The End of Revolution, and Its Means

Processual and Programmatic Approaches to Revolution in the Epoch of Revolution Debate

in Contention
Restricted access


In Contention volume 5, issue 2, Benjamin Abrams interviewed the political theorist John Dunn on the topic of modern revolutions. In the interview, Dunn advanced the view that the “Epoch of Revolution” had ended by 1989 and that what many scholars called revolutions today were simply instances of regime collapse. The interview received a lot of attention from scholars and practitioners including Hugo Slim. Slim challenged Dunn’s concept of revolution in this issue, and Dunn responded defending his ideas. This article attempts to tease out the differences underlying the two scholars’ disagreement as to whether the Epoch of Revolution has truly passed. The article proposes that while processual approaches (such as Slim’s) conceive of revolution primarily as a political means, Dunn’s “programmatic” approach to revolution conceives of it as not only a means but also a political end. The article also considers the implications of Dunn’s theory of revolution, and the representative challenges of academic interviewing.

Contributor Notes

Benjamin Abrams is Affiliated Lecturer in Sociology in the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Sciences, and Director of Studies in Sociology at St Catharine’s College, at the University of Cambridge. Email:


The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest

  • AbramsBenjamin and John Dunn. 2017. “Modern Revolutions and Beyond: An Interview with John Dunn.” Contention 5 (2): 114131.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BakerKeith Michael. 1990. Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DunnJohn Montfort. 1985. Rethinking Modern Political Theory: Essays 1979–1983. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

  • DunnJohn Montfort. 1989. Modern Revolutions: An Introduction to the Analysis of a Political Phenomenon. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FuretFrançois. 1991. The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HansonPaul R. 2009. Contesting the French Revolution. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • HarisonCasey. 2007. “The Paris Commune of 1871, the Russian Revolution of 1905, and the Shifting of the Revolutionary Tradition.” History and Memory 19 (2): 5542.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SelbinEric. 2010. Revolution Rebellion Resistance: The Power of Story. Chicago: Zed Books

  • SkocpolTheda. 1979. States and Social Revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • TillyCharles. 1986. The Contentious French. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • TillyCharles. 1993. “Contentious Repertoires in Great Britain, 1758–1834.” Social Science History 17 (2): 253280.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • TillyCharles. 1995. Popular Contention in Great Britain. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • TillyCharles. 2004. Contention and Democracy in Europe 1650–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 7 7 6
Full Text Views 11 11 0
PDF Downloads 3 3 0