Inquires around the concept of a “revolution” are endless. What constitutes a revolution? When will we have a revolution? When will we have the revolution? Professor of Sociology Marcos Perez discusses why people choose to participate in revolutions, despite their limited success by asking the following question: are our current systems sustainable? Although no system is sustainable in the way it is currently operating forever, when is a system flawed to the point where a revolution is inevitable? The flaws necessary to spark a revolution not only have to upset people, but upset people to the point where they are willing to act, and sometimes, willing to die for change. But if success is rarely guaranteed, why would individuals subject themselves to injury and possibly death? Perez referenced the psychological term, the crowd mentality, suggesting that individuals, when grouped together, lose their individuality. Individuals are not individuals anymore; they make up a large conglomerate of people fighting for the same cause. Along with the crowd mentality, inhibitions, vulnerabilities, and even opinions are altered. Although it seems paradoxical that one could be fighting and potentially dying for something that he or she doesn’t actually believe in, the crowd mentality erases this. The group has opinions and objectives reflective of the movement itself, not individuals within the movement.
Although the psychology behind why people join movements has been discussed, it is imperative to consider why the movements begin in the first place. Perez discusses two theories discussing society and revolution: Functionalists, and Rationalists. Functionalists believe that protest was crazy: why would people subject themselves to violence? Rationalists on the other hand believed that protest was inevitable: people were always going to be upset and if they had resources, protest would ensue. Although neither postulate is correct on its own, bits and pieces from each theory contribute to the reason why revolutions and uprisings exist. From the rationalist perspective, it is true that there will always be people unhappy and upset with how society hurts and detracts from them, however, rationalists are incorrect in assuming that just because injustice may exist, an uprising might occur. In order for a massive uprising to take place, people have to be impacted to the point where they have reached their tipping point, that the injustice that exists is so great that people have nothing to lose, and thus have no other option but to rebel and protest. The idea that groups of people have a threshold of injustice that they can endure before they take action also takes fundamental properties from the functionalist theory: people will not protest. While people may protest, they will not take great action until they have reached their tipping point.
So the question remains: what is the tipping point and when is it reached? If there really is an enormous revolution coming our way in America, what is it? What will catalyze it? As of today, the United States remains divided: a liberal revolution followed by a conservative backlash and counter revolution separates the country even further. It is not a matter of if we will reach our tipping point, it is when.