Armchair revolutionary

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Armchair revolutionary is a two-word cliche which, along with the similar terms armchair activist and armchair socialist, is a description of a speaker or writer who professes radical aims without taking any action to realize them ("from the comfort of the armchair").


In 1959 Nikolai Berdyaev wrote, "After years of living in Western Europe, Plekhanov became entirely a Western and of a very rationalist sort, fairly cultured, although his culture was not of the highest kind; more of an armchair revolutionary than a practical one. He could be a leader of a Marxist school of thought, but he could not be a leader of a revolution; that was made clear at the time of the revolution."[1]:94

Columnist Julie Burchill highlighted the relative the level of energy exhibited in this lede: "During a long hard winter, nothing warms the cold blood of the Western armchair revolutionary more than the sight of a bunch of attractive dark-skinned people out on the streets having a right old revolution."[2]

In culture[edit]

The Guardian used the cliche in this headline: "We’re a nation of armchair activists—and that's OK, says Bridget Christie".[3]

William Graham titled his travel book Latin America: Notes from an Armchair Revolutionary.[4]

In December 2014, the BMJ published a study, possibly satirical in intent and described as "lighthearted" in NHS Choices, with the purported purpose of determining how political affiliation correlates with (literal) physical activity levels. The study's stated conclusion was that (literal) "armchair socialists" as a class do not exist, as holders of political views toward either end of the spectrum (Left or Right) tend to be more physically active than political centrists.[5][6]

Related idioms[edit]


  1. ^ Berdyaev, Nikolai (1960) [first published 1948; first edition published 1937]. The origin of Russian communism (new ed.). Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-4720-6034-4.
  2. ^ Burchill, Julie (February 3, 2011). "Armchair revolutionaries: be careful what you wish for in the Middle East". Independent (UK). Archived from the original on 2017-09-23. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  3. ^ Christie, Bridget (April 11, 2015). "We're a nation of armchair activists—and that's OK, says Bridget Christie". Protest. Guardian. Archived from the original on 2017-09-23. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  4. ^ Graham, William (2016) [first published 1988 by Venceremos Productions]. Latin America: notes from an armchair revolutionary. Morrisville, North Carolina, USA: Lulu Press. ISBN 978-1-326-82759-5.
  5. ^ Bauman, Adrian; Gale, Joanne; Milton, Karen (December 11, 2014). "Are "armchair socialists" still sitting? Cross sectional study of political affiliation and physical activity". Christmas 2014: Going to Extremes. BMJ. 349: g7073. doi:10.1136/bmj.g7073. PMC 4263957. PMID 25500112.
  6. ^ Bazian (December 15, 2014). "Political hardliners 'fitter' than 'fence sitters'". Lifestyle and exercise. NHS Choices. Archived from the original on 2017-09-23. Retrieved 2017-09-23.