The Anatomy of Revolution by Clarence Crane Brinton repays close study.

We find that:

  • Revolutionary movements arise in the discontent of prosperous people who feel “restraint, cramp and annoyance, rather than downright crushing oppression”.
  • Successful revolutionaries “are born of hope, and their philosophies are formally optimistic.”
  • Pre-revolutionary societies contain “very bitter class antagonisms” of considerable complexity.
  • There must be a transfer of allegiance of the intellectuals.
  • The governmental machinery must be inefficient under the strain of neglect and new circumstances.
  • The old ruling class – those antagonising the remainder – have come to distrust themselves, losing faith in their approach and becoming inept.
  • The financial breakdown of the state is often a trigger.

We discover that a working model of society is a network of interactions among individuals with a great many interwoven strands of connection. These connections are set by habit and world view and may sometimes be changed. Moreover, we learn that, when the law and exhortation are used to change behaviour, the effects are not long lasting:

In general many things men do, many human habits, sentiments, dispositions, cannot be changed at all rapidly, that the attempt made by the extremists to change them by law, terror, and exhortation fails, that the convalescence brings them back not greatly altered.

As David Cameron calls for a responsibility revolution, we must hope, on the historical evidence, that the country is poised for such a thing, and we must hope that the New Left’s cultural revolution of state dependency produced by law and exhortation turns out to be reversible.

It seems quite likely.

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