The influence of time on revolutions' outcomes

By Lorraine Besnier

In his book, Pierson states that “organization A was successful because it ‘fit’ well in that particular context.” In other words, he explains that one has to examine whether or not precise features can foster self-reinforcing processes in a given situation. This claim made me think about social revolutions and how their success are mostly based on the context in which they happen.

In this post, I will attempt to show that time has an important role in the outcomes of revolutions.

The French revolution started in a context of increasing international conflict, but also inside economic, political and social crisis. With the help from the philosophers of the Enlightenment, the population of France took over the power and instated democracy. Indubitably, this considerable change was achieve throughout years of instability, different governments, and series of dilemma.

However, France eventually accomplished the change, and developed to become an integral part of the international relations actors, and a leading economic power.

The Arab Spring, in contrast, had different conditions. In a completely different situation, it is hard for a country to grow, and accomplish changes, like France for instance, because all the international organisations have an increasing role to play in the national conflicts.

It is quasi impossible in such a situation to make the needed, but mostly wanted, adjustments when an external factor is included in the equation. With essential humanitarian help from the outside comes the inevitable administration of the political challenges. The decades that France required to stabilised are not offered to the Arabic countries, and democracy is, in certain cases, forced upon them, and expected to work in only a couple of months.

Time matters, not only in terms of timing but in terms of duration. Both the context in which an event happens, and the length in time which it is allowed to rise, climax and resolve are essential factors to the outcomes of those events.