Colin J. Beck

Professor of Sociology
  • Expertise


    Colin J. Beck is a political sociologist interested in a classic big question of sociology—how and why do societies and institutions change? He primarily examines this question through the lens of revolution, as revolutions are times when alternative social orders are imagined, authored and potentially enacted. In particular, his award-winning work on revolutionary waves draws on global-transnational sociology to understand why multiple revolutions occur simultaneously and how they affect each other.

    An interest in revolution almost necessarily leads to its contemporary counterparts—terrorism and social movement radicalism. As one of the few sociological experts on multiple forms of political violence, he has examined cases as diverse as radical environmental activism, political Islam, 18th century Enlightenment revolutions, and the Arab Spring.

    Beck is the author of Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists (2015), a book based on a seminar of the same name that he has taught at Pomona since 2010. He is a member of the International Relations Program in addition to the Department of Sociology, and has held elected positions in the American Sociological Association. 

    Research Interests

    • Revolutionary waves
    • Radical social movements and terrorism
    • Comparative methods

    Areas of Expertise


    • Political sociology
    • Social movements
    • Comparative and historical sociology
    • Global and transnational sociology


    • Globalization
    • Revolution
    • Terrorism and political violence
  • Work



    Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists (Polity Press; 2015)


    “The Structure of Comparison in the Study of Revolution,” Sociological Theory 36(2):134-161, 2018

    “The Comparative Method in Practice: Case Selection and the Social Science of Revolution,” Social Science History 43(3):533-554, 2017

    "Reflections on the Revolutionary Wave in 2011," Theory and Society 43(2):197-223, 2014

    With E. Miner (PO '12), "Who Gets Designated a Terrorist and Why?" Social Forces 91(3):837-872, 2013

    With G.S. Drori and J.W. Meyer, "World Influences on Human Rights Language in Constitutions: A Cross-National Study," International Sociology 27(4):483-501, 2012

    "The World Cultural Origins of Revolutionary Waves: Five Centuries of European Contention," Social Science History 35(2):167-207, 2011

    "State-Building as a Source of Islamic Political Organization," Sociological Forum 24(2):337-356, 2009

    “On the Radical Cusp: Ecoterrorism in the United States, 1998-2005,” Mobilization 12(2):161-176, 2007

  • Education


    2009, Ph.D., Sociology
    Stanford University

    2002, Master of Arts, Sociology
    Stanford University

    2000, Bachelor of Arts
    Lewis & Clark College

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Global Systems and Society
    • History & Development of Sociological Theory I: The Classical Tradition
    • Introduction to Sociology
    • Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists
    • Social and Political Movements
    • Survey and Quantitative Research Methods
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Peace, War and Social Conflict Section, American Sociological Association, Outstanding Article Award, 2015

    Global and Transnational Sociology Section, American Sociological Association, Best Article Award, 2012

    Stanford University, Centennial Teaching Assistant Award, 2008

    Stanford University Department of Sociology, Cilker Award for Teaching, 2005 

    Stanford University Department of Sociology, LaPierre Award for Best Qualifying Paper, 2004