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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Revolution or Reform


Am I a Revolutionary or a Reformer?  Well, maybe neither.

I once wrote an article that Martin Marty published in his New Theology series—my 15 minutes of fame. I distinguished “revolution,” as in the stars, as cyclical time in which creation all starts over again from “rebellion” as Camus described it as more historical but never totally resolved time.  So I still associate revolutionaries in the manner of Pol Pot who would totally remake the cosmos by destroying all that came before.  I like Trotsky’s notion of “perpetual revolution” better—but still it seems to not only throw out all the bathwater, if not the baby, when even some of the bathwater might be preserved—although filtered.

As for “reform,” it sounds too wishy washy—tinkering around the edges without making fundamental changes.  I.e. changing form but not substance. Though I liked Pope John’s call to “semper reformendum” and the notion of institution (i.e. form) change.

So I guess I don’t want to refer to myself as a revolutionary or a reformer—my idiosyncrasy.  Politically I would like to describe myself as a republican in the sense of creating and sustaining publics—spaces of freedom where people can act and achieve power.  Unfortunately that wonderful word has been totally discredited by the US Party.

Incidentally, I often describe myself as culturally a libertarian, economically a socialist, and politically a republican—with the political limiting any of the excesses of economics (including socialism) and politics and economics limiting any of the excesses of culture (including libertarianism).  In my mind, all the institutions of culture including church and university, all the institutions of economy including the market and corporation, and all the institutions of politics including government and its agencies should be accountable to the public(s) and their interest(s).  “Social justice”—a phrase still important to me includes political, economic, and civil/cultural justice.  But to me, mentored by Arendt and Dewey, the political (including but not limited to accountable government) is primary.

Not sure how revolutionary that is. Such republican moments have been found throughout human history and I think can be justified in human existence and nature.  Arendt did call them revolutions—all of which were betrayed by the economic and cultural. Those republican moments need to be continually organized and sustained.

Presently I do see the American state as a plutocracy in democratic or populist form, not a republic. And to achieve its republican ideal might indeed be a “revolutionary” action.

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