Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Theory of Social Revolutions

One of the things that I like about Librivox is that there are lots of free audio books on the site. With my work I do not get to read as much as I used to, lot of the time I am reading papers or textbooks for my lectures. Lately I have also been reading lots of papers on distributed computing or other things from Redhat about LDAP, Apache, Subversion, Nagious or other things having to do with sysadmining. As a consequence the only times I get to read for pleasure nowadays are usually in bed or in the toilet. In both cases I am usually done in less than five minutes. As a consequence of this it can take me 2 months to read 200 pages, whereas, I used to be able to read 130 pages a day. One of the audiobooks that I finished listening to in December was Brooks Adam's The Theory of Social Revolutions, aka TTSR.

I consider TTSR to be somewhat similar in scope and approach to Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the United States Constituiton in that he does not simply accept the notion that the founding fathers did not have a class or factional interests that might have differed from the masses of Americans who were supporters of the revolution. One of the themes of the book is that laws are created and enforced by people who have a partisan goals. He gave examples of how the constitution was created by agents such as Danton and Robspierre so that they could kill their political opponents. Prior to the republicans taking over the French government the first two estates made laws that suppressed the middle and lower classes. There were other examples of George "Hanging" Jeffreys used his position to kill the enemies of Charles I.

After showing how such politriking hurts the judiciary and civil society Adams discussed methods of keeping political actors from affecting legal decisions. He thinks that in some ways a British style constitution is better than an American one which relies on a single document.
Being that Adams was a constitutional lawyer and historian I figured that he is more aware of advanatges of various legal systems, even as recently as four years ago judges in the US Supreme Court were trying to decide if they should look at trends in other country's legal systems to see if American laws are consistent with best practices. I tfound the book fairly interesting and enjoyed the sections on the French revolution as well as the interactions between the first three US presidents and the judiciary.

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