What Do We Really Know About Revolution?

What do we really know about revolution?

My current project is a meta-analysis of five decades of comparative studies of revolution. I first examine the “how” of the field: how cases are selected and compared. I explore the “why” of the resulting demography by considering who produces knowledge about revolution and their connections to each other. I then consider the “what” of the field's true findings: which theories apply to which revolutions, and which causal factors have the most explanatory power across many cases. With thanks to Lisa Anne Auerbach for weaving my bookshelves.

  • What Do We Really Know About (the Social Science of) Revolution? Networks of Scholars, Cases, and Theories, in progress

On Revolutions

On revolutions

It is time to advance the next generation of revolution studies. We document the shift from "big R" Revolution to "small r" revolutions that target regimes, not states, and have goals for individuals, not societies. The book integrates insights from related fields into the study of revolution and challenges the dichotomies that bedevil revolution studies: social versus political revolutions; structure versus agency; violence versus nonviolence; domestic versus international factors; and success versus failure. We call for greater reflexivity about concepts, methods, and the ethical issues that lie at the intersection of revolutionary theory and practice.

Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists

Radicals, revolutionaries, and terrorists

Social movements, revolutions, and terrorism share similar causes and processes. In my first book, I consider eight key questions for understanding radicalism. Ranging across the globe from the 1500s to the present, diverse cases are examined, e.g., 19th century anarchists, fascists, Che Guevara, the Weather Underground, Chechen insurgents, the Earth Liberation Front, Al-Qaeda, and the Arab Spring. Throughout, I demonstrate how to draw on multiple areas of research to better explain the forms movements take. The book is based on a seminar of the same name I have taught since 2010.



My primary area of expertise is revolutions. In my work on revolutionary waves, I find that cultural constructions of the transnational system strain regimes, fracture elites, and empower oppositions as well as make cross-national diffusion more likely. Articles published in Theory and Society and Social Science History have won awards from sections of the American Sociological Association.

Social movements and terrorism

Social movements and terrorism

Revolution's contemporary counterparts include radicalism, political violence, and terrorism. I use insights from sociology and social movement theory to explain different aspects of political violence. Currently, I am extending my research on terrorism designations to understand media labeling of militant groups.

The global and transnational

The global and transnational

The international human rights regime is the mirror image of radicalism and political violence in the contemporary world. My research explores the dynamics of the international system and domestic politics. Kristen Shorette, John Meyer, Gili Drori, and I currently are investigating human rights in national constitutions.

I am a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and a faculty affiliate of the International Relations Program.

My research lies in the areas of political and global-transnational sociology with quantitative and comparative-historical approaches. I am particularly interested in revolutions. This almost necessarily leads to an interest in revolution's contemporary counterparts—radicalism and terrorism—and their mirror image in international human rights.

At Pomona, I teach courses on social movements, global sociology, research methods, and social theory.