Published by Crackers Books, 10 February 2024

Passive Revolution

Passive Revolution: A Concise Overview

The concept of "Passive Revolution" is a critical theoretical framework in political theory and sociology, primarily developed by Antonio Gramsci. It describes a process of societal change where reforms are implemented from above by the ruling class to maintain control, without a fundamental upheaval or active participation from the masses. Here are five key points based on academic papers:

  1. Gramsci's Interpretation: Antonio Gramsci conceptualized passive revolution to explain changes within societies that occur without the direct involvement or uprising of the subordinate classes. This process allows for a transformation that maintains the existing social order and power structures (Callinicos, 2010)(Callinicos, 2010).
  2. Mechanisms of Passive Revolution: The concept illustrates how the ruling class can initiate reforms and changes to adapt to new conditions or challenges while ensuring their hegemonic position remains intact. This often involves co-opting or neutralizing opposition movements and implementing policies that superficially address certain demands of the lower classes (Thomas, 2018)(Thomas, 2018).
  3. Global and Historical Applications: Passive revolution has been used to analyze various historical and global contexts, including the spread of capitalism, colonialism, and neoliberal reforms. It provides insights into how global and national forces interact to shape social and political transformations (Hesketh, 2017)(Hesketh, 2017).
  4. Contemporary Relevance: In modern contexts, the concept is applied to understand the dynamics of neoliberal governance, where transformations in state and society are often carried out in ways that reinforce existing power relations and prevent radical change (Nash, 2013)(Nash, 2013).
  5. Critiques and Debates: The concept of passive revolution has been critiqued for its potential overuse and ambiguity. Scholars argue for a more precise definition and application, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness in analyzing complex socio-political phenomena (Vacca, 2020)(Vacca, 2020).


Passive Revolution offers a nuanced understanding of social and political changes, emphasizing the mechanisms through which ruling classes adapt and respond to pressures without fundamentally altering power dynamics.


  1. Callinicos, A. (2010). The limits of passive revolution. Capital & Class, 34, 491-507. Link
  2. Hesketh, C. (2017). Passive revolution: a universal concept with geographical seats. Review of International Studies, 43, 389-408. Link
  3. Nash, F. (2013). Participation and Passive Revolution: The Reproduction of Neoliberal Water Governance Mechanisms in Durban, South Africa. Antipode, 45, 101-120. Link
  4. Thomas, P. (2018). GRAMSCI'S REVOLUTIONS: PASSIVE AND PERMANENT. Modern Intellectual History, 17, 117-146. [Link]
  5. Vacca, G. (2020). The Nature of Passive Revolution. Alternative Modernities. Link

Recommended Citation

Crackers Books. (2024, February 10). Passive Revolution: A Concise Overview [Crackers Basics]. Retrieved from

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