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vendredi 3 août 2012

Previous Revolutions

To go out with a bang from her current job, your blogger wrote an article about an item here in Philadelphia that resonates with current debates about rights and the will of the people.

One thing that gets complicated in the spread of ideas is who owns the idea and how the ideas are transmitted. For instance, many revolutionary ideals, most obviously liberty, equality and fraternity, are closely identified with the French Revolution. The narrative of class struggle often uses the Russian Revolution as a jumping off point. Both of these ideas perceive and present themselves as universal, even if they are often interpreted differently according to location.

And yet, there is a good deal of push-back. For instance, in the Maghreb, political parties need to tread carefully when they espouse "European" ideals, or risk being identified as the "hizba faransa" and labeled as traitors. And there is plenty of talk of "cultural imperialism." However, there is a difference between forcing a system onto an unstable state, and benefiting from a free exchange of ideas. Colonialism understandably makes some people wary of ideas, but it would be unwise to dismiss them out of hand.

Of course, not everyone goes around in their daily life comparing political systems. It might, in fact, be helpful to focus on what themes systems have in common, instead of pitting them against one another. Unfortunately, as the Poetic Politico points out, sometimes people in power view this as a threat, instead of considering that it might provide a useful lens for people experiencing a painful transition.