To begin illustrating the complex notion of the concept of revolution, it is essential to revisit John Locke. His ideas about property and rights set forth a new framework previously unbeknownst to academia. This outlines the importance of clear, yet fluid and evolving definitions, a topic also discussed by Angela Davis in her writing, Recognizing Racism in the Era of Neoliberalism. Inherently, revolution is creating new definitions, then redefining them when they no longer suite the social milieu. In essence, defining what the people deserve and comparing this to what they are getting.
In order for revolution to occur, an idea of what can be needs to establish itself among the masses. In Unit 2, we discussed conceptual schemes. People need exposure to other ideas as well as a foundation of their own ingrained functionings to know it can be better. Relativity is crucial in understanding change, and therefore, revolution. Like definitions, fluidity and expansion upon conceptual schemes allows for the novel concepts to ebb and flow throughout political and social discourse.
Paradoxically, revolutionary acts and actions taken on behalf of revolutions require a strange lack of empathy, a topic we discussed in Professor Tamura’s Unit. In a traditional sense of the word revolution wherein a mass overthrows a tyrannical regime, the masses must acquire a certain desensitization to firmly believe the ruler is in fact, a tyrannical one. Demonizing and dehumanizing is required on both sides, as the ruler must see their subjects in a less than human light to deny them basic rights for which they rebel for. In order to rule unjustly, there is a similar disconnect with the ruling subjects, in the context of dissatisfactory political structures.
Revolution, also, in a less secular sense, requires a contortion of conventional thought, for both the better and worse. Religion is weaponized, sanctified, demonized, and used to justify a variety of behaviors. To promote positive behaviors and mitigate the negative, it is required to understand different interpretations and why they are utilized the way they are. The analyses of religion done in Professor Wills’ unit accompanies Professor Quillen’s lecture question: “is revolution fundamentally a project of redefining who is human?” Manipulating religion to justify these various ideals embodies this question.
My notes from/about Lapham’s Quarterly Revolution:
For more on the multiplicity and limitations of definitions, visit Dr. Robb’s definition primer: here