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Halliday's revenge: revolutions and International Relations



    1. Lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, having previously worked as a Researcher for the London-based think-tank, Demos.
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    • This is one of a group of articles in this issue in honour of the life and work of the late Fred Halliday, and was first presented at a study group held on 12 May 2011 at Chatham House. My thanks to Caroline Soper for the invitation to take part in the group and to all the participants for their comments and contributions. Particular thanks are offered to Amnon Aran, Barry Buzan and Roland Dannreuther, who served as thoughtful, probing discussants at the reading group; their comments and suggestions substantially improved the final version of this article.


Fred Halliday saw revolution and war as the dual motors of modern international order. However, while war occupies a prominent place in International Relations (IR), revolutions inhabit a more residual location. For Halliday, this is out of keeping with their impact—in particular, revolutions offer a systemic challenge to existing patterns of international order in their capacity to generate alternative orders founded on novel forms of political rule, economic organization and symbolic authority. In this way, dynamics of revolution and counter-revolution are closely associated with processes of international conflict, intervention and war. It may be that one of the reasons for Halliday's failure to make apparent the importance of revolutions to IR audiences was that, for all his empirical illustrations of how revolutions affected the international realm, he did not formulate a coherent theoretical schema which spoke systematically to the discipline. This article assesses Halliday's contribution to the study of revolutions, and sets out an approach which both recognizes and extends his work. By formulating ideal-typical ‘anatomies of revolution’, it is possible to generate insights that clarify the ways in which revolutions shape international order.