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David Graeber: A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse

Anarchist Opinion

What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille.

A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse

David Graeber
The Baffler No. 22

What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille.

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.

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David Graeber: A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse | 1 comments | Create New Account
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David Graeber: A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse
Authored by: ISHI on Wednesday, April 17 2013 @ 03:58 PM CDT

i see random house is publishing a book which mentions michael albert and parecon, which they obviously do in finding that another world is im/p/ossible, if you got the duckets. (some good current bestlsellers on the list include machiavelli (something about power), a guide for comfort foods with less than 350 calories (so you dont have to go to popeye's), and supreme court justic sontemayer--the first latino (and female) supreme court justice---i wonder if she bought her green card in my neighborhood on her path to citizenshit ----woops---wooden ships (neil is not young any more than the rest of CCNY, as distinct from CUNY).

i only publish on pm, and ak, but only after a hard days nite at work---to pay the bills you gotta buy the lottery ticket, and you only buy if you win. so i follow that practical utopian path (integral---feynman-dirac) and always do/knotted nots. (louis kauffman http//www.arxiv.org or http://www.axiomsandchoices.blogspot.com

had a nice time at MLK in (damage control)?

Edited on Wednesday, April 17 2013 @ 04:01 PM CDT by ISHI