Revisited: Revolutionary Types and the Structuralist-Voluntarist Debate
There are three ideal types of revolutions: spontaneous, planned and negotiated. The role and importance of structural factors versus human agency vary according to the general category to which a particular revolution belongs. In spontaneous revolutions, both the transition and conslidation phases are heavily conditioned by prevailing structural factors, especially those that result in the weakening of ruling state institutions and the political mobilization of one or more social groups. By contrast, in planned revolutions self-declared revolutionaries take the lead in both mobilizing supporters and weakening the state, in fact often having a highly elaborate ideological—as well as tactical and strategic—blueprint for the acquisition and consolidation of power. Negotiated revolutions see the greatest coalescence of forces involving both structural developments and human agency. The seeds of the revolution have germinated, but the prevailing structural developments are not by themselves sufficient to bring about the revolution's success. Actors representing both state and society must step in to negotiate, and only then might the revolution succeed and be consolidated.
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