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26 Program on Central and Eastern Europe

Owners, Rulers, & Rebels: Revolution in the Second & Third Worlds

1992 – Jeff Goodwin


This paper examines some of the striking similarities, as well as differences, between the combined national and social revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, on the one hand, and Third World revolutions, on the other. The paper reviews a series of similarities between both the old regimes and the oppositional movements that those regimes helped to constitute in both the Second and Third worlds. It also attempts to account for the remarkably nonviolent character of the events of 1989 and for the "exceptionalism" of the Romanian case, where violence did occur. Analytically, the paper suggests that neither the ideological and strategic orientation nor the political capacities and fortunes of rebellious movements "from below" can be fully understood without analYZing the nature of the regimes and elites "above" them, especially the relationship between owners (economic authorities) and rulers (political authorities).