If suffering does not cause people to revolt, then what does?If suffering does not cause people to revolt, then what does?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To a great extent, the desire for change causes people to revolt.  Suffering is a part of this.  Essentially, I think that any notion of change comes out of understanding a particular predicament as being bad.  Few, if any, have ever waged a revolution when all is well and the Status Quo benefits the many.  Revolution discourses do not begin with, "Everyone is happy so let's start a revolution."  In the end, there is some element of suffering or misery present which helps to foment a revolution.  Hand in hand with this would be the desire for change.  It is a fine line, but the distinction might be if individuals wish to make things better for others and change the current system, or if they wish to end, or create a perceived end, for their own suffering and pain.  Essentially, the question becomes if individuals are engaging in a revolution to cause change amongst others or to end their own suffering.  Both go together, but in regards to the question as to why people revolt, perhaps seeing both experiences as different ends of the same desire might assist in providing an answer.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to the major theory of social movements in political science, rebellions are caused by something called "relative deprivation."  They are not caused by suffering -- there have been plenty of suffering people who did not rebel.  They are not caused simply by a desire for change (there were plenty of slaves who wanted change and did not rebel).  Instead, they are caused by an imbalance between what you have and what you think you can get.

This, for example, is why African Americans rebelled in 1950 rather than in 1850 when they were more oppressed (or in 1910, for that matter).  By 1950, they had reason to expect they would be treated better than they were being treated.  In previous times, they had no reason to hope.

So political scientists say if people are going to rebel, they have to have a reason to feel that they can get better than what they have right now.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Suffering certainly compels people to rebel out of desperation. Nevetheless, revolutions have occurred for reasons that might not be characterized as "suffering," although the argument could be made that any condition that compels a people to rebel against their government is by definition suffering.

For example, the nonviolent resistance movement in the United States by blacks during the 1960s, while not a full-scale rebellion in the sense of an armed conflict, was certainly a revolt against the status quo. Furthermore, although the black citizens who sought equal rights under the law were able to hold jobs, own property, etc., they did not enjoy the full protection of the law guaranteed under the Constitution. Their second-class citizenship status can be called "suffering," even though they had food to eat and money in their pockets.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that suffering may certainly be a motivator or partial motivator for revolution, but I certainly don't think it's a necessary component for such events to occur.  Ideology, compassion, love, passion, hatred--any of the "big" emotions are powerful enough compel people to act or react.  It happens all the time.  Conversely, suffering alone is not a guarantee that any action at all will be taken by either the sufferers or those who are moved by their suffering.  Plenty of examples of that, as well.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Post #4 has made a most cogent point, one of which Aldous Huxley was certainly cognizant.  For, in his novel Brave New World, when the World Controller Mustapha Mond speaks to John the Savage, he explains how unrest and revolutions have been eliminated because the residents of the New World are content by means of pre-determined births, conditioning, and the drug soma. 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think #4 makes an excellent point in considering the real reasons why people rebel. Certainly any group that is thinking of rebelling needs to think that there can be a definite gain from their rebellion - improvement of their conditions, material benefits etc. Suffering by itself, I think, does not necessarily lead to rebellion.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree that the desire or need for change is the main cause of revolts. While suffering may be a part of it in some cases I don't think that is always the case.

santis | Student

your question has answered already, taken something for granted. I disagree on that. I think suffering does result in revolt, at least the history would tell us so. Then the question is, why not people of the world (definitely in some parts) not revolting? Well, there are several reasons. God and his aura is still very much alive with all its leveling potentials, (it may sound primitive, but affective nonetheless). There is another answer to it,  one that can be understood by the idea of hegemony. And in this era of consumerism, every move to made towards blurring the class distinction, rather, we consume the same "product" kind of association is clearly visible...

epollock | Student

It is not necessarily suffering that results in revolts but it is being taken advantage of or being completely discounted. One wants their ideas and concerns to be addressed and heard, and when people are marginalized, then there will be problems. Strikes, anarchy, and other social uprisings result from a disenchanted group, not strictly from suffering.

foreverlearn | Student
People will revolt if they have a strong leader and a strong belief that the is viable plan for achieving a successful change in their circumstances.