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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S053-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

There have been revolutions in politics, science, philosophy and most other spheres of human life. This entry discusses revolution mainly through concepts pertaining especially to the political realm. Attempts to define political revolution have been controversial; as a consequence there is dispute about whether specific occurrences were revolutions, rebellions, coups d’état or reformations.

If we define revolution as the illegal introduction of a radically new situation and order for the sake of obtaining or increasing individual or communal freedom, we may list those characteristics most often ascribed to it. These characteristics distinguish it from its earlier use where revolution referred to the return of an original state of affairs, as in astronomy; they also allow its distinction from related concepts such as reformation. At least at a superficial level this definition can do justice to early modern (seventeenth and eighteenth) as well as late modern (nineteenth and twentieth century) revolutions. Through these periods there has, however, been sufficient change in concepts closely related to revolution to require the definition’s openness to nuances for it to apply to both periods. It is unclear whether even such a nuanced definition can apply in postmodern thought.

Citing this article:
Schouls, Peter A.. Revolution, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S053-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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