Alexis Tocqueville: How Revolutions Begin

Its clear from anyone who’s spent time studying Arnold Toynbee’s oeuvre (pronounced ‘you’ve-ray’ meaning, a body of work), that he was inspired from the work of Alexis Tocqueville, especially Tocqueville’s study of the origins of the French Revolution and its specific distinctions from the success that became the American Revolution.  Simply put, these political, moral, social revolutions are grounded in two different conceptions of the Enlightenment, Anglo and Gallic.

Why is this significant?

Because the Chinese, especially the young are fascinated by the formal study of how successful Revolutions occur.

According to Tocqueville, the dominant minority party must have the support of some auxiliary institution within the indigenous Civilization.  That means one key state institution.

Examples:  The Catholic Church in Poland (1978), the Philippines in 1986, Radio Free Europe throughout the Cold War, the Judiciary, throughout the colored revolutions during the break up of Russia; the security forces in today’s Arab Spring.

Absent one social institution, the aspired to revolution will fail.

Think Tiananmen Square!

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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