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Whitworth political science professor publishes timely book on revolutions

February 15, 2011
In the midst of recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and widespread unrest across the Middle East, Whitworth Associate Professor of Political Science Patrick Van Inwegen has just released a new book, Understanding Revolution (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011), that provides a comprehensive review and analysis of revolutions.

Van Inwegen developed the book after teaching a course on revolutions several times without books that provided both an overview of the key developments in the literature on revolutions as well as concise historical summaries of important revolutions in history.

"Understanding Revolution takes a broader look at revolutions while still providing short overviews of historical revolutions with the theoretical concepts that explain when, why and how revolutions happen," Van Inwegen says. "Revolutions are incredibly complex, but also incredibly important for understanding the world in which we live."

Van Inwegen sees the study of revolutions as especially appropriate at Whitworth.

"I see a lot of connections between this area of my research and Whitworth's mission as well as its liberal arts focus," he says. "Revolutions are those brief moments in human societies where individuals work for the collective good to create a more just world in the image of what they know it should be."

Students in two of his revolutions classes provided valuable insight on earlier drafts of the book. Van Inwegen asked their opinions on what to include, what they found interesting and what they needed to better understand the subject. In class, they presented overviews of revolutions that interested them most.

"They were my continual inspiration to make the book both accessible and relevant," he says.

Understanding Revolution addresses ideas such as what constitutes a revolution, the typical pattern leading to a revolution and what roles ideologies, structures and individuals play in shaping revolutions. The book also examines why people follow revolutionary leaders and the after-effects of revolutionary movements.

The book ends with brief overviews of 15 revolutions ranging from the American Revolution in 1776 to the Nepalese Revolution in 2008.

Understanding Revolution may be purchased at, directly from the publisher at and will be available this fall in the Whitworth bookstore (509-777-3277).

Van Inwegen joined Whitworth in 2005 as a professor of political science, specializing in international relations, comparative politics, the strategy of nonviolent action and trends in revolutions. He holds a Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago. His previous scholarly work on revolutions has included "Velvet Revolutions: An Actor-Based Theory of Revolution," in Peace and Change (2005).

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703, or