You say you want a Revolution? The Beatles on How Change Happens

February 5, 2016 4 By Duncan Green

Blog break over – did you miss me? Thought not. After a month in writing purdah, I sent off the How Change Happens manuscript to OUP last week, so it is now their problem (for a couple of months at least).

So let’s get restarted with a spot of whimsy. One of the ideas that never made it into the final draft of the book was a critique of the lyrics of the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’. That’s partly because it was written (by John Lennon of course, far too intellectual for Macca) during the tumultuous year of 1968, as a response to the debates on violent v non-violent action, and I thought that would probably be ancient history to most of the book’s intended readership. But it seems a shame to waste it, so here you are:

John Lennon How Change Happens commentary
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
We don’t say ‘revolution’ any more – please replace with ‘transformative change’. Good to see reference to evolution and systems thinking – have you read Beinhocker?
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
You need to rethink: destruction clearly important in terms of economic progress (Schumpeter), and more widely, contestation/conflict often essential aspect of social/political change – ask John Gaventa
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright
Spelling? What is the evidence base for this assertion?
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can
Surely single solutions are implausible, given context specificity? Would certainly be interested in seeing the plan (is it a proper logframe?). ‘Doing what we can’ sounds terribly voluntarist and is only an input – how do you intend to measure results?
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Wouldn’t constructive engagement stand a better chance of success than a boycott, perhaps a multi-stakeholder initiative round changing ‘hate’ norms?
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead
Changing constitutions is difficult enough, but what about implementation? Changing norms (‘your head’) might be more feasible, but takes decades. In either case, what’s your theory of change?

Norms are themselves an institution (‘rules of the game’) so false distinction in last line

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Baffling non sequitur – please explain
Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright

Positive framing always welcome, but this seems unnecessarily repetitive

And here’s the song. I’m contemplating a new improved How Change Happens version……

And if you like this kind of thing, check out Bob Marley on the food price crisis