1. Disillusionment with the idea of revolution is one of the most interesting features of American intellectual life today. Since revolution was never a practical possibility in America, this disillusionment might seem as unimportant as the enthusiasm preceding it. What was always impractical has now become abhorrent; it is a part of the process of accommodation. And yet it is more than that, for in the light of recent history, it surely seems necessary to be at least critical of the revolutionary tradition. After seeing the terror and the purge and all that goes with the revolutionary transformation of a society, the brutal manipulation of human beings, the corruption of culture—after seeing all this we are none of us, I suppose, revolutionaries. We have renounced Bolshevik “realism”; we have accepted, in some secular fashion, the fact of human limitation; we have searched for moral laws and human rights so absolute as to control our activity and our goals. We have learned that there must be in human affairs a realm of the forbidden, of things which men cannot do. (I don’t mean to deny that men, or rather a man, may on occasion have to do the forbidden thing; that is another question. It is important, however, that at such a moment he knows what moral risks he takes.)
But the general disillusionment has gone much further than this; men are never content to be taught elementary things. Having viewed the revolution through an apo...
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