This graduate seminar explores the modern and contemporary transformations in our political culture, understood as the practical mode of intelligibility that structures the very nature of politics by determining who qualifies as a political subject, what is visible as a political action, and how the spatio-temporal framework of politics is organized.  After a brief methodological and historiographical introduction, we will study the historical emergence of the modern concept of revolution and the transformations in the temporal horizons of the political due to the opening up of the future as an unknown field of utopian possibility.  We will examine, in this light, historical writings on various revolutions as well as theoretical attempts to conceptualize the specificity of revolutionary movements.  Against this historical backdrop, we will then explore what it means for a revolution to change social structure by discussing the reconfiguration of class relations as well as the role of gender and race in modern revolutions. This will allow us, more specifically, to examine the various accounts of agency used to explain revolutionary change, and we will be particularly interested in developing a non-reductive, multi-agential theory of social transformation. This methodological orientation will go hand in hand with a re-conceptualization of social norms as immanent, multi-tiered, dynamic, and therefore malleable.  Finally, after developing tools for a radically historicist and multi-agential approach to revolutions, we will conclude by examining the claim that there has been a shift in political culture from the grand era of revolutionary politics (roughly 1789 to 1968) to a purportedly post-revolutionary epoch (approximately 1968-present). More specifically, we will investigate the contemporary historical imaginary by asking whether or not the belief in an unprecedented future is a thing of the past.  Is such a future, in fact, a future past or a future afar (in the sense that revolutions, if they happen, occur far from the hegemonic centers of the Euro-American world)? If so, what are we to make of the recent revolutionary activity around the world, from Latin America to the entire Mediterranean region, the Occupy movement and beyond?  What is the status of revolutionary activity in the present, and does it require a reworking of the very category of revolution?


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