General strikes are effective because of the wide-reaching disruption they cause. Few official services continue to run in a general strike because other workers will often be pressured by strikers and labour organisations to join the strike.
A large-scale strike like a general strike requires a high level of labour organisation. Often a galvanising motive like widespread economic hardship or social unrest is necessary to provoke one.
Many leftist and socialist movements have hoped to mount a "peaceful revolution" in a country by organizing enough strikers to completely paralyze it. With the state and corporate apparatus thus crippled, the workers would be able to re-organize society along radically different lines. This philosophy was favored by the anarcho-syndicalist labor organization Industrial Workers of the World, especially in the early twentieth-century.