Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bush Scalar Hubbert's Peak (2007)


Bush is the master of empty symbolism: the Mars mission is becoming symbolic of large promises backed by empty actions. The "No Child Left Behind" act, with its unfunded mandates and absurd qualifications is a more bread and butter example. The new, Helsinki-lite proposal on the Middle East is a fateful example. Having failed in the "Plan A" of simply taking the oil and running, they want to act as if the United States has the leverage and the power to move forward in pressuring the Middle East to be more like the US.Since December Bopnews.com has been running a series, American Thermidor which details why the idea - of greater democratization of the Middle East, is on the minds of policy elites. The first part American Thermidor detailed how Americas "Energy Deficit" leads to an "Investment Deficit" - as the middle east becomes a giant money sink which returns to the US by buying assets. "Selling Paper to Buy Oil". The next two parts detail how America went from Liberalism to a neo-conservative regime: because the energy deficit created a bottleneck in the economy, and the middle class went to war with itself over how to split the limited access to energy.
So why does this link up with the Bush plan? Read on...

In order to put pressure, one must have leverage. In the 1950's the US could make and unmake middle eastern states because we had economic, political and military leverage. Our system was stable, theirs was not, our military was overwhelmingly powerful, and we, not they, had the economic leverage. The West owned every substantial piece of capital in the Middle East.Bush wants to pressure the middle east to be more Democratic and to begin reforms, particularly in the area of women's rights. This is the road that has been talked about by policy elites for a very long time, for a simple reason.

Right now, the rulers of the middle east, since they share the benefits with a very small population, have a great deal of free cash flow - they use it to buy American assets. This simple fact has distorted the American economic system: in order to keep the middle east from controlling the US, the US has had to - bluntly - create more and more economic inequality here, and sink more and more of our savings into stocks. This has had the following results:
  1. Disparities of wealth: The rich control more and more.
  2. Disparities of power: most small investors have no control over their assets, In effect 20% of the wealth controls 100% of the power in corporate America. This lead to scandals as those who had effective control of corporations voted themselves huge raises, to be paid by investors.
  3. Disparities of information: as what the American public is told less and less resembles the basic problems that everyone knows exist in the world of policy, the less what happens makes sense. This means the American electorate is not able to make informed judgements, because they have not been informed of what they are judging.
The road of democratizing and consumerizing the Middle East is necessary - because in a consumer economy, the money currently flowing into the US as buying of assets, will be channeled back into development. The oilarchies will no longer have the free cash flow - they will be pumping money into internal growth. As for example, China is.However, this is the catch 22: our current economic system is predicated on  a massive investment bubble. This investment bubble would pop without the influx of cash from outside - we would go down to Dow 5000 or so if P/E ratios were to return to historical norms. This would lead to a painful correction of the economic landscape, one that cannot occur without political upheaval.

The Bush plan is simple: make the poor pay. Slash US wages with devaluation, and this will allow the prices of US made goods to drop low enough that, if, and this is a huge if, the Middle East consumerizes, they could buy from us. The Middle Class in the US would be, effectively debt serfs, while the ultra rich would retain their leverage.

This plan will work no better than Plan A of just invade and take the oil: because the very devaluation of the US dollar that makes it possible gives the oilarchs of the middle east all of the leverage economically - their oil is more valuable, in dollars, every day. By keeping the nominal price of oil low, the US continues to create incentives for economically unsustainable consumption of oil. The famous Hubbert Peak is now on everyone's lips, simply because we have reached it.

The answer, and this is why every major Democratic candidate has an energy policy which reads as far more radical than the rest of their platforms - is some form of changing of the energy consumption profile of the US economy. An end to SUVs. Don't expect to hear that admist Kerry's call for energy independence or Clark's 100 year vision - and yet that, among other steps - is essential.

But what is not in the cards is exactly what is required.

And what is this? Keep reading the series and find out.

Pnackle

Rice was so brief and so incessantly repetative that it is hard to be shorter, or shorter with questioners that she tried to stonewall. But I will make the attempt, because Rice gave the language a new verb today: "To Pnack: Spend all of ones time on grandiose obsessions, while denying the responsibility for the results of neglecting ones duties."And tell us how the election will turn out!

Rice's testimony confirms, from her own lips, one of the most harsh and, here to fore, unacceptable, conclusions about the Bush Executive. One that was hinted at in Wesley Clark's criticism of Rice as being focused on finding ways to invade other nations. The sum and substance of what she found wrong with the Clinton Anti-Terrorism framework, what the Clinton team embodied in their Eternal Vigilance program - was the "lack of geopolitical" context, which is "the ability to threaten states".The picture that emerges is that Rice believed that dealing with terrorist threats was a matter that little people on the ground who were "alert" would catch the people responsible, freeing the people at the top to talk about the "structural" changes to America.

She stated herself that 911 offered the inside core a chance to remake America radically, and they took it. She also admits that they would have prevented 911 if they had known how bad it was going to be - but also that unless they had known it was going to be that bad, that they were not going to take extraordinary steps to deal with current problems.

This "we let the details run themselves, we were busy making strucutral changes" - is, however, at cross purposes to their basic theme that they are not responsible for what has gone wrong. People who are doing "the big picture" are responsible for the global problems, simply because they have claimed responsibilty. On one hand Rice wants to be judged like a little person "well I didn't have a memo that said 'they were sending planes out to hit the world trade center on 9-11 in the morning." and on the other hand, wanting to have complete authority to remake American society.

The two are incompatible as a governmental philosophy - it represents the declaration that Rice, and the other members of the inner circle have total authority to change American "law and custom and culture" to achieve their ends, but they are not in any way accoutable for the results of their being in charge.

Her argument, that dealing with small threats and individuals was "swatting at flies", and they don't do dealing with small problems in the Bush White House. That reponses to individual actions are not worth it - the Cole was shrugged off and treated as the cost of doing business - and that this could not be allowed to distract them from implementing the "Project for the New American Century."
So the shorter Rice is:

"The important people were busy pnacking, if anything went wrong, it was the underlings fault, not ours. Our job was figuring out how to invade Iraq and other countries, not protect the US. If they had had something specific, like the time and date and manner, of course we would have done something."
That's Rice's own party line: protecting the country is up to individual border agents, and not a matter for the top to worry about.

the revolt of the economists (2005)


Erich Rauchway
, author of the critically acclaimed Murdering McKinley, joins the list of historians and economists who are describing Bush's economic plan as Hooverism, and accuses the current executive of ignoring the numbers.It's a charge blog readers are familiar with - and are going to hear more about. The Bush Executive is flying blind - and taking us along for the ride. And they are doing it by doing what Hoover did - covertly borrowing against the asset base.
It might seem odd that economics - seemingly the hand maiden of Republicanism over the last 30 years - has shifted, dramatically, away from them. Perhaps nothing underlines this as much as The Economist magazine's article on the economic benefits of same marriage- a direct attack on the Republican position. They also call the current recovery - "phoney"
If one thinks about it, a good case can be made that Alan Greenspan's remarks on Social Security are, similarly reflective of an ugly reality stated bluntly as:

"The biggest of these--and the second main reason for concern--is the amount of debt that rich-country governments have been running up. America's official budget deficit has surged in the three years since George Bush became president, to around $520 billion and climbing. But this is just the shortfall this year. The government's total future liabilities are much larger. In fact, according to a forthcoming book by Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist, the present value of the American government's future obligations, taking into account promised pensions and health-care benefits, is a staggering $45 trillion. European governments are only slightly better at managing their budgets--witness the breaching of the single currency's growth and stability pact. Japan's attempts to coax its economy back to life have left it with a gross national debt of some 160% of GDP, the highest of any big country. No country has tried harder to debase its currency."

In otherwords, what is happening is that America is leveraging against the basis of its currency.

What is this?

Once upon a time currency and money where the same thing - every coin contained the precious metal it was based on, or, in an advance, was receipt for gold or silver. Then came the realization that not everyone who wanted gold or silver wanted it right then and there. Thus came the idea of "fractional reserve". Keep enough gold or silver to pay off the normal transactions, and lend the rest.

This lead to financial crisis when there were "runs" on banks. Because, after all, if there isn't enough gold in the bank, then not everyone can get it if the bank should collapse. Then people would go back to currency equals money again, and suffer through depression, because there isn't a good relationship between the rate you can dig a gold and silver out of the ground, and the rate an economy grows. Which meant that someone would create a version of paper money, which would lead to a bubble and a crisis...

And so it went for approximately 300 hundred years. The problem was that paper money was "fiat" - backed only by the promise to pay. Fiat money was too loose, and specie money too tight.

Under President Grant, the US went on "The Gold Standard" - before the civil war silver, not gold, had backed currency. During the late 19th century this strict standard had a perverse effect - it encouraged the creation and expansion of corporations. This wasn't what was intended, but it was, in its way, beneficial. It lead to intense poveryt among the people in cities, but it created an intense pressure for people to create new enterprises.
And in doing this, by a series of court cases, corporations became, in effect, a new kind of bank. This is why corporations, in the late 19th century, underwent an explosion of protections - they had, for example, a constitutional right to make a profit. This wasn't merely for show - after all, stock is backed, entirely, by the promise of future earnings and present value of assets.
This system spread the risk of money around - instead of being dependent on one bank and its stability, the wealth - only 1% of Americans owned shares - had a better banking system available to them.

Because corporations could issue stock and stock is usable as, for certain purposes, money. Instead of one bank, the liquidity of the stock market is the "fractional reserve". So long as there is enough liquidity in the system of brokers and banks - someone can cash their stock out by selling it. If you think about it, buying stock is like putting money into a giant bank - only there is no promise that the value of your money will still be there. When you sell stock for money, you are withdrawing from that bank. If everyone tries to sell stock at once, there is the equivalent of a run on that bank.

Over the late 19th century then, creating corporations, giving them more and more freedom allowed them to issue paper money - while real dollars remained hard to come by. The stock allowed corporations to invest in factories and buildings and machinery and inventions - which made America more and more economically, and eventually militarily, powerful.

However, periodically, there were "panics" as the failure of a bank or company would draw the liquidity out of the stock and banking system. What would follow is what we would now call a "Depression".

In the first years of the 20th century there were two such panics. And the result of panics being well enough understood by then, the large bankers, lead by JP Morgan, bailed out the stock market -giving it enough liquidity to take the hit, and prevent a full scale depression. Part of what was on their minds was the rise of communism and socialism - realizing that if they didn't do better at keeping people from doing worse - those people would decide to change the rules.

The US nominally remained on the Gold Standard, and the British tried to return to it - Churchill, as Exchequer, in fact managed the transition back to gold, though, as it is now known he had, correctly, seen this as a poor idea.
When Hoover took office, he inherited a time bomb: less than 8 months after taking office in the middle of seeming prosperity, the stock market experienced one of its sharpest falls ever. The Crash of '29 sent shockwaves around the world. Hoover, then, tried to spend government money to cushion the blow. But, trapped by the gold standard, he could only do so at a rate which could be covered over. In effect, the gold backing of the dollar was eroded. When FDR took office, he found out that the Government, contrary to every promise made, owed more in gold than it had gold.

Something had to be done. What was done is a story for another place, but the summary is that the basis of money was shifted from gold, and from the promise of corporations to pay, to assets - land and the buildings on them being two of the largest classes of them - which backed the banks. The government, in turn, backed their promises with promises of its own.
In otherwords - fiat money was turned into asset money. The government, if it blunders economically, will, ultimately, have to pay the bill.

And this is exactly how it turned out - if you look at our federal debt, almost all of it has been racked up in three great waves: the first in the early 1980's, when Reagan bailed out the stock market with tax cuts. Then in the early 1990's, when Bush Sr. bailed out the S&L system after Reagan's bubble. And now in the early 2000's - as Bush tries to prop up the stock market with tax cuts.

In short - every time the government has blundered economically, eventually the cost comes to rest in some section of the economy that the government, itself, backs. This is the difference between fiat and asset money. In fiat money, you promise to pay. In asset money, you are going to pay, one way, or another.

But Bush, like Nixon in the early 1970's and Reagan in the early 1980's, and Bush in the early 1990's - is making a huge mistake - one which Lincoln, FDR and Hamilton did not make when faced with a huge debt crisis. They did not change the basis of money - instead, assumed that by the government simply borrowing the money, it could be paid off over time. Make the poor pay is the watch word.

So how is Bush like Hoover?

Remember - the money in circulation is backed by assets - land and buildings and factories - by allowing a housing bubble, and propping up the stock market, Bush is, essentially, allowing the US to dilute the backing of our money. As more and more of the value of housing and buildings comes from the fact that interest rates are too low, it means that more and more of our money is based on the value of assets that are over priced. If a house is overpriced, that means that if things go wrong, the bank has less and less chance of recovering the value.

In Hoover's case there was, eventually, a run on the banks, as people realized that there wasn't enough currency or gold to pay off everyone. Will there be in Bush's case.

It's not something we really want to find out. Nor does anyone else. This is why Asian Central Banks - for the last 3 years - have been buying up dollars to prevent a massive devaluation of the US dollar. That's why the European Central bank is about to cut interest rates, to slow the rampaging devaluation of the dollar against the euro.  But these moves only work for a short period of time: it means inflation in the Eurozone, and it means that oil gets more and more expensive in dollars, as do all other commodities. Higher priced commodities means less profit for manufacturers, and therefore lower standards of living in countries - like the US, UK, Germany and so on - that live by manufacturing or by managing.

So that is modern Hooverism - borrow covertly against the basis of ones currency.

Not a good bet, it's never worked before.

"Endogenous Fallacy"



11,500 years ago, the dramatic cold snap that was the Younger Dryas ended with a shock. However, what came next was a <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/abrupt/images/data4-climate-changes-lg.gif">rapid curve upwards of warmth</a>. As you can see, the first shock back is followed by a 2000 year period of improvement. This, is the neo-lithic revolution's spark. Tool kits rapidly improve, and the handful of plant and animal domestications that are earlier than this point start to increase.

One of the most important markers, is the domestication of the fig, because it required human intervention in breeding. The fig is a wildly diverse fruiting tree, which has co-evolved with the fig wasp. The fig wasps are born inside the fruit, the males fertilize the females, and then dig a tunnel out, and then die. The females emerge from the tunnels the males dig, and fly off to find other figs ready to pollinate. The flower of the fig is inside the immature fruit, and the female crawls in, and lays eggs. Some of the flowers inside the fruit are either out of reach, or separated from the flowers the female can reach, or in other species, the male flowers and female flowers are in different locations, and the eggs are only in the male galls, while the female fruits develop without wasps. Millions of years ago, fig wasps developed a pouch to store the pollen that they were to transfer to the next plant.

Domestication is indicated for early figs, because they have a mutation where the fruit does not fall from the plant, and this means that they spread more easily, if an animal, as humans are, eats the fruit, and then deposits the seeds from the plant elsewhere. The first discovered figs archeologically date from almost the very moment of the end of the Younger Dryas, which implies that they had been domesticated, or at least tamed, earlier.

The next 2000 years see a rise in temperature year on year, which means that while it becomes more and more possible for there to be settled sites, the plants that will be gathered will change rapidly. This is why settlement precedes the development of domesticated agriculture's explosion. First it is worthwhile settling down, and with this come domestications of rye, the fig, the sheep, and then at just before 9000 years ago, the climate begins to settle. This settling is marked by a dramatic shift towards domestications of a number of plants and animals in several parts of the globe: Maize in Mexico, Rice in China and the Mekong, Barley in the fertile crescent all radiate from their origins at around this time. 9.5-9.0 KaBP is a very busy 500 years of human culture, with a plethora of domestications.

What is interesting here is that several species that eventually become domesticated by humans also follow humans before any signs of domestication, particularly they honey bee, and the cat.

It is the cat that is a good marker of the creation of the complex which is civilization. Taking the same route out of Africa as humans, bees, and dogs, we find archeological evidence for cohabitation of cats and humans to 9.0 KaBP. This indicates sedentation, that is lower mobility of life style, a continual supply of food, most particularly rodents and other vermin, and social adaptations on both the part of the cat and the human being. As is well observed, cats shop for owners, and continual domestication is almost certainly an indicator of enough population density that cats have enough owners to choose from.

Grain domestication brings with it alcohol production, indeed it seems likely that early rice growing cultures had a mutation for what is called "Asian Bush" which emerged at around the same time as large scale rice domestication. This pattern: of global domestication of grains at almost the same moment, indicates that human beings knew what to do with climatic stability once they had it. That there had been at least one previous grain domestication, of rye, and a fruit domestication, of the fig, and of an animal, sheep, as well as the long standing dog-human relationship, indicates that domestication activities had been ongoing, but that success on a large enough scale to leave show radiation in genetics is strongly correlated with the peaking of the recovery from the Younger Dryas at 9.5 KaBP. Or to put it another way, humans had been inventing agriculture over and over again for thousands of years, but the moment of stable success, from which the agricultural revolution stems, is based on the point where the present climatic stability was established.

The reason this is important is because it underlines the "endogenous fallacy"


http://www.sciencemag.org/content/317/5837/519.short

A Simple Convective Model of the Macro-economy

A Simple Convection Model of the Macro-Economy

Economic growth can be thought of as the convection upwards of liquidity and the downwards movement of control of commodity. In the cycles of business, we see that there are long periods of more or less stable growth, punctuated by periods of cessation of growth or downward movement. In the 19th century these periods were roughly equal length. It was not unusual for an economy to spend much its time in nominal contraction. For example, as calculated by the NBER, between 1857 and the expansion before the Great Depression, the US economy spent 390 months in contraction, and only 480 months in expansion, overall, the United States spent between 46% and 48% of its time in contraction. However, after the Great Depression, recessions were shorter, shallower, and much less common.

What is needed then is a way to model a business cycle that takes into account the interrelations of the economy that lead to such a wide variety of downturns, not merely theories well adapted to either the normalcy of the 19th century, when contraction was as normal as expansion, or to the post-war experience where contractions were short, sharp breaks in a general pattern of growth.

Convection is the diffusion of entropy through a system. A simple convective system in a fluid begins at the Raleigh number for the system, calculated by

Ra = ΔρgL3/Dµ (1)

In the case of physical systems the numerator is

Δρ is the difference in density
g is the acceleration from gravity
and L is the characteristic length of interaction

and the denominator is:

D the diffusivity of the inducing force,
µ is the dynamic viscosity

Which we translate to:

the difference in cost utility
the inverse of the rate of general price level change
the quantum of the commodity

The rate of information exchange
The velocity of the interaction – that is the eagerness of the parties to engage in exchange, and the resistance to engaging in exchange.

In physics it is important to realize that this is a limit starting for convection, below this limit movement upwards is by convection. Here what is convecting is economic growth, and the model equation is proposing that potential growth convects upward based on the decision making of individuals. When individuals make the decision to buy, then monetary or commodity momentum is exchanged. The model of economic growth presumes a viscosity which is the interactive entanglement of actors with each other through non-monetized interactions which none the less transfer information.

For the purposes of economics D is velocity of money, which under an infinite velocity will diffuse over the entire system immediately. However, in a system with a finite velocity of money, it is eE/RT which is the Arrhenius equation in economic terms. Were E is the energy cost of a decision, and RT is the diffusion rate of information, which is the arrival time of events for an individual actor.

We can then use the Einstein–Smoluchowski relation to generate specific cases based on underlying dynamics of exchange. In this model, actors and liquidity and utility bump into each other, more or less by chance. The diffusion index then is the Bayesian bias of the probable time of the next interaction. This creates a simple diffusion relationship between two actors, based on their respective offerings. It is not, then, utility per se, but the time to next utility against time to next liquidity.

In this model then, individual actors respond based on not only their individual utility functions, here viscosity, but their individual strategic preferences, here shown by decision cost, and the difference in relative velocities. The individual actor, in this model, does not know their utility function with precision, only the difference between utility states in the light of an interaction.

It should be noted that this model of decision making is completely consistent with the standard Walrusian equilibrium under infinite velocity of information. However, the Walrusian equilibrium is never attained since it requires both an infinite velocity of money, and a perfectly frictionless state of interaction, which implies a zero velocity of money.

It also implies to distinct diffusions of price/utility information. One is the analog of thermal diffusion, or price information, the other is the analog of utility information, or viscosity. The final diffusion rate is the diffusion rate of momentum, or information on physical goods and interactions, which are four, not three, dimensional objects. No one can, for example, know how well a car will perform after 5 years of ownership, in the first year of the car's introduction. From these three we can construct a three valued Keynesian market for money (thermal), interest(decision discounting), and goods(momentum) using only three simple partial differential equations.

This theory of the economy has each actor responding to the changes in values, and the difference between their value and the values they come into contact with. The implications for a nano-economic formalism are left to a later communication.

By Uncertain I do not mean very improbable.”

Economics and finance have profitably mined thermo-dynamic equations for many decades. However, in all cases they have been of a limited set, of limited dimensions, and dimensionality, and generally based on the Brownian motion of perfectly elastic unentangled particles. That is, of hot gases. The obvious puns are left to the reader to draw as to why there is so much hot air in the economics profession.

This set of equations, by contrast, models economic interaction as a fluid or as a plasma. In this case, a series of fluid equations will be constructed.

The system is a Hilbert space of three space dimensions and one time dimension.

The three constants here are the ratio of arrivals between money/utility events, or σ, utility/interest events or ρ, and interest/money events, for ρ greater than the convection rate of money exchange above.

dx/dt = σ(y-x) (2)
dy/dt = x(ρ-z)-y
dz/dt = xy - ßz

We note here that this is a well behaved system from the perspective of classical Walrusian equilibria: that these equations substitute for a vector matrix, whose lower bounded curve is everywhere differentiable, continuous and convex for positive σ, ρ, and ß, but however, it is not assured to be Pareto optimal. When entropy is universally distributed, then all of the ratios become unity, and the system has one and only one exchange between all of its parts. However, until then, it does not and can have many Einstein–Smoluchowski ratios. This can be seen from the approximation of the diffusion coefficient equation which is:

D = De-E/RT

Since the Dhere is c, and at infinite velocity of money the diffusion term becomes effectively c. Substituting back into (1) shows that the term effectively produces a Raleigh number of 0 for such a market, meaning transmission of money is through convective movement of commodity.

Students of mathematics will recognize these equations from a different source: they generate the Lorentz attractor with correct values of σ, ρ, and ß.

The Lorenz attractor viewed from a 2d perspective generates easily any of the quadrant models of the business cycle, including those by Hicks1 or Goodwin2.

It is then useful to look at the non-linear accelerator of Goodwin and Hicks, as well as other loop models of the business cycle. These loop models are projections of stepwise delay in action of investment. One reason they are not as useful is that expenditure often occurs before actual investment. However the convection/conduction model is not the result of stepwise decisions, but of continuous decisions between commodity, liquidity and future commodity/liquidity event ratios, of a number of participants who have different rates of information transfer between these types.

If the system is linear, then a single actor can, by behaving irrationally, generate uncertainty. Since the actor possesses the information of the decision to behave irrationally, they can, at least they can believe they can, profit from this information. The values of σ, ρ, and ß will move towards a complex equilibrium, simply by actors choosing to withhold information about exchanges, utility preferences, or expected time horizons. This creates a simple strategic matrix, with lines of indifference between the different quadrants, creating all of the classical game forms of prisoner's dilemma, hawks and doves, stag hunts, and so on. Uncertainty is, in itself, a value, since some actors are certain of their final location in a certain economy.

Thus, (2) implies ∂σ/∂ρ, and etc. Thus the three dimensional model of interest, liquidity, and utility implies a three dimensional model of the interaction between actors. This feature is described by Keynes, preferences do not change, instead the gradients of interaction change. Individual actors do not know the total quantities of liquidity, interest, or scarce utility, on the difference between themselves and those they encounter, along with the gradient of conversion between them based on prior experience.

The elucidation of the factors of this model from a strategic viewpoint offer many lines of inquiry, but here we note that since the choices between σ, ρ, and ß are a vector table, and that vector table can be extrapolated in an n-dimensional Hilbert Space, only with a single price system can a Pareto Optimal, least loss equilibrium be reached. However, this is impossible in this case, without submitting to the dictatorship of the complex.

From this six dimensional over time model, we can turn to the question of cyclicality in the business cycle as a specialized case.


11951

2

We live in a pre-war, not post-war, world.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.

We live in a pre-war, not post-war, world.

I am far from alone in saying this. It is a sense that tracks across the cables released by wikileaks, where an increasingly hectoring and bullying American diplomacy alienates allies who had hoped for a change after George W. Bush. It is felt by a New York Times article, which compares wikileaks to the “long war” of the 20th century, the first battle between the pyramid and the sphere. It is sensed in another on how the present era of relative peace might be broken by American willingness to fight, and by an article on how the Imperial period of the Pax Americana might suddenly meltdown.

There are always prophets of doom, because somewhere, the bitter beat of dark angel's wings is close at hand for someone. However, it is rarer that a grand epoch enters its terminal decline, and a new one greys the east, lit by an invisible sun.

Dystopia is one of the twilight lands, that border the lands of the living. It borders the lands of prophecy, specifically the self-unfulfilling prophecy. Consider the novel 1984 whose existence warned the West of what was in store if should slip down the chasm of totalitarianism. It was a bleak warning that averted the very crisis that it predicted. Several of the most ridiculed cassandras have given voice to fear. From Silent Spring to the Omega Man the cri de coeur warning is one of the most compelling of genres. Marx, while he would have hated the idea, is perhaps at the top of the pantheon, by warning of what the agony of modernization could do, he was the figure who gave energy to save capitalism from the capitalists.

The dystopia is always a simple one, it is the linear or exponential extension of our own “S” curve. An S curve is the natural result of a bell curve of arrivals, a few early, then a flood as the ordinary arrive, and then a trickle. However near the point of last inflection, there is a point where whatever fuel is fed into it runs low, there are no more bishops to trade for pawns to get at the king. The center has not held. And everyone is full of conviction that there is no end in sight. “This time, it is different.”

The very certainty of the stupid that creates the boom, creates unease in those that know themselves to be more thoughtful, at least, than the mass, which feeds on its own stampede. From this the backlash of the intellectual elite, and from the contrarians, who might echo each other, but whose discontent springs from different well springs. One, the elite, cares not for success, but knows that a herd without a leader will find the nearest cliff. The other is the risk averse contrarian, who believes that if the herd were smart, the contrarian would be rich.

There are two dooms that hang over our own age: one feels a doom in global warming, and in peak oil. This looks back to the 18th century, which was “eating its own seed corn,” and could not yet perceive the unseen empire that it was standing at the doorstep of. One should always end an epoch with a preposition, the coming age is writ before it is made. In the case of the 18th century, it was sitting upon enough energy to flood the world with engines of commerce and destruction, but was too busy fighting over the meager present profits of the patents granted to two different men on the steam engine to exploit it. The Watt-Newcomb engine is so called, because each man invented half of it. But it would be almost 80 years before railways would spread like running vines.

The other is that the centripetal forces that will tear apart the present age of complacency, are coming close, and the stupid herds of normal people, who do not see the greatness of those that provide them with feedom. These are quite different from the doom that hung over the time of Wagner and Nietzsche, and which is felt by our onw elites. It was and is expressed down the the most mediocre intellect attached to the courts of that and this age: it was an age of an empire of will and men, and the realization was that the slightest slip from that grip would lead to a fall of that empire. Of course this was a self-fullfilling prophecy: to be hard enough launched them into wars that destroyed the will. The colonial empires were given back by bled white core nations that had ripped themselves apart in the long wars. “The Second Thirty Years War” Churchill termed it.

For the elites, hard decisions are those needed to execute the neo-classical play of making the poor pay for the world we live in. The elites think of themselves as “neo-s” Neo-Liberal. Neo-Classical. Neo-Conservative. All of the answers are in and from the past. In an odd twist, one of the most resonant movies that preached the illusion of the present, called its hero “Neo” in an anagram of “One.” And then fizzled out as it found no answer to its answers. In fact, the elites are posts: Post-World War II, and Post-Cold War. They fear a Post-American world, a world which is arriving with every passing moment with the rise of China and its inevitable collision with America.

What has been missing from these predictions is the synthesis which ties them. It is also altering the shape of politics, because there is a difference between the political spectrum of the old order, which has its left and right, its ins and outs, and the opposition between those that cling to the post-world, and those which imagine a pre-world. After all, even totalitarian states have factions, it is not a contradiction to have a left to right spectrum of a conservative state.

The old essay was a classical temple, square and filled in, the new essay is organic, a journey. The first step in the mythic journey is to step away from the cozy starting point of the present conflict and explain what the post-world was, and why it found itself in a neo-mythology.


The 20th century self-consciously deconstructed the early 19th century, in an effort to keep control over the legitimacy of the late 19th century's empire and academic rigor, but remove the foundations of its power and control. It found in the organic naturalism of the Romantic period an easy enemy, since, first Romanticism had been dead for quite some time as an artistic force, and even more so as a political and social force. It was, however, the wellspring from which many of the tropes, the basic outlines, of the late 19th century, the Victorian, had sprung. The late 19th century was deconstructed as an epoch, with some help from the Victorians themselves. What was really a new order, established in a series of wars and revolutions between 1857 and roughly 1873, became the the theory of a post-Napoleonic Romantic world.


 

We live in an age where revolution is a positive term (New)

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Revolution is not a Word

In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

Bertrand Russell

We live in an age where revolution is a positive term, a term used to market donuts, space saving luggage bags, and sneakers. It was not always so, many eras have looked on revolution with a horror and disgust that burns through the years. Revolution and anarchy, with the consequent miseries of chaos and lawlessness, were closely linked.

Even where revolution was seen in more neutral terms, it contained within it the prospect of danger. Speaking to the House of Commons on February 9th, 1871, Benjamin Disraeli called the events of the war “The German Revolution,” and that England would suffer from its consequences. This speech will be touched on again, because it shows that in the 19th century, revolution was not an all together positive event. The 19th century usage was closer to that expressed in Burke's famous “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” where he simultaneously and vehemently defends the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and attacks the French Revolution happening at that moment.

The mid 20th century, a time of many revolutions, rebellions and upheavals, had a jaundiced view of revolution. Arendt, echoing Orwell, noted that a revolutionary becomes a reactionary the day after the revolution and Ambrose Pierce, ever cynical, called revolution a sudden change of misgovernment. But now, there is no party against revolution, except that it is only the kind of revolution that we prefer. Egypt's overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, to be replaced by another military junta is blessed as a revolution in the American mind, where as Libya's more thorough revolution against Mummar al-Qaddafi is not. We also edit the past. Hilter and his supporters thought of themselves as effecting a “German Revolution,” and in internal discussions used a logic of succession of revolutions both for and against policies – it was not merely a word, but an idea, even if they were self-consciously against Revolution as such. This is not to carry a brief in any way for the Nazi Regime, but merely to show that what we have chosen to call “Revolution” is based as much on our own view of the role of “revolution” in human affairs. Another example is that we call the conflict between 1860 and 1865, the “American Civil War,” when many of its apologists have pointed out that it was a war of revolutionary independence that the Confederacy was waging. Again, one doesn't have to have a drop of sympathy for the cause of slavery and rule by local oligarchy to admit that they did have a revolutionary cause in favor of novel political arrangements by sudden and dramatic means of a popular cause. One could add the difference between the “Spanish Revolution of 1936” as opposed to the “Spanish Civil War.” Or even why is it the “English Civil War,” but the “Glorious Revolution?” The judgment, that a civil war is negative, but a revolution potentially positive, started at the beginning of modern discourse.

Going farther, why is it that neither the expulsion of the monarchy, nor the establishment of Augustus Ceaser is termed “The Roman Revolution,” despite the coming and going of the Roman Republic, one of the most influential governments in human history. Kings had come and gone before 1688, and yet, we generally deny the term “Revolution” to them, a fact which forms the central insight in Steven Pincus', 1688: The First Modern Revolution, and the basis for his attempts to re-assert its centrality as a turning point in history. Not only are revolutions fought, people fight to keep them revolutionary. In the opposite light, when Michael Roberts published his short essay “Military Revolution: 1560-1660,” he labelled a series of developments that took a century to complete, and had not been previously thought of as a “revolution” because, before then, revolution did not generally apply to an approving sense of change outside the political. But it did by his moment in 1955, and so he coined the term “military revolution” to mean such a change in the nature of a discipline.

The reality is that revolution is not an analytical tool as a word, but a synthetic label: it is the result of groups of people looking at events, and attempting to place their moment in relation to those events. Often the label hangs on, even though a later analysis would not come to the same conclusion. Thus 1848 is a revolution, but 1871 is not, socialist uprising in Spain in 1936 is a revolution, but Franco's Fascism is not, Hitler did not lead “The German Revolution,” nor is Bismark accorded that title, but uprisings in Leipzig that led nowhere, were. It was Franklin that cooly noted that “rebellion is always legal in the first person,” and this is the sentiment that applies to revolution. A “revolution” is an event that some group of actors wants everyone to believe “we” would have participated in, had only we been there. In this sense it is not that far distant from pornography, or genre fiction. Or to take a page from Mark Twain, a revolution is something that people wanted to have happened, but do not want to happen to them.

Within this context then, a revolution is the search to recognize a rapid change in foundational order, a moment when there is a broad reaction that leads to a willingness to change previous relationships, and even enforce them on others. Revolutions are sometimes declared, and sometimes denied.

This is why invisible revolutions are interesting, because they show what we do not want to think of as revolution, but which the people at the time thought of in revolutionary terms. It throws light on both moments in history, and on ourselves. Part of our barrier is that many words have become not matters of perception, but reception. They do not tell us what we are looking at, but how we should feel about what we are looking at. As soon as this happens to a word, it becomes not a logical category, or word, or idea, but a label. First we react, and then we find a name for our reaction. If pressed for a definition, we create an ad hoc definition that starts out concisely enough, but then grows limbs and branches meant to sweep away those examples that are forbidden, or rope in those which otherwise fail the first test. Consider the word “music,” and the venom of a critique who declared that Berlioz' Sinfonie Fantastique was “not music.” He would not find many people agreeing with him today.

This essay, however extended, observes the upheavals between 1857 and 1873 as the “Invisible Revolution,” as the establishment of a new and powerful political order, often by violence, and with a dramatic suddenness that reached not only political arrangements, nor even merely political boundaries, but morals, ideas, art, science, and memory. Consider just the list of successful changes: the establishment of the British Raj in 1858, the unification of Germany from 1860-1871, the unification of Italy from 1852-1871, the “Meiji Restoration” of 1868, the American Civil War, which created a vastly more powerful central government – Great Britain, the United States, the Kingdom of Italy, the Empire of Germany, the Empire of Japan – not an inconsequential list. To which the denizens of that era would have added Spain's “Glorious Revolution” of 1868, at least.

That this moment was foundational can be seen from a few tidbits. Consider the American Dollar, it was created as part of the National Banking System in 1862. The term “Gold Standard” is so powerful that it is a colloquialism for the best version of anything against which others are measured, before this Italy was derided as a “geographical expression,” and there had not been a unified Germany, ever in the history of Europe, but when the two halves of that nation were unified after the end of the Cold War, it was Berlin that was seen as the obvious capital.

It is not the first to take this journey of exploration, in fact, it was a view from the time: Disraeli noted it, standing on the opposition bench in 1871. It contrasts with our willingness to talk about the “Revolutions of 1848,” which were self-declared failures. Disraeli's speech is even more astute, in that it sets one of the two guide posts: the Crimean War, which was a war that straddled the aristocratic wars from the end of the Thirty Years War in 1658 – whose peace signed at the “Peace of Westphalia” is one of the most important moments that most people do not think about often, and the evolution of total war in the sense that was meant by Carl von Clauswitz in his wildly cited, though less widely read, tome , Vom Krieg, that is, “On War.” The period from 1848 through 1857 forms a prelude to the conservative revolutions, and the period from 1872-1879 is its coda, where there was consolidation and recognition of what had been wrought.

The shadow which all of this fell within, were the two revolutions of the late 19th century – the French and American Revolutions, and the break up of the Spanish empire in America with the revolutions of the early 19th century, as well as the repeated political upheavals in Europe. It was the shadow cast by Jefferson, and even more importantly, Napoleon I. It was in the broad noonday of power of the imperial revolutionary Napoleon III that it occurred.

The course of this book is to look at the the shadow of revolution, the events from 1641 to 1815 that established what was meant by “Revolution” and what was not. Then to look at the prelude to the invisible revolutions: 1848-1856, covering the establishment of the Second Republic in France, the creation of the movement to unify Italy, the Crimean War, and the forces that were about to break what could be called the “enlightenment-romantic regime.” It establishes what the people of the mid-19th century knew, but we have decided to rebut, refute, or simply ignore, and that is that the romantic regime of the early 19th century was replaced by a realist – in two senses of the word – regime that fused the reactionary Concert of Europe, with the liberalizing forces of romanticism, and the organizing forces of the enlightenment. The main part of the book is to detail the key revolutions, and their results: France in 1848, 1852, and 1871, the Raj as the result of the Rebellion of 1857-58, the new American Republic formed in the Civil War 1860-1865, the unification of Italy or “il Risorgimento,” 1859-1870, the German “Wars of Unification” from 1860-1871, and the Meiji “Restoration” of 1866-1870.

But before this can be done, it is necessary to point out why this hidden revolution is important, and that is that it established the present sense of middle class life, whose very existence is cracking under political and economic pressures. While the middle class was emerging long before, it's place at the heart of moral, political, and artistic, existence was not established until this period gave it solidity. Before, aristocracy was the model, and bourgeoise was the support for it, the imitation. These revolutions fused the interests of political aristocracy, economic oligarchy, and bourgeoise society, into a single, if diverse, program. That program is the dominant social ideology of the present developed world, and a view to why it was created, and, also, why it is deliberately disguised, is crucial to understanding our own moment, and its repeated failure to cope with the effects of its own success.

To reflect on this question is to cut to the heart of why this period was, in fact, revolutionary. Before, the political order had continued to attempt to maintain the balance between decentralized political sovereignty, and centralized unity and authority, that had been the project, not just of Europe, but the Eurasian major civilizations: Islamic, Indian, and East Asian. While cultural factors were enormously important, the reality is that the Eurasian continent had received a massive shock between 400 C.E. And 600 C.E. This shock, of a change in climate and a mass migration of peoples had broken the political arrangements of antiquity, and induced a series of arrangements to what we would now call “feudalism.” The problem that all of the states faced, was that movement of nomadic peoples was faster than the centralized states of the time could respond to, and more disruptive than they could mount local defenses against. So, instead there were the creation of hierarchies of local control, with upward rolling allegiances. The post-medieval world was the wake of a series of cataclysmic changes: the Black Death of the 13th century, the results of trade that exploded, to some extent in the wake of that pestilence, to the effects of the “Little Ice Age” that shifted the balance of movement from land to sea, and technologies, such as firearm warfare, and the printing press, that altered the balance between local and central forces, but in both directions.

This post-medieval world stumbled from highly local political arrangements, to a contention between centralism and localism. It had never managed to find the balance between these two, and, instead, swayed between three poles: centralized and enlightened despotism, traditional aristocracy that mediated between center and locality, acting as tax collector, enforcer, stabilizer, administrator, and localized economic energy, which sought to create property and entrepreneurship at once profiting from centralized protection, while free of centralized taxation.

This is why Napoleon represented such a stark figure: he was the enlightened despot, without the traditionalism, but hoping to recreate it as the sire of new monarchies. In many respects, Napoleon's project was to have Charles of Spain's Hapsburg Empire, without the Catholic Church, rather than a step into the modern world, the culmination of the post-medieval striving for a new Roman Empire. On one hand, he really believed in the Enlightenment's rationalism, on the other hand he also really believed in dynasty. He was using the means of national uprising, to pursue a goal not out of step with the 16th century's religious wars, merely, a different religion.

What the Conservative Revolution did, was change the relationship of these parts, and form a new synthesis, on that placed national strength as the key leg of the table, and arranged the others to produce it. On one hand it created an inherent liberalizing force, in that uprooting the past to produce economic and military progress became an imperative, on the other hand, it created an intrinsic reactionary force, in that to oppose this project's view of society, was a clear and present danger. Thus co-habitating, were both the forces that would, forced by social logic

This is a short book, and short books should lay out the points they are to make. In this book, there are three.

The first is the point made by looking at the difference between 1871, when Disraeli and Gladstone are both using “revolution” as an analytic word: a sudden change of government that brings about a new political order, and our own age, when revolution is closer to “rapid evolution in a favored direction” than to a turning of the wheel of fortune. That's important: a word which is a conclusion, is not useful logically, because it carries baggage.

The second point is that 1857-1871 represents a revolution, an upheaval that brought about a new political order with a political program of unification, gentrification of the bourgeoise, trade, standardization, and a new relationship between nation and citizen. It is the era which set what we still think of as the “gold standard” – a word that gained its coinage from this time – for what society and the place of the middle class should be in art, politics, culture, manners and morals. It is still in the shape of that revolution that people in the developed world model their own lives. It was a series of revolutions of unification. That's important.

The third point is that we do not call it a revolution, it is an invisible revolution. Since we favor its results, it is important to ask why this is the invisible revolution, particularly since we throw the word around for almost trivial reasons otherwise. And that is important.

The course of the book will be to examine the background of that moment: the creation of revolution as a category, the shadow of the twin revolutions of the 18th century, Napoleon, and the revolutions of 1848. Then it will examine the core revolutions of the age: Britain and India, the United States of America, Italy, Germany, and Japan. Each of these has, as much as Brinton's favored revolutions had, an anatomy. But it was not the anatomy of an intellectual disaffection from an old political order, instead, it was the reverse process: the subscription of the social and intellectual core to a new pattern.

In this light the revolutions that dare not speak their name can be looked at, including the self-consciously revolutionary moments that pretend to be speaking by analogy, but are actually interested in affecting a revolution, including the need for violence. These conclusions matter going forward, because they throw light on why we do as we do and not as we say we will do. And that is important.

Deconstructing Revolution


Awareness of universals is called conceiving, and a universal of which we are aware is called a concept.

Bertrand Russell

Post-structuralism, a.k.a. Post-Modernism and Critical Theory, gets a deservedly bad name for bad writing. However, much of what it says is actually rather simple, and one of the more useful concepts is that of “deconstruction.” Stripped of all of the running in academic circles which academics are prone to, because they spend all of their time trading the world's most opaque zingers with each other, the idea of deconstructing has two basic forms. One is taking an idea, or fact, or concept that everyone agrees on, and looking at the assumptions, elisions, and assertions that it rests on, and showing that what seems certain, isn't actually certain. The other is when an idea, or fact, or concept, is made invisible because it doesn't fit into an agreed on pattern. The argument of deconstruction is that we talk and think in a world where other people have power, and we all compromise between what we can say, even to ourselves, and what will be heard. So we “construct” a reality that we deal with, and that reality can, and has to be, deconstructed. You have to blow up old buildings to build new ones in a crowded city. You have to blow up old ideas to build new ones. But, also, you have to hide the parts of a city you don't want to see: the sewer system, the underclass, the pollution, the waste. So eras too, have to hide ideas that are the subterranean reality they rest on.

Once upon a time, virtually every society had, or accepted that others had, chattel slavery. People owning people. It seemed to many natural, and they even argued “god given.” For slavery to disappear it did not merely need to be defeated, it needed to be made unthinkable, that is, it had to be deconstructed as a natural category to put people into. “Slave” is no longer a word that means the same thing, except in metaphor.

The 1857-1871 period has been deconstructed as a revolutionary moment. Many of those living at the time thought it was a revolution – getting Disraeli and Gladstone to agree on almost anything is enough to make a student of history to sit up and take notice. Consider a random example from the period:

GREAT BRITAIN.; Garibaldi and the Revolution Recruiting in England for the Italian Service Miscellaneous News.

There has been an ominous kind of lull in the Italian storm. The diorama of strife seems to have hitched momentarily, as it were, soon to resume its rapid movement in pictured desolation and scenes of carnage.

GARIBALDI is said to have been at Naples incognito, and to have signed a pact or Convention with all manner of revolutionary chiefs in that city. He is also said to have started for Calabria, and to have left SIRTORI as his Lieutenant, with full powers in Sicily. This is the "Order of the Day," just arrived by telegraph:

New York Times, September 1, 1860

Or, to be direct, it was clear that there was revolution going on to the people of 1860, but not to us.

The attacking of the notion of “revolution from above” and “conservative revolution” has its roots in three ideas.

The first is in many of the revolutionaries themselves. Machiavelli noted that either a new prince must make everything new, or make everything appear to be continuous, but that these are, frankly, stylistic choices. To the revolution that wishes to assert that all is as it was, the word “revolution” itself, is often to be avoided.

Consider the very names that have come down to us, and which they gave themselves. It wasn't the “German Revolution” to the Kaiser, it was “Unification” - despite leaving out much of the German speaking world, a fact that Hilter would later leverage. It wasn't even unification of Italy, it was “il Risorgimento,” it wasn't the Meiji Revolution, it was the Meiji Restoration. But these words are all inaccurate – in Germany's case, Germany was not unified, only parts of it were, in the case of Italy, what was it a resurrection of? Italy had not been unified in any meaningful sense under its own rule since the Lombard invasion in the 560's CE, that is 1300 years before – it's unifications under Charles V in the 1500's and Napoleon from 1796-1815 was as a subject satellite state of his French Empire. The Emperor of Japan was not being restored by the “Meiji Restoration,” because no emperor had ever had the power of the new Meiji government, ever, and no emperor had had direct control since the end of the Emperor Kammu's reign in 806, or 1160 years before. To be blunt, the states in question had never existed as states, but primarily as dominions of princes, in some cases for a thousand years with only brief interruptions.

This goes in the other direction in the United States, the Confederate sympathizers termed it “the war between the states,” and the Union's successors “The Civil War” – both erasing the revolutionary nature of the changes that were made by both sides – each willing to point to the other as revolutionaries, while hiding their own. The same is true with the “Sepoy Rebellion” as it is often termed in English. It wasn't, in that affairs did not go back to the way they were before, as a “rebellion” would be, and calling it merely a rebellion of Sepoys vastly understates what was happening: in the Ganges basin, a large number of states were attempting to evict colonial power, and assert their own power over their neighbors. While modern nationalists in India use the term “The First War of Indian Independence” – this too incorrect: the Mughal Emperor declared an Indian State, but the Hindu states in rebellion were not fighting for it, nor part of its polity.

The reality is that the names given to this period reflect a series of concerted attempts to smooth over the discontinuity that occurred.

The second pillar is in the brand of the word revolution: the Marxists virtually owned it, and the anti-Marxist movements for several decades accepted that they were against revolution, because it was clear that dislodging the Marxists from that brand was impracticable. That has changed, but largely only in the last 30 years since “The Reagan Revolution.” This included the desire to salvage revolution by the liberal project, which overlapped the question of revolution as a brand. The liberal and modern project traced among their roots, the English Glorious Revolution, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution, but did not want to admit Hitler's “German Revolution” to the club. For Revolution to be an upwelling of sentiment, it had to be constrained to deny right wing sentiment. If “the people” are the source of good, then when “der volk” decide to exterminate large swathes of other people, it has to be explained away.

This then goes back to other revolutions seen as being conservative: the 1857-1871 periods are seen by many as “revolution from above” – implying an application of unwanted imperial power, because many of the trends they begin, are seen as culminating in the totalitarian overthrows of governments in the 1920's and 1930's. If the people make a revolution, and the people are good, then bad revolutions must be from either bad influences, false consciousness, or are not really revolutions.

This view is particularly sharpened in Marxist, and Marxian, contexts, and is the first example of the attempt to deconstruct these revolutions. Only the working class – the proletariat, is the truly revolutionary class, therefore, all other revolutions are “from above,” even if by above one meant the bourgeoise. But was it so from above? Garibaldi offered to fight for the Pope, and for other leaders, before settling on Piedmont-Savoy, and he was rebuffed there at first. The unification of Italy did not have a passive populace, quite the contrary it involved mass insurrections and built upon revolutionary activities in Italy stretching back decades, and Garbaldi was constantly hounded and on the run from power. Some above to have a revolution from.

The Marxist argument runs this way: there is an inevitable progress towards history, and positive movement comes in the progression towards a worker's utopia where the state as “withered away” because people no longer exploit others. To reach this, there will be a series of revolutions, that lead to a dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus, actions that move along this path are revolutionaries, but ones that do not, are reactions, and doomed to fail. The argument is essentially circular: the proletariat makes good revolutions, but if they participate in “counter-revolution” then it is because of false consciousness, or that they did not participate at all, or that they were forced to, or some other combination of excuses. The gist, however, is that Marxists believe the proletariat makes good revolutions, and others are therefore, not revolutions. In the same way, the anti-marxist wants to deny being a revolutionary, because revolution is marxism, and marxism is always evil. Even if it isn't marxism at all, but merely a development that the anti-marxist disapproves of.

This dynamic in a debate, where the extremes agree to deconstruct a term so as to create a false divide, is not uncommon.

Related, but not the same, is the modern liberal reason for deconstructing revolutions, namely that democracy is a good, because the people are good.

One book, a great book, but never-the-less a book that is part of this project, is Crane Brinton's The Anatomy of Revolution. He outlines a pattern for the great revolutions, and then describes four: the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. However, there are two other revolutions that form the shadow behind the book. One is Hitler's “German Revolution,” the other is the fate of the liberal “Revolution at the ballot box” particularly of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like adapting human sacrifice into the eucharist, the point is to make revolution safe for every day use, to avoid Jefferson's vision of a violent revolution every generation, and turn it into a revolution as spiritual and political state. This idea, strong in the modern liberal movement as evidence by John Fitzgerald Kennedy's “Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible, make violent revolutions inevitable,” necessarily looks at the establishment of the Raj, the Confederacy's obvious revolutionary basis, and so on, with suspicion. Revolutions against democracy, are anathema to the liberal, in the same way that revolutions against the proletariat moving history are anathema to the Marxist.

The break down in the anti-marxist position parallels the break down of marxism as the primary means of critique of the status quo. With the coming of Ronald Reagan, conservatives began reconstructing revolution along whig lines, or rather, resurrecting the older whig construction of revolution found in the wake of the Revolution of 1688, the “Glorious Revolution” of England. The whig view of revolution is that revolution is a revolt to preserve property against oppressive innovation by the monarch, and by extension, the centralized state.

But they don't really have an interest in generally resurrecting this period as a revolution because the revolution of the period their followers have the most sympathy for, namely the failed Confederacy, is associated with slavery, and other evils. To go back to Machiavelli: if the goal is to make everything seem the same, then it is best to locate the revolution as far back as possible: in 1688, and in Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. So while many of the neo-conservatives are in fact confederate sympathizers, it is not under this brand that they can create the image of being liberal minded and in pursuit of freedom. They neither want people to think that their construction of the state is relatively new, nor do they really wish to have slavery and racism hung around their necks in public.

This is an essential point. A revolution is a new order, it says so right on the dollar in your pocket. But for it to be spoken of as a revolution, it has to have patrons. People have to be willing to say it, and point to it proudly as their founding moment. 1871 is simply put, far to recent to serve as the kind of mythic and eternal foundation for a state. 30 A.D. – and I use the now less favored construction deliberately here – is old enough. King David, is early enough. But not 1860, not 1948. We will meet this in greater detail later.

So the second pillar is that of the various groups that talk about revolution: Marxists, Liberals, Neo-Conservatives, none of them have an interest in promoting the idea of 1857-1871 as “their” revolution, because either it is not the right kind, or it undermines the ideal form of populism, or because it is far to recent and exposes far too many of the assertions of the right as being open to being questioned, and deconstructed.

The third pillar is related, but not the same, and that is the Modernist project. The people of the 19th century, as Jacques Barzun pointed out in Classic, Romantic, Modern were quite well aware that the latter half of the century was dominated by a different movement, Barzun labels it “Realism,” a term with two meanings that this essay will adopt for reasons to be outlined later, from the early part of the 19th century, which was “Romanticism.” But the moderns, particularly the early moderns, did not want to take on Realism as a philosophy, because, in no small measure, they were still rooted in the late 19th century themselves. Instead, they wanted to attack emotionalism, and romanticism. They wanted to pin Nazi Germany on romanticism, as Barzun himself does, and therefore, to make the 19th century the Romantic Century. That is how Gustav Mahler, composing largely after 1900, is lumped in with Goethe as a “Romantic” and both art and music use the term Romanticism to cover the late 19th century as much as the early 19th century.

The reasons for this are also going to be looked at, but the central one is that moderns, both liberal and conservative ones, constructed their movement as a reaction against sloppy sentimentality. They did this because they wanted to overturn notions that people had a deep emotional attachment to. But it is hard to attack realism as being emotional. To take Bismark's Blood and Iron speech, a seminal realpolitick statement, it is hard to find any emotionalism in its creed. Instead, he decries the borders drawn up after the Napoleonic Wars as being unhealthy for the state, and argues that liberalism, resolutions, votes, and the emotionalism of 1848 and 1849. A modern really isn't going to be in a good position to argue against it on logical grounds as being sentimental, weak, or fainting.

A good example of this deconstruction of realism is in Carl Dalhaus' “Between Romanticism and Modernism”

There is a certain wry irony in the classification of Wagner as a “neo-romantic” alongside Liszt and Berlioz, since he himself used the term polemically in Opera and Drama in 1851 for the French Romanticism of 1830 onwards... Early nineteenth-century music could be said to be romantic in an age of romanticism, which produced romantic poetry and painting and even romantic physics and chemistry, where as the neo-romanticism of the later part of the century was romantic in an unromantic age, dominated by positivism and realism. Music, the romantic art, had become “untimely” in general terms...

Carl Dalhaus, “Neo-Romanticism” Between Romanticism and Modernism: Four Studies in the Music of the Later 19th Century pg 5.

This is all well and good, but it doesn't stand up to close examination. Wagner, if anything, was the most timely artistic thinker of the day, and was seen as such. Importantly, his legacy is not merely in opera, but in decidely modern activities, because he was the creator of the idea of the “all-encompassing work of art” – an idea which produces installation art, cinema, and performance art. Every time we go to the cinema, are seeing Wagnerianism in action. If still being the seminal thinker of art-forms barely invented in his life time isn't timely, what, exactly, is? More over, Wagner's obsession with cultural unity and the state is very much in keeping with neo-conservatives during and after his life. The real reason to make “neo-romanticism” untimely, is because it was this music in particular which was the touchstone of Hitler and the “German Revolution,” that he and his followers wished to effect: the creation of a racist, nationalist, and above all, modern, state.

Again, to construct revolution, it is necessary to deconstruct Hitler, because Hitler's new Germany is largely the disproof of three very different ideas about what keeps the state on course and in control. Neither liberal democracy and populism, nor Marxian socialism, nor neo-conservative spirituality were able to stop the Nazi machine from laying down the tracks that drove Europe over the cliff into an orgy of war, torment, and genocide.

Dalhaus dances around this point only sentences later, when he argues that “neither realism nor the spirit of the early years (the “Grünerjahre”) of the new German empire proclaimed in 1871, neither naturalism nor symbolism had any effect on the major musical works of the second half of the 19th Century. Are we listening to the same music here? Wagner opens his tetralogy of operas, in Das Rheingold with a naturalistic Rhine music portrait, he uses anvils to depict a terrifying vision of industrialism later in that same opera. Dalhaus admits that the symbolists adopted Wagner's music, but then tries to defuse it as saying that it doesn't say anything about Wagner. But does not say how we should conclude this. As importantly, other artists of the time, including Renoir, who supposedly were participants in the movements that Dalhaus names, saw Wagner as part of their era, and not apart from it. If one needs realism and symbolism, one finds in copiously in Wagner's exponents Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler and their work.

The real problem Dalhaus has, is that Wagnerian music is, in fact, deeply embedded in musical modernism, including the works of German Expressionism by Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg. If Wagner is so retrograde from his moment, why is Schoenberg still using a sonic structure that attempts to fuse Brahms and Wagner into his later years in the 1940's? One can say much to disparage Wagner, musically, personally, and most of all his rancid racism run rife in his writing and his legacy, but lack of timeliness to the late 19th century and immediate relevancy to the 20th century is a charge that simply does not even meet the laugh test. And yet Dalhaus is among the most important of musical critics.

If by postivism one means the exploration of the world through objective sensation, then again, Wagnerians were near the forefront of exploring the scientific basis tone, production of musical sounds, and perception. The science of acoustics took many strides forward, in order to produce the works of Wagner, in design of the theatre, the effects on stage, and the synchronization of the action. Wagner himself, as a conductor, was relentlessly reductive in the principles of conducting – his work On Conducting is as modern, as concise, and as reductive, as any work in the next 50 years on music, where he reduces tempo to the assertion of rhythm and melody.

The next problem with Dalhaus is that “neo-romanticism,” as he constructs it, is found to be at work by other modernist critics in other areas. For example, take this bit from Jessica Helfand:

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, nostalgia was seen as a disease, an ailment to be cured. (One doctor described it as "hypochondria of the heart.") Over time, it came to typify the porous romanticism of bygone eras — Victorianism, for example — conjuring visions both sentimental and ornamental. The streamlined reserve of the International Style obliterated such decorative excess, inaugurating an age of uncompromised neutrality: later, we called it modernism and applauded its appeal to functionality and its celebration of formal rigor.

The New Design Observer, 10.27.05

However, it is not merely academic modernism which loves Revolution as a means of sweeping away the past, it is also in science. By 1900, scientists were deeply emotionally attached to the ideas of Sir Isaac Newton, and with good reason, these ideas had virtually invented physics, and the previous 200 years had been spent filling out the gaps of what could be called the “Newtonian Program.” Prove that energy is conserved, prove that motion follows the three laws, and that the Universal Law of Gravitation is sufficient to explain the movement of heavenly bodies. Piece by piece, the gaps had been filled with experiments such as Cavendish's clever way of measuring gravity by use of a swinging tape and weights, by Joules calculation of the mechanical equivalent of heat advancing thermodynamics, and even by Maxwell's equations of electro-magnetism, which brought light, electricity, and magnetism into the same framework as motion. However, with the discovery of radioactivity, the age of the universe was wrong: there was no Newtonian way to power the sun for long enough to heat the earth, gravity would have run out in mere millions of years. Geologists calculated that it would have taken billions of years to see the changes made in the landscape of earth by “uniform” means, but calculating from cooling of the earth, or compression of the sun, yielded times that were as little as 1% of that.

But it was modern mass produced capitalism that would be the most important social trigger. In a society with mass production, and constantly arriving new products of it, there was an increasing need to have people accept new products quickly, and to alter their living arrangements. “Revolution” shows up in your in mail box, not because marketers have a love of guillotines, but because they want you to re-order your life around their product, employers are also not in love with guillotines, but they revolutionize their companies, and that means layoffs, moves, and drastic changes. Revolution went from being an event, to being a way of life: people had to live with provisional scientific knowledge, and provisional economic existence.

There are more examples, which will show up later, but these are enough to show how modernism, in the broader sense of modern science and modern political organization, needed a way to mediate rapid, dramatic, and continual change. This means, was to make revolution a common part of life, and a good in itself. In this, the 20th century was not inventing: the term “Industrial Revolution” had been used since around 1800, and had sown up in in the first third of the 19th century. However, naming the “Agricultural Revolution” in analogy to this, would wait until the 1920's. In the 1950's the term “Revolution” began being attached to more and more periods, hence “The Military Revolution” of gunpowder, named by Richards in 1955, the “Neo-lithic Revolution” name by Vere in 1950, and so on. These then had sub-species: there are now at least four periods that are called “military revolutions” and three that are commonly called “Agricultural Revolutions.”

Revolution is a way of being, in a constantly changing world.

These three pillars then: the nature of the 1857-1871 revolutionaries as trying to cover over their own action as being novel, the need to deconstruct the totalitarian revolutions by liberal, marxist, and neo-conservative forces, and the modern program to isolate modernism from those aspects of the late 19th century that they either did not want to confront, or did not want to have labelled as modern, form a triad of motivations for why the mid-century upheaval remains an invisible revolution. The revolutionaries did not want to be seen, others did not want to see them, and convention has grown up like ivy.

Within these three pillars theorists such as Gramsci created a welter of categories, and bad writing, to justify their preconceived and received notions. In Gramsci's case, a communist framework for making excuses about how revolutions could go wrong. Concepts such as “passive revolution” to distinguish between a French style revolution, and a monarchist national independence in Italy. But this category is askew. After the French Revolution, the Nation of France would spend all but 9 of the next 81 years under autocracy of one kind or another: The Directorate, the Consulate, the First Empire, The Restoration, the July Monarchy, The Second Empire occupy 1795-1848, and from 1852-1871. The Third Republic, as will later be looked at more closely, was under royalist government after the suppression of the Paris Commune during “Bloody Week” for another 8 years. Or in all, France was to be royalist, or autocratic, for 89 years of the next century. We may think of the French Revolution as historically situated, but the reality is that France spent more time under autocracy in the century after its “active revolution,” than Italy did after its “passive revolution.”

These elaborate gymnastics are needed, however, only if one has an idea about a prescriptive revolution, a template drawn from what one would like, rather than what one faces in the real world. The definition of a revolution analytically is simple: a rapid change that leads to a new order, and then the questions become how fast, and how new, and how long does the new order stand?

The next question that has to be answered is why to change this verdict of history. After all, if almost 150 years of practice and convention has managed to survive with thinking of a long 19th century as one of largely peaceful European affairs, and the upheaval in the middle being somewhat of a bump on the road, why change it. The synthetic category of revolution seems to work for politicians, marketers of donuts, and historians of art busy denying that whacking anvils isn't a romantic act, do we need a different direction?

An Analytic Revolution


To understand a name you must be acquainted with the particular of which it is a name.

Bertrand Russell

The answer, is yes, we do.

The first reason is logical: it is essential to call everything by its proper name, and to use analytic categories for analysis. To those who argue convention and acceptance, this is pure legacy, and we would all be using stone tools if convention were at all the driving force of human advancement. Cognitive language forms the building block of how people construct the world and their place in it. To the extent that we name badly, we think badly, in that we are trying to fit together pieces of a puzzle that do not fit together, because they cannot fit together.

But this is not enough, to realize why the 19th century's realist revolution was deconstructed, one has to understand the tri-part project that this deconstruction is part of: the creation of the middle class as a pillar of society by the realists, the overthrow of a outmoded and dangerously inaccurate political and scientific doctrines in the modern, and the creation of a word that described a way of being that allowed people to both meet radical change, and to remain identified with it by the marxist-liberal ideal, and finally in the post-war project of preventing another half-century of global war, economic depression, and the rise of totalitarianism.

To say again the obvious: to reconstruct revolution as an analytical term, in the sense that Disraeli and Gladstone knew it, one must also accept that “revolution” is a neutral word. The conundrum runs deeply into academic and social identity: revolution is good, Hilter is bad, and therefore Hilter cannot have run a revolution. But is revolution good? Even in the sense we mean it? It is impossible to argue that Hitler was good.

If an inconsistency in naming can help prevent another Hitler, it would be a very small mind very in love with its hobgoblins to stand in the way.

But is this really the case now? Are the problems of those involved in covering up revolution still ours? Are their methods still adequate and rational? Here the answer is no, in no small part because of a change in the world itself. There are virtually no Marxist revolutionaries, nor any major shift towards them. Instead the threat to world stability comes from the same kind of revolutionaries that attempted to assert reaction in 1857-1871, as will be shown. For a generation, forces on the far right avoided the use of the word and the means of revolution, because to do so would draw the comparison to Hitler. But that is all different. The reactionaries of the Islamic world are happy to declare themselves revolutionaries, the reactionaries of the developed world are more and more willing to assert their roots in the Confederacy, and cast themselves as revolutionaries. By constructing revolution as a positive, we all these forces to cast themselves as founding fathers, rather than as unfounded radicals.

The reality is that while the 20th century had a “Revolutions Revolution” the needs of the West 1900-1960 are no longer the only needs. China had two revolutions in the 20th Century, and “Cultural Revolution.” Iran had an “Islamic Revolution.” Post-colonial revolutions have come in no small number. The paradigm that there were only a few revolutions that mattered, is no longer workable. And there are more to come. Which do we support? Which do we oppose? Which do we join? How to tell a revolution from merely a marketing ploy – in business, politics, or economics? And how to effect what we choose?

These questions require an analytic, rather than synthetic understanding of revolution. They also require a simplicity which cannot be found in such murky multiplying ad hoc categories as is found in older literature, simply because once upon a time academics could engage in ad hocracy, secure that their students, and only their students, would have the privilege of interpreting them. The irony is that post-modernism, the spawn of Marxism on many levels, and with a body of avowedly marxist acolytes, recognizes the overturn of this situation: with mass media, anyone with a billion dollars can push through a fog of ad hoc definitions, and in doing so, create revolution that exists only on television and other forms of electronic communication.

The third reason for reconstructing this period as a revolution, at least on par with a space saving airplane bag, is that it balances, rather than deconstructs, the “long 19th century” argument, in that the revolutions of 1857-1871 are an attempt to combined two sets of forces: the elite forces of capital concentration, aristocracy, and piety, and the popular forces of democracy, socialism, naturalism, nationalism through the lens of realism. 1848 was an end, but not of revolutionary forces, but, instead of revolution against reaction, of revolution against revolution towards unification. What we will see is that this period often pits two revolutions against each other, because the old order, however constructed, was breaking down in the face of the forces of population, technology, and society.

The “long 19th century” argument was first named by Eric Hobsbawm, in his three part history of the period: The Age of Revolution (1789-1848), The Age of Capita (l848-1875), the Age of Empire (1875-1914). It is a neat story, and one worth reading. But again, it needs to deconstruct 1857-1873 as “Revolution” in order to construct it as “conservative capital.” The problems with this as a pure thesis will get more than some attention later, however, in history, as opposed to science, it is entirely possible to have to ideas occupying the same place at the same time. In this case, that the French Revolution and the First World War bookended an era, and in the second case, that looked at differently 1857 marked the beginning of an epoque of a different kind, and that one can just as easily construct ages which begin from the creation of states, and ends, largely with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Both arcs are roughly as long – 125 years against 134 years – but are tracing the rise and decline of different ideas.

However, the presentation of a “long 19th century” was made before this, in labeling of, for example, “The Victorian Age” and in the aristocratic construction of a 19th century that began Napoleonic Defeat and the Congress of Vienna. In this older version of the argument, the 18th century aspects of Napoleon's project are emphasized as the last of the imperial enlightened despots. This has its advantages, in that Napoleon is not using either technological or political means that would have been foreign to the age of attempts at a revival of the Roman Empire, only in Christian, as opposed to pagan; continental, as opposed to Mediterranean; dynastic, as opposed to despotic, feudal, or republican; and rationalist, as opposed to naturalistic, terms. This project was quite old, and it should have a name, and the name this essay will use is “the Holy Roman Project.” Napoleon then, is seen as the last overt conquerer in the program begun by Maxmillian I and Charles V of Hapsburg: using conquest and marriage to create a personal union over Europe, and placing dynastic scions on thrones around Europe.

What Hobbawm's argument does is create a second 19th century, a “long” version, to correspond with the “short” version of the aristocratic system of Metternich, and thus place the two sets of forces in relationship to each other: the progressive, liberal, and marxist long century, against the aristocratic, capital, and conservative, in the sense of the time, short century. What having the mid-century revolution period so named, is that it shows the cynosure of the two programs: the first part is the liberal revolutionary mode against the aristocratic counter-revolutionary mode, and the second part is the progressive revolutionary mode in a center balancing against a socialist and communist mode on one side, and a conservative revolutionary mode on the other, with the result a three cornered global politics: old decentralized states relying on a feudal distribution of power in an effective confederacy; popular revolution in favor of egalitarian and democratic government; and between these two new centralized states, removing the power of the landed and tenured aristocracy, and distributing the gains to economic and political elites, with some goods flowing downwards to the populace. To a great extent, one of the virtues of seeing 1857-1871 as a revolution, is that it explains the creation of a powerful division between liberal democratic forces, and socialist forces. Communism emerged as the primary competitor in the field to realism, and Marxism as the most important form. This is another reason for Marxists to desire to erase this revolution, because it upsets their primacy as the only form of socialism. Instead Marxism becomes the antithesis to the industrial state theory of “realpolitick.”

This essay is far from the first, or the last, that will make this journey. The dissolution of 1857-1871 as a revolutionary moment has attracted repeated attention, and for the some of the same reasons: the recognition that totalitarianism of the right: fascism, militarism, Nazi-ism, and so on, comes to power by an overthrow of the government, commands wide support, and establishes a distinctly new order. It looks like a revolution, in all but name. One example is the study by Barrington Moore Jr. from 1966, where he labels the American Civil War “The Last Capitalist Revolution” and argues that the economic class plus “conservative modernizers” is the essential condition for fascism. He then gives the term “revolution from above” as the reactionary project.

In his introduction he states:

To sum up as concisely as possible, we seek to understand the role of the landed upper classes and the peasants in the bourgeois revolutions leading to capitalist democracy, the abortive bourgeoise revolutions leading to fascism, and the peasant revolutions leading to communism. The ways in which the landed upper classes and the peasants reacted ot the challenge of commercial agriculture were decisive factors in determining the outcome.

The problem of course is that many “communist” revolutions have been directed by outside forces, such as the Soviet Union, and did not represent a “peasant uprising” but a revolution from outside. Similarly, just because nominal capitalism is the objective, does not mean that it is bourgeois, consider, as case in point, the revolutions which the United States funded against states that were seen as a threat to its hegemony – while, for example, the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, and the installation of the Pinochet regime. It was carried out by locals, it was supported by locals, it was clearly capitalist, and it was also “from above” – it fits the Moore paradigm. However, in Panama, an American “revolution from above” has lead to a multi-party democracy, with peaceful transitions of power. The essential problem with making closely predictive categories is visible even in a small sample: revolutions come in many varieties, and elites and populaces navigate them in different ways. The same coalition which leads to repression and economic satrapy under some form of nominal capitalism, though private ownership is more correct in many cases, leads, in other cases to democratic institutions of one form or another. 

The same coalition that brought Peron to power as a near dictator in Argentina, then overthrew the dictatorship, and then promptly lost to the Unión Cívica Radical by an overwhelming margin in the 1983 elections. Then going in the other direction, the Peronists, in the form of the Justicalist Party, essentially overthrew themselves, then the UCR, and then themselves again, and have formed a capitalist democratic state, though presently dominated by their own party. There are myriad other examples.

The reason for the failings of his predictive framework is the problem that “the people” are neither left nor right in basic orientation, populist movements several directions, including such right wing notions as racism, isolationism, nativism, corporatism, and militarism, as well as left wing egalitarian, democratic, and liberalizing. The reason modernism and liberalism had to work so hard to uproot traditional religious affiliation and nationalism, is that the “people” are often the most stalwart of monarchists, for example, the peasant classes in the early stages of the French Revolution being largely monarchists, or, to take another example, the agricultural basis of the long running single party status of Japan under the or Jiyū-Minshutō Liberal Democratic Party – which was almost none of these things – from 1955-2009.

The critique of the idea of revolution from above is obvious: “above” doesn't man a modern army, or modern guerilla force. The conclusion that the difference between democratic and totalitarian roads to mastering modern capitalism is rather much obliterated by the results of the Russian Revolution, which was not a “revolution from above” but ended in precisely the same place. The same can be said of China, thought Moore makes plausible excuses – which are still excuses – as to why China does not count. The root of the difficulty that Moore faces, is that “the people” and “the peasantry” are still regarded as sacred, or at least noble, savages, that cannot be involved in a retrograde revolution.

This problem leads to obvious errors, there have been many capitalist revolutions, and whig revolutions since 1860-1865, France in 1871 to name one, where capitalist forces suppressed the communist “Paris Commune.” Other examples include the revolution in Hawaii that was used to pave the way for it becoming one of the United States, several of the Post-Soviet revolutions, including those in the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Belorussia, Hungary, and Slovenia. Russia itself is a more arguable case, in that the result was almost always a directed first neo-liberal imposition of shock therapy, and then a resource baron oligarchy. It is not clear that capitalism ever happened. While many of these events are after the writing of the book, it was re-issued in 1993, and without reconsideration. One might even argue that the American Civil War, in that the precepts of capitalism were only spottily enforced by either side. The South was all for free trade, but all against free enterprise, the North was all in favor of industrialization and free enterprise, but for a strong protective tariff system.

However Moore captures an essential truth, and that is, while he does not wish to admit right wing revolution to the same club as either liberal or socialist revolution, he does wish to see it as revolutionary in many respects. He also has a very healthy cynicism about the virtues of liberalizing revolutions and the industrial revolution as a project, even in nominally liberal hands.

What we see then, from Marxists like Gramsci, and from liberals such as Moore, is that they have turned the stones of this period before, in no small part to minimize it as a revolutionary period, at most, a seal of the capitalist revolutions, or to find classification schemes which push it out of the light: passive revolution, war of position, aborted revolution. Moore and Gramsci are relatively open as to why: these changes of government are seen as the seeds of totalitarianism of the right, and there is a necessity with both the liberal and marxist world systems to have violence and even violent overthrow of government. Moore when he surveys the English and American Revolutions, concludes as much, if somewhat gloomily. Faced with this contradiction: that some revolutions become unacceptable fascism, but that revolution, as an ideal, is essential for the functioning of what liberals and marxists regard as social good, it is almost inevitable that language becomes thick and categories and qualifiers flow rapidly, and, as Moore even admits in his own preface, there is a shoddiness of structure that “several rewritings have been unable to remove.”

At this point it in useful to return to one of the most adaptable and successful liberal attempts to square this circle: Crane Brinton's The Anatomy of Revolution. In this he accepts that revolution is, essentially, a synthetic quality:

We choose then, deliberately, to isolate four revolutions for analysis, quite aware that there are many other revolutions on record. We do not entangle ourselves unduly with the exact definition of “revolution,” nor with the borderline between revolutionary change and other kinds of changes. At some point, the conflicts which are normal – or if you regard conflicts as wholly bad, you may read “endemic” – to any Western society boil over into violence, and there is a revolution The difference between a revolution and other kinds of changes in societies, is to judge from many past users of the term, logically nearer to that between a mountain and a hill, than to that, say, between the freezing point and the boiling point of a given substance.

So he admits that an exact definition will elude him, he is using the past use of the term in general, and it is connected to other uses. What he does is pick a story arc of revolution: from England, to the United States, to Russia. There is increasing violence in the waves, increasing participation, and increasing egalitarian objectives. He states in his 1956 remarks that he still upholds that popular revolutions are, by their nature, “of the Left,” and his 1964 epilogue admits that the sequence is not entirely accidental: “we cannot stop this series of 'revolutions of rising expectations.'” What is hiding behind these four revolutions, is the situation of the original in 1938, and its revisions in 1952 and 1958.

That hidden pair of revolutions is the liberal “Revolution at the ballot box” of FDR, and the constitutional coup backed with violence of the “German Revolution,” as Hitler himself repeatedly termed it, and the waiting revolutions that Brinton repeatedly warned, the United States was taking the side of possessing, that is anti-revolutionary, forces and sowing the wind with disquiet. It is not a new warning. These hidden revolutions are what Brinton was trying to frame in, in the case of FDR, by admitting that “other kinds of social change” are like revolution, and frame out in his structure of the German, and warn against continuing reactionary, and ultimately doomed, policies of siding with “possessing” classes.

The reason to return to the analytic then, is that it is not only historically accurate, but that analytic and only analytic definitions offer the clear knife to cut through the communication reality which we live in, and in the post-modern reality that there are no longer secure high priests of academic reality. It sharpens our understanding of the creation of what we now call “the middle class,” and the rise of totalitarian movements, it explains why Marxism held the field as the foremost revolutionary movement afterwards, because much of the liberal revolutionary moment had been coöpted. The conventional ordering does none of these things well, in addition to requiring every more epicyclic excuses and constructions. In its place is a simplicity that eludes both neo-conservative, and marxist interpretations. There was a revolutionary moment between 1857 and 1871, there were three sources of revolution: reactionary, progressive, and socialist, and the progressive conservative force won, by joining enough of the nationalists romanticism, with the conservative hierachicalism, to hold the field against the other two forces. This revolutionary arc essentially ended the Hapsburg Program of begun in 1500.

This simplicity comes from returning revolution to an analytical word: a revolution is what it is, and absolves the need for the word to do multiple duty. Instead of revolution being something which bears the imprimatur of approval – marxist, liberal, conservative, or otherwise – it returns it to its original, powerful, disruptive, and to some extent dreadful and awe-ful capacity as the ultimate limit of an any established order.

Thus simple definitions are needed. The first is not of revolution, but of coup. A coup is a rapid change of government by unusual means. Coups are generally violent, or backed by the threat of violence. The list of violent coups by small groups of military officers is too long to list in any short book, and almost as long is the list of popular uprisings which convince a ruler to flee. There may be little actual violence, but a demonstration and mob that surrounds the organs of government, jeers, bangs cans, rattles everything that moves, overturns vehicles, is often able to persuade a ruler that uncontrolled violence, or at least unsustainable paralysis, is about to occur.

But while coups are often illegal, it does not mean they always are. There have been “constitutional coups” were the ordinary mechanisms of law are used to effectively oust another party from power, even if these mechanisms were not intended to do so. Exampled of attempted constitutional coups abound even in United States history. Examples are the election of 1876, which was decided by a special committee, the attempts to impeach Presidents Andrew Johnson, John Tyler, and Richard Milhouse Nixon, and the attempt by the Federalists to block Thomas Jefferson by taking advantage of a tie in the Repubican electors in 1800. As implied, some constitutions even expressly contemplate a constitutional coup, in the form of impeachment. The English Civil War featured a constitutional coup after the military victory: namely, the trial of King Charles I of Stuart, which will be visited in the next chapter.

A revolution is often distinguished from a coup by standing battles, or open military operations. This is a useful, but not always supportable, definition. Even rapid putsches often need to consolidate in the field. One recent example is that of President Samuel Doe of Liberia, who engineered a coup d'etat in 1980, engineered an election that made it virtually certain he would win in 1986. He then had to fight former supporters for much of the rest of his reign, until in 1990, he was captured and assassinated in the First Liberian Civil War. Or to repeat: a coup and a civil war are not so easily seperable.

This means that the best way to think of the relationship between coup and revolution is that a revolution almost always uses some form of coup as part of its assent to power, however a coup implies nothing more, and nothing less, than a change in the government, not necessarily so. Doe's example again underlines that “above” and “below” have little place in revolution as predictors: Doe was a populist from a native group in Liberia, which had been dominated by “Amero-Liberians,” that is descendants of people returned to Africa from America, largely slaves, as part of the project to remove the black population from the United Sates. However, he was as despotic and dictatorial as any right wing revolutionary could be, and rapidly turned on ethnic groups that had supported him, and even on his patrons abroad. So much for “the people” being progressively liberal.

One of the realities then is that acts such as “assassination” are headless attempts at coup or revolution, an attempt to bring about a change in government, with little ability to influence the new leadership or order, only hopes or beliefs that other forces will be engaged. John Wilkes Booth clearly thought he was acting in the interest of liberty against a “tyrant,” and that his act would trigger rebellion, revolution, or rebalancing of the political situation. It did, but only in the sense that even bringing the man in the North most favorable to southern interests, the result was very much not what he had hoped to do.

A revolution, then, is a pattern known to Machiavelli, though for him, there was no intellectual quandry around it, nor even a particular need to name it, but he did write about it, both in terms of princes taking power and creating a new order, most specifically in The Prince VI:4, and Discourses IX:1. The problem that has occupied political philosophers in the West since Burke in trying to distinguish between good revolution and bad, is present in Machiavelli, as Discourses X:1(1-12)

Among all men who have been praised, the most lauded are those who are heads and establishers of Religion. Next after them are those who have founded Republics or Kingdoms. After these are celebrated those who have commanded armies, (and) who have enlarged the (territory) of their Kingdom of those of their country. To these should be added men of letters, and because these are of many fields, they are celebrated according to their degree (of excellence). To other men, the number of whom is infinite, some degree of praise is given to them as pertain to their art and profession. On the other hand, those men are infamous and destroyers of Religion, dissipators of Kingdoms and Republics, enemies of virtu, of letters, and of every other art which brings usefulness and honor to human generations (mankind), such as are the impious and violent, the ignorant, the idle, the vile and degraded. And no one will ever be so mad or so wise, so wicked or so good, that selecting between these two kinds of men, does not laud what is laudable, and censure what is censurable. None the less, however, nearly all men deceived by a false good or a false glory allow themselves to drift either voluntarily or ignorantly into the ranks of those who merit more censure that praise. And being able to establish either a Kingdom or a Republic with eternal honor to themselves, they turn to Tyranny, nor do they see because of this action how much fame, how much glory, how much honor, security, and tranquil satisfaction of the mind, they lose; and how much infamy, disgrace, censure, danger, and disquiet, they incur. And it is impossible that those who live as private individuals in a Republic, or who by fortune or virtu become Princes, if they read the history and the records of ancient events, would do well living as private citizens in their country to live rather as a Scipio than a Caesar; and those who are Princes, rather as Agesilaus, Timoleon, and Dion, than as Nabis, Phalaris, and Dionysius, because they will see these (latter) to be thoroughly disgraced and those (former) most highly praised.

Here in the old, but still servicable, Neville translation. There is founding of a religion, republic, or principality, and there is tyranny, and destruction. Since Machiavelli has no need for revolution as a category, or as an ideal, he does not need to go into very much depth about the differences, but, he notes, that the people involved are going to think well of themselves regardless. Thus, while the exact problem of how to frame in revoltions that are good, and out those that are bad, is new, it's root, that virtually no one gets up in the morning with the goal of being the devil incarnate, and even fewer lead a state, many do, in fact, do far more evil than good.

This study is about change, and the changes in a particular period. There is no difference here between “good” revolution, and “bad” revolution, but far more the difference between “effective” and “ineffective.” and why we make some revolutions visible, lauded and touchstones, while others, no less still visible in our current lives, we lock away, and argue about in academic prose, while teaching a public mythology of revolution which is quite out of touch with the arguments behind closed doors, as if people are children who need to have noble lies told for noble purposes.

It is time then, that the old order, of a conventionalized understanding of revolution and its resulting confusion of exceptions in order to force fit reality into a economically and politically useful synthetic definition of revolution “se soumettre ou se démettre” – submit or resign. It was always a lie, it was for a time a useful lie, but now it is a destructive lie, that occludes important forces now at work in the world, and so, it is time to lay intellectual demolitions at its beams and girders, and implode it from within, on the principle that describing perception, is more truthful and accurate, than attempting to mold reception.

1 Past as Prequel

The Hapsburg Program (1496-1815)

Religions, which condemn the pleasures of sense, drive men to seek the pleasures of power. Throughout history power has been the vice of the ascetic.

Bertrand Russell

Ce n'est pas toujours en allant de mal en pis que l'on tombe en révolution. Il arrive le plus souvent qu'un peuple qui avait supporté sans se plaindre, et comme s'il ne les sentait pas, les lois les plus accablantes, les rejette violemment dès que le poids s'en allège. Le régime qu'une révolution détruit vaut presque toujours mieux que celui qui l'avait immédiatement précédé, et l'expérience apprend que le moment le plus dangereux pour un mauvais gouvernement est d'ordinaire celui où il commence à se réformer. Il n'y a qu'un grand génie qui puisse sauver un prince qui entreprend de soulager ses sujets après une oppression longue. Le Mal qu'on souffrait patiemment comme inévitable semble insupportable dès qu'on conçoit l'idée de s'y soustraire. Tout ce qu'on ôte alors des abus semble mieux découvrir ce qui en reste et en rend le sentiment plus cuisant : le mal est devenu moindre, il est vrai, mais la sensibilité est plus vive. La féodalité dans toute sa puissance n'avait pas inspiré aux Français autant de haine qu'au moment où elle allait disparaître. Les plus petits coups de l'arbitraire de Louis XVI paraissaient plus difficiles à supporter que tout le despotisme de Louis XIV. Le court emprisonnement de Beaumarchais produisit plus d'émotion dans Paris que les Dragonnades.

Alexis de Tocqueville, L'ancien Regime et La Revolution, Book III Chapter IV

It is not always in going from bad to worse that one falls into revolution. It is often that a people who have supported without complaint, and as if they did not feel, the most atrocious laws, violently reacts as soon as the weight is lightened. The regime that a revolution destroys is almost always better than the one that had immediately preceded it, and experience knows that the most dangerous moment for a bad government is usually the one where it starts to reform. It takes a prince of great genius to save himself, once he undertakes to relieve his subjects after long oppression. Evils suffered patiently as inevitable, seem unbearable when the people conceive the idea of their escape. Once the abuses are gone, all appear better able to discover what stays, and this renders a bitter sentiment: evil has become smaller, it is true – but the sensitivity is more vibrant. Feudalism in its height had not inspired as much hatred in the French until that moment when it was about to disappear. The smaller shots of the arbitrariness of Louis XVI seemed harder to bear than all the despotism of Louis XIV. The short term of Beaumarchais produced more emotion in Paris that Dragonnades.


Rome is a magic word through much of European history, a fact noted over and over again since antiquity. Rome was the first European nation-state, and the crowning of political organization in European antiquity. And it is important to see it as a European state, with European roots, unlike, for example Greek and Hellenistic culture, which place, in some cases a very thin, veneer over sources from the Middle East. By the time the Romans had received these sources, from Etruscans, other Latins, and the Hellenes, they had been altered and synthesized. The collapse of Rome in the West as a political force, which occurred spasmodically over the course of 200 years, lead to a new Roman project, that of the Church of Rome.

Catholicism constructs its dominance early, both from the Council of Nicea, and the “Grant of Constantine.” Its version of history has the world divided between Catholic and Orthodox churches. The reality, however, was very different. Until well after 900, Rome did not have the acceptance or obedience of a preponderance of bishoprics in Europe. It would take 500 years to establish the See of Rome as the nominal and legal head of “the Church.” Once it did so, however, it created a parallel political project, that of the “Holy Roman Empire.” This began from the first powerful revived state in the West, the Frankish Kingdom, and was sealed when, in 800, Pope Leo II crowned Charlemagne “Emperor of the Romans.” This dynastic kingdom would last until 888, but the concept, of a restored Roman Empire approved by the See of Rome, would continue on. In 1157, the term “sacrum” or holy, was added by Fredrick I, also known as Barbossa, or “redbeard.”

In the middle ages, the renewed Roman Project was to be accomplished by a single monarch being recognized and crowned by a variety of kingdoms, the nobles that controlled them, and sealed by the papacy. It was a project of “investiture” and ran on the theory that people would know a great monarch when they saw one. It was not that there were not dynasties and dynastic considerations it is that the ability of powerful princes to “elect” a new ruler was the constant dynamic: undercutting powerful families by electing rivals. In a very real sense, the Emperor was more like the winner of a sports league championship: it was the ultimate title, to use a now popular term, “the game of thrones.”

An example of this comes from the reign of Henry VI, King of Germany 1190-1197, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1191-1197, and King of Sicily 1194-1197. As you can tell, he accumulated titles, sometimes by bribing the noble who elected, and in the case of Sicily, by marching in when his rival had died, and blinding and castrating that rival's son and heir. But when he died, the same fate befell him: his heir was too young, and the rivals who controlled election both blocked his plan to make the title of Emperor hereditary, and then thwarted his son, Frederick II for a time in gaining back all of those titles.

However, the observation of de Tocqueville held here. Despite being an avid patron of the arts, governmental reformer, and centralizer, he gained as an implacable enemy Pope Gregory IX, who excommunicated the emperor virtually on taking the See of Rome, and would tack between weak alliance, and outright war for the rest of his papacy. Frederick II was forced to sell off government concessions to pay for his projects, and on his death, his dynasty was dismantled.

What is important here is that both the pope and the emperor were created in the same way: by election of the princes of their sphere, in the case of the Pope, the college of Cardinals, and in the case of the Emperor, the various means of election – and therefore spent their time working their own electorate, both to get in, and to influence the next choice. This project would remain in place: that of an elect elected line, with gradual refinements, including the Golden Bull of 1356 issued by the Reichstag and Charles IV to fix the procedures for election to the title “King of Germany.”

What would change matters would be a shift in the means of the project to create a restored Roman Empire, was the creation of what can be called the Hapsburg Program. This changed the very nature of how power was to be won and held. Instead of proving stature and merit to competing peers, the Hapsburg program was designed to knit those competitors into the web of power by marriage. Instead of appointing friends, children were married, and their children inherited both titles, gradually consolidating the power of the dynasty.

The person who set this in motion was Maximillian I, who first married Mary of Burgundy, as heiress to the Duchy of Burgundy, and then married his son Philip the Handsome to Joanna of Castile, heiress to the Kingdom of Castile. What followed was an accretion of titles, which was the reverse of the older order of splitting titles. For example, John II, King of Aragorn (1398-1479) held as well the title King of Navarre, but gave one title to his first child, and another to the second.

The Hapsburg project was to unify titles, passing them all down to as few, rather than as many, individuals as possible, and instead of marrying within a national area to bring about a single state, and controlling other colonial or additional titles secondarily, bring all of them together under the same house. They were not the first to attempt this, but they were the first to have a simple means of folding in the branches of the house with unions of heiresses to titles to bring those under the control of a single individual.

So why is this important to 1857?

The reason is Napoleon Bonopartet's project in Europe, namely, to place his house on thrones around Europe. He placed his brother Joseph as King of Naples and Sicily (1806-1808) and then King of Spain in (1808-1813). When he moved Joseph to Spain, he put his son-in-law Joachim-Napoléon Murat as King of Naples and Sicily (1808-1815). He put his youngest brother Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte in charge of a new state, the Kingdom of Westphalia (1807-1813). He installed his brother Louis Napoléon Bonaparte as King of Holland (1806-1810). He put the son of Joséphine by a previous marriage in as the Viceroy of the rump “Kingdom of Italy” from 1805-1815. He also divorced Joséphine in order to have an heir, who was Napoleon II in his will.

All in all, a very clear track record: two brothers, a son in law, his son as the future Napoleon II, and a stepson. No Hapsburg would have done differently.

The Hapsburg Program then, was alive and well to the supposedly new man of Napoleon, but it was killed by the supposedly conservative Congress of Vienna and the architect of the “Concert of Europe”
Klemens Wenzel von Metternich. In order to have the supposed dynastic peace and freedom from popular revolution that he craved, he realized, quite radically, that the old program of unification of Europe under the very dynastic means that he was restoring, had to end. It was the old absolutism in name, but he ended the very raison d'etre that had given it life – aggrandizement by expansion and conquest, alliance by marriage. He himself was aware of the weakness of the differences he was trying to paper over, and had to write voluminous memoranda, year after year, for decades, to join together an hereditary internationalist monarchy modeled on the ancien regime, with modern state bureaucracies.

This can be seen from the Bourbon Restoration: it did not repeal the Code Napoléon, or the division of France into departments, nor the labor reforms, nor the subjugation of the Church to the state. It was a constitutional monarchy, had a bi-cameral legislature that met continuously under a constitution Charte Constitutionnelle, called in English the Charter of 1814. He was not opposed to Napoleon staying in power, merely that France had to return to its 1794 borders, which Napoleon refused, or installing a member of the House of Bonoparte to the throne. Thus while we was the prime mover of a conservative order, it was a wholly new one. It is not that he was not an arch-conservative, but it is wrong to say that he was going to “turn back the clock,” instead, there were many clocks, and he set about turning back some, and not others.

The irony is that Metternich's Europe was an “anti-revolution” in that the governments changed, but the arrangements ratified what was new about Napoleon's reign, and destroyed a nearly 300 year old program for European unification. And again, de Tocqueville's observation comes into play: by lightening the burdens, it created a fertile ground for continued revolution, because having had absolutism removed, various factions knew that they might well be able to use uprising to engage in politics by other means. There were elected bodies to act as either focuses of revolution, or as targets for it. Kings were more limited, more human, and therefore, far less royal and untouchable. Sadly nothing could be done to improve the product: the same traits that made Louis XVI a failure as a modern monarch, made the restored monarchy a failure: lack of attention to detail, rigidity, lack of intellect, poor choice in counselors, and a pervasive failure to understand that growing expectations of prosperity were now a permanent part of social society.

Romanticism and Revolt

1848 is a Janusian moment, like the two faced god, one looks back, and the other looks forward, The face looking back, to the end of popular uprisings and liberal revolutions, to the end of Romanticism, the supposed end of the “Age of Revolution,” has been so amply written about, that adding to it is not really necessary. Pierre Joseph Proudhon, the politician and influential anarchist thinker wrote that democracy had slipped through their fingers. He preached that the state, capital, and the church were the same things, that they destroyed labor, liberty, and spirit in the same ways in his work L'idee generale de la revolution he ranted on how his generation had lost the revolution. But is Proudhon really real here? Was there any serious chance for his borderless stateless society? The answer on this one is fairly clearly not, while anarchists had to some extent the role that marxists did later on: as the cutting edge of radical vision and revolutionary sentiments, they were not in charge of what was going on in any meaningful way.

The backward looking interpretation of 1848 has to be balanced, and one way to do so is to look at revolutions that prevailed. One is the most invisible of revolutions: the Sonderbund War in Switzerland. Orson Wells once quipped that Italy has had 500 years of upheaval, and gave us Dante, Verdi, and Michelangelo, and Switzerland has had 500 years of peace, and gave us the cuckoo clock, and he notes, he thinks that is actually Bavarian. It is a good joke, but it is poor history. In fact, for centuries the Swiss had sent mercenaries abroad, meddled in Italian affairs, been conquered and squabbled, and in 1847-48, they had a sharp, quick, efficient, and effective Federal Revolution.

In all one can say that the Swiss Federal Revolution looks a great deal like a toy model of the American Civil War, with a Confederacy squaring off against a nascent reforming Federal state, resulting in conflict, war, and complete victory for the Federalists. This state survives to this day, though the constitution was completely overhauled and rewritten in 1999.

The other successful revolution is another embarrassing intellectual quandary for those trying to constrict revolution as a sanctified mode of being, and that is the rise of Napoleon III, who Marx called a farce, and who is often labelled a failure, but who managed not only to effect a revolution, but to help export it as well, and unlike the long list of failed client states of Napoleon I, one of those states, was Italy.

One can add to this the shift in Denmark from absolutist government, to a constitutional monarchy in their revolution, as well as states that took the message, such as Holland, and reformed without revolt, and the Wallachian Revolution which began a generation long struggle that reached independence in 1877.


In all this is far from the dream of a anarchistic, democratic, or even united nationalism. The liberal goals of the time could not be met by the liberal means of the time, and by liberal, one means essentially whig plus populist. Thus it is not at all unreasonable to look at 1848 as a massive failure, the chance to drive down the remaining absolutist states, dismantle feudalism, and deliver on the dreams of a generation that a new world was at hand.

However, viewed from the arc of revolution and change in the 19th century, 1848 netted a fair haul of change and state alteration, and established a changed revolutionary landscape. It also was the model for states successfully challenging and overturning empire – which would bear fruit over the next 60 years in Romania, Finland, Norway, and Poland, and form the ideological basis for the remaking of the European map after the First World War. It was a turning point but in many directions. It ended the idea that constant liberal and popular agitation, alone, could achieve the dreams of a democratic nationalist Europe, it ended Romanticism as the dominant thesis of the age. It also opened the door to other kinds of revolution: Federalism on hand, exemplified by Switzerland, and that force which this essay will contend with as its main body, which has been variously labelled “reaction,” “conservative modernizing,” “revolution from above,” or “passive revolution.” All of these terms are too embedded in their ideological origins to be sufficient, and so new ones will be needed to balance them, or in some cases replace them.


Most fatefully it was the trigger for “The Communist Manifesto,” which was begun in 1847, and became explosive in the wake of 1848.

Mit einem Wort, die Kommunisten unterstützen überall jede revolutionäre Bewegung gegen die bestehenden gesellschaftlichen und politischen Zustände.

In allen diesen Bewegungen heben sie die Eigentumsfrage, welche mehr oder minder entwickelte Form sie auch angenommen haben möge, als die Grundfrage der Bewegung hervor.

Die Kommunisten arbeiten endlich überall an der Verbindung und Verständigung der demokratischen Parteien aller Länder.

Die Kommunisten verschmähen es, ihre Ansichten und Absichten zu verheimlichen. Sie erklären es offen, daß ihre Zwecke nur erreicht werden können durch den gewaltsamen Umsturz aller bisherigen Gesellschaftsordnung. Mögen die herrschenden Klassen vor einer kommunistischen Revolution zittern. Die Proletarier haben nichts in ihr zu verlieren als ihre Ketten. Sie haben eine Welt zu gewinnen.

Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!

In a word, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political conditions. In all these movements they bring to the front, regardless of what form it is in, the basic question of property as the basic question. The Communists labor everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and intentions. They openly declare that their ends can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist Revolution. The proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Workers of all lands, unite!

It is important to note that the manifesto recognizes conditions as revolutionary, even if they are not as far reaching as the manifesto requires, this includes Switzerland and Denmark, even France. The people of 1848 knew that they had come close to a more far reaching break through, and none of the movements involved escaped unchanged. That includes what might be called the conservative order.

The Crimean Catastrophe

While Romanticism and its off-shoots recognized their failure to achieve the climactic overthrow of the old order, the old order itself, was not in much better shape. The Romantic tendencies: anarchist, democratic, communist, socialist, popular nationalist, liberal, reforming were one of the two contending strands, the other was a reformed and adaptive strand of absolutism. It accepted the need for democratic forms, even if not democratic norms. Gone were the days when rulers could disdain calling parliaments. Repression, suppression, and arbitrary action were not, however, lost, but brought to new vehemence by access to a much greater state power and income than before, and with far lower costs of maintaining an aristocracy. The real losers of the 1789-1848 period had been the old aristocracy, who were more and more relegated to state servants and idle rich, rather than backbone of political an social arrangements.

One good measure for this was the rise of non-aristocratic cultural institutions. Haydn had worked much of his life for aristocrats, Bach for the church, Mozart and Beethoven had made their way with difficulty as private actors, Schubert died in obscurity. The next generation tacked between working in a Salon system still patronized by the aristocracy, and being able to support themselves by touring in concert halls, and founding orchestras. Mendelssohn in particular seeded orchestras and places his friends and students, such as Gade and Schumann, in charge of them. This move from aristocratic control to public and bourgeois funding was essential to shifting the basis of taste. And that shift came at the taste of the Princes and Dukes whose names populate the dedication pages of composers of an earlier era. The salon was not dead, but it was moving down market.

However the crucial and visible sign of defeat of the aristocratic order was the dismal Crimean War. Absolutism's main argument from its rise in 1648 after the Peace of Westphalia, was that the alternative was chaotic, as Hobbes put it, “war of all against all.” Inability to deliver that stability was a crushing pressure against its continuation would be a powerful blow against it.

Enter the Crimean War.


The End

This is the story of the Revolution that does not have a name, in part because neither the winners, nor the losers, wanted it to have one. From 1848-1873 the World changed dramatically, new nations were created, old regimes died, and human society changed dramatically. And yet people are taught to think of the 19th century from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until the First World War as a period without great conflicts. Perhaps compared to what followed, however the signature conflicts of the mid-century had over 2,000,000 military dead, headlined by the Crimean War, and the American Civil War.

Revolutions are named by the winners, who justify the revolution as a natural outgrowth of some axiomic principle: freedom, property, religion, and race, have all played their part, and are accepted if the revolution and its principle find some larger resonance, as the American Revolution found resonance in Latin America when, being a quarter century later, the inhabitants rebelled against the Spanish Empire. Then there are revolutions that people deny. Consider that the Nazi Party was a revolutionary movement, and named what had happened the “German Revolution,” of similar import and weight as the American, French, and Russian, Revolutions. The take over of mainland China is called “Liberation,” and we do not speak, in English of “The Chinese Revolution,” lead by Mao.

These words and terms are not neutral, but, instead a mixture of what happened, how it was received, and how people today are supposed to think of events. However, conventionality corrupts and well as communicates. By hiding events, or renaming them, we obscure the past. The 19th century is happily called the “Industrial Revolution,” for the same reason the political dimension is buried: both winners and losers are happy to fight over the legacy of industrialization, as the are loathe to admit the consequences of the political dimension.

Who are these winners and losers? On the winning side is the creation of the modern state and its primary beneficiaries: the professional and middle classes, and later the organized working class. The corporate world, and the broad middle class, that is professional, managerial, and organized working class, do not want to call it a revolution, precisely because the assertion being made is that this is a “natural” order, and, in an observation of Machiavelli, either a new order must make everything new, or it must pretend to preserve the old order. The losers were anti-capitalist forces, who were of two very different types. The older anti-capitalist force is that of the right: the landed, and most particularly the landed aristocracy, which included landed aristocracies in American, Japan, Russia, India, and Italy. The newer anti-capitalist forces were within the middle class, and within the organizing middle class. The result of this divided conflict is that the winners denied that there had been a revolution, and the losers were happy to name it the imposition of repression, and thus not “a revolution.”

However to deny the political dimension of the period is to ignore the creation of two new states in Central Europe: Germany and Italy, the overthrow of the bakufan in Japan, the negotiation of a dual monarchy to form the “Austo-Hungarian Empire,” and the creation of the British Empire in India., among others. Faced with a timeline, it is impossible to gloss over the overwhelming political change which the period accomplished.

But to make the argument for there not being a revolution from the loser's side is to create a paradox: the two losing forces are joined by their opposition to the concentration of power in the hands of those who controlled capital, but in practically no other way. The agrarian forces were practioners of slavery, serfdom, and every form of traditionalizing reactionary social organization, where as the labor and farther corners of the liberalizing movements, were aghast at all of this. Fundamentally the anti-capitalist forces of the left believed in the perfectability of human life, and the forces of the right believed that in the pious and agrarian feudal and aristocratic hierarchy, it had been perfected.

The problem with the narrative of a mid-century political revolution, is that it does not cleanly divide into separate forces, neatly arrayed and allied. The winners did not want to admit victory, and the losers wanted to paint their defeat as the result of repression, and possibly reactionary forces. Contrast this with labelling the era as primarily social and technological, and the demarcation of conflict changes: the agarians were losers, not of a political conflict, but were buried by the inevitable tied of technology, and the winners did not enact political change, they road the rails to new heights of power. Each side could point to its inherent goodness, and even the winning forces could romanticize what was lost. Thus the compromise: deny the political, or make it isolated and scattered response to what was an overwhelming technological wave. Except this misses that in many cases, the side which would eventually lose, started the conflict, and was sure of victory. The American Civil War was touched off by the South, not the North.

Thus the birth of the “Long 19th Century” narrative: that 1789 marked the beginning of a fundamentally different era which had evolutionary steps after the end of Napoleonic wars

The next twist was the coming of the next wave of change. The modern wanted to cast itself in opposition to a long era of tradition and reaction. The eternal truths that the older era used to anchor itself, were the very weapon used against it rhetorically. The disintegration of absolute time in physics, the failure of the classical gold standard, the seemingly rock solid Christian literalism falling before geology and evolutionary theory were all examples of how, by creating a fictional eternity, the era was buried under the rocks it had hewn.

 Because key to the mid-century revolution was creating seeming eternal principles which could anchor radical change, and the change was, indeed, quite radical.