The philosophy of Marxism represents a complex amalgamation of interpretations of the conflict between the working class and the bourgeois. As a result, the interpretations of the Marxist theory also vary quite wildly. Skocpol’s idea of Marxism as the combination of social and political forces driving the change is quite different from that one of Hall, who represents Marxism as the study of economic injustice (Sewell, 1985). Similarly, there are certain differences in how Skocpol and Sewell interpret the concept of revolution in the context of Marxist teachings. Whereas Skocpol focuses on the societal and structural transformation that a revolution typically implies, Sewell tends to focus on the economic component as one of the driving forces of a revolution.
The difference between Skocpol’s and Sewell’s political methodologies might seem to be barely noticeable, yet distinctive differences appear rather visible after a more thorough analysis. Specifically, Skocpol’s approach toward methodology seems to embrace the structural perspective on the development and implementation of revolutions. Specifically, unlike Sewell, who represents revolutions as a nearly chaotic force that emerges after the class confrontations reach the boiling point, Skocpol adopts a more basic approach. Namely, Skocpol interprets the notion of a revolution using the methodology that relies on the structural understanding of revolutions. Skocpol applies a solely class-based approach toward defining resolutions. One could argue that the concept of a social class and the associated notions of class inequality and class conflict immediately entail the analysis of the economic component. However, unlike Sewell, Skocpol skips the specified part of the main theoretical premise, focusing on the class-related differences instead.
Compared to Skocpol, Sewell offers a slightly more varied approach to explaining revolutions, therefore, incorporating a mixed methodological strategy. Namely, in his study of revolutions, Sewell pays a significant amount of attention to the social factors supposedly underlying every revolution (Sewell, 1985). According to Sewell, the social conflict underpins every facet of relationships within society, thus, becoming the driving force behind most revolutions (Sewell, 1985). In other words, Sewell’s approach is rooted in the notion of the social conflict theory, which posits that socioeconomic inequalities and the uneven distribution of goods represent the core reason for most conflicts to take place (Sewell, 1985). Thus, Sewell asserts that a revolution can be seen as the conflict in question taken to the nth degree (Sewell, 1985). The specified point of view contrasts quite sharply with the assumption made by Skocpol, who applies a solely political lens to his analysis, therefore, refusing to consider other factors as possible facilitators of a revolution.
Specifically, according to Skocpol, revolutions must take place at a very rapid pace and imply both social and political transformation of specific communities (Sewell, 1985). The combination of social and political elements is central to Skocpol’s definition since she envisions a revolution in the Marxist context as a force that alters the status quo and allows the working class to take control over the elite. In turn, Sewell’s explanation of a revolution and the methodological approach to studying it involves the economic perspective as well, pointing to the connection between the class conflict and economic inequalities (Sewell, 1985). Each of the two perspectives can be considered viable since each emphasizes one of the facets of the Marxist movement. Thus, both Skocpol and Sewell represent nuanced and interesting versions of how the notion of a revolution must be approached on a scholarly level.
Sewell Jr, W. H. (1985). Ideologies and social revolutions: Reflections on the French case. The Journal of Modern History, 57(1), 57-85.