Jameson is doing a disservice to the current needs for deep change by trying to undermine the idea of revolution. But, no matter, such a perspective is nothing new: it is part of the ‘end of history’ delusion that has accompanied the neo-liberal age. He is right in one way, but postmodern disillusion/dissolution isn’t going to help. The American system is going to get worse and worse, and without a new revolution it will become a nightmarish monstrosity. It is almost there already.
Let us not become passive, despairing, or disillusioned and consider the classic impulses behind the rise of modern social structure, revolution. We can’t avoid the conclusion that revolution created modern (democratic) systems, and that, unless we think they finished the job forever, we must expect new ones. One of the tasks of modernity is to decipher and apply the riddle of revolution: it is an exercise in complex systems, and the legacy of the revolutions of the early modern shows how losing control of revolutions was a liability.
We should consider the hint of the Founding Fathers: new revolutions will become necessary.
Here the idea of utopia has confused the issue. Let’s forget utopia. Instead the archetype of revolution shows a clear set of stages or phases: a rebellion, or revolution, and then the creation of a constitutional starting point. The balance of transitional power and democratic outcomes, democracy in some sense, is tricky and the source of derailment. Let us note that the Russian revolution is misleading us. Stalin created a coup d’etat and seized power. At that power the ‘revolution’ was over, and we see the action of a caudillo. And there are many other anomalies.
What we need is not provided by the Russian case (but it must be studied) is a clear set of procedures to refound a body politic according to principles that are a resolution of the problem at hand: here capitalism, and the domination of private property. The only candidate is a communism that is a democracy, and we should now say neo-communism.
Here we have suggested that communism should be taken to start as a settlement of the issue of the Commons: all property taken from the Commons must return to it. A new society founded on this principle by revolution or other means can move to create a new type of society that can realize the goals of the early modern revolutions and their socialist successors.
We can point to any number of problems with revolution, but we are not required to accept the sophistries of postmodernists as a substitute. Nor do we have to submit to despair. Most rockets blew up on the launch pad, and for a long time, til the technique was mastered. Ditto for the revolution. The critical issue is to define revolution and be clear about what we are doing. It is unfair to challenge revolution from the left, for what we are getting now is revolution from the right.