How Radical is Revolution?
George Watson examines the changing meaning of the term from Machiavelli to Lenin.
Revolution is not what it was. It once thought the modern age had been made by it; nowadays a sustained stability looks more interesting, since stable societies are not just more comfortable but at times more radical too. 'I suppose what connotes a revolution is shots', William Gerhardie once remarked gaily, 'they have a way of conveying a sense of importance'. And it is that importance, or self-importance, that has dramatically faded in recent years. The word has lost not just radical chic but sheer significance. Why, it is now asked, were revolutions ever supposed by nature to be radical? Why should societies not change faster and more efficiently without them?