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Start your own revolution
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    Start your own revolution
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    On the revolution
    Project: Start your own revolution
    Before diving into a project of starting our "own revolutions" it is critical that we cast a, at least quick, glance at what a revolution is. This has several reasons. First of all we would have to know what the project is all about, what exactly are we to start? Secondly the revolution, if it is to be justified, it must be identified in some way, either in itself or in a relation to something else. Then and only then can we later begin to throw out ideas on the nature of the revolution, the means and the goals of the revolution and finally we can promote this revolutionary activity.

    There are several questions that needs to be asked. Among these are question of who the revolutionaries are, who is to revolt, which means are available and possible for the revolution and in which way they could be effective means. I will set forward two central question here considering the revolution itself and in doing this I hope to throw some light on our current problem. Hopefully, this will make us able to ask the questions above with a greater sincerity and a better chance of reaching some answers.


    We shall set out from the point of the "revolution" itself. The revolution is in this way necessarily a re-evolution, an overthrow of something that is already there. The revolution is something that returns to re-do that which is already there. Either in disposing of that which exists or to change it fundamentally. The prefix re is in any case a strong indicator of the revolutionary search for the roots of the fault that is already committed. The existence of the revolution is hence dependant on this first principle - it defines itself, if not in whole at least partly, by the establishment of that which is there. Our first question for the revolution to answer in order to identify itself will therefore be: what, then, is this evolution, this "coming to be", that the revolution wants, or needs, to redo?

    Two things are in this way crucial for this existing:

    Firstly, it has to include a dominating aspect. This existing, this, that in the logic of the revolution is to be overthrown, can be either a system, different sets of categories, social or scientific structures or even persons, but it needs to dominate the revolutionary base. No marginal, non-dominating system or structure can ever provide the grounds necessary for a revolutionary upheaval and as the necessity of a revolutionary movement takes the fundamental redoing as its subject, the marginal system or structure, that is neither total nor absolute, can never be this subject. This seems to me to a rather trivial point, so I will quickly move on to the next.

    Secondly, it has to be a movement, an evolution, a "coming to be". This becomes evident when we look back at the notion of revolution, the contrasting notion being evolution - something that evolves, unfolds. This is however not merely a etymological point but a quite profound one: a static and fixated structure or system can in no way be dominating.

    I will explain this a bit closer. The domination is not a mere placement in an hierarchy, nor simply a relation of status. The domination is rather the capability to adjust those relations in order to keep in control that which is dominated. This implies that the hierarchy and the controlling relations are movements which in the dominating process compensates for any changes and the factors uncontrollable so that the dominating position is maintained.

    In this way we can now see that the revolution is not only get rid of some constant factor of domination but rather a structure or system that will seize, with all means possible, the movement of domination - even compensate for the revolutionary struggle and strike it down. That is: the structures or systems are a will to dominate. Several questions arises from this analyse and one in particular: how can the revolution in this way create the means of the revolutionary struggle when the dynamic movement of domination constantly seizes control over exactly those means? Marx, in his revolutionary theory, points out that the means of the revolution is crafted by capitalism itself but are now in the hands of the proletariat. When we see the system as a movement rather than the monolithic machinery of Marx, we can also grasp how the system colonizes exactly those means every time the revolution tries to resist. To illustrate this point we can use the simple example of how revolutionary symbols and popular movements immediately is controlled by capitalism and made into merchandise. Let me formulate the question again: how can the revolution bring about revolutionary means that are larger and stronger than the system that makes them possible? This, I hope to be able to answer more clearly in a later posting, but the following remarks will address this question through a view on the revolution itself and I hope that will outline this point, at least in part.


    We have now outlined, if not given an account of, the aspect of the revolution that relates to that which is to be overthrown, the existing. And we have found that this existing, whatever it may be, is better to be understood as a movement rather than a constant factor that can be destroyed like one takes away the source of an epidemic disease by eliminating the virus. We have in this way established that to which the revolution contrasts itself. It is for us now a task to bring about an understanding of the revolution on its own terms. That is, what are the intrinsic characteristics of the revolution?

    In handling the revolution in itself I will use the concept of movement as we have seen it in the preceding. I will argue here that it is true that the revolution is necessarily linked with the existing, the dominating evolution. This however does not in any way keep us from analysing the revolution on its own terms and it is precisely in the use of the concept of movement that we can grasp the heart of the revolution and distance the revolution from that which it tries to redo. Here, again, will we use to steps to throw light on the problem:

    The first step is to point out the character of the revolution that distinguishes it from the structures or systems. In the same manner as earlier, we have to understand movement as something distinct from something that is fixed, constant and stable. We can here make good use of the notion that is used by Alain Badiou, among others, namely that of rupture. This concept is to be understood as a negation of that which is, an act of separating the revolutionary, radical and redoing reality from that which is already established, the dominating reality. Let me here, once again, remind you that this dominating reality is no less of a movement than the revolution. In fact, it is exactly because of this movement that the revolution can realise itself as a movement. Said in another way: the revolution needs to negate from something, hence the dominant reality is a necessary condition of the revolution. But as soon as the revolution ruptures, separates itself from the movement of domination, it takes a independent form - it becomes revolutionary.

    The second step is to identify the immanent character of the revolution, that which makes possible a rupture of this kind. As we have seen, the revolution cannot be realized without the dominating reality and this poses the problem previously pointed out: how can the revolution use the revolutionary means without either loosing control over them to the will to dominate of the system or structures or itself becoming a will to dominate? My answer to this will be, again: precisely through the negating movement. It is through this movement that the revolution obtains a will to resistance that is neither controllable nor controlling. This fundamental character, this will to resistance must in this way be the intrinsic dynamic of the revolution itself.


    Now we have looked closely at the revolution in itself and in relation to that which it tries to overthrow. It is now that our debate should begin. We should identify the revolution and the revolutionary acts, and the nature of the dominating reality that emerges from our own situation, a society largely dependent on internet and recent technology. And this revolution, in effect, must be analysed in order to start "our own revolution".

    Some questions are, however, more evident than others. I will ask two questions that I hope that we, in the course of this project, will be able to answer or at least outline. Firstly, we must ask if redoing, the revolutionary act, necessarily implies destruction? Secondly, when we strive for revolutionary goals, the overthrow of the will to dominate, how do we preserve the revolutionary movement that is the will to resistance and prevent it from ever stopping, even in the achieving of the revolutionary goals? That is: can we at all talk about revolutionary goals?

    Let the revolution begin.

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         Fri, Mar 28, 2008  Permanent link
    Hey, I really like this post. It touches upon something that I'm half done finished writing because my half-ass is too lazy to do this all in one stretch, but I'll finish it tonight hopefully.
    meganmay     Sun, Mar 30, 2008  Permanent link
    I agree with above comment, and am similarly working on a post to formulate what revolution is in our time, why it's needed, what the means are for accomplishing it, and how to avoid being cast right back into the system you went up against in the first place. I'm interested in doing projects to experiment with these ideas, and I've been pondering how to create a larger Space Collective project around this impulse...more to come soon. Thanks for bringing some clarity to this huge subject, can't wait to hear more.

    sjef     Sun, Mar 30, 2008  Permanent link
    The following quote of Willis Harman seems fitting, it's lifted from the end of David Cogswells essay "Revolution Time", which mostly concerns the political situation in the US, but still has some good general points.

    "Throughout history, the really fundamental changes in societies have come about not from dictates of governments and the results of battles but through vast numbers of people changing their minds — sometimes only a little bit.

    Some of the changes have amounted to profound transformations — for instance the transition from the Roman Empire to Medieval Europe, or from the Middle Ages to modern times. Others have been more specific, such as the constitution of democratic governments in England and America, or the termination of slavery as an accepted institution. In the latter cases, it is largely a matter of people recalling that no matter how powerful the economic or political or even military institution, it persists because it has legitimacy, and that legitimacy comes from the perceptions of people. People give legitimacy and they can take it away. A challenge to legitimacy is probably the most powerful force for change to be found in history.

    To the empowering principle that the people can withhold legitimacy, and thus change the world, we now add another: By deliberately changing the internal image of reality, people can change the world. Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in. "

    - Willis Harman

    In answer to question 1, probably yes, but destruction only of rusted thought patterns and perceptions, not material. As the essay linked also states, this should be a revolution of ideas, not guns or muscle.
    "It will take intelligence, and intelligently exercised force."

    Question 2 is a lot harder, however if a goal of the revolution is the bringing about of a situation in which change for improvement is the norm, and the feedback loops between those who execute said changes and those who are effected by them are much tighter, wouldn't that of itself create an environment in which there is a constant questioning of the status quo, thus fulfilling the need for resistance?
    Sophie406     Tue, Apr 1, 2008  Permanent link
    I think that revolution will be more subtle over the next few generations. It will require a new means of schooling our children. Our educational system is largely based on Prussian modes of thought that required obedience from the populace. Until we get outside of the 'raise your hand before asking a question' type of teaching, we'll be stuck inside of the current system. The system we emulate was designed to give the government full control, and because it was always about 'war' and 'protecting the nation', it had to be a type of schooling where we ask permission for every little thing. You'll find that people who are in school for a very long time no longer have an easy time of 'thinking freely'. It's always about the 'teacher's needs and wants' over one's own. The Sudbury School is revolutionary in the sense that children learn what they would like- they are not told that they have to obey blindly- and they certainly do not have to ask permission every five minutes to do the smallest thing....