30 September 2009

A Thought on the French Bourgeois Revolution

A Thought on the French Bourgeois Revolution specifically because I was reading about it when this occurred to me.

I think a really important aspect of the French bourgeois revolution was the formation of institutions that lead to a feeling of entitlement within the oppressed classes. Property ownership in the peasant class is a good example.

Land ownership (at least for myself) breeds a sense of power and of my place in the world. I view the place I am currently sitting as my house, in the back yard is my garden, on my property and I would fight to the death to protect that (I dare you to test me on this Dan).

Serfs, or slaves, or whoever, that feel that they are in their "proper" or "god given" or predestined place in the world will not start a revolution. It is only when there are feelings (arguably determined at least in part by the existing institutions in society, be they cultural, economic or political) that lead to a sense of being entitled to more than a person currently has, or treatment better than what is currently being recieved, that revolution becomes a possibility.

People will not act in a revolutionary fashion if they feel that everything is as it was meant to be.


Daniel MacDonald said...

lol I know it's pretty late but can I still take you up on that challenge?

seriously though, the idea of landownership and how it spurs revolution is interesting (and we see it with Sieyes' reading for tomorrow as well). but if landownership is how things are "meant to be," then it's a short step from there to saying things such as -people desire/aim for some form of capitalist institutions and -people are inherently conservative and capitalist (in a similar fashion to the gordon wood article I gave you a while back)

Now, you know me -- I think there are some strong arguments for this. And, it forces you to think about how subsequent revolutions will be formulated: if everyone will own some amount of land then how does the justification for a socialist revolution arise? is there something else the landowners want and if so how can we interpret such a thing historically?

these are all very big questions but i think, as you point out, a large portion of it comes down to landownership. at least, that's how the french revolution seems to be articulated by the third estate. from the perspective of an idealist radical, revolutions are so depressing of course, not just because we see what failed but also because we begin to realize how the fundamentals of our beliefs seem not in accord in any way to reality...

(please challenge me on this if you think differently!!!!!!)

to be honest with you though, it's part of the reason why i started this reading group this semester. i wanted some radicals to joint it so i could show them how unrealistic i believe a lot oftheir claims to be. no, not just unrealistic -- possibly incompatible with humanity. i really hope i'm wrong, which is why i'm trying so hard to construct arguments for radicalism and why i press people so so hard on the issue, but... well, we'll see.

James Miehls said...

A first passing thought is that there is nothing inconsistent with socialism at the point of production and private land ownership
(or private ownership of the means of production for that matter)
at least from a class perspective of exploitation...
if you take an orthodox Marxist view of property ownership what i just wrote is complete hooey

What seems more important here is your last paragraph. I don't think you are wrong. I think most of what I, others similar to me, and others different from me who claim to be radical is incompatible with humanity (as we know it). I am going to switch from humanity to human nature moving forward on this topic.
Human nature, despite what the word nature implies is a product of many determinants (including biology). So for ideas to be radical they almost by definition incompatible with humanity in its current form.
As theories, (ideas), ie truth claims by radicals become accepted in society they cease to be radical. A reality ready to accept radical ideas is one in which those ideas are no longer radical.
Here lies my point, unrealistic and incompatible change through time...but this goes back to why I encouraged you not to present neoclassical alternatives when teaching history. By dissemination certain ideas can stop being radical and become just ideas.