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A revolution from above refers to major political and social changes that are imposed by an elite on the population it dominates. It usually occurs in urban areas in the capital city. By contrast, the plain term revolution suggests that pressure from below is a major driving force in events, even if other social groups cooperate with—or ultimately capture—the movement. The phrase was coined by the Spanish writer Joaquín Costa in the 19th century.[1]

In contrast, a "revolution from below" refers to a grassroots campaign against elites.

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  1. ^ Stanley G. Payne, The Franco Regime, p. 10