Dawson’s definition of revolution is interesting. He states that “revolution is a claim of ownership on history” and “an attempt to shape a view of the past that organises power in the present” through inheritance or attributing meaning. Before the American Revolution, “revolution” was a much more literal word. Revolutionaries would want to “revolve” or revert back to the old method of operations because they were unhappy with a new government. I’d like to argue that American revolutionaries redefined this term as their government did not revert back to British rule pre-reforms that caused the revolution in the first place. This form of revolution took global hold, as France, Haiti, and eventually Latin America revolted under this new definition. To my understanding, in Latin America, the goal of revolutions was to create new governments that would better represent the population (or at least the population in power); whether they achieved this is a different question, but I’d say in the context of Latin America, revolution is definitely more of a “claim of ownership on history,” or on a time period in history where the revolution and its leaders is the most significant aspect, than Dawson’s other argument.
I believe some themes we brought up early in the term appear here again. Continuity vs change, for example, can be applied to revolutions. Earlier in the term we discussed if revolutions really change anything. Dawson argues in the lecture that politically, revolutionary governments often revert back to the past, but socially and economically a new order emerges. So perhaps both occur. The theme of “a past that hasn’t passed” appears here as well. Dawson’s evidence for this argument is the Mexican PRI, which claims an ongoing revolution through a series of reforms. Dawson also doesn’t want to outright state when the revolution happened, its beginning, its ending. He doesn’t want to limit it to within a certain time-frame as the ideologies still exist even today. “The claim ‘land and liberty’ never goes away” and is still a very dear part of many Latin American peoples’ values and heritage, though we may tend to otherwise see it just as history. This brings us back to another question: what is a revolution? Is it bloody and violent? Is it sudden and significant? Or is it a less dramatic, constant process of bureaucracy, protests, and reform? Are revolutions more common than we think, if we give the term a less rigid definition?