The modern language of “revolution,” which enables us to reflect on ourselves as apart from and—if we desire—in conflict with society, finds its roots in the French Revolution, nearly 200 years ago. Here we have both a model for insurrection and a legend to which subsequent anti-society movements could appeal. Here is the source of gruesome facts and of inspiring ideals for anarchists and Marxists alike. But here too is the stark reminder that political insurrection may be little more than a myth.
Among the many modern disciples of Marx, the most widely recognized in this past decade has been Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse thinks that man has been so manipulated by capitalism that he actually enjoys affluence and its consequent values. In an attempt to climb out of his pessimism, Marcuse expresses in his book One Dimensional Man the hope that youth and the intelligentsia will become radical and change society. How this could happen Marcuse doesn’t tell us, but French students made a good attempt to put his words into action in May and June, 1968. The failure of what was potentially a second French revolution may in the light of history prove to be the largest single pragmatic reason for the decline of youth insurgency. In an era of pragmatism, it didn’t work! But the language of the revolutionary continued to be used and was given new meaning on the university campuses, in hippie pads, and even among Christian youth.
Setting aside the problem of cultural syncretism by Christians, it appears that humanly speaking the language of the revolutionary has provided symbolic hardware that has halted the rapid decline of the youth membership of the Christian “Church.” I say “the language” because this symbolizes the potential dynamic and ...1