Populismo, demagogia e democracia

Pierre Manent, “Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center”:

As a term, “populism” is indisputably marked with discredit and denunciation. The populist orientation is often said to have a “passionate,” “extreme,” or “irresponsible” manner and tone. But its content, too, is never credited with the characteristics of reason, moderation, and responsibility. The term “populism” denotes an orientation, a political opinion, or certain orientations or political opinions, which are discredited and denounced. What opinions, what orientations? They can vary widely, and it is possible to distinguish them according to their basic political polarity, a populism of the Left or extreme Left, and a populism of the Right or extreme Right. It is important, however, to understand that the common substantive of populism tends to prevail over these opposing qualifiers of Left and Right. Even if this effect is not desired, it at least follows from the use of the term. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is thus effectively placed in the same boat as Marine Le Pen, which displeases him greatly. (Here, despite the axiological neutrality that ought to rule political science, I cannot help but sympathize with Jean-Luc Mélenchon.) By classifying these two political leaders under the same heading, this grouping effectively clouds the political landscape to the point of rendering it incomprehensible.

We encounter, then, the following difficulty. How is it possible that a notion which seems to have become indispensable for the understanding of political debate tends rather to make it confused and indecipherable? Does this notion indicate the new reality of those who are thus labeled, or is it not rather a product of the new political intention of those who use it? If the notion of populism can cover political orientations as distant as those of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen—if it thus has the power to prevail over the opposition between the Left and the Right, and even between the extreme Left and the extreme Right—it is because powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape no longer around the opposition between the Right and the Left but between populism and . . . what? We do not know yet, but since “populism” is pejorative and implies discredit, we will say “respectable” and “accredited” politics.

These powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape around the opposition between populism, which we can still describe as Right or Left, and respectable politics, which can still retain its versions of Right and Left. When I speak of the intention of these powerful forces, I do not refer to any sinister plot to give new names to things that have not changed, or to any plot to deceive good citizens. The situation has doubtless already changed enough so that the effort to pit “populism” against “respectable politics” is not merely possible in theory, but already has real purchase. The ability of the Right/Left polarity to organize and describe political life is now likely much weakened.

We can, however, already remark on the difference between how the Right/Left polarity and the populist/respectable polarity see political life. The Right/Left polarity attributes an equal legitimacy to both poles. Even if each of these halves claims full political legitimacy and doubts the legitimacy and occasionally even the simple morality of its opposing half, the system itself is based on the equal legitimacy of the two halves or the two poles, with an uncertainty or a gray zone represented by the extremes (extreme Right or extreme Left), whose democratic legitimacy is always suspect. The new mode is characterized by the unequal legitimacy of the two poles or the two halves: populism as such is tendentiously illegitimate, while “respectable” politics is tendentiously the only legitimate politics.

It seems to me that we have not sufficiently noted to what extent this new mode is actually new. The distinctive feature that the democratic and liberal order used to have as its foundation was the equal legitimacy of the majority and its opposition. The new order now imposing itself more and more upon us rests on the contrast between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions. The point deserves to be examined further, but it already seems clear that with this transformation, we have started to pass from an order built on confrontation between equally legitimate opinions to an order relying on confrontation between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions, between political orthodoxy and heresy. If this were true, then we would be in the process of departing from democracy as it has thus far been known.

A história é o guia para a política

Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), 156 (tradução minha):

(…) todas as épocas têm a mesma estrutura fundamental. Quem conhece uma época, conhece todas. O político que é confrontado com um problema concreto real encontrará sempre na história um caso análogo, e através desta analogia será capaz de agir da forma correcta. O conhecimento do passado é um guia seguro; aquele que adquiriu uma compreensão clara de eventos passados entenderá como lidar com problemas do presente e como preparar o futuro. Assim, não existe maior perigo para um príncipe do que negligenciar os exemplos da história. A história é o guia para a política.

Liberalismo e conservadorismo

Ryan Shorthouse, “The right-wing case against populism”:

In fact, liberalism and conservatism are two distinct philosophies that are often presented in perpetual conflict—but they are natural bedfellows. They need, support and tame each other.

The goals of liberalism—individual flourishing, power and respect—can only be developed by enduring cultural, democratic and civic institutions that teach, guide and protect people. The conservative emphasis on interdependency between—not just independence of—people to cultivate responsibility towards others and to future generations, can only truly be realised if we respect the liberal insight that all and different individuals are equally worthy. As for taming one another, the liberal individual can be rooted in reality and responsibility by conservative institutions. Conversely, traditional culture and institutions can be modernised by legitimate calls for emancipation and inclusion.

It is liberalism, not authoritarian populism, which is a true friend of western conservatism.

Em defesa da hierarquia

Vários autores, “In defence of hierarchy”:

On the other hand, the idea of a purely egalitarian world in which there are no hierarchies at all would appear to be both unrealistic and unattractive. Nobody, on reflection, would want to eliminate all hierarchies, for we all benefit from the recognition that some people are more qualified than others to perform certain roles in society. We prefer to be treated by senior surgeons not medical students, get financial advice from professionals not interns. Good and permissible hierarchies are everywhere around us.

Yet hierarchy is an unfashionable thing to defend or to praise. British government ministers denounce experts as out of tune with popular feeling; both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders built platforms on attacking Washington elites; economists are blamed for not predicting the 2008 crash; and even the best established practice of medical experts, such as childhood vaccinations, are treated with resistance and disbelief. We live in a time when no distinction is drawn between justified and useful hierarchies on the one hand, and self-interested, exploitative elites on the other.


All of this takes on a new urgency given the turn in world politics towards a populism that often attacks establishment hierarchies while paradoxically giving authoritarian power to individuals claiming to speak for ‘the people’.


Apart from their civic importance, hierarchies can be surprisingly benign in life more broadly. Hierarchy is oppressive when it is reduced to a simple power over others. But there are also forms of hierarchy that involve power with, not over. Daoism characterises this kind of power effectively in the image of riding a horse, when sometimes you have to pull, and sometimes let go. This is not domination but negotiation. In Daoism, power is a matter of energy and competence rather than domination and authority. In this sense, a hierarchy can be empowering, not disabling.

Take the examples of good relationships between parents and children, teachers and students, or employers and employees. These work best when the person higher in the hierarchy does not use that position to dominate those lower down but to enable them to grow in their own powers.


As well as being empowering, hierarchies should be dynamic over time. Hierarchies are often pernicious not because they distinguish between people, but because they perpetuate these distinctions even when they are no longer merited or serve a good purpose. In short, hierarchies become ossified. There might be reasons, for example, to appoint people on merit to positions of power, such as to Britain’s House of Lords. Historically, however, this has often led to people not only retaining that power when they have ceased to deserve it personally, but also passing it on to their children. All legitimate hierarchies must allow for changes over time in order for them not to lead to the unjust accumulation of power. This is built into the age-based hierarchies endorsed by Confucians, since the young will eventually rise to take on the elevated status and authority of the old.


Paternalistic hierarchy might then benefit individual autonomy. And hierarchy has one final benefit. Although it would seem to be divisive, hierarchy can promote social harmony. Many cultures justifiably place a high value on communal harmony. This involves a shared way of life, and also sympathetic care for the quality of life of others. Excessive hierarchy works against this, creating divisions within societies. Indeed, in a sense, hierarchy always brings with it the threat of tension, since it is a condition in which one adult commands, threatens or forces another to do something, where the latter is innocent of any wrongdoing, competent to make decisions, and not impaired at the time by alcohol, temporary insanity, or the like. But the goal of preserving communal life means that hierarchy might be justifiable if – and only if – it is the least hierarchical amount required, and likely either to rebut serious discord or to foster a much greater communion. This is a minimalist justification that only ever sanctions the least amount of hierarchy necessary.


Some of these ideas about hierarchy will no doubt be received more favourably than others. There will also be disagreement – as there is among ourselves – about whether we simply need to be clearer about the value of some hierarchies, or whether we need more of them in certain domains. Hierarchy has been historically much-abused and it is the understandable fear of being too enthusiastic about hierarchy that makes some queasy about talking about its merits. Nonetheless, we think it important to put these ideas forward as an invitation to begin a much-needed conversation about the role of hierarchy in a world that is in many ways now fundamentally egalitarian, in that it gives equal rights and dignity to all. However, it clearly does not and cannot give equal power and authority to all. If we are to square the necessary inequality that the unequal distribution of power entails with the equally necessary equality of value we place on human life, it’s time to take the merits of hierarchy seriously.

Populismo, representação, redes sociais e conservadorismo

Roger Scruton, “Populism, VII: Representation & the people”:

The fact remains, however, that the accusation of “populism” is applied now largely to politicians on the right, with the implication that they are mobilizing passions that are both widespread and dangerous. On the whole liberals believe that politicians on the left win elections because they are popular, while politicians on the right win elections because they are populist. Populism is a kind of cheating, deploying weapons that civilized people agree not to use and which, once used, entirely change the nature of the game, so that those of gentle and considerate leanings are at an insuperable disadvantage. The division between the popular and the populist corresponds to the deep division in human nature, between the reasonable interests that are engaged by politics, and the dark passions that threaten to leave negotiation, conciliation, and compromise behind. Like “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “Islamophobia,” “populism” is a crime laid at the door of conservatives. For the desire of conservatives to protect the inherited identity of the nation, and to stand against what they see as the real existential threats posed by mass migration, is seen by their opponents as fear and hatred of the Other, which is seen in turn as the root cause of inter-communal violence.


The phenomenon of the instant plebiscite—what one might call the “webiscite”—is therefore far more important than has yet been recognized. Nor does it serve the interests only of the Right in politics. Almost every day there pops up on my screen a petition from Change.org or Avaaz.org urging me to experience the “one click” passport to moral virtue, bypassing all political processes and all representative institutions in order to add my vote to the cause of the day. Avaaz was and remains at the forefront of the groups opposing the “populism” of Donald Trump, warning against his apparent contempt for the procedures that would put brakes on his power. But in the instant politics of the webiscite such contradictions don’t matter. Consistency belongs with those checks and balances. Get over them, and get clicking instead.

It is not that the instant causes of the webiscites are wrong: without the kind of extensive debate that is the duty of a legislative assembly it is hard to decide on their merits. Nevertheless, we are constantly being encouraged to vote in the absence of any institution that will hold anyone to account for the decision. Nobody is asking us to think the matter through, or to raise the question of what other interests need to be considered, besides the one mentioned in the petition. Nobody in this process, neither the one who proposes the petition nor the many who sign it, has the responsibility of getting things right or runs the risk of being ejected from office if he fails to do so. The background conditions of representative government have simply been thought away, and all we have is the mass expression of opinion, without responsibility or risk. Not a single person who signs the petition, including those who compose it, will bear the full cost of it. For the cost is transferred to everyone, on behalf of whatever single-issue pressure group takes the benefit.

We are not creatures of the moment; we do not necessarily know what our own interests are, but depend upon advice and discussion. Hence we need processes that impede us from making impetuous choices; we need the filter that will bring us face to face with our real interests. It is precisely this that is being obscured by the emerging webiscite culture. Decisions are being made at the point of least responsibility, by the man or woman in the street with an iPhone, asked suddenly to click “yes” or “no” in response to an issue that they have never thought about before and may never think about again.

Reflect on these matters and you will come to see, I believe, that if “populism” threatens the political stability of democracies, it is because it is part of a wider failure to appreciate the virtue and the necessity of representation. For representative government to work, representatives must be free to ignore those who elected them, to consider each matter on its merits, and to address the interests of those who did not vote for them just as much as the interests of those who did. The point was made two centuries ago by Edmund Burke, that representation, unlike delegation, is an office, defined by its responsibilities. To refer every matter to the constituents and to act on majority opinion case by case is precisely to avoid those responsibilities, to retreat behind the consensus, and to cease to be genuinely accountable for what one does.

This brings me to the real question raised by the upheavals of 2016. In modern conditions, in which governments rarely enjoy a majority vote, most of us are living under a government of which we don’t approve. We accept to be ruled by laws and decisions made by politicians with whom we disagree, and whom we perhaps deeply dislike. How is that possible? Why don’t democracies constantly collapse, as people refuse to be governed by those they never voted for? Why do the protests of disenchanted voters crying “not my president!” peter out, and why has there been after all no mass exodus of liberals to Canada?

The answer is that democracies are held together by something stronger than politics. There is a “first person plural,” a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it. Many are the flaws in this system of government, but one feature gives it an insuperable advantage over all others so far devised, which is that it makes those who exercise power accountable to those who did not vote for them. This kind of accountability is possible only if the electorate is bound together as a “we.” Only if this “we” is in place can the people trust the politicians to look after their interests. Trust enables people to cooperate in ensuring that the legislative process is reversible when it makes a mistake; it enables them to accept decisions that run counter to their individual desires and which express views of the nation and its future that they do not share. And it enables them to do this because they can look forward to an election in which they have a chance to rectify the damage.

That simple observation reminds us that representative democracy injects hesitation, circumspection, and accountability into the heart of government—qualities that play no part in the emotions of the crowd. Representative government is for this reason infinitely to be preferred to direct appeals to the people, whether by referendum, plebiscite, or webiscite. But the observation also reminds us that accountable politics depends on mutual trust. We must trust our political opponents to acknowledge that they have the duty to represent the people as a whole, and not merely to advance the agenda of their own political supporters.

But what happens when that trust disintegrates? In particular, what happens when the issues closest to people’s hearts are neither discussed nor mentioned by their representatives, and when these issues are precisely issues of identity—of “who we are” and “what unites us”? This, it seems to me, is where we have got to in Western democracies—in the United States just as much as in Europe. And recent events on both continents would be less surprising if the media and the politicians had woken up earlier to the fact that Western democracies—all of them without exception—are suffering from a crisis of identity. The “we” that is the foundation of trust and the sine qua non of representative government, has been jeopardized not only by the global economy and the rapid decline of indigenous ways of life, but also by the mass immigration of people with other languages, other customs, other religions, other ways of life, and other and competing loyalties. Worse than this is the fact that ordinary people have been forbidden to mention this, forbidden to complain about it publicly, forbidden even to begin the process of coming to terms with it by discussing what the costs and benefits might be.

Of course they have not been forbidden to discuss immigration in the way that Muslims are forbidden to discuss the origins of the Koran. Nor have they been forbidden by some express government decree. If they say the wrong things, they are not arrested and imprisoned—not yet, at least. They are silenced by labels—“racism,” “xenophobia,” “hate speech”—designed to associate them with the worst of recent crimes. In my experience, ordinary people wish to discuss mass immigration in order to prevent those crimes. But this idea is one that cannot be put in circulation, for the reason that the attempt to express it puts you beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Hillary Clinton made the point in her election campaign, with her notorious reference to the “deplorables”—in other words, the people who bear the costs of liberal policies and respond to them with predictable resentments.


ll this has left the conservative movement at an impasse. The leading virtue of conservative politics as I see it is the preference for procedure over ideological programs. Liberals tend to believe that government exists in order to lead the people into a better future, in which liberty, equality, social justice, the socialist millennium, or something of that kind will be realized. The same goal-directed politics has been attempted by the EU, which sees all governance as moving towards an “ever closer union,” in which borders, nations, and the antagonisms that allegedly grow from them will finally disappear. Conservatives believe that the role of government is not to lead society towards a goal but to ensure that, wherever society goes, it goes there peacefully. Government exists in order to conciliate opposing views, to manage conflicts, and to ensure peaceful transactions between the citizens, as they compete in the market, and associate in what Burke called their “little platoons.”

That conception of government is, to me, so obviously superior to all others that have entered the imperfect brains of political thinkers that I find myself irresistibly drawn to it. But it depends on a pre-political unity defined within recognized borders, and a sovereign territory that is recognizably “ours,” the place where “we” are, the home that we share with the strangers who are our “fellow countrymen.” All other ways of defining the “we” of human communities—whether through dynasty, tribe, religion, or the ruling Party—threaten the political process, since they make no room for opposition, and depend on conscripting the people to purposes that are not their own. But procedural politics of the conservative kind is possible only within the confines of a nation state—which is to say, a state defined over sovereign territory, whose citizens regard that territory as their legitimate home.

Sobre o futuro da ideia de inteligência

Stephen Cave, “Intelligence: a history”:

So when we reflect upon how the idea of intelligence has been used to justify privilege and domination throughout more than 2,000 years of history, is it any wonder that the imminent prospect of super-smart robots fills us with dread?

From 2001: A Space Odyssey to the Terminator films, writers have fantasised about machines rising up against us. Now we can see why. If we’re used to believing that the top spots in society should go to the brainiest, then of course we should expect to be made redundant by bigger-brained robots and sent to the bottom of the heap. If we’ve absorbed the idea that the more intelligent can colonise the less intelligent as of right, then it’s natural that we’d fear enslavement by our super-smart creations. If we justify our own positions of power and prosperity by virtue of our intellect, it’s understandable that we see superior AI as an existential threat.


We would do better to worry about what humans might do with AI, rather than what it might do by itself. We humans are far more likely to deploy intelligent systems against each other, or to become over-reliant on them. As in the fable of the sorcerer’s apprentice, if AIs do cause harm, it’s more likely to be because we give them well-meaning but ill-thought-through goals – not because they wish to conquer us. Natural stupidity, rather than artificial intelligence, remains the greatest risk.

It’s interesting to speculate about how we’d view the rise of AI if we had a different view of intelligence. Plato believed that philosophers would need to be cajoled into becoming kings, since they naturally prefer contemplation to mastery over men. Other traditions, especially those from the East, see the intelligent person as one who scorns the trappings of power as mere vanity, and who removes him or herself from the trivialities and tribulations of quotidian affairs.

Imagine if such views were widespread: if we all thought that the most intelligent people were not those who claimed the right to rule, but those who went to meditate in remote places, to free themselves of worldly desires; or if the cleverest of all were those who returned to spread peace and enlightenment. Would we still fear robots smarter than ourselves?

Preconceito, autoridade e razão

Miguel Morgado, Autoridade (Lisboa: Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, 2010), 77–78:

Em sentido literal, isento de cargas pejorativas, o preconceito é tão-somente «o julgamento que se faz antes de se ter examinado todos os elementos que determinam uma situação». Assim, um preconceito não é necessariamente um julgamento errado. Não faltará, porém, quem diga que obedecer à autoridade é confessar a indisponibilidade ou a incapacidade para superar as alegadas carências do preconceito. Grande parte do pensamento do século XVIII europeu, a que se convencionou chamar das «Luzes», não protestou outra coisa. Há preconceitos cuja relevância e valor se podem dever às limitações naturais da condição humana. Contudo, outros preconceitos há que perduram graças exclusivamente à autoridade, que aqui funcionam como uma espécie de assistência respiratória de julgamentos duvidosos. Neste caso, preconceito e autoridade aliam-se para perpetuar a servidão humana, ou pelo menos de certos estratos da humanidade, aqueles que se sujeitam à autoridade e adoptam o preconceito. É também deste modo que os adversários da autoridade denunciam sub-repticiamente a associação entre autoridade e a negação da razão, ou aplaudem a alegada inimizade entre a autoridade e a razão. Recusam-se a aceitar que a compreensão humana do mundo decorre também dos julgamentos que temos de pronunciar em variadíssimas ocasiões da nossa vida, que a razão não opera num vazio histórico, que a aceitação da autoridade é uma prática incontornável e, em circunstâncias felizes e oportunas, proporcionadora de um recto exercício das faculdades do entendimento, justificada por a autoridade, enquanto autoridade, e na medida em que é autoridade, ser igualmente fonte de verdade. Recusam-se a aceitar que a relação entre a autoridade e a razão não é a de um simples confronto, apesar de lhes ser mostrado que o reconhecimento da autoridade sugere desde logo que não se prescindiu da razão. Esse reconhecimento traz implícito o raciocínio segundo o qual vale a pena aceitar o julgamento da autoridade porque esta pronuncia julgamentos superiores aos meus. Daí que seja enganador dizer que a autoridade é imposta por alguém sobre outrem. Na realidade, se a autoridade tem de ser reconhecida e aceite, o termo «imposição» torna-se deslocado. Ademais, a obediência à autoridade, que se segue ao seu reconhecimento, continua a comprovar que estamos diante de um acto regulado pela razão, já que a superioridade dos ditames da autoridade sobre os nossos julgamentos pode, em princípio, ser sempre demonstrada racionalmente.

Sobre o politicamente correcto

Raymond Boudon, Os Intelectuais e o Liberalismo (Lisboa: Gradiva, 2005), 85-86:

Podemos afirmar que estes diversos factores – a descida média das exigências escolares e universitárias, a implantação de uma epistemologia que desvaloriza o conceito de um saber objectivo – produziram ainda outro efeito de importância crucial: contribuíram para um alastramento do moralismo nos meios do ensino e, mais ainda, nos meios intelectuais, já que é mais fácil emitir um juízo moral sobre um determinado episódio histórico ou sobre um determinado fenómeno social do que compreendê-lo. Compreender pressupõe ao mesmo tempo informação e competência analítica. Emitir um juízo moral, pelo contrário, não pressupõe nenhuma competência especial. O reconhecimento da capacidade de compreender pressupõe uma concepção objectivista do conhecimento. O reconhecimento da capacidade de sentir, não. Acresce que, se um dado juízo moral vai ao encontro da sensibilidade de um certo público, ou cumpre os dogmas que cimentam uma determinada rede de influência, pode ser socialmente rentável.

A isto é preciso acrescentar, antecipando uma objecção possível, que o relativismo cognitivo – o relativismo em matéria de saber – não implica de maneira nenhuma o relativismo em matéria de moral. Pelo contrário, o relativismo cognitivo estimula a ética da convicção. Porque, como uma convicção não pode, à luz do relativismo cognitivo, ser objectivamente fundamentada, o facto de ser vivida como justa é facilmente encarado como único critério que permite validá-la. Este critério tende por isso a ser considerado necessário e suficiente. O episódio do Quebeque a que anteriormente me referi, em que um grupo de feministas propôs que fossem atenuadas as exigências do doutoramento a favor das mulheres, com o argumento de que o saber é sempre incerto enquanto as exigências morais são irrecusáveis, é um exemplo que atesta este efeito.

Assim se compreende que a desvalorização do saber possa ser acompanhada de uma sobrevalorização da moral ou, mais exactamente, de uma exacerbação das exigências em matéria de igualdade em detrimento de outros valores. É talvez este fenómeno que algumas expressões hoje repetidas à exaustão tentam captar: «o pensamento único», «o politicamente correcto», a political correctness.

Liberais e conservadores precisam uns dos outros

George H. Nash, “Populism, I: American conservatism and the problem of populism”:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the three independent wings of the conservative revolt against the Left began to coalesce around National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. Apart from his extraordinary talents as a writer, debater, and public intellectual, Buckley personified each impulse in the developing coalition. He was at once a traditional Christian, a defender of the free market, and a staunch anticommunist (a source of his ecumenical appeal to conservatives).

As this consolidation began to occur, a serious challenge arose to the fragile conservative identity: a growing and permanent tension between the libertarians and the traditionalists. To the libertarians the highest good in society was individual liberty, the emancipation of the autonomous self from external (especially governmental) restraint. To the traditionalists (who tended to be more religiously oriented than most libertarians) the highest social good was not unqualified freedom but ordered freedom grounded in community and resting on the cultivation of virtue in the individual soul. Such cultivation, argued the traditionalists, did not arise spontaneously. It needed the reinforcement of mediating institutions (such as schools, churches, and synagogues) and at times of the government itself. To put it another way, libertarians tended to believe in the beneficence of an uncoerced social order, both in markets and morals. The traditionalists often agreed, more or less, about the market order (as opposed to statism), but they were far less sanguine about an unregulated moral order.

Not surprisingly, this conflict of visions generated a tremendous controversy on the American Right in the early 1960s, as conservative intellectuals attempted to sort out their first principles. The argument became known as the freedom-versus-virtue debate. It fell to a former Communist and chief ideologist at National Review, a man named Frank Meyer, to formulate a middle way that became known as fusionism—that is, a fusing or merging of the competing paradigms of the libertarians and the traditionalists. In brief, Meyer argued that the overriding purpose of government was to protect and promote individual liberty, but that the supreme purpose of the free individual should be to pursue a life of virtue, unfettered by and unaided by the State.

As a purely theoretical construct, Meyer’s fusionism did not convince all his critics, then or later. But as a formula for political action and as an insight into the actual character of American conservatism, his project was a considerable success. He taught libertarian and traditionalist purists that they needed one another and that American conservatism must not become doctrinaire. To be relevant and influential, it must stand neither for dogmatic antistatism at one extreme nor for moral authoritarianism at the other, but for a society in which people are simultaneously free to choose and desirous of choosing the path of virtue.


What do conservatives want? To put it in elementary terms, I believe they want what nearly all conservatives since 1945 have wanted: they want to be free; they want to live virtuous and meaningful lives; and they want to be secure from threats both beyond and within our borders. They want to live in a society whose government respects and encourages these aspirations while otherwise leaving people alone. Freedom, virtue, and safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement as it has developed over the past seventy years. In other words, there is at least a little fusionism in nearly all of us. It is something to build on. But it will take time.

Multiculturalismo e imigração

Roger Scruton, How to be a conservative (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2014), 90-92:

Once we distinguish race and culture, the way is open to acknowledge that not all cultures are equally admirable, and that not all cultures can exist comfortably side by side. To deny this is to forgo the very possibility of moral judgement, and therefore to deny the fundamental experience of community. It is precisely this that has caused the multiculturalists to hesitate. It is culture, not nature, that tells a family that their daughter who has fallen in love outside the permitted circle must be killed, that girls must undergo genital mutilation if they are to be respectable, that the infidel must be destroyed when Allah commands it. You can read about those things and think they belong to the pre-history of our world. But when suddenly they are happening in your midst, you are apt to wake up to the truth about the culture that advocates them. You are apt to say, that is not our culture, and it has no business here. And you will probably be tempted to go one stage further, the stage that the Enlightenment naturally invites, and to say that it has no business anywhere.

For what is brought home to us, through painful experiences that we might have avoided had it been permitted before now to say the truth, is that we, like everyone else, depend upon a shared culture for our security, our prosperity and our freedom to be. We don’t require everyone to have the same faith, to lead the same kind of family life or to participate in the same festivals. But we have a shared civic culture, a shared language and a shared public sphere. Our societies are built upon the Judaeo-Christian ideal of neighbour-love, according to which strangers and intimates deserve equal concern. They require each of us to respect the freedom and sovereignty of every person, and to acknowledge the threshold of privacy beyond which it is a trespass to go unless invited. Our societies depend upon law-abidingness and open contracts, and they reinforce these things through the educational traditions that have shaped our common curriculum. It is not an arbitrary cultural imperialism that leads us to value Greek philosophy and literature, the Hebrew Bible, Roman law, and the medieval epics and romances and to teach these things in our schools. They are ours in just the way that the legal order and the political institutions are ours: they form part of what made us, and convey the message that it is right to be what we are. And reason endorses these things, and tells us that our civic culture is not just a parochial possession of inward-looking communities, but a justified way of life.

Over time, immigrants can come to share these things with us: the experience of America bears ample witness to this. And they more easily do so when they recognize that, in any meaningful sense of the word, our culture is also a multi-culture, incorporating elements absorbed in ancient times from all around the Mediterranean basin and in modern times from the adventures of European traders and explorers across the world. But this kaleidoscopic culture is still one thing, with a set of inviolable principles at its core; and it is the source of social cohesion across Europe and America. Our culture allows for a great range of ways of life; it enables people to privatize their religion and their family customs, while still belonging to the public realm of open dealings and shared allegiance. For it defines that public realm in legal and territorial terms, and not in terms of creed or kinship.

So what happens when people whose identity is fixed by creed or kinship immigrate into places settled by Western culture? The activists say that we must make room for them, and that we do this by relinquishing the space in which their culture can flourish. Our political class has at last recognized that this is a recipe for disaster, and that we can welcome immigrants only if we welcome them into our culture, and not beside or against it. But that means telling them to accept rules, customs and procedures that may be alien to their old way of life. Is this an injustice? I do not think that it is. If immigrants come it is because they gain by doing so. It is therefore reasonable to remind them that there is also a cost. Only now, however, is our political class prepared to say so, and to insist that cost be paid.

A tradição em John Kekes

John Kekes, A Case for Conservatism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 38-40 (tradução minha):

Uma tradição é um conjunto de crenças costumárias, práticas e acções que resistiu desde o passado até ao presente e atraiu a fidelidade de pessoas que desejam perpetuá-la. Uma tradição pode ser reflectiva e desenhada, como as deliberações do Supremo Tribunal, ou irreflectida e espontânea, como os fãs de desporto a apoiarem as suas equipas; pode ter um quadro institucional formal, como a Igreja Católica, ou pode não ser estruturada, como o alpinismo; pode ser competitiva, como os Jogos Olímpicos; em grande parte passiva, como ir à ópera; humanitária, como a Cruz Vermelha; egocêntrica, como o jogging; honorífica, como o Prémio Nobel; ou punitiva, como os procedimentos criminais. As tradições podem ser religiosas, horticulturais, científicas, atléticas, políticas, estilísticas, morais, estéticas, comerciais, médicas, legais, militares, educacionais, arquitecturais, e aí por diante. Elas permeiam as vidas humanas.

Quando os indivíduos formam gradual e experimentalmente a sua concepção de uma vida boa o que estão a fazer, em larga medida, é decidir em que tradições devem participar. Esta decisão pode ser tomada de dentro das tradições em que nasceram ou em que foram criados, ou de fora das tradições que os atraem, repelem, aborrecem ou interessam. As decisões podem ser conscientes, deliberadas, claramente afirmativas ou negativas, podem ser formas de seguir inconsciente e irreflectidamente padrões familiares, ou podem ser vários pontos entre estes tipos. O essencial das actividades dos indivíduos que dizem respeito a viver de formas que eles consideram boas é composto pela participação nas várias tradições da sua sociedade.

À medida que os indivíduos participam nestas actividades, claro que exercem a sua autonomia. Eles fazem escolhas e julgamentos; as suas vontades são envolvidas; eles aprendem com o passado e planeiam para o futuro. Mas fazem-no no quadro de várias tradições que com autoridade lhes providenciam as escolhas relevantes, as matérias que são deixadas aos seus julgamentos e os padrões que dentro de uma tradição determinam quais escolhas e julgamentos são bons e maus, razoáveis e ou irrazoáveis. O seu exercício da autonomia é o aspecto individual da sua conformidade à autoridade da sua tradição, que é o aspecto social do que eles estão a fazer. Eles agem autonomamente ao seguirem os padrões de autoridade das tradições a que sentem fidelidade.

(…). Entender o que se passa em termos de autonomia individual é tão unilateral quanto fazê-lo em termos de autoridade social. Cada uma desempenha um papel essencial, e entender o que se passa requer entender ambos os papéis que desempenham e o que os torna essenciais.

O tradicionalismo repousa sobre este entendimento, e é uma resposta política ao mesmo. A resposta é ter e manter arranjos políticos que promovem a participação dos indivíduos nas várias tradições que resistiram historicamente na sua sociedade. A razão para as promover é que as vidas boas dependem da participação numa variedade de tradições.

As tradições não se mantêm independentes umas das outras. Elas sobrepõem-se, formam partes umas das outras, e os problemas e questões que ocorrem numa são frequentemente resolvidos nos termos de outra. A maioria das tradições tem aspectos legais, morais, políticos, estéticos, estilísticos, administrativos, entre outros. Ademais, as pessoas que participam numa tradição trazem consigo as crenças, valores e práticas de muitas das outras tradições em que também participam. Desta forma, as mudanças numa tradição são propensas a produzir mudanças noutras. As tradições estão, assim, organicamente ligadas. É por isto que as mudanças numa tradição são como ondas que se reflectem noutras tradições de uma sociedade.

Algumas destas mudanças são para melhor, outras para pior. A maioria delas, todavia, é complexa, tem consequências que se tornam menos previsíveis quanto mais distantes estiverem, e que assim tendem a escapar ao controlo humano. Dado que estas mudanças são mudanças em tradições sobre as quais dependem as vidas boas, a atitude dos conservadores tradicionalistas em relação a elas será de extremo cuidado. Eles pretenderão controlar as mudanças na medida do possível. Eles quererão que elas não sejam mais amplas do que o necessário para remediar um defeito específico. Eles opor-se-ão a mudanças grandes, experimentais ou gerais devido aos seus efeitos incertos nas vidas boas.

As mudanças são, claro, frequentemente necessárias porque as tradições podem ser perversas, destrutivas, embrutecedoras, negativas e, assim, não conducentes a vidas boas. É parte do propósito dos arranjos políticos prevalecentes distinguir entre tradições que são inaceitáveis, tradições suspeitas mas toleráveis e tradições dignas de encorajamento – por exemplo, a escravatura, a pornografia e a educação universitária. As tradições que violam os requisitos mínimos da natureza humana são proibidas. As tradições que historicamente fizeram contribuições questionáveis para as vidas boas podem ser toleradas, mas não encorajadas. As tradições cujo registo histórico atesta a sua importância para as vidas boas são acarinhadas.

Da ciência do governo

Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 2 (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999), 153 (tradução minha):

Sendo a ciência do governo, portanto, tão prática em si mesma, e destinada a tais propósitos práticos, uma matéria que requer experiência, e ainda mais experiência do que uma pessoa pode adquirir em toda a sua vida, por mais sagaz e observador que possa ser, é com infinita cautela que qualquer homem deve aventurar-se a demolir um edifício que tenha respondido em qualquer grau tolerável, durante épocas, aos propósitos comuns da sociedade, ou a reconstruí-lo novamente sem ter modelos e padrões de utilidade aprovados perante os seus olhos.

Globalização, liberalismo e comunitarismo

Amitai Etzioni, “We must not be enemies”:

As I see it, the rise of right-wing populism in the United States and in Europe can be attributed to no small extent to the profound misunderstanding globalists have of community and communitarian values. Globalists tend to view society as composed of freestanding individuals, each of whom has his or her own individual rights and is keen to pursue his or her own self-interest. As a result, globalists assume that, given the proper information, their fellow citizens will see that their aging societies are refreshed by immigration, that free trade raises the standard of living for everyone, and that individual rights outweigh tribalism.

The trouble with this liberal view of society is less what it claims and more what it leaves out: namely, that people are also social creatures, whose flourishing and psychological well-being depend on strong, lasting, meaningful relationships with others and on the sharing of moral and social values. These relationships and values are found in national and local communities (including families, which are micro-communities). By definition, communities are circumscribed rather than all-inclusive and are inevitably parochial rather than global. Still, the values of communities can be reconciled with globalist values.

If the goal of progressives is to reduce right-wing populism, violence, prejudice, and xenophobia, then communities must be nurtured as they are urged toward equanimity, the rejection of unfounded fears, and above all tolerance. These goals cannot be achieved by denigrating parochialism. Rather, globalists must understand that parochialism can be reconfigured but cannot, and should not, be eliminated.


Above all, globalists ignore the effects of free trade on people’s essential communitarian needs. Economists often fail to understand people who are reluctant to move from West Virginia to Montana, say, when the coal industry is declining but the gas industry is growing. They do not sufficiently consider that people lose their communal bonds when they make such moves. People leave behind the friends they can call on when they are sick or grieving and the places where their elders are buried. Their children miss their own friends, and everyone in the family feels ripped away from the centers of their social lives: school, church, social club, union hall, or American Legion post. A reliable evaluation of the benefits of trade should take into account the destructive effects on communities of churning the labor force. We should at least feel the pain of the casualties of free trade rather than denigrate them as redneck boors who just don’t get it.


Globalists favor the free movement of people across national borders. They strongly support the Schengen Agreement, which removes border controls among many members of the European Union. They cheered Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for welcoming millions of immigrants to Germany. And they view Trump’s call for building a wall on the Mexican border and restriction on immigration from Muslim countries as typical right-wing, xenophobic, reactionary policies.

However, the well-known social psychologist Jonathan Haidt views mass immigration as the trigger that set off the authoritarian impulses of many nations. He concludes that it is possible to have moderate levels of immigration from “morally different ethnic groups”—so long as they are seen to be “assimilating to the host culture”—but high levels of immigration from countries with different moral values, without successful assimilation, will trigger an authoritarian backlash. Haidt suggests that immigration policies ought to take into account three factors: “the percentage of foreign-born residents at any given time; the degree of moral difference [between the] incoming group [and the members of the host society]; and the degree of assimilation being achieved by each group’s children.” Globalists do not approve of this approach.

Progressives are sure to continue to favor a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. But they’d better pay more attention to the further acculturation of this large group than many globalists do. To favor unlimited immigration—whatever the numbers and the cultural differences—is possible only if human rights outweigh all concerns about the value and importance of communal bonds, shared moral understanding, and a sense of identity, history, and fate. Adding a sizable number of people who are indistinguishable from its current members will stress a given community. Adding a large number of culturally distinct people is very likely to engender social tensions. The answer is not to draw up the bridges or build walls but to adopt realistic sociological strategies for absorbing immigrants into their new, host communities.


Even a global community, if one can be forged, would have to be constructed on top of local, regional, and national communities, rather than as a single independent entity composed of more than seven billion individuals, each with individual rights but no social bonds or set of shared values. Thus, universalism and parochialism can be combined, but attempts to maximize either position are sure to lead to troubling, socially disturbing results.


Communitarian sociologists have been pointing out that, for two centuries, the rise of modernity has threatened the communal bonds and shared moral cultures that are essential for a person’s sense of identity, emotional stability, and moral codes. Studies of the rise of Nazism show that communities serve as the best antidote to the mass appeal of demagogues. The kind of reasoned, self-governing, tolerant, civil person whom globalists favor is much less likely to be found among individuals outside the bonds of community than among people with stable social bonds, imbued with a proper moral culture. Hence, globalists have strong reasons to shore up communities.


Progressives should remember that nobody can bond with seven billion people, and almost everyone feels more responsibility toward those closest to them. People have profound needs for lasting social relations, meaning, and shared moral beliefs. Globalist values can be combined with nationalist, parochial ones—demanding that communities not violate individual rights while allowing them to foster bonds and values for their members in the ways that suit them best.

Local communities need to be nurtured rather than denounced, not only because they satisfy profound human needs but also because they anchor people to each other and thus help to dilute appeals to their worst instincts. Championing fair trade, fostering diversity within a framework of unity and shared values, and accepting many kinds of communities as long as they respect rights—all are positions that show understanding and even empathy for citizens who voted for Donald Trump and will go a long way toward making America as great as it can be.

Ideologia como vocação

Daniel Johnson, “Ideology as a vocation”:

Scholarship requires one to follow the evidence, the logic, and above all one’s conscience. Ideology promises a release from all three, into a gravitas-free zone where all that matters is commitment to a cause. Once a scholar has made ideology rather than integrity his or her vocation, it is almost irrelevant which ideology it is.