Is Manifesto the right word for our times?


It strikes me that in these these confused and confusing times we should lay down clear thoughts about what we believe in. I am mustering my thoughts across a number domains to express what I think is important.

However one of the questions is what to call these statements. On the face of it ‘Manifesto’ is an admirable description.

From the political domain the Communist Manifesto (1848) and Anarchist Manifesto (1850) flowed through into artistic domain, with notably the Futurist Manifesto (1909) and Surrealist Manifesto (1924), and on into the social domain, with the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto (1968) among the many marking the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Since then the technological domain has been rife with statements from the GNU Manifesto (1985) and Hackers Manifesto (1986) through to the bestselling Cluetrain Manifesto (1999).

The Google Ngram diagram above shows frequency of appearances of the word Manifesto in books, highlighting the mid-19th century political peak, the political and artistic mix of the 1930s, and a climax in the late 1960s at the axis of social change.

Since then the word Manifesto has been in apparent decline, to almost the lowest level in two centuries.

Perhaps Manifesto is a tired word, laden with too many connotations, reflecting old ways of thinking.

Or perhaps it is still the best term to describe powerful, succinct statements of beliefs, ones that will guide us forward through this critical time in human history.

I recently asked on Twitter whether the words ‘Manifesto’ or ‘Manifest’ were better. Manifest long ago had the same meaning as Manifesto, so I wondered whether the word is ready for revival as a contemporary replacement. The responses all reflected that the current meaning of Manifest as a bill of goods is too entrenched for it to be used today as an alternative to Manifesto.

How about Proclamation, Declaration, Statement, Exhortation, Principles, Thesis, Framework?

What do you think? Is Manifesto the right word for our times? Or is there a better one for us to describe our encapsulated beliefs that we put forward for the common good?