional relationships. The modern world has posed a profound challenge to traditional cultures, in "The West" and everywhere else =

"The Left" and "The Right"

Out of the French Revolution came the now universal symbolism for the spectrum of political opinion that arose in response to this transformation of public life = "left", "center", "right".  These cardinal points in the European political universe might not be best arrayed in a straight line, left to right, but around a near-circular Greek letter "omega" =

liberal   conservative
radical      reactionary

Around these points on the political spectrum that great swarm of 19th-century "-isms" hived themselves.

Liberals strove for independence from institutional authority and maximum individual freedom
Social ties were understood less in a traditional "communitarian" way, more in terms of what came to be widely designated as "the social contract", such as espoused by John Locke [EG]. [LOOP on "liberal" from 1780s to 1880s]

Conservatives strove to preserve traditions and sustain historically proven ways of life
Social ties were understood to be hierarchical and stable in a traditional "community", such as espoused by Edmund Burke [EG]

Radicals strove for a better future, such as had not yet been experienced, only conceptualized
Social ties might be thought of in rigorous and confining communitarian terms [EG],
or in an opposite direction, utterly spontaneous and anarchistic [EG]

Reactionaries strove to restore a past perfection, also not yet experienced, only conceptualized
Society was generally subordinate to authoritarian regulatory agencies, such as church, state, censors, police and military,
as urged by Joseph de Maistre [EG] or Metternich [EG]

The omega form presented above reminds us that liberals and conservatives do group together around the upper curve
While radicals and reactionaries are at the extremes, they seem almost to make contact with one another at low center

Post-French-Revolutionary Chronology

Historical Contradictions within Liberalism

At the heart of the "Atlantic" or "liberal" revolution two sets of contradictions festered =

  1. Freedom vs. equality [EG]
  2. Nationalism vs. civil liberty [EG]]

Striking different compromises along the ridge of these contradictions, European nations shaped their various domestic political, social and economic futures [more on relationship of political/institutional and economic changes in this era]

"Crunch Time" =


The central feature of the second phase of the European Revolution =
 the clash of interests of workers with the interests of owners
If the first phase can be called "liberal", the second can be called "social-democratic"
Big SAC LOOP on "wage-labor", from 1860s up to WW1

The era of social-democratic reform and revolution evolved out of the European liberal revolution and came into conflict with it.

Liberalism had long struggled against opponents to the "right", and that struggle continued. But now opposition arose on the "left", and it arose from the midst of liberal movements themselves. A "left-wing liberal" trend, increasingly designated as "social-democracy" or "socialism", sought to resolve the contradictions between freedom and equality in new and more radically egalitarian ways -- though not necessarily more democratic ways.

The social-democratic phase, like the liberal phase before it, revealed an eventually tragic set of contradictions. The old liberal contradiction still could not be transcended, IE=The contradiction between freedom and equality. But a new set of contradictions were soon visible in the growth of aggressive military-statism and imperialistic internationalism, along with intense self-centered, often racist and chauvinistic nationalism.

Two remarkable developments, one in France and other in the northern German-speaking territories of middle Europe, signaled growing crisis in the hitherto ascendant liberal revolution =

1) The two decades (1850-1870) of Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) in France [5-hop LOOP] were clear warning that the French Revolution could go sour, not just in the relationship of capitalists with labor but also in the relationship of the nation state to civil freedoms (including the so-called "free market")

2) Otto von Bismarck [6-hop LOOP] was born a Prussian but engineered creation of a new European nation-state, an imperial nation-state, the German Empire [MAP#1] [MAP#2]

*1906: Gaston DaCosta was a representative of EREV#2. He was a survivor of "The Paris Commune" [above], a shocking urban uprising in a major European metropol. He penned an angry, somewhat eccentric but brilliant and insightful interpretation of events 35 years after the event [E-TXT] =

The third phase of the European Revolution was inevitable once the habits, presumptions and practices of European Imperialism came home to roost

The violence and disorder of the Paris Commune came at the tail-end of a disturbing war between France and Prussia. This clusteration of events was evidence of transition from the grand 19th-century liberal phase toward the troubling third phase, the 20th-century phase of the European revolution.


Important reverberations of the previous two phases ran through the 20th and into the 21st centuries. The legacy of the previous two phases was far from extinguished. But however frequently we meet it, the traditional European political spectrum of "left" and "right" [ID] gives little authentic guidance to those who would try to understand this third phase of the European revolution

But we can point to three salient features of what SAC calls the third phase, managerial statism. Each salient feature arose in the late 19th century and are often captured in the terminology of that century's great "isms" =

  1. Industrialism. The organizational demands of "The Second Industrial Revolution" promoted the rise of economic "managerial elitism" in the control of gigantic new industrial and financial enterprises, all this reflected also in the harmonious rise of political "managerial statism" [ID]
  2. Militarism. The organizational demands of rising European militarism represented a domestication of imperialist habits perfected abroad over the previous centuries [EG#1 | EG#2 | EG#3] "Class war", "struggle for survival", "If you love your freedom, thank a marine"
  3. Imperialism. European imperialist domination was coming under attack by those who were earlier its victims. The great metropols had to mobilize to protect themselves and their control over far-flung and domestic peripheries [ID]

French historian and political theorist Elie Halévy's widely influential lectures and writings, gathered in The Era of Tyrannies, anchored themselves in point two, "Militarism", possibly exaggerating the role of socialist militarism. Halévy devoted little attention to points one and three [ID]

How do the three 20th-c Russian revolutions (1905 [ID], 1917fe [ID], and 1917oc [ID]) fit in?

At first, the Russian revolutions, particularly the second (1917fe) seemed to harbinger a new era of social-democratic victory, a resolution of contradictions and a realization of ideals met in the first [ID] and the second [ID] phases of the European revolutionary tradition

Europeans widely assumed that the first phase made the second phase possible. Some thought it made it inevitable. The strengths of what we are calling the first two phases of the European Revolution complimented one another. The second phase fulfilled the first. Some greeted this fulfillment with enthusiasm. Others dreaded it with equal enthusiasm.

"Unnamed Revolution" =

There seemed some uncertainty about the nature of these two Russian revolutions, swiftly one after the other. Uncertainty was reflected in the fact that the second of the two Russian revolutions in 1917 bore so many different names = "Russian Revolution", "Communist Revolution", "Soviet Revolution", and "Bolshevik Revolution"

Calendar reform in 1918 further blurred the picture as it put the anniversary of the second Russian revolution, the "October Revolution", in November [ID]. Nonetheless, official Soviet designation was "Great October". (SAC prefers "Soviet Revolution")

Sociologist Harold Lasswell identified the Soviet Revolution as "The Unnamed Revolution" [Lasswell.UNNAMED], and he set about to define this novel third phase of the European revolution which swept out of eastern Europe and across the global landscape in the 20th century