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Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern Worldby Jack A Goldstone
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"An impressively bold and thoroughly researched attempt to construct a theory of major breakdowns of the political order in large-scale societies, encompassing, besides relatively familiar instances (the English and the French revolutions), also rather unfamiliar ones, such as those affecting the Ottoman and the Chinese empires in the 16th and 17th centuries, and emphasizing the impact of demographic change not only on the livelihood of the
lower strata but also on the aspirations of elite groups and on the viability of political regimes. Undoubtedly a work of major scope and significance, destined to make a considerable impact on the burgeoning field of comparative-historical sociology." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
'This remarkable and brilliant book arrives not a moment too soon. . A major intellectual achievement which will redraw the map of early modern history.' -William Doyle, 'Times Higher Education Supplement
About the Author
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.
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