Rethinking revolution

This paper argues for a rehabilitation of philosophical engagement with the question of whether revolution can be justified. Such a renewed engagement with the problem of revolution appears to be stymied by the intuition that we have strong moral arguments ruling out revolution in almost every case. I aim to show that we should abandon this intuition. I will argue that standard arguments against revolution are not strong enough to warrant the relative inattention the question of the justifiability revolution has recently suffered, especially given the emergence of new potential justifications for revolution (appeals to principles of distributive justice, appeals to the international human rights regime) and the subtle but important shifts that we ought to make in our conceptions of sovereignty and revolution. Accordingly, this paper sketches six forms of argument against the justifiability of revolution. I assess each form of argument and I conclude that none of them are strong enough to makes further philosophical inquiry into the justification of revolution pointless.
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