Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

8/12/2005

We'd all love to see the plan

Her name is Battlepanda, and she's wondering*: "When the system is broken, do you fix it up or tear it down?"
In the comments, Lawrence makes a great observation that the left has moved from one paradigm for change to another within his lifetime:
...it is interesting how many people of left-of-center views have come to agree with the can't-beat-em-join-em philosophy. While there has been a lot of talk about how America has drifted to the right, and how the right has drifted to the right, there hasn't been much talk lately about how much the Left has drifted to the Right.

The reformist philosophy can be summarized as "Let's join existing institutions and make them better." Maybe this is the best program for progressive social change. Maybe it isn't. I don't know. As a historical observation, those decades we think of as the most radical (1640s, 1770s, 1960s) are noteworthy for their rejection of the reformist ideal ...

You know it's going to be an era of quiet reform when even the Left takes revolutionary change off the table as an option. Even in my own lifetime I've seen the change - I can recalled when I was a teenager in the 1980s there were still those who felt the only way to improve our society was a root-and-branch turning over, so we could start again with a clean slate. Nowadays, everyone I know who is involved with progressive politics is mostly interested in incremental reform (a small exception is the anarchist-punk rock scene).
I think I am a pragmatist by nature, so this current disposition towards gradualism suits me well personally ... in my view, constant revolution is both impossible and undesirable. Who was it that said "all revolutions are impossible until they happen; then they are inevitable."? It is the goal of reformists to change society for the better before the revolution becomes inevitable, and there is much to be said for this approach, despite being lacking in romance.
Assuming that a reasonably clear distinction can be made between reform and revolution, I agree that most of us seem to be working within the 'reformist' paradigm. I'm open to the idea of some kind of revolution, but I have yet to hear anyone make any tangible, concrete, and plausible proposal for affecting such a revolution. The route to an improved society via reform is relatively clear ... at least the debate over the best route is well-defined. In my experience, when people talk about the need for a revolution, that is basically all they do - talk about the need for it. No one ever seems to get around to explaining how we should actually go about engaging in this revolution. If they did, then we could analyze and evaluate it. But until then, calls for revolution are bound to go unheeded.


*Anyone who gets this reference is as big of a nerd as I am for making it.

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