Sunday, January 18, 2009

What do we want? Gradual change! When do we want it? In due course!

Ages ago, I wrote that "subversion is better than revolution, always." There are plenty of good reasons to qualify that claim: Nimble-minded tricksters are certainly more appealing than grabby protesters, many of whom are hippies, but it's hard to imagine how an oppressed group can use underhanded mischief to bring about structural change; subversive tricks won't alter the status quo, just make it easier to cope with.

Luckily, James C. Scott offers a picture of how subversion might (eventually!) translate into something like revolution:
Once a practice was established it could be considered a custom, and a custom, steadily exercised, was nearly as good as a right in law. The process was, however, nearly imperceptible under ordinary circumstances so as not to provoke an open confrontation. For example, villagers might secretly girdle the bark of trees just below ground level and then, when the tree inevitably died, openly take the dead tree, to which they were entitled. Alternatively, they might conceal green boughs in the center of a bundle of dead wood. Gradually, they might, if not checked, increase the proportion of green wood till it made up most of the load. This incremental process might accelerate precipitously whenever forest enforcement was lax, as those who had held back now rushed in to take the wood, game, pasturage, and peat to which they all along thought they had a right.
The chant in this post's title was conceived as satire, but, for once, I mean it.

UPDATE: That quote is from Domination and the Arts of Resistance.

No comments:

Post a Comment