Thursday, September 10, 2009

McNeill, and His Revolutionary Reasonings (Or Lack Thereof)

In his essay The Triumph of Nationalism, McNeill looks at the "revolutions" that occurred in two powerhouse nations of the era, namely; The United States, Get Britain, and the strikingly less powerful France and Ireland. However, he fails to mention what exactly leads to the differences in the nations rise in nationalism.
He explains the civil strife and the discontent of the youth, that the rising generation was "a more volatile class" (41.) This is surely the reason behind any revolution. But why, then, did America and France make their feelings known through violent political upheaval while Great Britain simply expanded industrially and Ireland shifted agricultural efforts from shepardry to grain production?
I believe the answers lie in the stake of the majority, what was to be lost or gained by the working middle class. As Marx observed, it is the middle class constantly shifting the social strata, continuously trading places with the upper crust of society. Seeing as none of these four countries are Communist, we accept that the same is true for them. In France and America, there was little distinction between the impoverished and the middle class, with conditions only worsening as the political climate thickened and repression worsened. Therefore there was little to lose in total dedication to revolution. Violence was an ends to justify the means, and the means neccesry were freedom. England and Ireland on the other hand, were experienceing problems more domestically relative. Ireland's climate could no longer provide the pasturing lands needed for profitable sheparding, but that same weather made the change to grain farming simple. The middle class had only to lose their sheeep. Finally in England, nationalism found it's niche in expansion. The rise of imperialism (see "the white man's burden") and continental expansion of industry was the main revolution of the 18th century.
This is simply my reasoning. I welcome comments and challenges.

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