What is a Revolution?
Concept of "Revolution"
Rooted in "revolve" - implies change, overturning, overthrow
Images of violence associated with Revolution
A Conservative Revolution
By contrast with other revolutionaries, ours seem stiff
Not wild-eyed bombthrowers
Do not wind up killing each other, like in many other revolutions
And what really changes
Same basic class still in charge
Slavery still exists, women still can't vote
Is it really a revolution, or just a war for independence?
A working definition for "revolution"
A revolution is a sudden overthrow of established political, economic, social and cultural institutions and their replacement with new ones, usually accompanied by violence.
But these are 18th century revolutionaries
Most of what they talk about seems intellectual, not about society ("No taxation without representation")
We think economic and social problems caused by structural and cultural problems
Even though we live in capitalist society, we've picked up Marxist language about class
Adam Smith, founder of modern economics, only publishes Wealth of Nations in 1776
They thought social and economic ills were cause by government abuses
Thus their desire to reform government was meant to reform society and the economy as well
The results were revolutionary
Within a generation, a whole new social order had been created
In 1760, 2 million people lived in society governed by hereditary monarchy, in disjointed colonies
By 1810, 10 million lived in a united republic that the time was the most liberal, democratic, and commercially minded place on Earth
Elsewhere this took place with modernization (railroads, factories, urbanization)
But here it took place only with the Revolution
Key is ending hereditary privilege
English nobility saw their status as God-given - no belief in society that everyone can or should get ahead
While not everyone was free after Revolution, much greater belief in egalitarianism, that citizens had a right and a possibility to better themselves, that there was something good about the common man.
Great commercial energies unleashed
The Revolution did not free everybody
Slavery still existed, women couldn't vote, etc.
But the Revolution made anti-slavery movement and women's movement possible
Ultimately all of our egalitarian thinking springs from Revolution
The aristocracy as it was known no longer existed
The interests of ordinary people increasingly became the focus for government