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New Left Review 2, March-April 2000


Göran Therborn on Noel Parker, Revolutions and History, and Fred Halliday, Revolution and World Politics. Two new contributions to the literature on revolution—where does it stand today?

GORAN THERBORN

RECONSIDERING REVOLUTIONS

Between our contemporary concepts of revolution and modernity there is an intimate mutual dependence. She who does not understand revolution does not understand modernity, and he who does not understand modernity does not understand revolution. Both notions denote a rupture with the past, an affirmation of the innovative capacity of the present, and a vision of the future as an open horizon, on which new lands will be discovered and new houses built, never seen before. The history of modernity is a history of revolutions: scientific, industrial, post-industrial, info-tech; sexual, artistic and, last but not least, political—American, French, Russian and Anti-Colonial. It is no surprise there should be a close, if by no means invariable, connexion between scientific or aesthetic avant-gardes and revolutionary politics, from the socialism of Einstein to the communism of Picasso.

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