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Europe and the United StatesCategories And Theories Of Causation, Principles Of Validation, Agencies Of Reform, Academic Approaches To Reform: Methodology And Conceptualization

Reform, from the Latin reformare, to recast or reshape, denotes the overhaul of an existing state or condition with a view to its improvement. Until the eighteenth century the terms reform and revolution were used interchangeably. In the wake of the French Revolution, however, they took on distinct meanings. Reform came to denote substantial change through an orderly and lawful process; revolution described a radical change through violent and illegal means. In modern usage, a reform executed with striking speed and success may be apostrophized as a revolution, as for example in Peter Jenkins's Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution (1987) or Martin Anderson's Revolution: The Reagan Legacy (1988). This "upgrading" of a lawful process to a "revolution" may be regarded as a figure of speech and serves the purpose of demarcating a historical period. In the twentieth century further nuances to the concept of reform were introduced through the use of the term "protest." The word denotes collective action aimed at reform (for example, strikes and sit-ins), which avoids the violence associated with a revolution, yet transgresses normally accepted limits of social behavior. In the late twentieth century scholars noticeably shied away from the use of the term "reform," favoring instead value-neutral descriptions of the process of change. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, reform is an alteration "for the better." Such normative labeling is now seen as problematic. Marxists, for example, would deny that a reform from within the prevailing power structure produces betterment and would argue that this type of reform is in fact counterproductive to the socialist revolution they envisage. In academic discourse, therefore, the term reform has been largely replaced by change or shift. Reform remains the term of choice, however, in popular literature and in the propaganda of special-interest groups lobbying for change.

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