In this essay, Oleg Aronson proposes to view the protests of 1968 as a continuation of the social revolutionary processes initiated by the French Revolution. The author interprets revolution not as an event of historical rupture but as a process of long duration (in the sense of Fernand Braudel’s longue durée). Signs of such revolution are found beyond the regime of human perception and contemplation, beyond the categories of space and time, in the zone of common sense (sensus communis), which Kant saw in such manifestations as the enthusiasm that joins a universal audience (the public) when it is enchanted by the spectacle of revolution. The article attempts to show how, as mass society develops, the revolution shifts from action to spectacle. However, if we view mass society itself as an effect of the revolutionary process of long duration, then freedom, equality, and fraternity (commonality) turn out to be less values affirmed by revolution than invariants of a common sense, outside of which they are unthinkable and unimaginable. Being unrepresentable, they constantly receive representative equivalents, which constitute the spectacle. The author proposes to use them as social imaginaries (in the sense of imaginary numbers in mathematics), which indicate the dynamics of processes that exceed the framework of individual and historical (albeit still anthropometric) understanding. Such an analysis of revolution as a process, and not as a concrete historical event, allows us to see it less as a transformation of society than as the surmounting of the human order itself, of the world of values that are understood as immutable and whose violation always looks like lawlessness.
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Research Article| July 01 2020
Preliminary Remarks toward a Formal Understanding of Revolution
South Atlantic Quarterly (2020) 119 (3): 521–533.
Oleg Aronson, Robert Bird; Preliminary Remarks toward a Formal Understanding of Revolution. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2020; 119 (3): 521–533. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-8601386
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