Thomas Sowell's classic analysis of the opposing visions behind today's ethical and ideological disputes
Controversies in politics arise from many sources, but the conflicts that endure for generations or centuries show a remarkably consistent pattern. This revised edition of a classic analyzes the centuries-long debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power. It distinguishes between those with the "constrained" vision, which sees human nature as enduring and self-centered, and the "unconstrained" vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. A Conflict of Visions offers a compelling case that these opposing visions are behind the ethical and ideological disputes of yesterday and today.
Sowell, an economist and author (The Economics and Politics of Race, etc.), presents a provocative analysis of the conflicting visions of human nature that have shaped the moral, legal and economic life of recent times. For the past 200 years, he writes, two visions ofor "gut feelings'' abouthow the world works, have dominated: the constrained vision, which views man as unchanged, limited and dependent on evolved social processes (market economies, constitutional law, etc.); and the unconstrained vision, which argues for man's potential and perfectability, and the possibility of rational planning for social solutions. Examining the views of thinkers who reflect these constrained (Adam Smith) and unconstrained (William Godwin) visions, Sowell shows how these powerful and subjective visions give rise to carefully constructed social theories. His discussion of how these conflicting attitudes ultimately produce clashes over equality, social justice and other issues is instructive.
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I had heard about this book and finally got a copy. It is dense and challenging at times and now I want more information about the ideas and people mentioned in this thoughtful tome.