What is a Revolution?

  1. Concept of "Revolution"

    1. Rooted in "revolve" - implies change, overturning, overthrow

    2. Images of violence associated with Revolution

    3. A Conservative Revolution

      1. By contrast with other revolutionaries, ours seem stiff

      2. Not wild-eyed bombthrowers

      3. Do not wind up killing each other, like in many other revolutions

      4. And what really changes

        • Same basic class still in charge

        • Slavery still exists, women still can't vote

      5. Is it really a revolution, or just a war for independence?

  2. A working definition for "revolution"

  3. But these are 18th century revolutionaries

    1. Most of what they talk about seems intellectual, not about society ("No taxation without representation")

    2. We think economic and social problems caused by structural and cultural problems

      1. Even though we live in capitalist society, we've picked up Marxist language about class

      2. Adam Smith, founder of modern economics, only publishes Wealth of Nations in 1776

    3. They thought social and economic ills were cause by government abuses

    4. Thus their desire to reform government was meant to reform society and the economy as well

  4. The results were revolutionary

    1. Within a generation, a whole new social order had been created

      1. In 1760, 2 million people lived in society governed by hereditary monarchy, in disjointed colonies

      2. By 1810, 10 million lived in a united republic that the time was the most liberal, democratic, and commercially minded place on Earth

      3. Elsewhere this took place with modernization (railroads, factories, urbanization)

      4. But here it took place only with the Revolution

    2. Key is ending hereditary privilege

      1. English nobility saw their status as God-given - no belief in society that everyone can or should get ahead

      2. 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.

      3. Great commercial energies unleashed

  5. The Revolution did not free everybody

    1. Slavery still existed, women couldn't vote, etc.

    2. But the Revolution made anti-slavery movement and women's movement possible

    3. Ultimately all of our egalitarian thinking springs from Revolution

    4. The aristocracy as it was known no longer existed

    5. The interests of ordinary people increasingly became the focus for government