Thursday, October 22, 2009

Western Thought and Revolutions

In this week’s class we focused our discussion on the transformation of the Western mind, and revolution. In the late 1800’s education was on the rise, and there was an explosion in science. New discoveries were constantly being made, and the people had a much better understanding of the world around them. Religion’s power on society decreases as science gained influence, however people soon became disillusioned with science, just as they were disillusioned with religion. We also discussed how the politically and economically unstable periphery countries were ripe for revolution. The people were dissatisfied with colonial governments, social inequality and economic failure and the result was often violent revolt.

I found the discussion on the differences between historical and modern revolutions to be especially fascinating. Historical revolutions, such as the American Revolution focused on completely over throwing the government and creating a new government. Modern revolutions often focus on social reorganization, improving the existing government or gaining independence from foreign powers. The comparison between the French Revolution and the Tiananmen Square Protest exemplifies the differences. The French Revolution is described as the first modern revolution because the destruction of the monarchy was followed by the reorganization of society and class structure. The Tiananmen Square Protest differs in that it was a non-violent movement that called for political change, instead of a bloody and violent struggle for power. Both the French Revolution and Tiananmen Square can both be called “revolutions” in that they are the actions of an unhappy populace, but they took very different forms.

The comparison of these two events leads me to consider what makes a revolution successful. In class we mentioned that violent revolutions, often descend into chaos and infighting within the revolutionaries, unless the revolution is carefully organized from the beginning. In comparison, nonviolent revolutions are often seen as more respectable by outside observers, as revolutionaries calmly present their demands, and work towards a peaceful agreement, instead of outright destruction and warfare. Non-violent revolutions are also far easier to recover from, as no one was wounded and no infrastructure was destroyed. And while both methods of revolution can be successful, I would far prefer a non-violent revolt.

1 comment:

  1. I found your note about modern revolts aiming more for reform than the overthrow and destruction of the state. I guess this tactic has gained a lot of traction, as it tends to be rather difficult to get people behind a "smash the state" ideology...but this certainly still exists. Just as a couple of examples we see Maoists in India and Southeast Asia, as well as various factions in the Middle East among Islamists in Somalia, Palestinian groups in those territories. So an overthrow of the state still holds some weight with people...