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Benjamin Abrams

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If there is a single academic craft that is most sorely neglected in doctoral programs, most infrequently honed over the course of one's career, and most inconsistently exhibited at the top ranks of the academy, it is the practice of reviewing an article. Reflecting on conversations with editorial colleagues at Contention and other broad-scope journals, this essay draws together some brief guidelines on how best to compose the three most basic components of any academic review: criticism, praise, and recommendations to the editor.

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The End of Revolution, and Its Means

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

Benjamin Abrams

Abstract

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.

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Modern Revolutions and Beyond

An Interview with John Dunn

Benjamin Abrams and John Dunn

Abstract

John Dunn, FBA, is emeritus professor of political theory at King’s College, University of Cambridge. His work on revolution began in 1972 with the publication of his landmark volume, Modern Revolutions: An Introduction to the Analysis of a Political Phenomenon. A second edition was published in 1989, and the volume has since been translated into several foreign languages. Alongside revolution, Dunn’s thought has examined questions of regime collapse, reconstruction, the political trajectories of modern states, and the emergence and significance of democracy. His work lies at the intersection of history, political theory, and sociology. In the interview, Dunn offers a categorization of revolution as a distinctly bounded historical phenomenon that has not persisted into the twenty-first century. “The Epoch of Revolution,” he argues, begins with 1789 and had definitively ended by 1989. After the Epoch of Revolution, Dunn argues, we now confront a more enduring and generic phenomenon: regime collapse.

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Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino

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Giovanni A. Travaglino and Benjamin Abrams

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Giovanni A. Travaglino and Benjamin Abrams

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Peter R. Gardner and Benjamin Abrams

Even amid a global pandemic, contention never ceases. Despite governmental restrictions on public assembly in countries across the globe and the societal fears of transmission, the COVID-19 pandemic has nonetheless been a period of widespread contentious action. The Black Lives Matter protests in the United States sparked a host of antiracist protests worldwide, in the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, South Korea, and elsewhere. In May, after a brief lull, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong resumed street action. In August, thousands amassed in Minsk to oppose the result of the Belarussian presidential election, alleged by many to be fraudulent. Days later, large crowds of demonstrators gathered in Bangkok calling for reformation of the Thai monarchy and the dissolution of Prayut Chan-O-Cha's government. At the time of writing, the environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion appears poised for mass action in Westminster to call for a political response commensurate with the scale of the climate crisis to be passed into UK legislation. All this is to say that even when societies lock down, opportunities for contention most certainly remain open.

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Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino

This issue of Contention is definitvely international, featuring data and cases from dozens of countries including Rwanda and China. We are proud to be a journal sought out by scholars working on diverse non-Western cases as well as by those conducting ambitious international analyses. As editors, we firmly believe that an interdisciplinary journal is best served by also being international, and as the journal continues to grow, we are looking to turn our attention toward building editorial teams featuring excellent scholars from around the world. We hope that the variety of international cases in our pages will one day be mirrored by a similarly international community of authors, reviewers, and editors.

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Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino

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Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino