Of course, revolutions have hardly disappeared since 1989. But the recent wave of them across the world — the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the recent events in Tunisia — all look much more like 1688 than 1789. They have been short, sharp affairs, centered on the fall of a regime. In none of these countries have we seen the development of an extended “revolutionary” process or party. And though some of these revolutions have triggered others, domino-style, as in 1848, they have not themselves been expansionary and proselytizing. As far as I know, there are no Tunisian revolutionaries directing events in Cairo.
The principal exception to the current pattern — the one great contemporary revolution of the second type to remain an ongoing proposition today — is Iran. Although it has been more than 30 years since the fall of the Shah, Iran’s Islamic Republic is still a revolutionary regime in a way matched by few other states in the world today. Despite its considerable unpopularity with its own people, it has remained committed since 1979 to the enactment of radical, even utopian change, and not just inside its own borders. Organizations such as the Revolutionary Guard retain considerable importance.