Democracy through Revolution

This project, still in its formative stages, examines the links between democracy and revolution generally. A rough draft of a paper related to this project was presented at the SSHA Annual Meeting in 2017.

Democracy through Revolution: Voice and Rights in the Revolutionary Process
This project examines the possibilities of achieving a democratic state through a revolutionary process, and takes a step towards untangling the complicated relationship between revolutionary goals and often less-than-democratic outcomes by looking at four “paths” revolutions take, embodied in four case studies: the Democratic (Poland/Czechoslovakia), Democratizing (Nicaragua), Path-Breaking (Mozambique), and Authoritarian (Iran) paths.

Abstract: Revolution and democracy have a complicated relationship. Revolutionary movements are often inspired by ideas of liberation and freedom, and revolutions have played important roles in long-term processes of democratization. However, revolutions often lead to authoritarian regimes and particularly violent, repressive states. This paper explores the tense relationship between revolution and democracy by first identifying the factors that contribute to and hinder democratization after a successful revolution, including both the structural conditions before and after the revolution, as well as elements of the revolutionary process itself. It argues that a successful revolutionary transition to democracy requires a complementary combination of structural and processual factors that build both the rights and voices of its citizens during and after the revolutionary transfer of power. It then analyzes four paths social revolutions can take towards democracy and dictatorship – authoritarian, path-breaking, democratizing, and democratic – and discusses these paths in relation to the cases of Iran, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Poland/Czechoslovakia, before ending with a consideration of the future of democratic and democratizing revolutions, particularly in light of the Arab Spring.