Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2014: Revolutions, partial review four and last

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see previous posts reviewing or referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
This issue:
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2014: Revolutions, partial review three
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2014: Revolutions, partial review two
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2014: Revolutions, partial review one
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.  See Archives on that page for back issues.]
[All art displayed here are iPad cropped screenshots from the digital issue of this L.Q.  ]


If you just joined us my standard L.Q. comments still apply:
1. ‘Lapham’s Quarterly is the finest publication I read.  One could spend a decent college semester studying a mere handful of the 75+ literary extracts and authors in each issue.’  (I must be psychic as I hadn’t noticed this before.)
2. ‘Each quarter per annum editor Lewis H. Lapham and his staff assemble a compendium of thoughts on a particular subject assembled from the span of written history.’ [This quarter the topic is Revolutions (mostly the rebellious kind).]
3. ‘In L.Q. I am exposed to the great minds of time immemorial without having to read the complete works of each.’

Aristotle Nails It.  (If you followed ‘partial review three’, Dostoevsky nails it and Martin Luther nails it.  This issue is full of aha’s about the justice and injustice of revolutions. What a surprise.)  The Aristotle piece is available free.  Here is an even shorter extract:

“In considering how dissensions and political revolutions arise, we must first of all ascertain the beginnings and causes of them which affect constitutions generally. …

We want to know: first, What is the feeling?; secondly, What are the motives of those who make them?; thirdly, Whence arise political disturbances and quarrels? …

The universal and chief cause of this revolutionary feeling is the desire of equality, when men think that they are equal to others who have more than themselves; …

or, again, the desire of inequality and superiority, when conceiving themselves to be superior they think that they have not more but the same or less than their inferiors; pretensions which may and may not be just. …

Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. …

Such is the state of mind that creates revolutions.”


IN-e-QUA-lity.  From Aristotle c. 330 B.C. to headline news today, yesterday, or any day in between.  Ad nauseam.

Per Aristotle men (and women of course) desire equality, or they desire inequality when it is to their advantage.

But it’s not the existence of inequality itself, it is the desire, the dissatisfaction about it or with it.  I/we/they.. am/are.. not satisfied with the way it is.  I/we/they want more/less/other than the way it is.

Not that there isn’t injustice in the world.  Not that man’s inhumanity to man since the beginning of time up to about the last five minutes or so isn’t a horror to behold.  To me that is not what Aristotle or the modern-day trumpeters of ‘inequality isn’t fair’ are referring.

When is the desire right and when is it wrong?  It is that on which mankind cannot agree.

It seems noteworthy that the more ‘civilization advances’ there is more dissatisfaction, more disagreement, more revolution.  (See the fuzzy timeline graphic in partial review one. You’ll get the idea.)

When does man (and woman) get a grip on his SELF and stop blaming everyone and everything around him and outside of his self for his circumstances.



I particularly enjoyed the 1776 letters exchange between Abigail Adams and John Adams.  (pp 87-88)  (Available free you lucky people.  See if you can find it from word clues here.)

Abigail to John:
“I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs.”
“And by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”
“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.”

John to Abigail:
“As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh.  We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere…  But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest, were grown discontented.  This is rather too coarse a compliment, but you are so saucy I won’t blot it out.”

Saucy indeed, John, you rascal.

On a little further King George III comments on Americans: “When the unhappy and deluded multitude against whom this force will be directed shall become sensible of their error, I shall be ready to receive the misled with tenderness and mercy.”  (p. 122)

Robespierre is noteworthy in his expounding on the contradiction of putting Louis XVI on trial after the revolution has overthrown him:
“Either he is already condemned or the republic is not acquitted.  Proposing to put Louis on trial, in whatever way that could be done, would be to regress toward royal and constitutional despotism; it is a counterrevolutionary idea, for it means putting the revolution itself in contention.” (p. 111)  What a murderous revolution that was.  Inspired by America?  What hath God wrought.

This Lapham’s Quarterly is not only about revolutions of man against man.  It also mentions inventions that have revolutionized: Cotton gin, gas lamp, hot-blast stove (for smelting iron), car assembly line, and personal computer.  (p. 112)

Chairman Mao has plenty to say: “Every communist must grasp the truth, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.””  (p. 124)

There is plenty of blood to be spilled, death and destruction, in revolutions.  You would think this was L.Q. Winter 2008: States of War.
Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2008: States of War (Final review)
Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2008: States of War (partial review #1)

Adolph Hitler’s piece from a 1937 speech is noteworthy if only for it’s cold, calculating, deviant vision.  (Who’s surprised.)  (I mention him because one must know thine enemy, past, present, and future.)  “The National Socialist revolution was almost entirely a bloodless proceeding.”  [I must have read a different history book.–J]  “This absence of bloodshed and detraction was made possible solely because we had adopted a principle…”  “This principle was that the purpose of a revolution… cannot be to produce chaos but only to replace what is bad by substituting something better.”

What some think is better, others think perhaps not so much.  He goes on to talk about racial purity.

We must know these madmen with eyes wide open.


As George Santayana said (not in this L.Q.):
“When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  (Emphasis mine.)  (From REASON IN COMMON SENSE, Volume One of “The Life of Reason“. Search on condemned.)

I’m sure many passages from Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer would also have been appropriate in this L.Q.

As for me I’m condemned to repeat what others have said rather than offering any insightful original thought.  I feel fortunate to sit at the feet of different masters through Lapham’s Quarterly and gain the insights from their many perspectives.  (I’m glad I subscribe. This kind of knowledge and education is inexpensive for the value received.)

What has L.Q.’s Revolutions meant to me?  Uprisings, rebellion, seeking justice from oppression, Man’s constant state of war, turmoil, and killing.  Anarchists and revolutionaries can be as brutal as their oppressors.  Socialism doesn’t work.  (The very last essay, Market Corrections, (available free, people, hurry) is enlightening as to how the Bolsheviks shot themselves and Communist Russia in the economic foot by not allowing any free market at all.)

What of the ‘religious revolutions’ occurring in the Middle East and Africa as I write?  I see so much insanity at every turn that at the least I think my place on Earth is galaxies and light-years from the other side of the planet.

Be safe and be well in your own part of the world, people.  It is a wonderful place.  Don’t let them mess it up.


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