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Herbert Croly

  • In agitating against the traditional disregard of our full national responsibility, a critic will do well to dispense with the caution proper to the consideration of specific practical problems. A radical theory does not demand in the interest of consistency an equally radical action. It only demands a sincere attempt to push the application of the theory as far as conditions will permit, and the employment of means sufficient probably to accomplish the immediate purpose. But in the endeavor to establish and popularize his theory, a radical critic cannot afford any similar concessions. His own opinions can become established only by the displacement of the traditional opinions; and the way to displace a traditional error is not to be compromising and conciliatory, but to be as uncompromising and as irritating as one's abilities and one's vision of the truth will permit. The critic in his capacity as agitator is living in a state of war with his opponents; and the ethics of warfare are not the ethics of statesmanship. Public opinion can be reconciled to a constructive national programme only by the agitation of what is from the traditional standpoint a body of revolutionary ideas. - The Promise of American Life, p. 420.