How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions?

Once of central importance to left historians and activists alike, recently the concept of the “bourgeois revolution” has come in for sustained criticism from both marxists and conservatives. In this comprehensive rejoinder, Neil Davidson seeks to answer the question “how revolutionary were the bourgeois revolutions” by systematically examining the approach taken by a wide range of thinkers to explaining the causes, outcomes, and content of the French, English, Dutch, and other revolutions. Through far reaching research and comprehensive analysis, Davidson demonstrates that what's at stake is far from a stale issue for the history books – understanding these struggles of the past offer far reaching lessons for today's radicals.

About the author

Neil Davidson is the author of The Origins of Scottish Nationhood (2000), Discovering the Scottish Revolution (2003), for which he was awarded the Deutscher Prize, and How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (2012). Davidson lectures in Sociology in the School of Political and Social Science at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Reviews

"I was frankly pole-axed by this magnificent book. Davidson resets the entire debate on the character of revolutions: bourgeois, democratic and socialist. He's sending me, at least, back to the library." —Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

"This is, quite simply, the finest book of its kind." —Tony McKenna, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

“What should our conception of a bourgeois revolution be, if it is to enlighten rather than to mislead ? Neil Davidson’s instructive and provocative answer is given through a history both of a set of concepts and of those social settings in which they found application.His book is an impressive contribution both to the history of ideas and to political philosophy.” —Alasdair MacIntyre, author, After Virtue

"There are books which are of such kind that upon reading them, one immediately knows one is dealing with a future classic. Such a book is Neil Davidson’s How Revolutionary Were The Bourgeois Revolutions?"—Matthijs Krul

“Neil Davidson wends his way through the jagged terrain of a wide range of Marxist writings and debates to distil their lessons in what is unquestionably the most thorough discussion of the subject to date. If the paradox at the heart of the bourgeois revolutions was that the emergence of the modern bourgeois state had little to do with the agency of the bourgeoisie, then Davidson’s study is by far the most nuanced and illuminating discussion of this complex fact. A brilliant and fascinating book, wide-ranging and lucidly written.” —Jairus Banaji, author, Theory as History

"[This] is a monumental work. Neil Davidson has given us what is easily the most comprehensive account yet of the ‘life and times’ of the concept of ‘bourgeois revolution’ … This would have been enough. However, Davidson has also provided us with a refined set of theoretical tools for understanding the often complex interactions between political revolutions which overturn state institutions and social revolutions which involve a more thorough-going transformation of social relations.” —Colin Moores, author The Making of Bourgeois Europe

"Davidson's book is one of immense and impressive erudition. His knowledge of the history of Marxist theory and historiography is as detailed as it is comprehensive, and must be well-nigh unrivalled. The endless, complex debates that characterize the Marxist tradition are distilled with clarity and illumination." —JEREMY JENNINGS, Times Literary Supplement

"This magisterial book is destined to be a key reference point in future debates on not only the transition from feudalism to capitalism, but the meaning of socialism in the 21st century. Davidson interweaves a detailed intellectual history of theories of revolution with a vivid retelling of a multitude of transformative social struggles. "—TAD TIETZE, Green Left Weekly

"This is a book in the grand style...In addressing the question set by his title, Neil Davidson effortlessly displays analytical intelligence and erudition rare among historians of any persuasion. And the reader put off by the sheer size of the book will be reassured by Neil’s easy, fluent style, plentifully interlarded with humour. If there were any doubts about Neil’s calibre as a Marxist historian after his two books on Scottish history (which looms large in this work as well—no one could come away from it without knowing it was written by a Scot), and his numerous articles, these have now been removed." —ALEX CALLINICOS, International Socialism