I think Albert O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty is a great (and mercifully short) book, encompassing a big idea.
And there seems to be a consensus among liberals that Hirschman’s The Rhetoric of Reaction makes a real contribution. But I’ve never figured out what that contribution is supposed to be. Of course conservatives opposing liberal initiatives use the rhetoric of perversity, futility, and jeopardy: just like liberals opposing conservative initiatives. What else are you going to say about a bad idea — say, privatizing Social Security or “reforming” bankruptcy or invading and occupying Iraq or facilitating torture by rolling back habeas corpus — other than that it won’t do what it’s intended to do — will, in fact, do the opposite — and creates all sorts of dangers? And the advocates are going to say that the idea will do just what it’s supposed to, with no bad side-effects and no risks.
It’s useful to lay out the rhetoric of opposition to innovation. But Hirschman seems to think that doing so is the same as proving that opposition is unsound. I don’t get it.