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November 8, 2019 / Congau

Impossible Change

Only what already exists, is possible. Until, of course, something else comes into existence. This “realism” is the basis for conservatives and radicals alike. Things can’t change and shouldn’t, but they do change and should.

The conservatives are obviously right when they observe that whatever is established and has been running for a while, works well on its own level. If you disregard any external ideas of justice, any lasting institution has proven its worth and should therefore be continued. Slavery worked smoothly for centuries, and any alternative system might fail, so that in itself was an argument for retaining it. Society is not a machine and what works is not purely a theoretical question. Ingrained habits always have an advantage.

But in spite of that society changes. New inventions and external pressure make adjustments necessary. Much of it seems to occur automatically as a built-in part of the establishment (at least that’s what conservatives like to think), but clearly there is also conscious human action involved.

Any change naturally springs from what is already existing, but how deeply rooted in it must it be? The answer to that question is essentially what determines the level of conservatism or radicalism on the political scale. Wherever you find yourself on that continuum you will rightfully appeal to realism to support your view. If the desired change is relatively close to the present state, it’s easier to approach it, but it may not be the most rational way to organize society. Revolutionary change cannot rely on support from established customs, but revolutionaries always claim to have reason on their side.

Revolutions are always impossible, if by that you mean an exact implementation of an idea that is radically different from what already exists. Status quo is also impossible. In between there’s an infinite number of possible impossibilities.

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