Toward a theory of revolution: linking
structure and process approaches
Popular mobilization and collective action overthrew three long-standing regimes between February 1979 and February 1986 in Iran, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. In Iran, the revolution put an end to 2,500 years of monarchy, dissolved the Pahlavi dynasty, and established an Islamic theocracy. In Nicaragua, the revolution uprooted the Somoza dynasty, which had dominated the country since the early 1930s, and enabled the socialist Pandinistas to seize power. In the Philippines, popular mobilization resulted in the expulsion of Ferdinand E. Marcos, who had ruled the country for twenty years, well beyond the two terms to which he had been elected. These political conflicts also had international consequences, especially for the United States inasmuch as some segments of the population and elite in these countries opposed US policies and interventions.
The uprisings and their outcomes in Iran, Nicaragua, and the Philippines provide remarkable cases for comparative analysis. Broadly speaking, the three countries shared certain similar experiences and structural features. Economically, all three pursued capitalist development strategies, which had been quite successful by international standards. For years, they succeeded in generating high levels of growth, development, and industrialization that were impressive by any measure. Politically, each of the regimes governed by means of authoritarian mechanisms and coercive apparatuses, which for years had been successful in controlling or repressing opposition and dissent. In fact, all three had survived earlier challenges: Iran in the early 1950s and again in the early 1960s; Nicaragua in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and the Philippines in the early 1970s. In addition, none of the regimes had been weakened or defeated in external war or had experienced state breakdown prior to the insurgencies. Finally, all three governments had long enjoyed the economic, political, and military support of the United States. Thus, the emergence of the Conflicts in the three countries is itself perplexing.