James C. Davies afirmou que quando as expectativas das pessoas divergem muito do que entendem serem as suas necessidades em termos de bens, estatuto e poder, poderão revoltar-se (Davies, 1962). Os avanços nas redes de informações decorridos desde que Davies articulou a sua teoria, tornando mais fáceis as comparações entre as condições de vida nos vários países, poderão, talvez, tornar as populações mais conscientes da sua situação e, por isso, mais propensas a revoltas contra aqueles que os governam. Isto explica claramente as medidas que os regimes políticos autoritários tentam implementar para evitar a exposição “excessiva” e não filtrada às sociedades do Ocidente.

Curva JA procura de taxas de crescimento mais elevadas poderá forçar os países a uma maior abertura, podendo contudo resultar à custa da estabilidade. Um enquadramento analítico interessante é o da Curva J de Ian Bremmer (Bremmer, 2006). Resumidamente, Bremmer coloca duas variáveis num gráfico bidimensional: no eixo horizontal traça a variável abertura, enquanto no eixo vertical coloca a variável estabilidade. Como um país com uma liderança autoritária de desloca em direção a uma maior abertura política e econômica relativamente ao resto do mundo, o seu nível de estabilidade diminuiu e o risco de revolta contra o regime aumenta. A certa altura, a descida da estabilidade toca no fundo e aí começa de novo a subir à medida que as vantagens da abertura se fazem sentir. É, obviamente, quando a abertura está associada ao declínio em estabilidade que os riscos de revolta contra o Estado autocrático são maiores.

O conhecimento dessa teoria pode evitar revoluções ou provocá-las. Um Governo leniente poderá permitir a queda crescente de indicadores sócio-econômicos para provocar mudanças de longo prazo desejadas. Precisamos interceder para que Deus seja Soberano sobre este país. Precisamos trabalhar para que riqueza seja produzida alcançando o povo de modo sustentável.

Portanto, economistas tem utilizado e se debruçado sobre esta teoria para analisar e prever tendências das políticas tarifárias dos países. Historiadores a utilizam para buscar padrões de comportamento em movimentos populares atuais e ao longo da história. As uniformidades são:

  • uma sociedade com avanços econômicos;
  • afastamento dos intelectuais;
  • antagonismo de classes sociais;
  • governo ineficiente;
  • políticos sem confiança;
  • falha da estratégia financeira.

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In 1962, Davies presented his J-curve theory. He stated that revolutions are most likely to occur when periods of prolonged improvements concerning economic and social development are supplanted by a period of sharp reversal. He used evidence from the Dorr’s rebellion, the Russian revolution, and the Egyptian revolution to support his argument. According to Davies, the sharp reversal of development creates an intolerable gap between what people want and what they get.

prof_davies_jcurve

After a reversal of fortunes, people will subjectively fear that what they have earned will be lost, and thus their mood becomes revolutionary. Davies claims that political stability and instability are dependent on the mood of the society. In other words, poor people who are satisfied will not revolt, and rich people who are dissatisfied may revolt. What is important is their state of mind rather than how much goods they possess.

Need satisfaction and revolution

Revolutions do not usually occur in impoverished societies. The reason is that when people are preoccupied with their physical survival, the community-sense and consensus on joint political actions goes down and thus also the likelihood for revolutions to occur. Even though physical deprivation is to some extent present at the onset of revolutions, it is seldom the primary cause.

The main factor is rather the fear that ground gained over a time period will be quickly lost. Davies found evidence for this when studying three revolutions using John Stuart Mill’s method of difference. When employing this method the researcher collects cases of a particular phenomenon in an attempt to find common factors in these cases that are otherwise quite different.

He thus chose three different cases, where revolts had occurred, and found the common explanatory variable to be the presence of a sharp reversal of fortunes after a period of prolonged growth.

The Dorr Rebellion (1841–1842)

The rapid industrial growth of the 19th century meant that the people of Rhode Island in the northeastern United States moved in large numbers from farms to cities. From 1807–15 the textile industry saw a period of great prosperity, followed by a period of decline from 1835–40. This, in combination with the state’s resistance to suffrage demands saw Thomas W. Dorr lead a band of militia men mostly composed of Catholics into a rebellion. Dorr was firmly defeated by the establishment in 1842.

The Russian Revolution (1917)

In 1861 Russia saw the emancipation of serfs and a process of urbanization began. Many became factory workers, thus earning larger salaries than they had as peasants. The period from 1861–1905 can be viewed as a period of rising expectations. Around 1905 began the general downturn; Russia lost the war with Japan, and censorship and confiscations soon followed. The country now saw a period of severe repression, followed by a short period of economic recovery. But then World War I broke out, inflation rose, and dis content spread throughout the country like a wildfire.

The Egyptian Revolution (1952)

The rising expectations of Egyptians began in 1922 when the British granted them limited independence. The country saw some industrialization, improving the opportunities for many. But with the economic growth came also the rising costs of living. In 1948 exports went down, and many manual laborers became unemployed. This was followed by the Arab (including Egypt) invasion of Israel, where Egypt suffered a humiliating defeat against this newly independent state. In addition, Egyptians suffered a shortage of wheat and oil. A series of peasant uprisings and strikes began, which culminated in the riots in Cairo in 1952.

Prosperity raises expectations, and depression frustrates people

The evidence from the Dorr Rebellion, the Russian Revolution, and the Egyptian Revolution, together with other civil disturbances provided the cases from which James C. Davies created his famous J-curve theory. What he claimed to be important was the gap between what people expect to get and what they actually get. As such, revolutions are likely to occur after a period of good times, followed by a sudden decline of fortunes.

Further reading:
Davies, James C. (1962) “Toward a Theory of Revolution” American Sociological Review, 27(1): 5–19.