Difference Between Reform and Revolution

Change is the only constant. It is inevitable. It brings new opportunities and innovation. For any society to function efficiently, the political system should be active and improving.

Political stillness can cause discontentment and demand for change. The two most common types of changes are reforms and revolution.

Reform vs Revolution

The main difference between reform and revolution is that reform refers to the alternation or modification to the existing structure or system while revolution refers to the violent means to achieve dramatic demand and justice over a quick period. Reforms do not disrupt any existing status quo while revolution can disrupt the existing status quo.

Reform vs Revolution

Reform functions at a low pace and promotes peace and mutual decision. It does not involve any drastic changes. The central system remains the same, only certain modifications are made.

These modifications aim to the creation of stability. Reforms generally have a positive effect on society.

On the other hand, revolution completely overthrows the existing system and adopts drastic measures. The revolution aims to establish a new system.

The pace of revolution is moderate to high and the approach is not peaceful. The greatest example of revolution is the French Revolution of 1789.

Comparison Table Between Reform and Revolution

Parameters of ComparisonReformRevolution
Definition Reform refers to the amendment and improvement made in an existing system that is wrong, unsatisfactory, or even corruptRevolution can be referred to as an act to resist any existing system and bring about changes violently
Word derivation The word reform is derived from a Latin word called “reformo” The word revolution is derived from a Latin word called “revolutio”
Nature Frequent, gradual and peaceful Rapid, rare and violent
Consequences Bring improvisation in the existing system Discard the existing system and establish a new structure
Reversibility The changes can be reversed The changes cannot be reversed

What is Reform?

Reform refers to the amendment and improvement made in an existing system that is wrong, unsatisfactory, or even corrupt.

The word gained popularity after the movement of the 18th century called Christopher Wyvill’s Association movement whose aim was Parliamentary reform. The word reform is derived from a Latin word called “reformo”.

Reforms can occur in various sectors.

It can be in civil service, macroeconomic policy, or even in public financial management. There can be reforms on several bills, acts, or upon distribution of parliamentary seats. Another nation-building reform is electoral reform that promotes democracy.

Any social movement which aims to bring reform of any level in the society is called reformism or simply reform movement. It has a radical approach to the social movement.

Some of the major reform movements are of United States from 1840 – 1930, Ottoman Empire from 1840 – 1870, Mexico in 1850 called La Reforma, Russia in the 1860s, and even Turkey from 1920s -1930s.

Reform improves the existing structure and achieves social and political changes but does not overthrow any existing order or system. There can be different approaches to bring about a reform.

Reforms are also commonly used as strategies by politicians to gain votes and trust, as the reforms address the insecurities of the people.

What is Revolution?

Revolution can be referred to as an act to resist any existing system and bring about changes violently. It disrupts the existing system completely and establishes a new structure.

It overthrows the status with radical force. It is derived from a Latin word called “revolutio”, which means a turnaround. Revolutions do not follow or work within a power structure.

The revolution aims to overthrow the existing structure and establish an improved and new structure. The change brought by revolution is drastic and violent. It does not provide any time to blend and adapt to the changes.

Because of this nature of revolution, the changes brought about are irreversible and uncontrollable. It also has a backlashing effect on many social groups.

Most of the revolutions are political.

Some common historic examples of revolution are the American Revolution, French Revolution, Russian Revolution, The Industrial Revolution, Green Industrial Revolution, Cybernetic Revolution, Neolithic Revolution, and many other revolutions.

The period from the 18th to mid-19th century is called the Age of Revolution. This era marked several significant revolutionary movements.

There were numerous outcomes from this period but the most significant is the end of feudalism and the implementation of Republicanism. The American Revolution is considered as the initial point of influence for the Age of Revolution.

Main Differences Between Reform and Revolution

  1. Reform is changes made in the existing structure while revolutions are disruption of the existing system and establishment of a completely new system.
  2. Reform brings about innovative and improved changes while revolutions bring about radical changes.
  3. Reform follows a peaceful approach to establish change while revolution follows a violent approach in peace establishment.
  4. Reforms have a gradual nature and provide time to adapt to the change while revolution has a sudden drastic nature and does not provide any time to blend with the changes.
  5. Reforms can function within a power structure while revolutions reject any prevailing power structure or system.
Difference Between Reform and Revolution


Reforms and revolutions sound similar and are used interchangeably by many people. Both are kind of processes that promotes change and brings alterations and modifications in the existing system.

Both the processes involve large social groups and have the potential to create social fragments.

Though both the processes aim at change the approach to establish the change is different for both the processes.

Reforms follow a peaceful and slow-paced approach while revolution follows a rapid, drastic, and moderate to high paced approach.

Reforms bring changes in an existing system while revolution rejects the prevailing system and establishes a new structure.

Reform and revolution are two sides of the same coin called change. Both the processes have brought about various positive and negative effects on society.

There are numerous examples of both processes from history. And have served for the betterment of the mass.


  1. https://stars.library.ucf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1268&context=prism
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