Is it Reasonable to Believe in Revolution? Part 1/3

My goal in the next three posts is to examine whether it’s reasonable to believe that the revolution will happen.

By ‘will happen’ I don’t mean strictly inevitable, but more something whose probability increases indefinitely. And by ‘the revolution’ I mean a process of social conflict, taking various forms, which replaces a social system in which injustice and needless suffering are unavoidable design features with one in which they can be dealt with in a mature human fashion and largely avoided.

In particular, I want to compare the reasoning that might generate such a belief with that which might generate religious doctrines of final judgement, which revolutionary beliefs have often been called a secularised version of.

I argued in a previous post that there is in fact a structural analogy between the thought-processes that might lead to both, and in both cases a wish is fulfilled. But everything hinges on whether the conclusion is drawn merely because it fulfils a wish, or because there are good grounds for believing it independently of that.

That shared structure of wish-fulfilling thought process goes something like this:

1)      I feel a frustrated wish, such as a sense of outrage and anger over the hypocrisy, needless suffering, and general injustice that the world contains.

2)      I blame this injustice on some contingent features of the world – that is, I imagine that a world without such horrors is at least possible in principle.

3)      I attribute my anger to some force (a deity, a movement, a government) that has the power to act on it, and to prevent or avenge the original injustice.

4)      I postulate a conflict between this force and the things that made me angry, which the good side wins.

For these posts I’m going to assume that the first two steps are correct: that someone is feeling legitimate anger, against something that is genuinely a result of contingent human action, to which there is a conceivable alternative. I assume this partly because it’s peripheral to drawing a contrast between revolutionary and religious beliefs, since they typically both judge some substantial part of human affairs very bad. I also make this assumption because there’s so much material out there by people substantiating it: arguing that various effects of capitalism are very very bad, but not inevitable.

My focus is just on whether, given this – given that ‘it’s all very nice in theory’ – is it reasonable to expect a social convulsion sometime in the medium-to-long term future to accomplish the cleaning up of this mess?

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One Response to Is it Reasonable to Believe in Revolution? Part 1/3

  1. Russ says:

    Unlike a religious Final Judgement, we have in fact had revolutions, in most cases under conditions where the great majority of commentators considered it unlikely or impossible shortly before.

    So there we have proof of principle. That’s enough for me to call it reasonable to own such a passion under today’s circumstances, which are certainly comparable to past revolutionary situations, some of which did in fact bring forth revolutions.

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