Thursday, December 30, 2010

The ethics of revolution

In comments, Archvillain asks some pointed questions about the ethics of revolution:
In the course of this revolution, more than one group of revolutionaries may rise to prominence. What would happen if those groups had differing political and economic goals? In my opinion, the two most likely possibilities are balkanization or another protracted civil war.

Do you think either of these possibilities would be likely to be in the best interests of the people?

Observation: Only a fraction of any population actually gets involved in any given revolution. The overwhelming majority only wants the fighting to stop.

Given this observation, the nature of all post-revolutionary societies is toward a ruling elite. Doesn't this imply that your desired revolution will merely repeat the same cycle of creating a new ruling class which would invariably grow ever more oppressive?

To rephrase a bit, I see three questions here. First, a revolution is a chancy thing: by definition the ordinary mechanisms of legitimacy have broken down. There are no guarantees that the outcome will be desirable, much less optimal. Given the enormous risk, is it ethical to contemplate revolution? Second, a revolution is always the intention of a minority: Is it ethical to foment revolution, given that it will proceed without intention of the majority of people? Third, Does every revolution inevitably lead to a new ruling class, which will eventually become oppressive and require yet another revolution?

I don't have any easy answers to these questions, but they are questions that I think anyone seriously contemplating the possibility and desirability of a revolution must think deeply and carefully upon, and proffer serious and considered answers.

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