The metaphorical revolution
Hello! I’m Simon. Welcome to my blog. Today, I will be reviewing what I’ve learnt in my most recent project called Storm The Barricades. This project revolved around the ideas and theory of a famous historian called Crane Brinton. Mr Brinton’s most famous work is a book called The Anatomy of a Revolution. Throughout this project, we studied his theory of revolution and applied it to our work. But what did we do? Well, to simplify it, we had two portions to our in class work:
- Rube Goldberg machines.
- Short videos.
All right! let’s get into the rest of this blog post.
What are the stages of a revolution according to Crane Brinton’s theory? (you can skip this part and go straight to the “What we did throughout this project” section)
Let’s start off with the definition of a revolution as defined by my teachers: “A drastic, sudden substitution of one group in charge for a territorial or political entity by another.” From this, we know that during a revolution, the old government takes power and a new one takes over. He saw a revolution to a disease. The message that this sends is that he saw revolutions are a waste of time, effort and human lives. But, if a revolution is a disease, there are “symptoms” in a revolution, as well as “stages”.
Stage One is the incubation phase. It can be considered the backstory or build-up to a revolution. Often during this phase, the government will increase taxes. Twill be paid by the lower and middle class. There’s a build-up of a class antagonism, or resentment against another group (ex: resentment against the government since they are the ones who are taxing.) This leads to Stage Two. There is also often political weakness; the government attempts to reform, but fails. This means that the people or person in power is or are inept. During this incubation, intellectuals will often start to speak out against the government.
Stage Two is the rise to action. This is when the revolution’s “symptoms” start to show. Around this time, the country will suffer a financial breakdown or a regression. a good example of recession is The Great Depression, which took place in America from 1929-1933. There is also a symbolic event(s) that will take place, such as protests or other civil movements, riots, or attacks. This leads to a show of force. The government often try to suppress these actions using the police or army. A good example of this is what happened in Portland, Oregon involving the Black Lives Matter movement. During this time, a moderate group (moderates being the people in the middle, neither radicals nor loyalists) might take power and create a new constitution.
Stage Three is the crisis stage or radical regime. During the French Revolution’s this period of time was known as The Reign of Terror. Violence increases and a radical group who strongly opposes the old regime will take power. This means that the moderates lose control. Often, the radicals will use the army or another military force to seize power. There is also a centralization of power, which is to say that this new radical regime will bring all of its power into a certain group of people, turning them into what are known as”strong men.” Strong men are individuals with a lot of political power. The next symptom is called “terror and virtue.” It means that terror is used to exercise justice. To quote the man in charge of the radical group known as the Jacobin Club during the French Revolution, one Maximilien de Robespierre:
Stage Four is the recovery stage, more commonly known as the Thermidorian reaction. During this stage, the radicals are ousted from power and moderates return. A government similar to the old regime but modified and reformed by the revolution. The moderates receive amnesty. There is a return to quieter times. The nation is on an uneven path to recovery, to normal times. There’s also a rise of nationalism. Rise in patriotism and other ideals that may lead to war or invasion of other countries. And that concludes the stages of the revolution as seen by Crane Brinton.
- Side note: here’s a really interesting article about America on the path to revolution. Click here if you’re interested!
What we did throughout this project
In this section, I will briefly summarize our work and reflect on what I’ve learnt throughout. The first part of our project after studying Crane Brinton’s theory was showing what we’ve learnt. We planned out our storyboard for the story we wanted our Rube Goldberg machine to tell, as well as the metaphors we wanted to use to tell that story. The story that we were telling with out first machine was a story of Crane Brinton’s theory and its different stages. The objects that traveled through our machine were marbles, which represented the society. We had the marbles transform and change color throughout, the different colors representing the group in charge. Our video was the medium (singular of media) which we used to present the story we built. In this section we learnt how to apply our knowledge to ideas and metaphors and how to represent those ideas and metaphors physically. The next thing we did was study the American Revolution and the modify our machine so that the metaphors so that they now revolved around the story of the American Revolution. We also re-shot our first film, building off the feedback and constructive criticism we received. During this section, we learnt how to modify and transform our ideas to fit our new goals. Then, we studied the French Revolution and, once again modified our machines and re-shot our film to tell the story of a different event. It was also quite a different power structure for the radicals in France during their revolution, so the story ended up playing out differently. During this section, we expanded on all the previous things that we learnt, such as the idea of modifying something to tell a different story. Finally, we had to create a top notch video that told the story of a revolution alongside Crane Brinton’s theory. We modified the machine a tiny bit, but for the most part it remained the same. What we learnt in this section is the finer details of storytelling and how to tie in a theory to a engaging story.
Our final product
The curricular competencies and our driving question
Our driving question to the project, or the question that we worked to answer by the end of the project was “how do revolutions change societies?” Revolutions change societies by transforming their government, social structures and history. They take down the old government which ends up being replaced by an unbalanced, unsustainable violent government, which will then be replaced by a government similar to the original, but reformed by the revolution. The new government, will learn from the past; But revolutions can also teach society. I doubt that France, if it were to ever have a revolution again, would have one similar to the original, given the way that they re-organized the social structure post revolution. In summary, revolutions change society through violence which then leads to a reformed and improved version of their previous political structure.