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Pedro Magalhães


“With this argument, the reactionary takes on once again the progressive’s clothes and argues as though both the new and the old progress were desirable, and then shows typically how a new reform, if carried out, would mortally endanger an older, highly prized one that has only recently been put into place. The older, hard-won conquests or accomplishments, so it is argued, are still fragile, still need to be consolidated and would be placed in jeopardy by the new program. I therefore call this argument the jeopardy thesis.

“Once again, then, a group of social analysts found itself irresistibly attracted to deriding those who aspire to change the world for the better. And it is not enough to show that these naive Weltverbesserer (world improvers) fall flat on their face: it must be proven that they are actually, if I may coin the corresponding German term, Weltverschlechterer (world worseners) , that they leave the world in a worse shape than prevailed before any ‘reform’ had been instituted.”

“I hope that I will have convinced the reader that it is worthwhile to trace these theses through the debates of the last two hundred years, if only to marvel at certain invariants in argument and rhetoric, just as Flaubert liked to marvel at the invariant bêtise of his contemporaries. To show how the participants in these debates are caught by compelling reflexes and lumber predictably through certain set motions and maneuvers (…) My account and critique of the lines of argument most commonly used on behalf of reactive/reactionary causes could serve to make advocates of such causes a bit reluctant to trot out these same arguments over again and inclined to plead their case with greater originality, sophistication, and restraint. Second, my exercise could have an even more useful impact on reformers and sundry progressives. They are given notice here of the kinds of arguments and objections that are most likely to be raised against their programs. Hence, they may be impelled to take extra care in guarding against conceivable perverse effects and other problematic consequences.”

Albert O. Hirschman, “Two Hundred Years of Reactionary Rhetoric: The Case of the Perverse Effect“, Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 1988 (obrigado à Mónica pela lembrança)

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