Monday, June 02, 2003

Discussion: The Revolutionary Threshold

Barry, I dare say you and Joe know as much (if not more) about psychological theories than I, so I won't make any attempt to correct you. I will only say that Maslow wasn't the only one to recognize the priority of personal security for the individual. Indeed, Sullivan, a psychiatrist contemporary to Maslow's time, believed that the maintainance of personal security is what drives our behavior and becomes maladaptive in psychiatric illness. But I digress...

I think there is a point we need to be clear on. We seem to agree that Montesquieu's position is that conditions for revolution are ripe when there is an expectation of change. Barry then goes on to comment on observation and perception of disparity, but I think this already begins to stray from Montesquieu's point (at least as I interpreted it). The majority can perceive or observe all the disparity it wants, but unless it expects that disparity to change (e.g. perestroika, solidarity), it will do nothing to attempt to alter current conditions. This, I think, is the biggest difference between the plebes vs. the middle/upper class. By definition, the middle/upper class will have had more success socially, economically, or both. Success emboldens individuals, and they learn that change is possible. They learn that they are empowered. I doubt that their sense of security or knowledge of conditions differs markedly from the plebes. Rather, the middle/upper class is more conscious of the situation because it thinks it can change it.

Back to Joe's original question: Can the plebes truly be made politically enlightened? I struggle with this question. I think they can be, but it is a great challenge that requires specific conditions. First, a large disparity (or perceived disparity) has to exist for the majority. Second, someone has to empower them by demonstrating that change is possible, even if there is resistance at the top.

No comments: