"Speaking a civil language"

"A sovereign democratic regime cannot tolerate its citizens speaking a civil language" writes Ariella Azoulay in Brooklyn Rail "and, hence, it reduces the language of revolution to a series of local events with discrete beginnings and endings as well as specific causes and effects, after which order—sovereign order, of course—is restored."

Developing the notion of a civil language opposed to sovereign power, Azoulay goes on to explore how sovereign power has dictated and restricted the discourse of revolutionary change:
The sovereign language usually manages to subdue the inner syntax of civil language so that it is interpreted mainly as a series of goal-oriented actions whose meaning is construed to lie within the hegemonic political language. By restricting our understanding of revolution to national contexts, by associating it directly with well-defined goals and particular results, history, and political discourse since the end of the 18th century has delayed the emergence of a civil language according to which revolutionary history could appear as a single, albeit interrupted, campaign.

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