Saturday, October 17, 2015

Eric Hoffer: conservatives and radicals

Another quotation or aphorism from Eric Hoffer's The Passionate State of Mind.

No. 21

"There is radicalism in all getting, and conservatism in all keeping.  Lovemaking is radical, while marriage is conservative.  So, too, get-rich-quick capitalism is radical, while a capitalism intent solely on keeping what it already has is conservative.  Radicalism itself ceases to be radical when absorbed mainly in preserving its control over a society or an economy."
-- Eric Hoffer --
The Passionate State of Mind

conservative: believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society: not liking or accepting changes or new ideas.

radical: very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people
Merriam Webster Dictionary  

What do you think?  Is Hoffer being simplistic here?  Is there more to being conservative or radical?  Or, is this one of those cases where being simple is best?

Are "getting" and "keeping" the signficant differences between them?

Corporations then would obviously be conservative as their focus is mainly on survival, and all else comes second (or last).  Restaurants or cafes are common in this country, if not world-wide.  Would opening a new restaurant or cafe be conservative or radical?  If that would be a conservative act, what would be necessary to make opening a new restaurant a radical act?

Cat cafes or lounges are very popular now in Japan.  Something similar has just opened up in San Francisco (I think).  A customer can walk in, order a cup of tea or coffee, and relax.  The place has many cats wandering around, and eventually one will come up to investigate and be petted.  It is supposed to be very relaxing and peaceful, just right for harried 9-5ers and shoppers.

Would opening up one of these lounges be a radical act?  In Japan?  Here?


  1. I used to get a kick out of seeing Eric Hoffer on TV. He was sort of a wise guy sage. He once pointed out that all great books are small, and then as their authors age, they rewrite the ideas in those books in longer and longer versions, just reiterating what they first said in a small book. The True Believer was 176 pages.

  2. Jim,

    I don't remember seeing him on TV. That sounds like the sort of thing he would say. That's how I got to know of him, through his _The True Believer_. I have several of his works, and they are all short. I guess he practices what he preaches.

  3. Getting what? Keeping what? He is being too vague and abstract. Or I'm being too impatient with Hoffer.

  4. R.T.,

    Getting anything you can think of is radical, but then striving to keep it is conservative. He gives the example: making love is radical while marriage is conservative.

    I don't think Hoffer has any intention of writing a thesis or a well-footnoted and documented treatise with all the trappings. He makes statements, wide, sweeping, general, provocative, in order, I'm guessing, to make his readers think about something. Whether they agree or disagree, I suspect, is irrelevant to him--getting readers to think about some things he thinks important is the point.

    1. I'm all for provocations. I guess I should visit Hoffer.

    2. R.T.,

      Chuckle. . .

      Provocations you will find.