Between 1945 and 1968 sixty-six "countries"--the actualities demand the quotation marks--attained political independence from colonial rule. Unless one counts the American engagement in Vietnam, an ambiguous case, the last great struggle for national liberation was that which triumphed in Algeria in the summer of 1962. Though a few other collisions are apparently still to come--in the Portuguese territories of Africa, for example--the great revolution against Western governance of Third World peoples is essentially over. Politically, morally, and sociologically, the results are mixed. But from the Congo to Guyana the wards of imperialism are, formally anyway, free.1

Considering all that independence seemed to promise--popular rule, rapid economic growth, social equality, cultural regeneration, national greatness and, above all, an end to the ascendancy of the West--it is not surprising that its actual advent has been anticlimactic. It is not that nothing has happened, that a new era has not been entered. Rather, that era having been entered, it is necessary now to live in it rather than merely imagine it, and that is inevitably a deflating experience.

The signs of this darkened mood are everywhere: in nostalgia for the emphatic personalities and well-made dramas of the revolutionary struggle; in disenchantment with party politics, parliamentarianism, bureaucracy, and the new class of soldiers, clerks, and local powers; in uncertainty of direction, ideological weariness, and the steady spread of random violence; and, not the least, in a dawning realization that things are more complicated than they look, that social, economic, and political problems, once thought to be mere reflexes of colonial rule, to disappear when it disappeared, have less superficial roots. Philosophically, the lines between realism and cynicism, between prudence and apathy, and between maturity and despair may be very broad; but sociologically, they are always very narrow. And in most of the new states right now they have thinned almost to the vanishing point.

Behind the mood, which is of course not unmixed, lie the realities of postcolonial social life. The sacred leaders of the national struggle are either gone ( Gandhi, Nehru, Sukarno, Nkrumah, Muhammed V, U Nu, Jinnah, Ben Bella, Keita, Azikiwe, Nasser, Bandaranaike), replaced by less confident heirs or less theatrical generals, or have been diminished to mere heads of state ( Kenyatta, Nyerere, Bourguiba, Lee, Sekou Touré, Castro). The near-millennial hopes of political deliverance once invested in a handful of extraordinary men are not only now diffused among a larger number of distinctly less extraordinary ones but are themselves attenuated. The enormous concentration of social energies that charismatic leadership can, whatever its other defects, clearly accomplish, dissolves when such leadership disappears. The passing of the generation of prophet-liberators in the last decade has been nearly as momentous, if not quite as dramatic, an event in the history of the new states as was their appearance in the thirties, forties, and fifties. Here and there, new ones will doubtless from time to time emerge, and some may make a considerable impact upon the world. But, unless a wave of Communist uprisings, of which there is now little indication, sweeps through the Third World throwing up a cloud of Che Guevaras, there will not soon again be such a galaxy of successful revolutionary heroes as there were in the Olympian days of the Bandung Conference. Most new states are in for a period of commonplace rulers.

In addition to the reduction in the grandeur of leadership, there has been a solidification of the white collar patriciate--what American sociologists like to call "the new middle class" and the French, less euphemistic, call la classe dirigeante--which surrounds and in many places engulfs that leadership. Just as colonial rule tended almost everywhere to transform those who happened to be socially ascendant (and submissive to its demands) at the time of its advent into a privileged corps of officials and overseers, so independence tended almost everywhere to create a similar, though larger, corps out of those who happened to be ascendant (and responsive to its spirit) at its advent. In some cases, the class continuity between the new elite and the old is great, in some less great; determining its composition has been the major internal political struggle of the revolutionary and immediate postrevolutionary periods. But accommodative, parvenu, or something in between, it is now rather definitely in place, and the avenues of mobility that for a moment seemed so wide open seem now, to most people, distinctly less so. As political leadership has slipped back toward the "normal," or anyway appearing such, so too has the stratification system.

So too, indeed, has society as a whole. The consciousness of massive, univocal, irresistible movement, the stirring to action of an entire people, that the attack upon colonialism almost everywhere induced has not wholly disappeared, but it has powerfully lessened. There is much less talk, both inside the new states and in the scholarly literature concerning them, about "social mobilization" than there was five, not to say ten, years ago (and what there is seems increasingly hollow). And this is because there is in fact much less social mobilization. Change continues, and indeed may even be accelerating under a general illusion that nothing much is happening, an illusion in good part generated by the great expectations that accompanied liberation in the first place.2 But the general forward motion of "the nation as a whole" has been replaced by a complex, uneven, and many-directioned movement by its various parts, which conduces to a sense less of progress than of agitated stagnation.

Yet, despite the sense of diluted leadership, renascent privilege, and arrested movement, the force of the great political emotion upon which the independence movement was everywhere built remains but slightly dimmed. Nationalism--amorphous, uncertainly focused, half-articulated, but for all that highly inflammable--is still the major collective passion in most new states, and in some it is virtually the only one. That, like the Trojan War, the world revolution may not take place as scheduled, that poverty, inequality, exploitation, superstition, and great power politics are going to be around for a while, is an idea, however galling, that most people at least can somehow contrive to live with. But, once aroused, the desire to become a people rather than a population, a recognized and respected somebody in the world who counts and is attended to, is, short of its satisfaction, apparently unappeasable. At least it has nowhere yet been appeased.

Actually, the novelties of the postrevolutionary period have, in many ways, exacerbated it. The realization that the power imbalance between the new states and the West has not only not been corrected by the destruction of colonialism, but has in some respects increased, while at the same time the buffer colonial rule provided against the direct impact of that imbalance has been removed, leaving fledgling states to fend for themselves against stronger, more practiced, established states, renders nationalist sensitivity to "outside interference" just that much more intense and that much more general. In the same way, emerging into the world as an independent state has led to a similar sensitivization to the acts and intentions of neighboring states--most of them likewise just emerged--that was not present when such states were not free agents but, as oneself, "belonged" to a distant power. And internally, removing European rule has liberated the nationalisms within nationalisms that virtually all the new states contain and produced as provincialism or separatism, a direct and in some cases--Nigeria, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan--immediate threat to the new-wrought national identity in whose name the revolution was made.

The effects of this persistent nationalistic sentiment amid national disappointment have been naturally varied: a withdrawal into don'ttouch-me isolationism, as in Burma; a surge of neotraditionalism, as in Algeria; a turn toward regional imperialism, as in precoup Indonesia; an obsession with a neighboring enemy, as in Pakistan; a collapse into ethnic civil war, as in Nigeria; or, in the majority of the cases where the conflict is for the moment less severe, an underdeveloped version of muddling-through, which contains a little of all these plus a certain amount of whistling in the dark. The postrevolutionary period was envisioned to be one of organizing rapid, large-scale, broadly coordinated social, economic, and political advance. But it has turned out to be rather more a continuation, under changed, and in some ways even less propitious, circumstances, of the main theme of the revolutionary and immediate prerevolutionary periods: the definition, creation, and solidification of a viable collective identity.

In this process, the formal liberation from colonial rule turns out not to have been the climax but a stage; a critical and necessary stage, but a stage nonetheless, and quite possibly far from the most consequential one. As in medicine the severity of surface symptoms and the severity of underlying pathology are not always in close correlation, so in sociology the drama of public events and the magnitude of structural change are not always in precise accord. Some of the greatest revolutions occur in the dark.