How Revolution Became an Adjective


| 3/18/2014 4:11:00 PM


Tags: Revolution, Consumption, Occupy, Arab Spring, 1960s, Social Media, Activism, Thomas Jefferson, American Revolution, French Revolution, TomDispatch, Lewis Lapham.,

 

Political revolt and the accumulation of more.

This essay will appear in "Revolution," the Spring 2014 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version originally appeared at TomDispatch.

In case of rain, the revolution will take place in the hall.
Erwin Chargaff

For the last several years, the word “revolution” has been hanging around backstage on the national television talk-show circuit waiting for somebody, anybody—visionary poet, unemployed automobile worker, late-night comedian—to cue its appearance on camera. I picture the word sitting alone in the green room with the bottled water and a banana, armed with press clippings of its once-upon-a-time star turns in America’s political theater (tie-dyed and brassiere-less on the barricades of the 1960s countercultural insurrection, short-haired and seersucker smug behind the desks of the 1980s Reagan Risorgimento), asking itself why it’s not being brought into the segment between the German and the Japanese car commercials.

Surely even the teleprompter must know that it is the beast in the belly of the news reports, more of them every day in print and en blog, about income inequality, class conflict, the American police state. Why then does nobody have any use for it except in the form of the adjective, revolutionary, unveiling a new cellphone app or a new shade of lipstick?