Who wants to be a Revolutionary? That’s pretty much the question that Marcos Perez was trying to answer from the perspective of a sociologist. And yes, it is an incredibly interesting question to look at, especially to know the different sociological theories and how they have evolved over the 20th century. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, prominent thinking included Durkheim’s “Collective Effervescence” and also the ideas of “crowd mentality” – how individuality is lost when you enter a crowd. I personally haven’t spent much time in large crowds since I normally try to avoid them, but I think anyone could attest to the difference in energy that a crowd can have—an energy that no single person can have on their own, or obvious hope to generate without a crowd. A random example would be seeing a movie in the theater. Sometimes it’s nice to have the whole place to yourself and a few friends and then it feels like a private showing. But when I went to see Star Wars last year and the theater was totally packed with big fans, there was an electrifying feel in the air with all the excitement emanating off the crowd. This may not be an apt analogy for something like a protest or insurgency movement, but both contexts share the heightened emotions that come with being in a crowd of people sharing a common moment. I don’t think I can answer why exactly I, or anyone else, would participate in a protest, especially since sociologists have been struggling to answer that question for hundreds of years. I can’t imagine the high costs and personal sacrifice that comes to those who lead the revolutions. Then for those who join a revolution as a revolutionary, Perez mentioned how there isn’t really an incentive for one person, who can’t make much of an additional difference. This leads to a collective action dilemma.
In the question and answer period after the lecture, the conflict between “global” and “local” was identified as a driver in these recent movements. We could look to what some describe as revolutionary movements in the United States, with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, then around the world with far-right movements and decisions like the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union. The shocks of globalization have improved many lives, but has also left a lot of people behind. President-elect Donald Trump saw this and used the “local card” politically, and clearly it was a popular move and sentiment that rewarded him. 2016 seems to have been a wakeup call for globalization. Another big topic in the aftermath of the US election has been fake news. How does something like the ability of any individual or organization to post any opinion or fabrication as fact shift the balance of agency vs social structure in revolution? But now I wonder how revolution happens. Perez noted that one train of thought is that the third world will play an important part as a rising actor in global revolution.