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The Limits of Agronomic Determinism: A Critique of Paige's Agrarian Revolution

  • Margaret R. Somers (a1) and Walter L. Goldfrank (a1)
Abstract

Social scientists left and right have long engaged in the project of identifying the conditions under which revolutionary, class-conscious social movements emerge. This project aims at prediction, in the hope of either promoting social revolutions or preventing them. Until quite recently both Marxist and liberal social scientists have focussed on “modern” urban social classes as the generators of revolution: the bourgeoisie, the intellectuals, the industrial proletarlat. But paradoxically, though Marx summarily dismissed the peasantry as so many “potatoes in a sack,” and despite the generality of working-class social movements, the major revolutions of our time have been made largely by country people, to the extent that they were made by social movements at all. Thus two major issues take shape in the study of revolutions. One, how and why do peasants—allegedly “premodern” and conservative—defy the laws of social science and becomerevolutionary agents? What is it about rural social conditions that enabled them to dynamite the old order? Two, what is the relationship between revolutionary social movements on the one hand, and revolutionary outcomes on the other? A movement entails the collective action of a class whose ideology may be described as more or less radical; a revolution entails the overhauling of a social structure. In this context, no matter how ideologically “revolutionary” a social movement may be, it is but one of the causal elements that converge to produce social revolution.

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Copyright
References
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Arthur L. Stinchcombe , “Agricultural Enterprise and Rural Class Relations,” American Journal of Sociology 67 (091961), 165–76;

Theda Skocpol , “France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 18: 2 (041976), 175210.

Theda R. Skocpol , States and Social Revolution: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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