Change is a natural phenomenon and in all ages change occurs, but the modern world is distinguished by the rapidity and extent of change. Change in the methods of communication, in economic, social and political life. What happens in New York, Cairo or Sydney can be witnessed instantaneously in London or New Delhi, or read about in newspapers in a matter of hours or of minutes. Change is all around us and its quality and quantity produces increasingly unanticipated future.
Even in the physical environment, where a certain stability might be expected, the speed of the process has increased. True, the landmass remains constant or changes little, but changes that occur in the physical environment generally are largely the result of changes in population, in the economy and in the technology and these are rapid.
A population explosion will affect the need man has to change his environment by affecting the life of the road surfaces, the speed at which houses degenerate into slums and many other matters. Adaptation to these needs may lead to changes in the methods of production and distribution, leading to further changes in the physical environment, with additional effects on the economic and other social arrangements and leading to the formulation of new ideas about what social organization is or ought to be.
All these factors give rise to political change for the process by which public policy is arrived at and the policy itself, is essentially activated by physical and social alterations and politicians, political institutions and political ideas interact on the world around them. As with other types of change, the political may differ in extent, direction and speed. All these notions must be taken care of while considering distinction between reform and revolution.
Reform and Revolution:
In a polity where there is an inadequate adjustment to the forces of change political tension increases and dissatisfied groups take strong anti government action, which may develop into unconstitutional activity Such action may aim merely at attracting attention and publicizing particular grievances. Demonstrations against nuclear weapons, for example, have a limited goal to change a policy and if this is reached politics returns to normal. Whether such policy protests are allowed by a regime Will depend upon on how firmly based it is in public esteem and the extent to which its existence is endangered by the demonstrations. Policy protests of this kind mentioned may develop into evolution as the aims are extended or the techniques changed, but initially they seek reform.
Opposition on a mass scale is a very different matter. The massive, passive resistance or the civil disobedience movement in India launched by M. K. Gandhi before Independence was not directed against particular policies of the British Government but against the whole notion of the colonial rule. The aim was political independence of the country from the alien government and rule by Indians themselves according to their own genius. Where as in this case, the aim pursued entails or implies the overthrow of the prevalent regime or a radical change in a whole range of policies, there is a revolutionary situation.
The distinction between reform and revolution in terms of the extent or importance of the proposed changes is clearly significant, but account must also be taken of the weapons used and the speed of change A change, even in a matter of major importance say, the radical extension of the franchise, is in the nature of reform if it is achieved by methods such as peaceful demonstrations and petitioning. Such reforms have often been hastened by the threat of revolution and occasionally inability to obtain it has resulted in the threat becoming a reality It might still be called a reform if the weapons actually used were those of non violent persuasion, and continue to be so even if violence actually occurred but was sporadic and the consequence of excessive zeal rather than intent The Hungarian uprising and the troubles in Ireland were revolutions and not reformist movements because violence was accepted and not accidental and because the aim was. Primarily to win and not to seek concessions.
In ordinary language the word revolution is often used to describe both the method of inducing Change and scope of the changes. In this wider sense, it means, as MacIver has said, “to embrace decisive changes in the character of Government even though they do not involve the violent overthrow of an established order.” The revolution of 1688 in Britain, for example, was a peaceful revolution.In the narrower sense, the word revolution refers exclusively to the methods used to bring about particular changes in the system of government. It leaves out of account what the revolution is about, who are the revolutionaries and how far they are successful in achieving their ends. The emphasis is on the use of violence or extra-constitutional means, involving a temporary breakdown of the system which is being challenged and its replacement by another system or constitution.
Revolution and reform are not the monopoly of declared revolutionaries or reformers Innovators are not aware of the consequences which may follow from their acts. To the extent that the future IS uncertain, in theory any person or group may accidentally trigger a revolution or reform if the present circumstances are propitious Luther is a clear example of a reformer who started a revolution. The question then arises as to what determines the present circumstances. This is not the plate to enter into the “free-will deterministic controversy, but if we agree that after an action one may reasonably say that He could have acted otherwise we accept that the future is not given Revolutions or reforms then, may be planned or unplanned by the men or the social forces who light the fuse.”
Political change is more likely to be generated by the few than the many. Normally revolutions are the consequence of activity by a small number who, by skill in the use of violence, or political manipulation carry the day. In modern times, particularly in Africa and South America, the military has been the prominent as revolutionaries. Pakistan and Bangladesh also come in this category. This is understandable in such politics for the military is often the only disciplined group and also the only possessor of higher education, technical skill and modern weapons of destruction. Those responsible for reform are much less easy to identify, particularly in complex political systems. Often individuals and groups, both in and out of government, are involved and share responsibility.
Whatever be the genesis of change, the outcome will depend on the relative strength of the parties in conflict. In the case of revolutions there are but two sides revolutionaries and government who fight while the many observe, and in the end one group is victorious. In the case of reform, the government is often a third party to a conflict between those outside government who favor reform and those who do not. Here the government may perform the function Customary in pluralistic societies of holding the ring and subsequently declaring the “winner or dividing the prize” The government may wait before it intervenes to bring the two sides together, may arbitrate at the request of the parties, declare a truce or refer the matter to a body to inquire into the situation. Reform, then, is a contest with a referee and rules a revolution is a free-for-all.
Development and Stability:
Currently, consideration of change is centered on the process of modernization. Interest of academics, administrators, politicians and Others in the newly developed countries of the post-war period has Spread to other underdeveloped territories and the interest has been sustained by the concern of modernized countries to provide from altruistic or other motives. To modernize such places means exploiting natural resources,altering flora and fauna eliminating or at least decreasing disease, increasing electrification, both in the rural and urban areas, improving administration and so on.
But the difficulty involved in the process is where best to start, on how wide a front and what are the likely consequences in me field of activity in another More mechanized and efficient farming may involve discouraging small units which may even entail their elimination and, thus, villages being superseded by estate housing and changed attitudes to authority and self-help. If education is held back, the subsequent teachers and administrators come from outside, introducing new sub-cultures which in turn will have economic and other consequences. If education advances speedily it will aid communication internally and externally, increase political activity and increase aspirations, making for instability and endangering progress in other sectors. The maintenance of political stability is essential if modernization is to take place and in many territories going through the process the stability has been won at the price of free institutions.
Authoritarianism in developing countries may prove a passing phase, disappearing when modernization has reached a stage which allows freedom with stability. In many economically developed countries there are stable political systems embodying free institutions. It, however remains to be seen whether these are the outcome of a unique combination of circumstances, or whether the social and political consequences of development, by their nature, tend in that direction.