The Myth of Peasant Revolt

The Myth of Peasant Revolt

Only rarely does a book immediately convey a sense that it will rank among the influential works of the time. Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth is just such a book. It is badly written, badly organized and chaotic. The author’s reasoning is often shoddy and obviously defective. But all this is finally unimportant. This is not a work of analysis. Its incantatory prose appeals not to the intellect but to the passions. Its author wished to create a modern myth, and he must be ranked among the very few great mythopoeists of our age even by those who, like myself, think he has created an evil myth.

“Myths,” wrote George Sorel, “are not descriptions of things, but expressions of a determination to act. . .  A myth cannot be refuted, since it is, at bottom, identical with the conviction of a group, being the expression of these convictions in the language of movement.” “One must not try to analyze such complexes of pictures,” he added, “as one would break down a thing into its elements; one must take them as a whole, as historical forces, and… must above all refrain from comparing actual accomplishments with the images of them that had been generally accepted before the action.” It is such a myth that Frantz Fanon has created and I venture to think that it will have an enduring influence in the world of politics and ideas, perhaps more so than Sorel’s own myth of the General Strike.


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