James Chowning Davies

James Chowning Davies (May 6, 1918 – March 30, 2012) was an American sociologist and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Oregon.[1] Davies is perhaps best known for his so-called "J curve" theory of political revolutions, which seeks to explain the rise of revolutionary movements in terms of rising individual expectations and falling levels of perceived well-being.

Davies asserts that revolutions are a subjective response to a sudden reversal in fortunes after a long period of economic growth. The theory is often applied to explain social unrest and efforts by governments to contain this unrest. This is referred to as the Davies' J-Curve, because economic development followed by a depression would be modeled as an upside down and slightly skewed J.


"Revolutions are most likely to occur when a prolonged period of objective economic and social development is followed by a short period of sharp reversal. People then subjectively fear that ground gained with great effort will be quite lost; their mood becomes revolutionary. The evidence from the Dorr Rebellion, the Russian Revolution, and the Egyptian Revolution supports this notion; tentatively, so do data on other civil disturbances. Various statistics—as on rural uprisings, industrial strikes, unemployment, and cost of living—may serve as crude indexes of popular mood. More useful, though less easy to obtain, are direct questions in cross-sectional interviews. The goal of predicting revolution is conceived but not yet born or matured."

(From J. C. Davies: "Toward a theory of revolution") American Sociological Review 27(1962):5-19, also available via JSTOR.


  • When Men Revolt and Why - A Reader in Political Violence and Revolution (The Free Press, 1971)
  • Human Nature in Politics - The Dynamics of Political Behavior (Wiley, 1963)


  1. ^ "James Chowning Davies (1918 - 2012)". Eugene Register-Guard. April 18, 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)