Revolution – Concept, Classification and Examples

We explain what a revolution is and the types of revolutions that exist. Also, what is a political and social revolution and examples.

Russian Revolution
There have been many revolutions throughout the history of mankind.

What are revolutions?

A revolution is a violent, sudden and permanent change in the conditions of a system of any kind, that is, to a sudden rearrangement of the state of things. This term comes from the Latin revolutio (“Take a turn”) and is especially applied to the political and social order of societies, the scientific-technological paradigm and other specific areas.

There is no consensus as to what may or may not constitute a revolution in historical terms, but there have been many throughout human history, and they have always had profound implications in local, regional or global human existence, which is why they are often studied with great effort by historians.

This use of the term should not be confused with revolutions of a wheel or a car, since there it refers directly to the number of laps that an object makes on its axis in a specific period of time.

Types of revolutions

Industrial Revolution
In an industrial revolution, new modes of production and forms of work emerge.

There are various criteria for classifying revolutions, depending on the area of ​​study used for it. But broadly speaking we will talk about six different types:

  • Political revolutions. The change produced has to do with the mechanisms to exercise power and can generate a new model of State administration or the return of some other traditional one.
  • Social revolutions. Starting from a new way of understanding society, a new way of conducting individual and collective relationships is imposed, generally due to the emergence of a new ruling class.
  • Economic revolutions. The modes of production and distribution of the goods and services of a society are drastically altered and rethought, either thanks to the discovery of new modes of production or by a change in the economic management model.
  • Scientific revolutions. There is a radical and profound change in the scientific paradigm in one or several areas of human knowledge, permanently altering what was considered scientific truth until then and what was not.
  • Technological revolutions. New technologies or new artifacts are incorporated into everyday life that generate an irreversible and considerable impact on society as a whole, allowing new relationships and significantly altering the human world.
  • Industrial revolutions. Extreme technological, social and economic changes create new modes of production and new forms of work, and this has repercussions on the financial, organizational, etc.

Political revolution

Cuban revolution
Political revolutions tend to be relatively bloodless.

When speaking of a political revolution, it always refers to radical changes in the way of exercising and holding power. In this sense, political revolutions usually involve state institutions and are exercised by those who hold social and economic power. For this reason, they are often used as a lever for change in political structures, although this change can give rise to the emergence of unexpected forces. In this sense, political revolutions tend to be relatively non-bloody, except in cases where they lead to social revolutions or armed conflicts.

A perfect example of a political revolution was the Cuban Revolution, in which Fidel Castro’s militias took political control of Cuba in January 1959 and overthrew the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.

Social revolution

French Revolution
Social revolutions are much bloodier than political revolutions.

A social revolution is usually generated when a political revolution It also involves profound changes in the distribution of wealth, in access to goods or in control of the means of production. It does not constitute a simple violent restructuring of political powers but also generates a violent restructuring of the fabric of society. In that sense, they can be much bloodier and bring much more social pain than political revolutions.

A good example of social revolution was the French Revolution, which although initially had a purely political spirit (converting the absolutist monarchy into a parliamentary monarchy), ended up becoming a guillotine of aristocrats and counterrevolutionaries, when the most radical factions of the rebels seized power and aspired to a profound transformation of the French social fabric, eradicating its enemies through selective beheadings. The result of such social change would be the advent of Bonapartism, and later the establishment of the first modern democracy in the West.

Examples of revolutions

Some examples of revolutions in history are as follows:

  • Industrial Revolution. It is known with this name to the period of profound changes in the labor, productive and economic structure of the West, especially of Europe, from the irruption of automation and steam engines in the 18th and 19th centuries. The train, the steam boats, the machines in the factories were some of the advances that forever changed rural Europe and made it an order of industrialized countries. Thus the peasantry became a working class and capitalism was consolidated as the prevailing economic model.
  • French Revolution. The French Revolution of 1789 was a political and social conflict that brought about the fall of the absolutist monarchy of Louis XV, and its replacement by a monarchical system (initially, later republican). This system was controlled by a National Assembly, in which the Fundamental Rights of the Human Being were promulgated for the first time. During this period of tumult the aristocracy of France was eradicated and radical popular forces were unleashed that ruled violently (the so-called “Terror”) until Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup in 1799.
  • Mexican Revolution. It is known by this name to an armed conflict with profound political and social repercussions, which took place in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century. It arose from the fall of the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz in 1911 and from the confrontation between various revolutionary factions to seize power in the country. This confrontation consisted of a succession of coups d’état and a civil war that lasted until 1917 (according to some authors until 1934), and brought as consequences the total renewal of the Mexican State and profound changes in the social fabric of the time.