Sunday, November 11, 2012

Barzun on Revolution

Jacques Barzun, in From Dawn To Decadence, 2000, discussing what happens to the intellectual life of a country in revolution (defined as a violent transfer of power, whether quickly or slowly)
A curious leveling takes place: the common people learn words and ideas hitherto not familiar and not interesting and discuss them like intellectuals, while other people neglect their usual concerns art, philosophy, scholarship - because there is only one compelling topic, the revolutionary Idea.
I think not only of the American Revolution or the Protestant Reformation when I read that, but smaller examples as well. This happens in any great change, violent or not, though it may be less pronounced.

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