Theda Skocpol grew up in Detroit, Michigan, received her B.A. from Michigan State University and went on to earn a PhD from Harvard in sociology, where she is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Sociology and Government. She is widely regarded in academic circles for her unique approaches to understanding political and social science issues. In 2007, Skocpol was awarded the John Skytte Prize in political science, one of the world’s most prestigious, academic awards. Theda Skocpol’s, Social Revolutions in the Modern World, was widely published in 1994 and presents an extension of her structurally-based, comparative analysis of various social revolutions. In addition to this book, she has also published numerous other works including States and Social Revolutions and the acclaimed, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, applying her social theories to the genesis of the American welfare state.
Social Revolutions in the Modern World is a compilation of essays, which updates and expands arguments Skocpol posed years earlier regarding social revolutions in her previous book, States and Social Revolutions. The updated arguments seek to explain how we can better understand recent revolutionary upheavals in countries across the globe and why social revolutions have happened in some countries, but not in others. Throughout the book, Skocpol illustrates how various ideas about states and societies can aid in identifying the particular types of regimes that are susceptible to the growth of revolutionary movements as well as those that are vulnerable to seizure of state power by revolutionary aggressors. Skocpol argues that the cause of social revolutions is attributable to a multitude of factors and cannot be explained by any single factor, which, she points out, is a common pitfall among political science scholars in attempting to identify the cause of social upheavals and revolutions.
Avoiding this pitfall, Skocpol instead uses a structural, comparative analyses and the notion of “multiple causation” that attempts to incorporate the interplay of various facets surrounding a revolution to provide a more comprehensive explanation for why revolutions occur. Skocpol’s theory is inclusive versus exclusive and avoids overlooking important contributing factors of other theories when examining the dynamic nature of a revolution. Her approach inherently prohibits a myopic focus and parochial analysis, which would fail to provide a comprehensive, realistic understanding of the various forces that create, enable and bring about a revolutionary situation.
Though even with such an embracing approach, Skocpol is not without critics. Perhaps the biggest critique of Skocpol's work is an essay by William H. Sewell, Jr. entitled: “Ideologies and Social Revolutions: Reflections on the French Case”, which Skocpol includes within her compilation of essays that make up this book. Within his essay, Sewell...