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Differences/similarities between insurrection, resistance, rebellion, revolt, and revolution?

+2 votes
Any other comparable concept (not sure if that's the right word I'm looking for)?

A critique of any/all of them (links to questions that already have one are great too)?
related to an answer for: do you plan a revolution
asked Dec 16, 2012 by anonymous

1 Answer

+2 votes
Insurrection is an amorphous thing, it is the shared gaze, the whispered conspiracy, the feeling of lips and hot breath on your neck as the police precinct burns. It is the complete and total arming of our desires, and the making of total destroy. No, I kid.

Here are how I would parse those out, though they are generally somewhat fluid, and if you are talking to someone who is not me, they might define these things differently:

Resistance could be just about anything done in defiance and opposition to something. Generally speaking it is about holding back further encroachment and turning back what already has occurred. Related terms might include decolonize. It could be overt or more subversive. Examples could include sabotaged rail lines leading to a new coal exporting terminal, blockading of a gas pipeline, tree sits, rewilding, or student occupations.

Rebellion is more generalized, and also tends to be reactionary in nature. It can include acts of resistance, but it can also be more visceral (I talked about this a bit more in the answer to the question you linked to above. It could be a group thing, or an individual thing.

Revolt is a moment of not just refusal but of actually striking back. The first intifada, or the slave uprising led by Nat Turner could be examples of this.

Revolution is an overturning of things and replacing the old order with a new one. Generally there is a plan and an agenda on the part of revolutionaries. The American War of Independence, the Russian Revolution, and the Arab Spring as it played out in Egypt and Libya could be looked at as examples of this.

What is tricky is often things start as one and become another. For example, I would argue that the Spanish Revolution (as I understand it - see my caveat after this) was initially resistance to the coup by Franco as well as rebellion against the old halls of power in Spain (the land owners and the clergy). This led to a revolt on the part of large segments of the working class and peasants. As the CNT, the communists and other republicans began to install their various working models for society it became a revolution. That having been said, I've never been a big Spanish Revolution nerd, so I fully expect to be shot down on my understanding of how things worked by some particualrs I've overlooked.

I parsed out some of my thoughts on all this without explicitly using that language in relation to the Arab Spring here: http://www.anarchy101.org/1354/learned-uprisings-africa-middle-relation-theory-strategy

Here are a couple other questions you might find helpful:


answered Dec 22, 2012 by ingrate (20,520 points)
edited Dec 22, 2012 by ingrate
12/22/12 - edited to clarify my use of the Arab Spring as an example of revolution, I actually think it started as rebellion, turned in to widespread revolt, and crystalized as revolution as more organized (statist and/or religious) parties took hold of the rudders (with the rather obvious help of western powers). What is currently happening in Egypt in regards to the election could be seen as a new moment of resistance.