The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy / Edition 1

The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy / Edition 1

by Albert O. Hirschman
     
 

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. He draws his examples from three successive waves of reactive thought that arose in response to the… See more details below

Overview

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. He 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--the theses of perversity, futility, and jeopardy. He illustrates these propositions by citing writers across the centuries from Alexis de Tocqueville to George Stigler, Herbert Spencer to Jay Forrester, Edmund Burke to Charles Murray. 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674768680
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
03/28/1991
Series:
Belknap Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
733,073
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.66(d)

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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