What can the great crises of the past teach us about contemporary revolutions? Arguing from an exciting and original perspective, Goldstone suggests that great revolutions were the product of 'ecological crises' that occurred when inflexible political, economic, and social institutions were overwhelmed by the cumulative pressure of population growth on limited available resources. Moreover, he contends that the causes of the great revolutions of Europe—the English and French revolutions—were similar to those of the great rebellions of Asia, which shattered dynasties in Ottoman Turkey, China, and Japan.
The author observes that revolutions and rebellions have more often produced a crushing state orthodoxy than liberal institutions, leading to the conclusion that perhaps it is vain to expect revolution to bring democracy and economic progress. Instead, contends Goldstone, the path to these goals must begin with respect for individual liberty rather than authoritarian movements of 'national liberation.'
Arguing that the threat of revolution is still with us, Goldstone urges us to heed the lessons of the past. He sees in the United States a repetition of the behavior patterns that have led to internal decay and international decline in the past, a situation calling for new leadership and careful attention to the balance between our consumption and our resources.
Meticulously researched, forcefully argued, and strikingly original, Revolutions and Rebellions in the Early Modern World is a tour de force by a brilliant young scholar. It is a book that will surely engender much discussion and debate.
Jack A. Goldstone is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Comparative Research in History, Society, and Culture at the University of California, Davis.
1993 American Sociological Association Distinguished Publication Award, American Sociological Association
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