Revolution: The Theory and Practice of a European Idea

Revolution: The Theory and Practice of a European Idea, (Ed.) London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971, pp. 330.
Edited by Krishan Kumar

Since the end of the eighteenth century, revolution has been a central phenomenon of modern history, a formative experience of almost every modern nation. Krishan Kumar provides an original and provocative introduction to the study of this experience, including writings by revolutionary actors and theorists and his own essay on the nature of revolution.

Borrowing a concept from art history, Mr. Kumar argues in his essay for an interpretation of revolution as a change of political 'style', and attempts to substantiate this by studying the theory and practice of European revolutions. This involves a discussion of the general causes and processes of revolution, with particular reference to those of France and Russia, and an examination of the unexpected fate of revolutions in Europe and in the Third World.

In the readings Mr. Kumar concentrates mainly on theoretical analyses of revolution, and presents a selection of the great theoreticians and abservers of revolution: Marx, Tocqueville, Lenin, Sorel, Rosa Luxemburg, Marcuse, Mao Tse-tung. The focus again is on the European experience, but the collection includes some writing on contemporary revolution; and the readings are arranged so as to bring out the major themes of the introductory essay. The essay and the readings together provide a valuable intorduction to the crucial experience of revolution, in theory and in practice.