human eye, or maybe in war,nsoldiers become accustomed tonfaces in pain. But not I. Thesenwere children’s faces . . . filthy,nhungry, bruised, scared, oilnstained, burned. But alive.nAs are Nelson’s fictional creations, at anfar remove from the unfeeling, unreflective,nwraith-like ciphers who inhabitnso much of American writing. His storiesnare an antidote to despair, a propernrestoration of some of the worthier aimsnof storytelling. His voice is very welcomenindeed.nGregory McNamee is the authornof the recently pubhshedncollection of short stories Christnon the Mount of Olivesn(Broken Moon Press).nTheses andnAntithesesnby Alan J. LevinenThe Rhetoric of Reactionnby Albert O. HirschmannCambridge, Massachusetts: ThenBelknap Press; 197 pp., $25.00nAmerican liberals have long beenntroubled by a sinister force lurkingnin our society, namely conservatism.nAlbert O. Hirschman’s motive in writingnThe Rhetoric of Reaction is tonexplain this phenomenon to his fellownliberals. He refrains from psychoanalyzingnconservatism; instead, he arguesnthat conservatives, regardless of personalnquirks, are bound to certain forms ofnargument. Hirschman seeks to analyzenthose forms, not the contents of contemporarynconservative argument. Inndoing so, he comes off as an oldfashionednliberal and seems to regard asnone of the prime differences betweennright and left the latter’s supposedlyngreater faith in humanity.nFollowing the lead of British sociologistnT.H. Marshall, Hirschman suggestsnthat citizenship in Western societiesnhas developed in three stages. Thenfirst of these was the development ofncivil rights {e.g., freedom of speech andnof religion and equality before the law),nwhich he associates with the Enlight­nenment and the French Revolution.nThe second was the development ofnfull-scale political democracy and universalnsuffrage. Finally, the concept ofnrights was extended to include socialnand economic rights in the 20th-centurynwelfare state, which, as far as Americannsociety is concerned, he identifiesnwith the Great Society reforms. Eachnof these three stages of triumph elicitedna bitter reaction aimed at undoing itsnprogress, and in countering all threenphases conservatives or reactionariesndeveloped three brands of argumentn(Hirschman is awfully fond of triplets).nFirst is the “perversity thesis,” whichnhe rightly deems the strongest weaponnin the arsenal of the right, and whichnsuggests that a proposed reform willnactually hurt the group it is supposed tonhelp. Burke’s philippics against thenFrench revolutionaries are a classicncase, while Charles Murray’s LosingnGround is the outstanding contemporarynexample of the perversity argumentnin the present day. The “futilitynthesis” argues that basic social laws willnprevent a reform from succeeding orninsure that it will actually aid somengroup that is already well off. Thenarguments of Mosca and Pareto thatnuniversal suffrage would actuallynstrengthen the grip of the old uppernclasses in Italy and present-day suggestionsnthat welfare-state measures reallynchannel money to elements of thenmiddle class are examples of the futilitynargument. Hirschman argues, not entirelynconvincingly, that the perversitynand futility theses are contradictory.nThird, and perhaps least impressive,nis the “jeopardy thesis,” which holdsnthat some present proposed reform willnundermine some previous progressivenachievement. Arguments against thenextension of the suffrage in the 19thncentury on the ground that democracynwould destroy liberty, and those madentoday against the welfare state on thenground that it will destroy democracy,nare examples of the jeopardy thesis. TonHirschman, the fact that eadier chargesnof perversity, futility, and jeopardynwere false (or seem so to him) suggestsnthat the present-day “versions” are alsonfalse or at least wildly exaggerated —nalthough one can occasionally glimpse,nin this book, a hint of admiration fornthe sneaky right-wingers who conjurenthem up.nSome of Hirschman’s arguments arennnsimplifications, while others, beingnmore complex, are difficult to follow.nNor is it quite clear that “perversity”nand “futility” theses are mutually exclusive,nas far as the modern welfarenstate is concerned. Hirschman arguesnthat the perversity effect, so well describednby Charles Murray, requiresnthat transfer payments actually reachnthe poor to derange their vital decisions,nwhile the futility effect assertsnthat they go somewhere else. I am notnso sure, however, that these argumentsnare really contradictory in practice. Nonone would suggest that transfer paymentsnare big enough to lift the poorninto the middle class; after welfare,nHarlem is still Hadem, not Rego Park,nmuch less Park Avenue. The enormouslynexpensive welfare machinendoes, in fact, divert much money intonthe hands of its middle-class administrators.nMoreover — and here we findnfutility with a vengeance — it does notnseem to reach the very worst off, asnwitness the people roaming the streetsnof our cities.nThat the mere extension of bureaucraticnauthority is likely to erode bothntraditional civil rights and the effectivenessnof democracy eludes Hirschman.nIn fairness, however, it should benstressed that he does not assail rightwingnillusions only. There are, hennotes, roughly parallel arguments onnthe left; although “progressives” like tonsuppose that liberty, democracy, andnsocial reforms are neatly compatible,nthis is not, Hirschman admits, invariablynthe case. He also discusses the left’sncounterpart of the jeopardy thesis, then”imminent danger” argument — thatnreform is the sole way to avoid imminentndisaster. That, of course, is sometimesntrue. The rueful contemplationnof Chiang Kai-shek in exile on Taiwan,nof his failure to institute land reform onnthe mainland, testifies to a fine examplenof “imminent danger” ignored. Innfact, both “progressive” and “reactionary”ntheses have foundations in reality,nalthough not necessarily to an equalnextent. Hirschman insists that over thenyears the right has made many sillynpredictions concerning the inevitablenresults of liberal ideas. The chief problemnis that the left has usually managednto live down to them.nAlan J. Levine is a freelance writernand author living in New York City.nDECEMBER 1991/37n