I entirely applaud your thinking, though perhaps I’m attracted more to ‘radical orthodoxy’ than to ‘incremental radicalism’ — personally, I don’t think everything is broken (much is), nor that radical shifts are likely to get us in to a better place — I’m looking for, but can’t find, a quote which is something like ‘Change? My dear fellow, have you seen how bad things are already?’ — the big risk is that it was said by someone disreputable. I think we have to be radical in our thinking, in our self-inquiry, and in our truth-seeking and experimentation, and cautious in our actions.
I also want to highlight three conditions of seriousness that are important to me:
- long-term commitment to the subject and the cause (that doesn’t mean status, or expertise, or long track record — it means actually caring and being likely to stick around)
- action and engagement on the ground — an understanding of the mud and the worms and why it’s all messy — the ‘swampy lowlands’. This implies that this isn’t going to be fixed on twitter or medium, more’s the pity!
- commitment to actual truth, not propaganda — and this implies serious intellectual engagement with people with different views (and to question our foundational assumptions most of all — is there a crisis of legitimacy? Maybe —but are we sure? https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=GB&q=democratic%20legitimacy). It also implies learning from history.
In relation to the first two, it’s meaningful to me that the biggest challenge to the glitz and gloss and very nice tea-break ice-cream at the nesta conference came from Malik Gul — Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network has spent 19 years making change happen on the ground.
A few quotes which I think radicals need to keep in mind (if we aren’t challenging ourselves hardest of all, how can we say we’re radical?)
Santayana: progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Jaques: Creativity and innovation, like freedom and liberty, depend not upon the soft pedalling of organisation, but upon the development of institutions with the kind of constraint and opportunities that can enable us to live and work together harmoniously, effectively and creatively.
So, like Jim Hacker deciding on the background for the party political broadcast (wood panel, desk and double-breasted suit if he had something truly radical to propose, jumper and perched on the front of a desk if he was saying nothing much at all), conservatives need to be radical and radicals need to be conservative. Which is to say I agree.