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The Rhetoric of Reaction


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Table of Contents

* Preface *1. Two Hundred Years of Reactionary Rhetoric * Three Reactions and Three Reactionary Theses * A Note on the Term "Reaction" *2. The Perversity Thesis * The French Revolution and Proclamation of the Perverse Effect * Universal Suffrage and Its Alleged Perverse Effects * The Poor Laws and the Welfare State * Reflections on the Perversity Thesis *3. The Futility Thesis * Questioning the Extent of Change Wrought by the French Revolution: Tocqueville * Questioning the Extent of Change Likely to Follow from Universal Suffrage: Mosca and Pareto * Questioning the Extent to Which the Welfare State Delivers the Goods to the Poor * Reflections on the Futility Thesis *4. The Jeopardy Thesis * Democracy as a Threat to Liberty * The Welfare State as a Threat to Liberty and Democracy * Reflections on the Jeopardy Thesis *5. The Three Theses Compared and Combined * A Synoptic Table * The Comparative Influence of the Theses * Some Simple Interactions * A More Complex Interaction *6. From Reactionary to Progressive Rhetoric * The Synergy Illusion and the Imminent-Danger Thesis *"Having History on One's Side" * Counterparts of the Perversity Thesis *7. Beyond Intransigence * A Turnabout in Argument? * How Not to Argue in a Democracy * Notes * Acknowledgments * Index

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A brilliant and beautifully written book. It is breathtakingly simple, yet deep with implications...Hirschman provides a kind of Reader's Guide to Reactionary Culture. -- Stephen Holmes, University of Chicago It is a marvelously intelligent and original and provocative volume, marked by Hirschman's usual qualities of intellectual playfulness and deep commitment to liberal values...The reader has a sense of being in the presence of a brilliant mind and of a writer at the top of his form. -- Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University

About the Author

Albert O. Hirschman was Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, following a career of prestigious appointments, honors, and awards. Perhaps the most widely known and admired of his many books are Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (Harvard) and The Passions and the Interests (Princeton).


Propelled by an ecumenical motive--to explain the 'massive, stubborn, and exasperating otherness of others', in this case conservative thinkers--and guided, as he himself muses, by 'an inbred urge toward symmetry', Albert Hirschman has written an enjoyable and profound book. He argues that a triplet of 'rhetorical' criticisms--perversity, futility, and jeopardy--'has been unfailingly leveled' by 'reactionaries' at each major progressive reform of the past 300 years--those T. H. Marshall identified with the advancement of civil, political and social rights of citizenship...Charmingly written, this book can benefit a diverse readership. -- Diego Gambetta Times Higher Education Supplement Events, and the example of a thinker like Hirschman, make it possible at least to hope that the finer side of the Enlightenment--that is, a skeptical but optimistic engagement with the world as it is, as distinct from blindingly overexcited visions of how it might be, if only progressives would stop interfering with it--could soon have its day. -- Geoffrey Hawthorn New Republic Albert Hirschman's gift to intellectual history is his capacity to subsume complex ideas under simple--indeed smaller than bumper-sticker-size--labels. Mention the word exit at any gathering of social scientists, and everyone will free-associate with the idea that complex organizations and processes renew themselves because people will leave for opportunities elsewhere instead of remaining and fighting for change. Likewise not only with voice and loyalty but also with passions and interests. There is no contemporary social scientist anywhere in the world who has said more (profound) things in fewer (elegant) words than Albert Hirschman. New candidates for inclusion in the Hirschmanian lexicon are perversity, futility, and jeopardy...Hirschman is a master of our art. -- Alan Wolfe Contemporary Sociology

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