In Search of Community
THE use of history, Benjamin Nelson has said, is to rescue from oblivion the lost causes of the past. History is especially important when those causes haunt us in the present as unfinished business.
I have spoken before of the “missed revolutions” that we have inherited. My idea is that it is not with impunity that fundamental social changes fail to take place at the appropriate time; the following generations are embarrassed and confused by their lack. This subject would warrant a special study. Some revolutions fail to occur; most half-occur or are compromised, attaining some of their objectives, effecting significant social changes; but giving up on others, producing ambiguous values in the social whole that would not exist if the change had been more thoroughgoing. For in general, a profound revolutionary program projects a new workable kind of behavior, a new actuality of the nature of man, a new whole society; just as the traditional society it tries to replace is a whole society that the revolutionists think is out of date. But a compromised revolution tends to disrupt the tradition without achieving a new social balance.
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