Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Reactionaries Usually Win

From Sheri Berman, contemplating revolution (or the lack thereof):
What lessons does the historical record provide to those interested in trying to figure our whether or not today’s discontent is likely to produce revolutionary change or simply peter out?

One important historical lesson that seems particularly relevant to our contemporary moment is that it is much easier to be negative than positive. Or, to be more precise, it is much easier to mobilize against an old order than to generate consensus for a new one.  

...Today, we are certainly living through a period of massive discontent. Sclerotic and unresponsive political regimes, economic downturns, and financial crises have created grievances and dissatisfaction in many corners of the globe. But much of this opposition remains focused more on what it opposes than on what it wants, better able to articulate why it wants to do away with the existing order than able to convey viable alternatives to it.

...Prognostication is always a difficult and dangerous business. Perhaps we are still in the early stages of our “age of uncertainty.” Powerful and attractive plans for changing the status quo might soon emerge. But if history is any guide, the chances of that happening are slim. Particularly in the West, what seems striking about the current period is the widespread sense of the need for change combined with the lack of any coherent plans for it.  

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