Responding to Hugo Slim’s critique, John Dunn defends his notion of the “Epoch of Revolution.” The response advances that this protracted epoch was defined by the unique way in which the category of revolution itself defined key possibilities for collective political, social, and economic transformation. In doing so, Dunn argues, this category transformed the conditions of political action across a large part of the world. Dunn classifies Slim’s cases as instances of rebellion that, though significant and important, do not share the teleological character of revolution.
An Interview with John Dunn
Benjamin Abrams and John Dunn
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.