Jeff Goodwin’s network theory of “peripheral revolutions”

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The article considers J. Goodwin’s synthetic theory of revolution that claims to be the ‘fourth-generation’ theory, and the ways of its application in the comparative-historical analisys of peripheral revolutions of the “short twentieth century”. The first part of the article reveals the sources of Goodwin’s theoretical and methodological synthesis: the possibilities and limitations of different structural and state-centred theories and of network analysis. The combination of the state-constructionist approach with the network perspective of structuralist constructionism allows to avoid the structuralist mistake of ignoring the causal contribution of cultural and agecy determinants, and protects from the opposite theoretical failures of essentialism, cultural determinism, voluntarism, etc. The second part of the article describes how Goodwin used his complex theoretical model in the analysis of the waves of peripheral revolutions in Southeast Asia in 1945-1955, in Central America in 1970-1980s and in Eastern Europe in 1989. He shows that bureaucratic, patrimonial and exclusive regimes with weak infrastructural power contributed to the growth of revolutionary movements, but the patrimonial regimes are especially vulnerable to the revolutionary overthrow. Political oppression and indiscriminate violence determine the revolutionaries’ solidarity on the periphery more than social-economic factors such as poverty. The final part of the article presents some Goodwin’s conclusions on the future of revolutions and theories of revolutions. In the 21 century the world will witness fewer revolutions and more movements for global justice; while sociology of revolutions demonstrates fewer attempts to create a general theory of revolution and collective action and tends to the studies of different revolutionary cases and their types on the basis of synthetic structural-cultural methodology.

About the authors

D Yu Karasev

Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

Author for correspondence.


Prosp. Vernadskogo, 84, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119571


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Copyright (c) 2018 Karasev D.Y.

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