Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bernard-Henri Lévy on Revolution in France

This is from an interview with Bernard-Henri Lévy in Opinion Journal. Lévy is about to publish a book called American Vertigo for which he retraced the steps of Alexis de Tocqueville. (His account was originally published in 4 parts in the Atlantic Monthly, who commissioned it.)

"The reign of ideologies in France was linked to the concept of revolution. As long as some believed in revolution, you had a distribution of ideologies." The moment when "the dream of revolution collapsed" --a dream of which Mr. Lévy once partook--ideology decamped from the battleground of French politics.

When did the dream of revolution die? "With Cambodia," Mr. Lévy answers. This was an event "much more important than the fall of the Berlin Wall. When the Hegel of modern times will write this history, he will say that the real crucial event was Cambodia." Why? "Because till Cambodia all the revolutionaries in the world believed that revolution had failed because it didn't go far enough, because it wasn't radical enough." And then Cambodia happened--"the first revolution in history to be really radical. . . . And what did we discover, all of us? Instead of paradise, revolution gives absolute hell."

It is worth reading the whole article.
His alternative options for the Iraq War are inadequate ('wait for Saddam to die ... or for an opposition movement to grow up'), but the distinction between France ('a nation based on roots, on the idea of soil, on a common memory') with the US (which 'proves that people can gather at a given moment and decide to form a nation, even if they come from different places') is a very interesting one, and worth mulling over.
(via ninme)

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