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Peter L. Berger

Professor at Boston University, author of Pyramids of Sacrifice, The Capitalist Revolution, and A Far Glory


The conservative mandate on the 'values' issues is to spell out an authentically conservative position without falling into a radicalizing mood that proposes nonnegotiable absolutes. Such a position, I believe, could persuade a broad spectrum within the electorate. Most, but not all, of these issues belong in the political arena, and most can be dealt with by reversing the 'long march through the institutions' which the Left began in the 1960's. Put differently, the conservative mandate is to build a politically viable social and cultural platform.

Feb. 09, 1997 - from a collection of essays published under the title "On the Future of Conservatism" by Commentary magazine
For most of human history, most human cultures held that an individual human being is his collective identifications (as a member of his clan or tribe or caste, and so on); and that morality (say, dharma in the Hindu context) consists precisely in acting out the performance prescribed by these identifications.

1987 - from The Capitalist Revolution, Gower, Aldershot
Intellectuals do aspire to Enlightenment ideals progress, reason, scientific truth, humanistic values. But they also desire at least some of the traditional virtues that modernity has undermined collective solidarity, transcendence of individualism, and, last but not least, moral certainty and ultimate meaning. Marxism has plausibly offered this curious melange of modern and counter-modern appeals from its inception. It should not surprise that intellectuals have been particularly prone to go for it.

1987 - from The Capitalist Revolution, Gower, Aldershot
The critics of capitalism are right when they reject policies that accept hunger today while promising affluence tomorrow ... the critics of socialism are right when they reject policies that accept terror today on the promise of a humane order tomorrow.

1974 - from Pyramids of Sacrifice: Political Ethics and Social Change, Allen Lane, London
Income distribution is a function of modern economic growth, and is affected to only a limited degree by the institutional arrangements and policies of a society. Capitalism, then, does not come out very well in the perspective of [the value placed on equality]. But neither does socialism, or any presently existent or plausibly imagined form of societal organization. Those for whom equality is a paramount value would thus be well advised to cease blaming or defending either of the two major contemporary systems [viz. capitalism and socialism] for the existing state of affairs. Their concern would logically lead to an overall critique of modernity and to the practical question as to how modernization could be reversed or at least modified.

1987 - from The Capitalist Revolution, Gower, Aldershot