sábado, 7 de maio de 2016


"In the world today individual stupidity and wickedness are forgiven more easily than failure to be identified with a recognised party or attitude, to achieve an approved political or economic or intellectual status. In earlier periods, when more than one authority rules human life, a man might escape the pressure of the State by taking refuge in the fortress of the opposition - of an organised Church or dissident feudal establishment. The mere fact of conflict between authorities allowed room for a narrow and shifting, but still never entirely non-existent, no man's land, where private lives might still precariously be lived, because neither side dared to go too far for fear of too greatly strengthening the other. Today the very virtues of even the best-intentioned paternalistic State, its genuine anxiety to reduce destruction and disease and inequality, to penetrate all the neglected nooks and crannies of life which may stand in need of its justice and its bounty - its very success in those beneficent activities - have narrowed the area within which the individual may commit blunders, and curtailed his liberties in the interest (the very real interest) of his welfare or of his sanity, his health, his security, his freedom from want and fear. His area of choice has grown smaller not in the name of some opposing principle - as in the ark Ages or during the rise of nationalities - but in order to create a situation in which the very possibility of opposed principles, with all their unlimited capacity to cause mental stress and danger and destructive collisions, is eliminated in favour of a simpler and better regulated life, a robust faith in an efficiently working order, untroubled by agonising moral conflict".

Isaiah Berlin, Political Ideas in the 20th Century (1950), in: Liberty, ed. Henry Hardy, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 91

sexta-feira, 6 de maio de 2016


"In western Europe this tendency has taken the milder form of a shift of emphasis away from disagreement about political principles (and from party struggles which at least in part sprang from genuine differences of outlook) towards disagreements, ultimate technical, about methods - about the best ways of achieving that degree of minimum economic or social stability without which arguments concerned with fundamental principles and the ends of life are felt to be 'abstract', 'academic' and unrelated to the urgent needs of the hour. It leads to that noticeably growing lack of interest in long-term political issues - as opposed to current day-to-day economic or social problems - on the part of the populations of the Western European continent which is occasionally deplore by shocked American and British observers, who mistakenly ascribe it to the growth of cynicism and disenchantment with ideals.
No doubt all abandonment of old values for new may appear to the surviving adherents of the former as conscienceless disregard for morality as such. If so, it is a great delusion. There is all too little disbelief, whether conscienceless or apathetic, in the new values. On the contrary, they are clung to unreasoning faith and that blind intolerance towards scepticism which springs, as often as not, from an inner bankruptcy or terror, the hope against hope that here at least is a safe haven, narrow, dark, cut off, but secure. Growing numbers of human beings are prepared to purchase this sense of security even at the cost of allowing vast tracts of life to be controlled by persons who, whether consciously or not, act systematically to narrow the horizon of human activity to manageable proportions, to train human beings into more easily combined parts - interchangeable, almost prefabricated - of a total pattern. In the face of such a strong desire to stabilise, if need be, at the lowest level - upon the floor from which you cannot fall, which cannot betray you, let you down - all the ancient political principles begin to vanish, feeble symbols of creeds no longer relevant to new realities".

Isaiah Berlin, Political Ideas in the 20th Century (1950), in: Liberty, ed. Henry Hardy, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.83