Revolution as History's Emergency Brake!

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, PhD
Professor and Chair of Near Eastern Studies
Director of Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies
Princeton University

Revolutions express a public desire to make history, rather than reproducing it along the same prescribed futures. Revolutions open moments of possibilities to enact historical transformations without intransigent commitment to predetermined outcomes. But since the dawn of the age of revolutions, they have always been understood as “that transitory phase” that bridges one stage of history to another. Even Marx, the theorist of revolution, and his successors believed that revolution was a moment of transition, thus limiting the significance of politics to the realization of a predestined future. The evolutionary core of this radical ideology confined politics to the prison house of a history in which revolutions operate as the means of a temporal abbreviation. In this talk, I would argue that in contrast to a commonplace conception, revolutions need to be considered as a moment of pause in rather than acceleration of historical time.