Micklethwait & Wooldridge opine on a Conservatism in need of reform. Old Socialist comments

Micklethwait & Wooldridge (M&W) begin their essay with Ambrogio Lorenzetti fresco of 1339, ‘The Allegory of Good and Bad Government’. What can two Oxford grads offer but the most highfalutin historical reference, yet obscure enough to evoke a kind of awe, in the thought of the reader? In sum, it is an allegory on ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Government. In their telling, political scientist Samuel Lubell enters their melodrama, and he postulates that there are two Parties , the party of ‘the sun of the sun’ which creates the light and heat, and a “party of the moon,” which ‘shines in the reflected radiance of the heat thus generated’.

In this paragraph M&W apply their borrowed frame to British/American political history:

Ever since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the right has been the “party of the sun” in the United States and Britain. Now it is in danger of becoming the party of the moon unless it radically overhauls both its personnel and its ideas. Certainly, it has ended up on the bad-government side of Lorenzetti’s fresco.

M&W present to the reader with this characterization of ‘Left’ governance since 1979:

Since 1979, the left has managed to install only four people in the White House or Downing Street — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama on one side of the Atlantic, and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown on the other (and the latter never won an election). The right has established a clear advantage in two things — practical competence and intellectual dynamism.

This parade of ‘Leftists’: ‘Bill Clinton and Barack Obama on one side of the Atlantic, and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown‘. What significance might the reader attach to M&W’s proclamation of Conservatism’s ‘practical competence and intellectual dynamism’ ? E.g. The Depression of 2008? What do all these ‘Left’ politicians have in common? Both The New Democrats, Clinton and Obama, and New Labour Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are Neo-Liberal just like Reagan and Thatcher.

In an American political context the reader need only look at Obama’s praise, not of FDR, but of Reagan.

“I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what’s different are the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.

“He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like, you know, with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s, and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people just tapped into — he tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.


A further long quote from M&W is revelatory:

The first is a traditional advantage of conservatism. Both Republicans and the Tories have based their electoral appeal on the idea that they will do a better job of looking after your money and protecting your country than the other guys. Vote for the left if you want to build castles in the air. But if you’re more interested in preserving the value of your house and keeping criminals off the streets, then vote for the right.

Not content with just the above M&W continue their unstinting praise for ‘Conservatism’ in all its attachments to demonstrably failed policies- in an American context look at the Neo-Liberal Clinton’s and Welfare Reform, Crime Bill, and the catastrophic repeal of Glass-Stegall! M&W praise ‘Conservatism’ yet its attachment to intellectuals like Milton Freedman and James Q. Wilson are part of an alliance of Conservatives, with the equally toxic Neo-Liberalism: that demands a strong state to protect the hallowed Free Market. This utterly antithetical to Reagan’s battle cry of ‘government is the problem’! Or Mrs. Thatcher passing out ‘Road to Serfdom’ as if it were a party favor. Not to forget the most politically exploitable ‘Leftists’, and their attachment to a corrosive Anti-Capitalism!

However, the right has also been more dynamic, generating the intellectual light that the moon can do no more than reflect. Since 1979, modern conservatism has produced nearly all the important ideas that have changed the political universe, from privatization to welfare reform to “broken windows” crime policy. These ideas may sound obvious today, but they were widely regarded as “crazy” when they were first floated in the work of maverick intellectuals, such as Milton Friedman in economics and James Q. Wilson in social policy. Indeed, those ideas became so mainstream that they changed the left, too. Clinton and Blair, the two most successful left-leaning politicians of the past 40 years, were often accused of being conservatives. Clinton balanced the budget and reformed welfare. Blair gave his party a new name, New Labour, and abandoned the dream, laid out in Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution, of nationalizing the means of production.


The real problem with ‘Conservatism’ is that in America, its titular head is a TV Game Show Host, Donald Trump , whose political precursor was the Tea Party, that devoured itself in a permanent revolution, and found Trump’s ‘Brand’ very easy to embrace with a kind of fervor. With the rank and file and office holders eventually acceding to his power. And in Britain Boris Johnson, a political Know Nothing, yet he managed to accomplish Brexit, yet still maintains his status as political buffoon.

Old Socialist

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Janan Ganesh, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge: on the Politics of The Political Present. Old Socialist Comments

How irresistible is the apercu of Mr. Ganesh: ‘…the shrewdness of his Democratic challenger Joe Biden…’ Mr. Biden is a Neo-Liberal dinosaur, being advised by, among others, his political contemporary Chris Dodd.
America is, was, and will always be the ‘Republic’ founded upon land stealing, and genocide against indigenous peoples, not to speak of the eventual war with Mexico, in this nations fulfillment of its ‘Manifest Destiny’!

One wave of American Immigrants, became settled and turned ‘Nativists’ who rejected the next generation of arrivals, from Southern and Eastern Europe, Italians, Slavs and Jews fleeing programs. See Irving Howe’s ‘World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made‘, the novel by Betty Smith ‘A Tree Grown in Brooklyn’ and the movie directed by Elia Kazan. These two books examples of our celebrated heritage of what can be best expressed by a riff on America’s Queer Poet Walt Whitman’s ‘we contain multitudes’. Except for the indigenous peoples and others relegated to the margins!

The Immigrant made America! What Mr. Ganesh elides from his political meditation, on Trump is the very persistence of the ‘Nativism’ of ‘The Proud Boys‘, ‘The Bugaloo Bois’ and ‘The Oath Keepers’! The Political/Economic psychosis of Neo-Liberalism produced the discontent that birthed these overt expressions of a toxic Nativism – some how with the defeat of Trump by the shrewd Joe Biden, at the least magical thinking. These men express a more deep seated discontent, of a class of American’s who suffered from the misbegotten Neo-Liberalism, extolled with un-puzzling relish in this newspaper.

For those readers with an appetite for a more pungent exercise in ‘Centrist Apologetics’ , in sum Conservatism, look to ‘Right Nation’ authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, two of the most notorious political re-write men in ‘Conservative Journalism’, at Bloomberg Opinion. These two practitioners of conservatives necromancy need to be quoted at length:

Headline: The Crisis of Conservatism

Sub-headline: The right has been the natural party of government in America and Britain for four decades. Now it needs to reinvent itself.

However, the right has also been more dynamic, generating the intellectual light that the moon can do no more than reflect. Since 1979, modern conservatism has produced nearly all the important ideas that have changed the political universe, from privatization to welfare reform to “broken windows” crime policy. These ideas may sound obvious today, but they were widely regarded as “crazy” when they were first floated in the work of maverick intellectuals, such as Milton Friedman in economics and James Q. Wilson in social policy. Indeed, those ideas became so mainstream that they changed the left, too. Clinton and Blair, the two most successful left-leaning politicians of the past 40 years, were often accused of being conservatives. Clinton balanced the budget and reformed welfare. Blair gave his party a new name, New Labour, and abandoned the dream, laid out in Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution, of nationalizing the means of production.


John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge put Mr. Ganesh’s essay into proper perspective, about the how of the practice of political apologetics can be practiced. Their ‘Right Nation’ was an exercise in ‘History Made To Measure’, that George F. Will praises on the cover of the paperback, I found on the remainder table. What is compelling to me, is that where ever I start to read in this book, I have a feeling that I have read it before, its like a rhetorical ghost. I subscribed and read The Economist from the mid-1990 until around 2015. I always read Bagehot, the nom de plume of Adrian Wooldridge regularly. And Right Nation reads more like a collection of essay. strung together under a title.

Old Socialist


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thomas B. Griffith on Amy Coney Barret. ‘A person of faith’ evaluates a fellow traveler! American Atheist comments

Mr. Griffith is member of two exclusive ‘clubs’: a ‘Lawyer/Judge’ and ‘a person of faith‘. So let us consider the source. And the self-congratulation that is the very sine qua non of this ‘club-ship’! Paul Halliday in his ‘Habeas Corpus ,From England to Empire’ states in his introduction that Legal History is steeped in ‘legal narcissism’ . In sum its part of the baggage!
Amy Coney Barrett is not just a Catholic, but a member of a sect, that believes that women are subject to male tutelage, as a natural state of their inferior position, as less that the male, its called Patriarchy. She will fit very comfortably with the other Neo-Confederate/Originalist clique, on The Supreme Court. She and they are acolytes of power, religious and capitalist.
Not to forget that American Jurisprudence began not with Marshall but with Cotton Mather and his use of ‘spectral evidence‘ in The Salem Witch Trials. Or that American Philosophy began with Johnathan Edwards! His notorious sermon ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ marked ‘The Great Awakening’. The Political, the Religious and the Jurisprudential comprise an American Trinity, that dwarfs Constitutionalism

American Atheist



Posted October 13, 2020 8:10 AM PDT:

Amy Coney Barrett’s comments on how Judge Scalia influenced her judicial philosophy/practice:


Some critical perspective on Scalia’s ‘Originalism/Textualism’:

The Scalia Myth

Laurence H. Tribe

The Scalia Myth


Justice for Scalia

Robert Post

Add to these critical comments about Scalia, garnished with the usual bowing and scraping, my 2018 comment on Amy Coney Barrett:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some thoughts on the ‘rehabilitation’ of Leon Wieseltier. American Writer comments

I recently subscribed to Graydon Carter’s new publication ‘Air Mail‘. I have to admit, I only became aware of its existence by accident. Just looking through the past issues I found Ash Carter’s revelatory essay/ interview with Wieseltier and its other protagonists of August 15, 2020 :

Headline: Taking—and Making—Liberties

Sub-headline: Three years after #MeToo allegations sank his Laurene Powell Jobs–funded magazine, Leon Wieseltier wants back in

“I went away,” he told me. “And I reflected. I tended to my son as best I could, because that was my primary consideration. Some friends stood by me.” He paused. “It was sort of an interesting experience. I’d been made a pariah, and I’ve read about pariahs all my life, so I guess I’m the wiser for it.” When I pressed for more details about this period, Wieseltier said, more than once, “This is not my redemption story.” He became more animated on the subject of his new quarterly, which until now has been a closely guarded secret. Its name, at once proudly patriotic and vaguely seditious, is Liberties. It has an editorial staff of two: Wieseltier and his managing editor, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania named Celeste Marcus.


Although I have selected a quotation, it seems that contrition for past misdeeds seems to be an alien concept, that represents a pattern throughout the interview. It isn’t exactly denial, but a muted form of arrogance. Which reminded me of this 1999 New York Times interview by Sam Tanenhaus.


Headline: Wayward Intellectual Finds God


The literary/political melodrama that was the lot of 1999’s Leon Wieseltier is refracted though the opinions of his friends, and an admiring interviewer. What is left untouched is the unstinting admiration, that veers into near idolatry for Henry Adams. Was this mere affectation for the eyes of a newspaperman?

Ernest Samuels biography of Adams was published in 1989, and its one volume abridgement, of those three volumes in 1995. That abridgement by Samuels’ biography, at 462 pages, that records Adam’s history of Anti-Semitism, in its erratic expressions, didn’t seem to intrude into Wieseltier’s awareness. As a literary critic and expert on American life, letters and politics, how could such a telling component of Adams’ character have escaped Wieseltier’s attention, the very sine qua non of the critic?

Political Observer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two views of The Trump Melodrama : Ross Douthat & Janan Ganesh offer … Political Observer comments

Ross Douthat presents Trump as resembling ‘the flawed, arrogant, appetitive figures from the Hebrew Bible‘ I have taken the liberty of posting only this part of Douthat’s political apologetic. Note that Trump, through his nomination of  Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, gives hope to Douthat, of the final end to Roe v. Wade, it is just a matter of time! Barrett, like Douthat, are the American versions of Ultramontanism, in sum, the deeply anti-democratic expression of Papal Infallibility. Link to a short review of How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion. by August Bernhard Hasler.

Headline: The Tragedy of Donald Trump

Sub-headline: n the drama of 2020, the president’s own coronavirus infection is one more seemingly pre-scripted twist.

Our president does not, to put it mildly, resemble the tragic heroes familiar from Aeschylus or Shakespeare. But he has a little more in common with some of the flawed, arrogant, appetitive figures from the Hebrew Bible — figures who are given opportunities to do something important in spite of their flaws, who are placed at crucial turning points in history notwithstanding their weaknesses and sins and who have the capacity to achieve things that amaze the wise and powerful.

In Trump’s arc in 2020, it’s possible to see a more tragic version of this kind of biblical narrative, in which Providence grants a flawed old sinner a unique chance at heroism, even greatness — and he chooses badly, and lets it pass him by.

The president’s coronavirus diagnosis bends that tragic arc a little further. The idea that an illness and speedy recovery might help him win re-election on a wave of sympathy seems — well, let’s just call it unlikely. Rather, his illness just seems to emphasize that we’re inside the falling action of the play, the working out of choices and themes that were established months ago.

You can’t pray to a writer’s room, but you can pray to God. And so we should pray for the president’s swift recovery, that all those infected around him recover soon as well, and that the falling action of 2020’s drama would spare as many lives as possible.

But to pray is also — inherently — to behave as though life isn’t just one accident after another, as though narrative lines in history actually exist, as though our choices are woven into patterns and not just left to unspool randomly. And the president’s affliction, in this sense, is woven intimately into the larger story of 2020 and his administration’s rendezvous with pestilence — a story whose might-have-beens could have redeemed his vices, but whose realities have sealed his presidency’s transformation from a dark farce into a tragedy.



Janan Ganesh:

Headline: Donald Trump’s faults are more libertarian than authoritarian

Sub-headline: As the past week shows, the US president is not a conventional autocrat


Mr. Ganesh’s cast of characters in this essay: Eva Perón, Nicolae Ceausescu, Mussolini, ‘the 1930s far-right.’ Joe Biden, Mexico,  Obamacare, ‘Congress’s free-market Republicans’, Hobbes’ Leviathan , Nationalist International , Vladimir Putin , Viktor Orban,  Jair Bolsonaro.

Janan Ganesh assures the reader that Trump is not so much an ‘Authoritarian’ as a ‘Libertarian’ . The cast of characters, that Ganesh cobbles together, in his necessary ransacking of philosophical/political history encourages a necessary readerly vertigo: a lesson learned from the Neo-Conservative acolytes of Leo Struss? Then come this puzzling bit of, what to name it? anti-intellectualism:

It feels wrong to complain about excessive education, but the second world war and the years leading up to it are almost too well taught. That period has become the lens through which we see all contemporary events.

This non-sequitur, an oblique refence to Neville Chamberlain? followed by his final paragraph:

“Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state,” said Mussolini, in his epistrophic definition of fascism. It is hard to draft a sentence that Mr Trump and his Republican supporters are less likely to utter.

The desperation of political writers, employed by Corporate Media, who fancy themselves ‘Pundits’, to find usable rhetorical framing for their commentaries, while rigorously observing the strictures of bourgeoise political respectability, is a challenge that leads to a journalism that is practiced at Newspapers like The New York Times and The Financial Times.

Political Observer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the pages of The Financial Times: Michael Ignatieff, Viktor Orban & George Soros, a Political Melodrama. Old Socialist comments

R2P Zealot, Michael Ignatieff, in sum a Neo-Con in ‘Liberal Drag‘, in his defense of what should have been, at the least, Academic Freedom, but he resorts to utterly bankrupt institutions: Europe’s highest court and World Trade Organization World Trade Organization rules guaranteeing freedom to operate a business. The hallowed Free Market is Ignatieff’s central claim?

Soros is a notorious bad actor, the reader need only look to the Ukrainian Coup, as one proof that he is a toxic meddler, around the globe. Viktor Orban sees quite clearly, that the Soros/Ignatieff alliance, and their Central European University will be, or even has been, part of a of a centralized hub of political agitation against his rule. Is Mr. Oban’s contempt for the court and the WTO only about his authoritarianism? Or is it about, in a more fundamental way, about a self-defense as he was/is a legimately elected leader, which is not in question!

This newspaper and its hirelings and ‘guest commentators’ wage relentless rhetorical war against its perceived enemies ‘Right’ & ‘Left‘, while defending a ‘Centrism’ that is Neo-Liberalism, in it various iterations, even while its slow-motion collapse continues, in the face of a Pandemic, that has further immiserated the working and middle classes. Ignatieff continues in his political journey, inspired by the notorious courtier Isaiah Berlin, and his trivializing notion of clubability!

Old Socialist


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Andrew Bacevich on ‘After Trump’. Political Observer comments

As much as I used to value the commentaries of Andrew Bacevich, who now runs his own ‘Think Tank’. Anyone who subscribes to the opinions of Mr. Caldwell , especially the notion that the 60’s of ‘sex, drugs, rock and Vietnam’ represent a toxic apostacy that America has yet to perform a necessary self-emancipation. This reads like a riff on Alan Bloom’s hysterical polemic.

The ‘Conservatives’ search for bad actors, is a perpetual indulgence. Its ‘as if’ the post war appearance of ‘The Beats‘ wasn’t a sign of something! ‘On the Road’ and ‘Howl’ were this first stirrings of that ‘something’? The time of ‘On The Road’ is the mid to late 1940’s. Caldwell trades upon the perennial suspicion of ‘Conservatives’ , who are in fact political reactionaries, who think, conceive, of themselves as in possession of civic/political/religious Truths, that cannot be subject to a personal/cultural/political critique, expressed as an alternative way of living/being! A quote from Mr. Bacevich essay is instructive of his admiration of Caldwell’s book.

Allow me to register my personal dissent. Ours is not an Age of Trump. It’s an Age of Chickens Coming Home to Roost. Honest observers can disagree on exactly when America took a wrong turn. Many conservatives of my (advanced) age still hold a grudge against the Sixties. In his splendid book The Age of Entitlement, Christopher Caldwell makes a strong case that the decade associated with sex, drugs, rock, and Vietnam left a poisonous legacy that still haunts the nation.

After Trump, the GOP Can Still Be Saved From Itself

Yet, there is, as always, much to find worthy of thinking about, and to admire. A man, who has maintained a steadfast political/moral position on the crimes of the American National Security State. Although Mr. Bacevich would carefully avoid such a characterization.

Political Observer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alice Fishburn on Curtis Sittenfield’s new short story collection. American Writer comments & more!

Curtis Sittenfeld proved the nature of her ‘Feminism’ by her outrageous attempt at producing a political/personal apologetic for Hillary Clinton! The Sunday Times interview shows her, no just lack of judgement , but her obsequious political opportunism.

Did she like Hillary more than when she started this book more than three years ago? “Yes, more, more! You know, for a lot of the last three years I’ve put on a pant suit and blond wig, metaphorically. I would never write a book from the point of view of a character I was unable to sympathise with. I feel very emotional about her. There’s this reflexively negative way of talking about her. Yet she’s such a hero and role model to so many people, especially many women, which doesn’t get acknowledged as much as it should.”

She says she ended up loving her. But she had also fallen for Bill during her research. She had read his big, swaggering autobiography, My Life.

“I mean, this is the thing; while reading it, I felt like I fell in love with him. And it was very surprising to me. But I think a writer needs to be able to feel the emotions her characters feel.”


That has parity with Hillary’s argued ‘Feminism’, that exists on the same plane as Sheryl Sandberg Neo-Liberal Manifesto of corporate conformaty ‘Lean In’.

A generation of ‘Feminists’ ‘ remain utterly ignorant of their intellectual precursors: Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Eva Figes, Kate Millet etc.

What can the reader make of this quote from Alice Fishburn explication of one of Sittenfeld’s latest short stories:

“White Women Lol” is perhaps the most topical of the stories: dealing as it does with Jill, who spots a table of five black people at her friend’s party and, assuming that they’re in the wrong place, tries to get them to leave. A covert recording of the encounter is posted on Facebook, goes semi-viral, sends shockwaves through her friendship group and sparks a variety of outraged online reactions: “a GIF of a fair-haired white man blinking (posted by a black man) and another GIF of a cartoon rat shaking his finger in disapproval (posted by a black woman) and another GIF of a baby spitting out what looked like pureed peas in abject disgust (posted by a white woman).”


Jill, her protagonist looks, about as clueless, as a chartable reader might find the author of this story to be. Or is that mansplaining?

American Writer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Proud Boys, as reported in the London Sunday Times. Old Socialist comments, and asks a question.

Headline: Meet the Proud Boys — Trump’s unofficial militia spoiling for a fight

Sub-headline: Sporting Fred Perry shirts and heavily armed, the American far-right group the president refused to condemn is on patrol at his rallies

‘ I initially thought McInnes’s list of Proud Boy “degrees” of membership must be another one of his jokes. Initiates must swear allegiance to the fraternity, get beaten up until they can recite the name of five cereal brands, adhere to a “no wanks” pledge (so young men stop watching porn and meet actual women, Aaron explained) and get a Proud Boy tattoo.
It made them sound like a bunch of incels (involuntary celibates). Could this be for real, I asked Aaron, who, like Mike, is 33 and single. Yes, the rules were rules. He took my question about the ban on masturbation well — “It does wonders for your determination, energy levels and productivity” — but denied they were incels. “That’s just a cheap lowball insult,” he said.
Nor were they misogynists, he insisted. “We do venerate housewives, though we respect women who work. We want to put women back on their pedestal. They have a cherished role in western civilisation.”
In fact, he was off to see his girlfriend in Seattle this weekend, a black foreign exchange student from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I’m not a racist, 100%,” he added.
Aaron went on to remind me that there was a further “degree” for members — “getting into a physical altercation with Antifa”. He fulfilled that pledge in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in August when there was a violent clash with the far left. He sent me a video link. “It was wild,” he said. As he slugged it out with Antifa, he got hit in the face with a street sign.
If there is election chaos after November 3, as Trump has predicted, Aaron will be back on the streets with his Ruger AR-566 — all in the name of “self-defence”. If they are going to play at being Trump’s vigilantes, it will be a terrible joke on the American electorate.


Sexual Puritanism & Violent Reactionary Politics, if the Freudians still enjoyed cultural/psychological currency they would … If only Eric Ericson and his clique!
Add to the ‘Proud Boys’ the ‘Bugaloo Boys’ and ‘The Oath Keepers‘ that represent an American political nihilism, that dwarfs ‘Antifa’ and ‘BLM’ that leads inexorably to the question: will America’s Second Civil War begin on November 4, 2020?

Old Socialist

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michael Lessnoff’s essay on The Political Philosophy of Karl Popper, a consideration.

Could this excerpt from Mr. Lessinoff’s essay, published in 1980, considering the political philosophy of Popper, offer the possibility of a telling critique of Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’?

He does not, of course, deny that some generalizations hold only in certain
historical periods, but he does deny that historical epochs are so sharply divided from one another that there can be no valid cross-historical sociological laws.And of course he denies any necessary succession of historical epochs, and more especially the validity of absolute prophecies of future epochs, or even of future trends. In place of the total, but predictable discontinuities of the historicist picture, Popper sees history as a complex pattern of continuity and unpredic-table change, a process that can be partly influenced by deliberate human choices and interventions which however cannot themselves be predicted.

Popper’s objection to historicist prophecy, then, rests most basically on his
belief in human freedom, that is, on a difference between the human and the
inanimate worlds. Anyone who does not believe that this difference exists will not be convinced by that argument. However, Popper has also given another argument which rests on the difference between absolute prophecies and conditional scientific predictions.15 Scientific laws, we saw, have the form ‘All As are B’, from which can be derived the conditional ‘If A, then B’. Thus, one can predict that, if A occurs or is the case, B will occur or be the case; but one cannot, on the basis of a scientific law, predict absolutely that B will be the case. It is true that scientific knowledge does license what appear to be absolute predictions in certain cases – such as typhoons, eclipses, and the phases of the moon – some of which even relate to the distant future. All of them, however, are really dependent on the existence of some specific initial conditions. In certain cases, there may be good reason to believe that the initial conditions will exist: thus, one may reason, ‘If A is the case, B will be the case; but A will be the case; hence, B will be the case.’ The conclusion is an absolute, unconditional prediction. But such a conclusion from scientific laws can be justified (that is,the existence of specific initial conditions can be assumed) only in relation to relatively simple, isolated systems – isolated from interactions that might relevantly alter the initial conditions – such as the solar system (the main natural arena for unconditional scientific predictions). Even here the predictions should strictly be accompanied by a proviso that they are conditional on the continuing isolation of such a system. And a society, at any rate, is not such a system.

I believe this argument against historicism is somewhat confused. Popper’s
idea seems to be that scientific laws, by virtue of their universal form, always
license conditional predictions, but license absolute predictions only in relation to simple, isolated systems. However, the truth surely is that even the conditional predictions derivable from scientific laws can be made only in relation to relatively simple, isolated systems. These predictions really have the form, ‘If A occurs, B will occur, if other things remain equal’. In complex natural systems we cannot say whether other things will remain equal or not – whether some other new factor will affect the outcome. As Popper himself remarks, sufficiently isolated natural systems are rare, and hence, in general ‘it is only by the use of artificial experimental isolation that we can predict events.


I find the fact that not any scholar, that I am aware of , used Michael Lessnoff’s insights, as an invaluable rhetorical frame, for constructing a critique of Fukuyama’s original essay, that metastasized into a Straussian World Historical Melodrama, not just puzzling, but offers clear evidence that American intellectual culture exists within what Daniel T. Rogers names ‘The Age of Fracture’.

Political Observer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment