Throughout the entirety of human history, communities of people have organized around principles and agendas that prompt social change. What does it mean to be a revolutionary? Why do some people make substantial economic, social, and political sacrifices to effect real change while others do not? Revolutions are not clear-cut. They are a confusing event, especially during the time in which they occur. Living through a revolution can be extremely confusing because its effects may occur at a much later time. A revolution, simply, is an event that prompts social change. There is no time limit on revolution.
The prospect of a global revolution is something relatively new, formed during the mid 19th century. The concept is something wholly new and entirely dependent on a connected global sphere. Before this time, a joint social agenda was not something that could realistically be achieved. The global standard of sociality was not set. Each territory had specific needs and desires. There was no
Okay, now that we have established some background on the idea of revolutions. Why is it that people join revolutions? This is perhaps the most interesting idea that comes from revolutions. The actors in revolutions are, without fail, brave and bold. In order to form a revolution, one must battle through the high economic and social costs of establishing a movement. More important than the costs of establishing a movement is the collective shared dilemma that must take place. There must be a substantial group of people who share social, political, and economic reform in the same way that you do. This, on its own, is rather hard to accomplish. There is a finite number of agendas upon which one could garner substantial participation. The last piece of a revolution is that success cannot be guaranteed. Imagine you are starting a business; you are given a specific amount of money, an idea, and a work force. Unfortunately, the product you are selling is not wanted, and it turns out to not be needed. This is the risk that a revolutionary must face. There is no guarantee that efforts will pay off.
Again, why do people join or start revolutions? Ok, so the real, and simple reason is, it is a social actor’s only shot at gaining support and recognition to an issue that is important and personal to them. On the surface, that is the basic prompt for a revolutionary. But clearly, there is much more at play than that.
Let’s quickly look at the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Many of the actors in these protests were actually children of the people against whom they were protesting. Why would such a social paradox take place? Is it guilt? Or anger? The heart of the movement was founded with rational and well founded intentions. But the movement became something so distant from its original intentions, that the goals disappeared. Protesting happened for the sake of protest. Are these people considered revolutionaries? I’m not so sure.