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Things are set up as contraries that are not even in the same category. Listen to me: the opposite of radical is superficial, the opposite of liberal is stingy; the opposite of conservative is destructive. Thus I will describe myself as a radical conservative liberal; but certain of the tainted red fish will swear that there can be no such fish as that. ~ R. A. Lafferty

Radicalism is the belief that there is a vital need for a clear awareness of the root causes and character of things, by which one can recognize and penetrate superficial or false appearances; in political terms, this is often accompanied by the belief that society requires fundamental and drastic changes.


We must grant both the poetic singularity of events and the radical uncertainty of events. It is not easy. ~ Jean Baudrillard
Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. ~ Margaret Fuller
  • To challenge and to cope with this paradoxical state of things, we need a paradoxical way of thinking; since the world drifts into delirium, we must adopt a delirious point of view. We must no longer assume any principle of truth, of causality, or any discursive norm. Instead, we must grant both the poetic singularity of events and the radical uncertainty of events. It is not easy. We usually think that holding to the protocols of experimentation and verification is the most difficult thing. But in fact the most difficult thing is to renounce the truth and the possibility of verification, to remain as long as possible on the enigmatic, ambivalent, and reversible side of thought.
    • Jean Baudrillard in the lecture "The Murder of the Real" (May 1999); published in The Vital Illusion (2000)
  • We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us.
    How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.
  • RADICALISM, n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the affairs of to-day.
  • A Radical generally meant a man who thought he could somehow pull up the root without affecting the flower. A Conservative generally meant a man who wanted to conserve everything except his own reason for conserving anything.
    • G.K. Chesterton, in "The Evolution of Words and Meanings" in The Illustrated London News (3 July 1920)
  • When we got organized as a country and we wrote a fairly radical Constitution with a radical Bill of Rights, giving a radical amount of individual freedom to Americans, it was assumed that the Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly. That is, when we set up this country, abuse of people by Government was a big problem. So if you read the Constitution, it's rooted in the desire to limit the ability of — Government's ability to mess with you, because that was a huge problem. It can still be a huge problem. But it assumed that people would basically be raised in coherent families, in coherent communities, and they would work for the common good, as well as for the individual welfare.
  • 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 Man of "Radical" Understanding is not "entranced". He is not "elsewhere". He is not having an experience. He is not passionless and inoffensive. He is awake. He is present. He knows no obstruction in the form of mind, identity, differentiation and desire. He uses mind, identity, differentiation and desire. He is passionate. His quality is an offense to those who are entranced, elsewhere, contained in the mechanics of experience, asleep, living as various forms of identity, separation and dependence. He is acceptable only to those who understand.
    • Adi Da, in The Knee of Listening (1972)
  • I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.
  • I simply state that I'm a product of a versatile mind in a restless generation — with every reason to throw my mind and pen in with the radicals. Even if, deep in my heart, I thought we were all blind atoms in a world as limited as a stroke of a pendulum, I and my sort would struggle against tradition; try, at least, to displace old cants with new ones. I've thought I was right about life at various times, but faith is difficult. One thing I know. If living isn't seeking for the grail it may be a damned amusing game.
  • My generation of radicals and breakers-down never found anything to take the place of the old virtues of work and courage and the old graces of courtesy and politeness.
  • Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.
    History jeers at the attempts of physiologists to bind great original laws by the forms which flow from them. They make a rule; they say from observation what can and cannot be. In vain! Nature provides exceptions to every rule. She sends women to battle, and sets Hercules spinning; she enables women to bear immense burdens, cold, and frost; she enables the man, who feels maternal love, to nourish his infant like a mother.
  • I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not be a fool, which, if I may judge by the exhibitions around me, is a matter of no small difficulty.
    • James A. Garfield, in a letter to Burke Aaron Hinsdale (1 January 1867); quoted in The Life of Gen. James A. Garfield (1880) by Jonas Mills Bundy, p. 77
  • Nobody but radicals have ever accomplished anything in a great crisis. Conservatives have their place in the piping times of peace; but in emergencies only rugged issue men amount to much.
    • James A. Garfield, in The Diary of James A. Garfield : 1875-1877 (1983), edited by Harry James Brown, Frederick D. Williams. p. 396
  • The enclosure of the commons inaugurates a new ecological order: Enclosure did not just physically transfer the control over grasslands from the peasants to the lord. Enclosure marked a radical change in the attitudes of society towards the environment.
  • Why have so many radicals been impermeable to a pro-Jewish analysis and activity? Why are we getting the message that many of our erstwhile political comrades and sisters-including Jews-think it contradictory to be a radical Jew?
    • Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz To Be a Radical Jew in the Late 20th Century in The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology (1986)
  • radical politics is not about being hipper than our parents or neighbors. It is about enlarging the circle. It is about being inclusive of practically everyone except those few on top. How do we enlarge our circle? We begin close to home.
    • Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz “Nine Suggestions For Radicals, or Lessons From the Gulf War” in The Issue is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence and Resistance (1992)
  • Things are set up as contraries that are not even in the same category. Listen to me: the opposite of radical is superficial, the opposite of liberal is stingy; the opposite of conservative is destructive. Thus I will describe myself as a radical conservative liberal; but certain of the tainted red fish will swear that there can be no such fish as that. Beware of those who use words to mean their opposites. At the same time have pity on them, for usually this trick is their only stock in trade.
  • A genuine man goes to the roots. To be a radical is no more than that: to go to the roots. He who does not see things in their depth should not call himself a radical.
    • José Martí, as translated in Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994) edited by Carlos Ripoll
  • True love is radical because it requires us to see ourselves in all people. Otherwise, it isn’t love. Love is revolutionary because it has us treat ALL people as we would ourselves - not because we are charitable, but because we are one. That is love’s radical conclusion.
  • Revolutionary practice in any field of human existence develops by itself if one comprehends the contradictions in every new process; it consists in siding with those forces which act in the direction of progressive development. To be radical, according to Marx, means "going to the root of things." If one goes to the root of things, if one understands their contradictory character, the means of mastering the reaction become plain.
    • Wilhelm Reich, in The Mass Psychology of Fascism [Massenpsychologie des Faschismus] (1933), first translated into English in 1946; Ch. 1 : Ideology As Material Power, Section 1 : The Divergence Of Ideology And Economic Situation
  • Conservative: One who admires radicals a century after they're dead.
    • Leo Rosten, as quoted in The Modern Handbook of Humor (1967) by Ralph Louis Woods
  • We live in a culture in which intelligence is denied relevance altogether, in a search for radical innocence, or is defended as an instrument of authority and repression. In my view, the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying.
    • Susan Sontag, in "Women, the Arts, & the Politics of Culture: An Interview with Susan Sontag" in Salmagundi, No. 31-32 (Fall/Winter 1975), p. 29; later published in Conversations with Susan Sontag (1995) edited by Leland A. Poague, p. 77
  • At this point in history, the most radical, pervasive, and earth-shaking transformation would occur simply if everybody truly evolved to a mature, rational, and responsible ego, capable of freely participating in the open exchange of mutual self-esteem. There is the "edge of history." There would be a real New Age.
  • The Realization of the Nondual traditions is uncompromising: There is only Spirit, there is only God, there is only Emptiness in all its radiant wonder. All the good and all the evil, the very best and the very worst, the upright and the degenerate — each and all are radically perfect manifestations of Spirit precisely as they are. There is nothing but God, nothing but the Goddess, nothing but Spirit in all directions, and not a grain of sand, not a speck of dust, is more or less Spirit than any other.
    • Ken Wilber, in The Eye of Spirit : An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad (1997)
  • Every aspect of personal life is radically affected by the quality of general life, and yet the general life is seen at its most important in completely personal terms.
  • radicals need to recreate a politics that emphasizes our common humanity, to base our social theory and practice on principles that apply to us all.
    • Ellen Willis Introduction to No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (1992)
  • All hatred driven hence,
    The soul recovers radical innocence

    And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
    Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
    And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
    She can, though every face should scowl
    And every windy quarter howl
    Or every bellows burst, be happy still.