Thursday, August 13, 2009

A 'New' American Revolution? Read and Discuss

Puttering around while students are taking their finals, I began rereading a section of Gordon Wood's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Radicalism of the American Revolution. And the following passages struck me:

"Mob actions by cross sections or ordinary people, artisans and laborers, were nothing new in colonial America. In all the colonies mobs had erupted almost continually in the eighteenth century, aiming at particular targets in protest against problems that the regular processes of government seemed unable to solve. Far from being symptoms of democracy, these mob protest simply demonstrated the extend to which the society was still hierarchically and paternalistically organized. Although those eighteenth-century mobs were undoubtedly anti-authoritarian and could on occasion temporarily turn "the world upside-down," by their actions they always recognized "the world right side up" and seemed to pose no lasting threat to the political and social order; which is why they were so often tolerated by the gentry." (Woods, 244).

1) Evaluate this argument with regards to the anti-Bush protesters during the Second Iraq War.


"What alarmed the gentry of the 1760s and 1770s, however, were the growing ideologically backed claims by ordinary people to a share in the actual conduct of the government. It was one thing for ordinary people to take part in a mob or to vote; for them to participate in the deliberations and decisions of government was quite another. By classical republican standards such participation would imply the participation of private "interests" in government, with the participants becoming judges of their own interests. Yet this was precisely what democracy in America came to mean." (ibid.)

2) Discuss this argument in the context of the Tea Party movement and the anti-health-care-revision protests of 2009.

3) Attack or defend the following proposition: the anti-Bush protests, although successful in driving the Republicans from office, were ultimately less revolutionary than the anti-government protests of 2009.

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