October 10, 2011


When Moralism Isn't Moral: a review of POLITICAL EVIL: What It Is and How to Combat It By Alan Wolfe (JONATHAN RAUCH, 10/09/11, NY Times Book Review)

Wolfe, a political scientist at Boston College and the author, most recently, of "The Future of Liberalism," may be annoyed to be called a realist. In "Political Evil," he dismisses classic realism as the amoral pursuit of national power. Ick. What liberal could admire that?

A better way to think of realism, however, is as a theory about where peace comes from. American hawks and neocons believe that peace comes from robust projection of national power; doves, that it comes from multilateral cooperation and international law. Realists see American power and multilateral cooperation as important, but they think peace comes primarily from something else: equilibrium. Power, they believe, has its own complex hydraulics. Like the fluid it is, it finds its own level. A stable equilibrium is not to be taken for granted, and perfectionists who try to rearrange one will rarely get the results they intend. You don't need to admire power, but you must always, however grudgingly, respect and understand it.

Another word for what I call the hydraulics of power is: politics. Cue "Political Evil."

...the question we'd find there goes something like this: the South having achieved equilibrium, what business of ours was Jim Crow?

Posted by at October 10, 2011 6:17 PM

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