Hirschman and the rethoric of reaction

Vol. 13 No. 1 (1993)

Jan-Mar / 1993
Published January 1, 1993
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))

How to Cite

Pena, Maria Valéria Junho. 1993. “Hirschman and the Rethoric of Reaction”. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy 13 (1):162-67. https://doi.org/10.1590/0101-31572000-0706.

Hirschman and the rethoric of reaction

Maria Valéria Junho Pena
Do Instituto de Economia Industrial da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro – UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro/ RJ, Brasil. Pesquisadora associada do Departamento de Economia da The American University
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1993), Jan-Mar / 1993, Pages 162-167


The communication deals with the 1991’s book of Albert O. Hirschman, Rhetoric
of reaction: perversity. futility. Jeopardy, showing its importance in relation with the
contemporary debate on the possibilities of the welfare state. The thesis of Hirschman is that
the contemporary conservative criticism on the welfare state is a revival of the thesis that
had been already argued before opposing the expansion of civil and political rights. The same
way as those rights, contemporary social rights would: (i) produce the contrary of what
is the desire of policymakers; (ii) produce no effect at all; (iii) cost too much, jeopardizing
democracy or economic growth. Perversity, futility and jeopardy are the main attributes of
action according to the conservative view; that’s why its proposal is so reactionary. That is
why, as well, considering the danger of action, its success rests on its competence to persuade
that history not allowing anything to be done or to be created. Politics is just a case for
administrative skills.

JEL Classification: Y30.

Keywords: Review Hirschman