Mark R. Beissinger

The Revolutionary City was selected as co-winner of the 2023 Gregory Luebbert Best Book Award from the Comparative Politics Section of the American Political Science Association for the best book in comparative politics published over the past two years.


For more information on the "Revolutionary Episodes Dataset" on which the book is based, go to the "Datasets" section of this website.

review of the dataset


The Revolutionary City:  Urbanization and the Global Transformation of Rebellion (Princeton University Press, 2022).


Understood as a mass siege of an established government by its own population with the goals of bringing about regime-change and effecting substantive political or social change, revolutions are, in Foucauldian terms, exceptional moments of “chance reversal”--when the ongoing trajectory of a political order is ruptured and potentially altered in fundamental ways by those subject to it.  But the ways in which populations go about the business of regime-change from below, the reasons they engage in such action, and the social forces that mobilize in revolution have altered dramatically over the past century.   This book is about that transformation--and in particular, about the impact of urbanization and the concentration of people, power, and wealth in cities on the incidence, practice, and consequences of political revolutions. 
The Revolutionary City lays out a theory about how spatial location influences revolutionary processes, outlining what I call the repression-disruption trade-off in revolution and the “proximity dilemma” associated with proximity to government nerve centers of power. The proximity dilemma not only helps to understand the starkly different character of urban and rural revolutionary processes. It also provides a framework for explaining why the locations of revolutionary challenges have shifted over time and how large-scale urbanization has altered the outcomes and character of urban revolutionary contention.  As I show, over the past century revolutionary contention has grown increasingly frequent, more urban, more successful, less deadly, more likely to rely on the power of numbers than the power of arms, and more ambiguous and uncertain in its lasting impact.  Much of this has to do with the ways in which urbanization has concentrated large numbers in cities and the ways in which this has given rise to new repertoires of revolutionary contention.
In documenting and explaining this transformation and its implications, the book brings to bear a number of novel sources and approaches in the study of revolution. It utilizes a new data set of 345 revolutionary episodes from 1900 to 2014 to examine how and why the character of revolution has changed.  It also utilizes a series of highly unusual nationally-representative public opinion surveys probing individual-level participation in four revolutions representing the new urban civic repertoire that has grown increasingly common around the world.  And it uses numerous cases studies and qualitative evidence from revolutions around the world to illustrate patterns and trends and to examine in more depth the dynamic processes occurring within revolutionary episodes and to probe the space within which revolutionary contention unfolds.