Thursday, October 22, 2009
Crane Brinton's "The Anatomy of Revolution"
Crane Brinton’s “The Anatomy of Revolution” tried to find common threads between four revolutions:
1) English Civil War
2) American Revolution
3) French Revolution
4) Russian Revolution
Crane described distinct phases in each conflict. The phases resemble a pendulum swinging from conservatism to radicalism and back to conservatism.
1) The middle class becomes discontented with the political system. Although the rising commercial class has wealth, they do not have commensurate political involvement. The middle class becomes driven by ideas and tries to change society. The desire reform, not revolution, and are quire idealistic.
2) The Government attempts to put down the middle class. This forces the middle class to bring the lower classes into the conflict. While poor men fight, they are inspired and led by the middle class. The conflict pushes the pendulum towards radicalism, but the middle class tries to act as a brake on its progress. The Middle class loses control of the revolution and a crisis ensues. The revolution becomes more and more radical. The pendulum swings farther and farther to radicalism.
3) The radicals, driven by pragmatism, institutes terror to maintain the revolution – think Robespierre and Lenin
4) Frightened by radicalism, the middle class regains control and moves the pendulum back towards conservatism (Thermidorean Reaction).
5) The pendulum continues swinging back and a new dictator emerges (Napoleon or Stalin).
The American Revolution, unlike the others, never devolved to #3. The middle class remained in the saddle the whole time. Why