Week 5: Roots of Revolution

Consider the role of revolution in governmental structure and culture. Provide an example from the reading for the week or your experience visiting the National Archives to explain the relationship between philosophy and political action.


From student CA

Dear Professor and class,

When thinking about “revolutions”, and the true meaning of the word, I feel that it represents desire, and a driving force to achieve a goal. With this in mind, we can easily use the example of America battling for freedom against British rule. America was upset over the taxes that Britain was forcing on them, and many of the laws that benefited Britain and made life harder for Americans. In the reading, Peter Gay describes this period of revolution as “freedom from arbitrary power, freedom of speech, freedom of trade, freedom to realize one’s talents, freedom of aesthetic response, freedom, in a word, of moral man to make his way in the world.” (Sayre, 2013). What all revolutions have in common, contemporary ones and those in the past, is resistance to a perceived tyranny. It makes a big difference if the tyranny is seen as an imposition from outside, as it was in America in 1776, and in this century, in India and elsewhere, or if the tyranny is seen to reside in an internal structure, as in France in the 18th century and Russia and China in the 20th. The purpose of all revolutionaries, nevertheless, is to achieve power. According to Sayre., H. M. (2013).  The American Declaration of Independence is one of the Enlightenment’s boldest assertions of freedom. In some instances, it may suffice simply to shift power to local hands and leave the social order essentially unchanged. This is what happened in the American Revolution. In others – as was the case in France and Russia – power is redistributed and the society is turned upside down. The more familiar kind of Latin American upheaval, the palace coup where a leader is removed from power by the people who have worked with him or her.


Sayre, H. M. (2013). Discovering the humanities (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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