Category: History Essay
History of ancient medieval political thought

Causes of Revolution and Political Change

The issue of the causes of revolutions and political changes troubled the ancient philosophers, but up today, no one has given the correct answer. This question is closely connected with the laws of the origin and development of the state. Modern science is based on the objective of the materialist conception of the universe, which explains the origin of the state as a product of the internal evolution of society. The state has an eternal nature; it does not exist in a primitive society and appears only at the final stage of its development due to the varied reasons. Rather, it is about the transition to new forms of organizing the economic life, which leads to the social stratification of society and the emergence of classes, with the purpose of consolidating the state as a new organizational form of society. State appeared, when the social and class antagonisms objectively could not be reconciled, and the socio-economic development of society allowed the population to guide themselves at the expense of a special control unit. All changes in society are associated with frustration, struggle and contradictions. However, the revolution is the engine of progress, the step to move to a new level.

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Thucydides and Plato in some cases agree on the causes of revolutions and political change. The ideas of the first philosopher as to the discussed questions become clear in his description of the class struggle in the period of the Peloponnesian War. As Thucydides underlines, the cause of each revolution is the natural desire of people to rule and not to be under someone elses yoke.

As he describes, during the Peloponnesian War, the thirst for peace in both warring camps caused not only fatigue, but predominantly the intensification of the class struggle erupting with a considerable force in one and then in another place. During the war, the class antagonism reached a higher voltage. The Peloponnesian War intensified class contradictions between slaves and slave owners, and in the environment of free citizens, as long concealed beneath a shiny outer shell. The war-upset life, deprived people of all the comforts of life, and it became, in the words of Thucydides, a teacher of violence.

In the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, there are pages devoted to the description of the state of Greek society during the war by an outstanding master of the word. The meaning of Thucydides reasoning about the issue is as follows. The war, depriving people all the comforts of everyday life, caused what has long been seething inside. Anarchy began in the cities, and people under the influence of the news of the military catastrophe surpassed each other in the sophistication of their intrigues and revenge. Even the ordinary meaning of the words changed. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage ; prudent slowness - specious cowardice ; judgment - guise coward ; care to all - a complete inability to business , careful consideration - for a decent excuse to avoid (Thucydides, n.d.). In a daring attempt to destroy each other, the struggling sides were decided at worst , resorting to all means beyond the confines of justice and public good, but just trying to figure that at this moment a satisfying one or the other party (Thucydides, n.d.). With the acquisition of voting power by unfair or violence, they were ready to satiate their momentary passion (Thucydides, n.d.) A memorable example of the civil war in Greece is the revolution on the island of Corfu in 427.

The history of this revolution in a few words is as follows. Oligarchs, acting in the interests of Corinth, made a conspiracy, killed sixty Democrats, board members and dignitaries, citizens and seized the power. However, not everyone among the Democrats gave up the part of their consolidated power at the Acropolis. The struggle continued, both sides called on their side slaves promising freedom. Most of the slaves sided with the Democrats, and eight hundred people from the mainland rescued by their opponents. The Democrats fought hard, women bravely helped them, and the victory was on their side. The oligarchs took a refuge in the temple of Hera as worshipers. Peloponnesian ships came to the aid and though defeated the Corfus fleet, did not have time to help the oligarchs: the arrival of the Athenian fleet made ??them turn back. Then, the Democrats went into the sanctuary of Hera and waged a brutal massacre of their opponents: they convinced the part of the congregation to stand trial and sentenced them to death. Others, having learned about it and hoping for the salvation, began to kill each other right there in the temple. During the week, they killed everyone, who seemed suspicious to them. Along with the oligarchs prominent wealthy creditor suffered, whom their debtors killed. Death then appeared in all forms, there was all that usually happens in times like these.

Thucydides, who saw the social ideal of the Golden Age of Pericles and deeply bowed before the personality of the leader of Athens, in the description of Corfu revolution fell into a total despair, raising events in Corfu in the immutable law of all dorms, rooted in the human nature. Thucydides emphasizes that

as a result of civil wars, a lot of serious troubles struck the state, poverty, what are and will always be, as long as human nature remains the same. These woes can be stronger, weaker, and they differ in their manifestations, depending on the circumstances under which comes the vicissitudes of life in each individual case. (n.d.)

Thucydides is highly pessimistic about the very possibility of effective governance in times of the civil strife. Indeed, the leaders of both parties underlined that they were guaranteeing the equality for all or moderate aristocracy (Thucydides, n.d.). They claimed they were fighting for the good of the state, but in reality, fought each other for dominance. In every possible way trying to beat each other, they committed a crime, but in their vindictiveness, they went even further, guided by justice, rather than a good state, but only in terms of benefit of one party over another. Having achieved power through fraudulent voting or violence, they were ready at every moment to satisfy their hatred of the enemies. The piety and fear of the gods were for both parties just empty words, and those, who committed under the cover of fine words any dishonest act, reputed to be even more braver. Moderate citizens, who did not belong to any party, appeared to be the victims of both. Many of these crimes were for the first time on Corfu. Some were caused by revenge rulers of those, who ruled unreasonable; others gave rise to the desire to get rid of the usual poverty and lawless ways to master the good of their fellow citizens.

Thucydides proposed the explanation of social upheavals and revolutions, which shows that even such a deep mind of antiquity could not get up to a proper understanding of the driving forces of social upheaval and made reference to the human nature.

In this context, it is essential to understand the attitude of Plato towards the idea of changes and ??revolution. The times, in which Plato lived, were full of wars and political upheavals. Plato knew firsthand about different versions of the state system - the oligarchy, aristocracy, democracy and tyranny. Plato compared types of people with the state systems. He correlated aristocratic methods of government with an honest and fair man that is also the best in his mind. The worst people are those, who always compete with each other and are ambitious correspondingly to Lacedaemon type of governing; then, there are the oligarchic, democratic and tyrannical types. From the debate, it is possible to investigate the likes and dislikes to a particular system. Philosophers agree that one system is fairer than the other one. In addition, in the second book of the same dialogue, there is an example of the ideal state, which, by the way, is substantially different from Athens, the Peloponnesian War, in which, apparently, this dialogue occurred. Thus, philosophers agree on the desirability of change and, in fact, carry out the philosophical pre-revolutionary activities, namely developing an understanding of the final state of society from the possible (but not yet the accomplished) revolution.

Platos ideal state is the most just society, the validity of which is provided by the wisest opinion, impartial and nearly ideal rulers. Platos governor - subordinate relationship is not the top down. A wise ruler is, in fact, an elected position as a modern president or a Member of Parliament, who has a considerable experience and is chosen from the best. Thus, Platos ideal state is more democracy than the aristocracy is. An interesting point can be found in the Parable of the Cave from the same dialog. From a person, who got rid of the shackles and the will of fate, got the opportunity of education , Plato demands of civil heroism - saving his people: "... in good faith , they will not act , believing that even when life moved to the Isle of the Blessed . We will not allow them to remain there, on top of the reluctance to descend again to those prisoners, and, for better or worse poverty if they have to share with them their labors and honors ... This speaks of the need of a progressive person to sacrifice, the need for an enlightened person to voluntarily humble and down again into the darkness of the cave for the sake of his people, because the law aims not the welfare of any one segment of the population, but the good of the state. Then, the thought about the unwillingness of the public to follow the rescue of the descended revolutionary occurs. This question brings to the broad theme of promoting revolutionary ideas. Plato concludes that all the time the regressive philistine public opposes any changes that contribute towards the emergence of discomfort in their habitual way. In the case of cave men, as in all other similar situations, a revolutionary man has to do a long, patient educational work prior to the revolution - the exit upstairs. The transition of society from one historical state to another is an extremely energy-intensive process. A long preparatory educational work, with public opinion and much energy is needed to attract big masses. Apparently, in the same way, Socrates and many other philosophers imagined their revolutionary mission - as a mission of generators and promoters of the values of tomorrow. Therefore , though in itself a dialogue about the state does not lead to an immediate revolution in ancient Greece, it is possible to consider it as a popularization of the ideas of good and justice, an invaluable contribution to the development of a multi-stage pre-revolutionary activities, leading the humanity forward to the final revolution and the ideal world .

To make a conclusion, Plato and Thucydides believed in some degree that the dissatisfaction caused by the regime of the ruling class and the desire for a change always lead to a revolution. Political changes are always desirable on the one hand. However, they generate an eternal contradiction of those, who want to rule, and those, who do not want to give up the power, on the other hand.

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