ALBERT HIRSCHMAN THE RHETORIC OF REACTION PDF

Friday, November 8, Thoughts on Albert O. Well-informed with regard to his own discipline, he was also intelligible to the non-specialist and willing to draw insight from the humanities, especially history. As a humanistic economist, Hirschman was also willing to approach the arguments made in his discipline as themselves forms of political discourse-- empirically-grounded, perhaps, but still motivated by ideological and moral concerns-- in other words, not as purely "objective" restatements of verifiable facts and scientific laws. This has inspired me to finally get around to reading one of his acknowledged classics: The Rhetoric of Reaction Cambridge: Belknap Press, -- a study of the three chief rhetorical moves made by critics of social change over the last two centuries. Hirschman defines these moves as "perversity," "futility," and "jeopardy" he was fond of this sort of tripartite scheme-- see his Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, e. Broadly defined, these three options encompass every possible negative response one might make to a push for social change, because they all claim that social change will either achieve negative results or no results at all.

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Shelves: nonfiction An excellent look at the arguments reactionaries make in response to various kinds of political reform, as well as, in a later chapter, arguments made by progressives. Hirschman critiques reactionary arguments and discusses why such arguments are made and why they are often accepted. Highly recommended for anyone interested in political rhetoric. Feb 13, Jonathan rated it really liked it A short, useful, and insightful book about political rhetoric.

Hirschman focuses not on the conservatives themselves the psychoanalyzing of political ideology that one can often see , but on their arguments. To do this, he analyzes the responses from reactionaries to three different waves of progress: 1 the A short, useful, and insightful book about political rhetoric. In examining the arguments used to oppose each wave of progress, he comes up with another triad: perversity, futility, and jeopardy.

And he presents examples from each period, noting as well how the arguments can work together or coexist despite seeming incompatibility. The perversity thesis is that the contemplated action will have disastrous consequences--it will, in fact, move in the opposite direction of what its proponents claim. But this was seen as well in how reactionaries claimed that democracy would lead to bureaucratic tyranny or that the welfare state would corrupt its beneficiaries or that a minimum wage increase leaves workers worse off.

The perversity thesis presents a volatile world in which providence shatters any good intentions humans may have. The futility thesis is that the contemplated action will run up against permanent structural characteristics "laws" of the social order and, thus, end up ineffective. With this focus on "laws," the futility thesis often has a social scientific bent to it.

The jeopardy thesis argues that the contemplated action, even if desirable in itself, involves unacceptable costs or consequences of one sort or another. We can see this in how opponents of universal suffrage claimed that democracy would be a threat to political liberty and how people like Samuel Huntington and Friedrich Hayek claimed that the welfare state was a threat to democracy.

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Albert O. Hirschman

Table of Contents With engaging wit and subtle irony, Albert Hirschman maps the diffuse and treacherous world of reactionary rhetoric in which conservative public figures, thinkers, and polemicists have been arguing against progressive agendas and reforms for the past two hundred years. Hirschman draws his examples from three successive waves of reactive thought that arose in response to the liberal ideas of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, to democratization and the drive toward universal suffrage in the nineteenth century, and to the welfare state in our own century. In each case he identifies three principal arguments invariably used: 1 the perversity thesis, whereby any action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order is alleged to result in the exact opposite of what was intended; 2 the futility thesis, which predicts that attempts at social transformation will produce no effects whatever—will simply be incapable of making a dent in the status quo; 3 the jeopardy thesis, holding that the cost of the proposed reform is unacceptable because it will endanger previous hard-won accomplishments. Finally, in a lightning turnabout, he shows that progressives are frequently apt to employ closely related rhetorical postures, which are as biased as their reactionary counterparts. For those who aspire to the genuine dialogue that characterizes a truly democratic society, Hirschman points out that both types of rhetoric function, in effect, as contraptions designed to make debate impossible. In the process, his book makes an original contribution to democratic thought.

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The Rhetoric of Reaction

Reactionary narratives[ edit ] Hirschman describes the reactionary narratives thus: According to the perversity thesis, any purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order only serves to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy. The futility thesis holds that attempts at social transformation will be unavailing, that they will simply fail to "make a dent. He argues that these are "rhetorics of intransigence", which do not further debate. Progressive narratives[ edit ] In the final chapter, Hirschman takes the opposite tack and discusses progressive narratives which are equally simplistic and flawed. Proposal[ edit ] Hirschman advocates instead these "mature" bases for discussion: There are dangers and risks in both action and inaction. The risks of both should be canvassed, assessed, and guarded against to the extent possible. The baneful consequences of either action or inaction can never be known with certainty but our reaction to either is affected by the two types of alarm-sounding Cassandras with whom we have become acquainted.

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The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy

Shelves: nonfiction An excellent look at the arguments reactionaries make in response to various kinds of political reform, as well as, in a later chapter, arguments made by progressives. Hirschman critiques reactionary arguments and discusses why such arguments are made and why they are often accepted. Highly recommended for anyone interested in political rhetoric. Feb 13, Jonathan rated it really liked it A short, useful, and insightful book about political rhetoric. Hirschman focuses not on the conservatives themselves the psychoanalyzing of political ideology that one can often see , but on their arguments. To do this, he analyzes the responses from reactionaries to three different waves of progress: 1 the A short, useful, and insightful book about political rhetoric. In examining the arguments used to oppose each wave of progress, he comes up with another triad: perversity, futility, and jeopardy.

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