Cambridge Catalogue  
  • Help
Home > Catalogue > Taking Power
Taking Power


  • 2 b/w illus. 12 tables
  • Page extent: 410 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.6 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521629843 | ISBN-10: 0521629845)

Taking Power

Taking Power analyzes the causes behind some three dozen revolutions in the Third World between 1910 and the present. It advances a new theory that seeks to integrate the political, economic, and cultural factors that brought these revolutions about, and that links structural theorizing with original ideas on culture and agency. It attempts to explain why so few revolutions have succeeded, and so many have failed. The book is divided into chapters that treat particular sets of revolutions: the great social revolutions of Mexico 1910, China 1949, Cuba 1959, Iran 1979, and Nicaragua 1979; the anticolonial revolutions in Algeria, Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe from the 1940s to the 1970s; the reversed revolutions of Iran (1951–53), Guatemala (1944–54), Bolivia (1952–64), Chile (1970–73), Jamaica (1972–80), Grenada (1979–83), and Nicaragua (1979–90); failed revolutionary attempts in El Salvador, Peru, and elsewhere; political revolutions in the Philippines, South Africa, and elsewhere. It closes with speculation about the future of revolutions in an age of globalization, with special attention to Chiapas, the post-September 11 world, and the global justice movement.

JOHN FORAN is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also involved with the programs on Islamic and Near Eastern Studies, Latin American and Iberian Studies, and Women, Culture, and Development. His books include Fragile Resistence: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution (1993), A Century of Revolution: Social Movements in Iran (1994), and Theorizing Revolutions (1997).

Taking Power

On the Origins of Third World Revolutions

John Foran

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© John Foran 2005

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2005

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data
Foran, John.
Taking power: on the origins of Third World revolutions/John Foran.
 p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-521-62009-0 (alk. paper) – ISBN 0-521-62984-5 (pb.)
1. Revolutions – Developing countries. 2. Revolutions – Developing countries–
History – 20th century. 3. Insurgency – Developing countries. 4. Social change –
Developing countries. 5. Developing countries – Politics and government – 20th
century. 6. Developing countries – Social conditions – 20th century. I. Title.
HN979.F67 2005
303.6′4′091724 – dc22 2005045780

ISBN-13 978-0-521-62009-3 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-62009-0 hardback
ISBN-13 978-0-521-62984-3 paperback
ISBN-10 0-521-62984-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

No book can ever convey the greatness of a people in revolt.

Enrique Oltuski, Vida Clandestina:
My Life in the Cuban Revolution
translated by Thomas and Carol Christensen
(New York: Wiley, 2002), xxii


  List of figures page x
  List of tables xi
  Acknowledgments xii
  Introduction 1
  Part One Perspectives
1   Theorizing revolutions 5
     Defining revolution 6
     Historical perspectives on revolutions 8
     A theory of Third World social revolutions 18
     The method of studying revolutions 24
  Part Two Revolutionary success
2   The great social revolutions 33
     Mexico’s unfinished revolution, 1910–20 34
     The longest revolution: China, 1911–49 46
     The making of a revolution: Cuba, 1953–59 57
     The Sandinista synthesis in Nicaragua, 1977–79 65
     Iran, 1977–79: a surprising prototype for the Third World 74
     Conclusion: the route to social revolution 87
3   The closest cousins: the great anti-colonial revolutions 88
     The Battle of Algeria, 1954–62 91
     The Angolan Revolution, 1960s–1975: from liberation movement to civil war 104
     Mozambique, 1960s–1975: the advantages of relative unity 115
     Zimbabwe, 1960s–1980: anti-racist revolution 123
     Vietnam, 1945–75: the three revolutions 131
     Conclusion: the anti-colonial variant 145
  Part Three Revolutionary failure
4   The greatest tragedies: reversed revolutions 151
  Part One: the rise to power of revolutionary movements 153
      Bolivia 1952: a sudden rebellion 153
      The Chilean path to revolution, 1970 158
      Grenada’s swift success, 1979 163
      Iran 1951, Guatemala 1944, and Jamaica 1972: two elections and an uprising 167
  Part Two: falling from power 169
      Bolivia after 1952 170
      Chile 1973 174
      Grenada 1983 181
      Nicaragua in the 1980s 190
      Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, and Jamaica 1980: two coups and an election 196
  Conclusions: success and failure in one act 199
5   The great contrasts: attempts, political revolutions, and non-attempts 205
  Attempted revolutions 206
      El Salvador’s near revolution 206
      The Sendero Luminoso in Peru 209
      China, 1989 211
      Algeria in the 1990s 213
      Guatemala since the 1960s, Argentina in the 1970s, and the Philippines after 1986 214
      A comparative analysis of attempts 216
  A look at political revolutions 221
      The fall of the Manchus in China, people’s power in the Philippines, and the ouster of “Baby Doc” in Haiti 221
      The uprooting of apartheid 223
      From the Congo to Zaire, and back 225
      A comparative analysis of political revolutions 227
  No attempt: the reasons why 229
      Iraq: where political culture prevented revolution? 230
      Iran and Egypt: the counter-revolutionary power of repressive tolerance 231
      Cuba: the advantages of culture 233
      South Korea and Taiwan: the advantages of real development 234
      Argentina, Brazil, and Turkey: dependent development and democracy 235
      Comparing non-attempts 237
  Chiapas: the first revolution of the new millennium 238
  Concluding thoughts on the failure of revolutions 243
  Part Four Conclusions
6   The past and future of revolutions 247
  What have we learned about the origins of revolutions? 247
  A summary of results 255
  A concern with the future of revolutions 258
      How to study the future 260
      Globalization: the highest stage of capitalism? 260
      An aside on September 11: the crisis every/no one was waiting for . . . 265
  How might the revolutions of the future have better end(ing)s? 268
  By way of concluding thoughts 276
  Notes 279
  Works cited 349
  Index 381


1.1 A model of Third World social revolutions page 18
1.2 The role of culture in the making of revolutions 22


2.1 The origins of successful Third World social revolutions page 85
2.2 Causes of Third World social revolutions:
   a Boolean truth table
3.1 Origins of anti-colonial social revolutions 146
3.2 Causes of social and anti-colonial Third World revolutions:
   a Boolean truth table
4.1 Coming to power 198
4.2 The rise and reversal of revolutions:
   a Boolean truth table
4.3 Falling from power 201
5.1 Attempted social revolutions 217
5.2 Paths to failure:
   a Boolean truth table
5.3 Political revolutions 228
5.4 No attempt at revolution 236
6.1 The causes of Third World revolutions:
   a Boolean truth table


Discounting an essay written in 1975, while a sophomore in college, on the revolutions of early modern Europe (I had a rather elegant – or was it sophomoric? – theory that those on the bottom ended up on the top), this book traces its own origins to 1990, when I began to think about the Iranian revolution – to which I had devoted my research in the 1980s – in comparative perspective. But for a revolution in my own life – the arrival of Cerina in 1996 and then Amal in 1998 – this might have taken only ten years. I therefore thank my editors at Cambridge University Press, and especially Sarah Caro, for their patience with me over the years.

   Funding for this project came from many sources, including the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Sawyer Seminar of the Advanced Study Center of the International Institute at the University of Michigan, the World Society Foundation in Zurich, the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the American Sociological Association Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation on Anthropological Research, as well as from two wonderful educational institutions: Smith College, where I worked from 2000 to 2002, and UC Santa Barbara, which has sustained me for the long run, through the generosity of the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research, the Academic Senate, and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center.

   First versions of parts of this book have appeared in the journals Critical Sociology, Theory and Society, Third World Quarterly, and Political Power and Social Theory, and in my edited books, Theorizing Revolutions (Routledge, 1997), and The Future of Revolutions: Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization (Zed Press, 2003). I am grateful to all these outlets for their support of my work and for permission to use this material in various ways, and each is cited in the appropriate place.

   I would like to acknowledge the critical feedback of a number of individuals who read and commented on parts of this work, including Richard Appelbaum, Chris Appy, John Booth, Kate Bruhn, Krista Bywater, Rani Bush, Joe Conti, Eve Darien-Smith, Francesca DeGiuli, James Dunkerley, Terry Elkiss, Mark Elliott, Anthony Francoso, Wally Goldfrank, John Mason Hart, Zeynep Korkman, Josef Liles, Alan Liu, Edwin Lopez, Fernando Lopez-Alves, John Marcum, Chris McAuley, Tim Mechlinski, Becky Overmyer-Velasquez, Marifeli Pérez-Stable, Elizabeth Perry, Charles Ragin, J.-P. Reed, Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, Amandeep Sandhu, Rich Snyder, Alvin So, and Tim Wickham-Crowley. Three special readers and comrades in arms – Jeff Goodwin, Bill Robinson, and Eric Selbin – offered helpful comments and valued encouragement on the whole manuscript. I have still not been able to fully address the many excellent questions all have raised in this work, whose final shape remains my own responsibility, though the product of the labor of many.

   I am also indebted to students in a number of classes, and to my research assistants and students Joe Bandy, Keely Burke, Jackie Cabuay, David Espinosa, Tara Farrell, Jennifer Freidman, Noelle Harrison, Jenn Kagawa, Ariana Kalinic, Linda Klouzal, Brianna Krompier, Edwin Lopez, Maria Mark, Markus McMillin, Tim Mechlinksi, Sadie Miller, Camellia Millet-Lau, Veronica Montes, Daniel Olmos, Magdalena Prado, Javad Rassaf, Tamara Simons, Tanya Tabon, Megan Thomas, Veronica Villafan, Becca Wanner, Joan Weston, Richard Widick, Jen Wu, and Vanessa Ziegler for help on the many cases covered in these pages. Their innumerable particular contributions are acknowledged in the appropriate places.

   Finally, there are many friends and others to thank on a personal basis for support over the past decade and a half – my parents, Jack and Ramona; my Oakland family – Mary Jane, Bruce, and Alex; my Holyoke family – Bob, Carole, Bobby, Mike, and Betsy; my England family – Nil, Manju, Reena, Ian, Ashoke, Arun, Anil, and Anjuli; my India family – Chetan, Eknath, Anjuli, and Prabhu; and Tom Madden, Nina Sharif, Rich Kaplan, Judy Hamilton (my therapist), and countless others.

   This book is wholly dedicated to its inspiration – mi compañera Kum-Kum Bhavnani, who has accompanied me on the journey of life in these revolutionary times, and to the memory of her mother, Raj Bhavnani, who set me an example of how to live, love, and laugh.

printer iconPrinter friendly version AddThis