Author: Gerfried Ambrosch

My Former Life as a Radical

To understand what it’s like to be a radical, it helps to speak to those once held under the sway of a radical ideology. Broadly defined, radicalism implies a rejection of compromise and incremental progress in favor of radical change, and for years I believed that Western capitalist society was beyond redemption and in need of a sweeping revolution. There were those who perpetuated a system of oppression and exploitation, and those who sought to overthrow it. In The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope, the philosopher Roger Scruton outlines the fallacies underlying this mindset, such as “the best case fallacy,” which “imagines the best outcome and assumes that it need consider no other,” and “the utopian fallacy,” which insists that the perfect is the enemy of the good. These can be summed up under the rubric of “unscrupulous optimism,” a concept originally coined by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Assuming that intentions translate directly into results, radicals tend to be unscrupulous optimists in that they operate on the premise that well-intentioned radical …