Industrial Society and its Future

REVOLUTION IS EASIER THAN REFORM

140. We hope we have convinced the reader that the system cannot be reformed in a such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.

141. People tend to assume that because a revolution involves a much greater change than reform does, it is more difficult to bring about than reform is. Actually, under certain circumstances revolution is much easier than reform. The reason is that a revolutionary movement can inspire an intensity of commitment that a reform movement cannot inspire. A reform movement merely offers to solve a particular social problem A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world; it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices. For this reasons it would be much easier to overthrow the whole technological system than to put effective, permanent restraints on the development of application of any one segment of technology, such as genetic engineering, but under suitable conditions large numbers of people may devote themselves passionately to a revolution against the industrial-technological system. As we noted in paragraph 132 , reformers seeking to limit certain aspects of technology would be working to avoid a negative outcome. But revolutionaries work to gain a powerful reward — fulfillment of their revolutionary vision — and therefore work harder and more persistently than reformers do.

✲1 Revolution is indeed easier than reform in many circumstances. Largely this is a aspect of social psychology. A big change, such as revolution, offers novelty and excitment from boredom, it instills a notion of getting rid of any problem one might have found in society. In some aspect, it has the same social impetus of going into a war, especially if the individuals does not have much personal risks involved. As have noted before, human animals are not instinctively or primarily interested in some goodness. Rather, revolution and war came from a animalistic urging, a need for excitement, usually without rational thought. See also Bertrand Russel's essay: What Desires Are Politically Important.

142. Reform is always restrained by the fear of painful consequences if changes go too far. But once a revolutionary fever has taken hold of a society, people are willing to undergo unlimited hardships for the sake of their revolution. This was clearly shown in the French and Russian Revolutions. It may be that in such cases only a minority of the population is really committed to the revolution, but this minority is sufficiently large and active so that it becomes the dominant force in society. We will have more to say about revolution in paragraphs 180-205.✲1

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