Crane Brinton wrote The Anatomy of Revolution. In this book, he did not attempt to analyze why revolution occurs, but how it occurs instead. He believed that the course of revolution was similar to the course of a fever. Revolution, like fever, was something that a nation could contract. The nation, like an individual, would suffer greatly during it. But like fever, revolution would break, and there would be a return to normalcy.
He focused on four cases: the English Revolution of the 17th century, the American and French Revolutions of the 18th century, and the Russian Revolution of the 20th century. Like fever, the beginnings of revolution are imperceptible. By the time that symptoms are noticeable, the fever is well advanced.
There are three important stages that lead up to revolution: the transfer of allegiance of the intellectuals; the emergence of a second government; and the refusal, or the failure to use, of the armed forces to suppress the revolutionaries.
When this third sage has been reached, the old regime inevitably falls. But that’s not the end of the story; Brinton went on to describe what happens after the old regime falls. The revolutionaries are a coalition consisting of moderates and extremists. So long as the old regime is still in power, thy work together. Ut once it falls, their interests diverge. At first, it is the moderates who appear to win out. Once the old regime falls, they leave the revolutionary organizations and move into the ministries. But things don’t go so well. There are a lot of problems, such as economic disruption and poor relations with other countries, that make governing difficult. Euphoria soon gives way to disappointment. The moderates come under criticism, especially from the extremists. The failures of the moderates weaken them, the extremists then seize power.
The extremist program is much different. They wanted not just to change the form of government, but to change society as a whole, even the basic nature of...