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?