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Revolutions of common sense

This is a smart, expansive post from David Graeber:

At moments like this, it generally pays to go back to the history one already knows and ask: Were revolutions ever really what we thought them to be? For me, the person who has asked this most effectively is the great world historian Immanuel Wallerstein. He argues that for the last quarter millennium or so, revolutions have consisted above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense.

Already by the time of the French Revolution, Wallerstein notes, there was a single world market, and increasingly a single world political system as well, dominated by the huge colonial empires. As a result, the storming of the Bastille in Paris could well end up having effects on Denmark, or even Egypt, just as profound as on France itself—in some cases, even more so. Hence he speaks of the “world revolution of 1789,” followed by the “world revolution of 1848,” which saw revolutions break out almost simultaneously in fifty countries, from Wallachia to Brazil. In no case did the revolutionaries succeed in taking power, but afterward, institutions inspired by the French Revolution—notably, universal systems of primary education—were put in place pretty much everywhere. Similarly, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a world revolution ultimately responsible for the New Deal and European welfare states as much as for Soviet communism. The last in the series was the world revolution of 1968—which, much like 1848, broke out almost everywhere, from China to Mexico, seized power nowhere, but nonetheless changed everything. This was a revolution against state bureaucracies, and for the inseparability of personal and political liberation, whose most lasting legacy will likely be the birth of modern feminism.

Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena. But there is more. What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about.

I think it's possible to look at the neo-liberal "thought collective" as the foot-soldiers in a counter-revolution to 1968 and following. The timing is certainly right...

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Comments

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

He explains the idea behind a no demands of the state movement like Occupy. But there was a general demand. It was a demand to end debt. But first they needed to change the conversation which the Occupy movement did. They came together because of student debt and the homeless and mortgage debtors joined them. The credit card debtors started to see who the enemy was. It became so crystal clear it had to be wiped away from view.

David Bollier explains the 21st century idea of commoning as a more pragmatic practice of left libertarianism/ anarchism at his site and at On the Commons.

So we need both the Utopian ideas and pragmatic ways to practice life.