Concepts and Skocpol: Ambiguity and Vagueness in the Study of Revolution

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In a 1980 article discussing historical and theoretical developments in the study of revolution, Jack Goldstone distinguished among three ‘generations’ and suggested that the work of the third, as typified by Theda Skocpol, represented an advance on those that preceded it. This paper argues the opposite by critically analyzing the work that has defined most third-generation scholarship, States and Social Revolutions. The reasons for Skocpol's inability to transcend earlier scholarship are to be found in her casual approach to conceptual clarity, specifically in her tendency to indulge in ambiguity and vagueness with respect to the central concepts of the book - structure, state, potential autonomy, crisis and revolution. In light of these conceptual problems, I propose a possible conceptual solution to the problems besetting the study of revolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-112
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • crisis
  • potential autonomy
  • revolution
  • state
  • structure


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