Reconciling Tensions in the Analysis of Bourgeois Revolutions: A Critical Realist Approach


When and how do agents consciously reproduce or unconsciously transform social structures? This inquiry is pivotal for advancing a theory of socio-historical development, particularly in addressing a key debate within International Historical Sociology (IHS) surrounding modern revolutions. This debate revolves around the tension between the “consequentialist” interpretation of bourgeois revolutions and the “revisionist” critiques, notably from the “historicist” wing of Political Marxism (PM). This article contends that the tension arises from an inadequate conceptualization of the agent-structure relationship. Drawing on Roy Bhaskar’s transformational model of social activity (TMSA) and critical realist philosophy of science, the article proposes a conceptual framework reconciling PM’s focus on class struggle to understand the historical specificity of capitalism with the role bourgeois revolutions historically and structurally played for the development of capitalism. Integrating Bhaskar’s framework with historical materialism-inspired debates on bourgeois revolutions, the paper suggests that agents’ unconscious actions can transform social structures amid social disintegration (“classic bourgeois revolutions”). Conversely, agents consciously seek to preserve and reproduce social structures, as seen in “passive revolutions”. This occurs when social structures, marked by inequality and hierarchies, are viewed as historical constructs rather than natural phenomena, particularly in the context of uneven and combined development of capitalism. This analysis contributes to ongoing IHS debates, enriches our comprehension of modern revolutions, and extends TMSA by empirically delineating circumstances wherein agents consciously uphold or unwittingly trigger the transformation of social structures.


international historical sociology, transitions to capitalism, revolutionary transformation, historicism, transformational model of social activity


Klevis Kolasi, “Reconciling Tensions in the Analysis of Bourgeois Revolutions: A Critical Realist Approach”, Uluslararasi Iliskiler, Vol. 21, No 82, 2024, pp. 79-96, 18 April 2024, 10.33458/uidergisi.1465073


Klevis KOLASI Associate Professor, International Relations, Ankara University, Ankara E-Mail: [email protected] Orcid: 0000-0002-4278-4945

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