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2 - A Trialogue on Revolution and Transformation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 September 2017

Vladimíra Dvořáková
Affiliation:
University of Economics, Prague
Marek Hrubec
Affiliation:
University in Prague
Jan Keller
Affiliation:
University of Ostrava
Johann P. Arnason
Affiliation:
La Trobe University, Melbourne
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Summary

KELLER: WERE REVOLUTIONS only a passing fad? Prior to the beginning of modernity, it was impossible to speak of revolutions in the true sense of the word. What if modernity has changed so much that the concept of revolution is again becoming meaningless?

Dvořáková: I have often asked myself the same question. Revolution introduces radical change and dismantles certain barriers blocking the way forward, and yet the system is always newly institutionalised in one form or another (and sometimes completely contrary to the goal and values of the change that has been heralded). The question is whether there is still room for ‘reform’ within the framework of a particular system. I would say that there is. The liberal democracy and social market economy we have created are, if anything, a caricature. Root-and-branch change is essential, if only so that further (revolutionary?) changes in society are not based on caricature, but are derived from the pursuit of fundamental values and goals.

Hrubec: Classic modernity can definitely claim a monopoly on the concept of revolution in the strict sense. Ever since Copernicus, we have had a modern notion of substantial change, which has come to be characterised by the word ‘revolution’. Socially and politically, this change needs to involve a mass movement or a popular or civic insurrection in the way we associate with the French, American or Russian revolutions. One of the preconditions, then, is mass society, but in the West – not least in our own peripherally Western country – this has become fragmented and splintered in recent decades. We can add to that the institutionalisation of crises, resulting in frequently less dramatic, but bureaucratically more regulated and longer-term propensities for crisis than in the past. In this sense, it is true that, in some societies, this precondition for modern social and political revolutions to be feasible has faded somewhat.

Nevertheless, the pre-modern stages of human history had their own functional equivalent of revolution in a broader sense, in practice and in theory, in Western societies at least from the time of ancient Greece. The point is that revolution is associated with radical change which, as a rule, is not only quick, but also often violent and unconstitutional.

Type
Chapter
Information
Social Transformations and Revolutions
Reflections and Analyses
, pp. 6 - 26
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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