Utopia and Reality

I think, at least regarding society and politics, this sums up well how I view the differences between the capacity of human society to grasp after and its actual limitations.

…it will never be possible to insure moral antidotes sufficiently potent to destroy the deleterious effects of the poison of power upon character. The future peace and justice of society therefore depend upon, not one but many, social strategies, in all of which moral and coercive factors are compounded in varying degrees. So difficult is it to avoid the Scylla of despotism and the Charybdis of anarchy that it is safe to hazard the prophecy that the dream of perpetual peace and brotherhood for human society is one which will never be fully realised. It is a vision prompted by the conscience and insight of individual man, but incapable of fulfillment by collective man. It is like all true religious visions, possible of approximation but not of realisation in actual history. The vitality of the vision is the measure of man’s rebellion against the fate which binds his collective life to the world of nature from which his soul recoils. The vision can be kept alive only by permitting it to overreach itself. But meanwhile collective man, must content himself with a more modest goal. His concern for some centuries to come is not the creation of an ideal society in which there will be uncoerced peace and justice, but a society in which there will be enough justice, and in which coercion  will be sufficiently non-violent to prevent his common enterprise from issuing into complete disaster. That goal will seen too modest for the romanticists; but the romanticists have so little understanding for the perils in which modern society lives, and overestimate the moral resources at the disposal of the collective so easily, that any goal regarded as worthy of achievement by them must necessarily be beyond attainment.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr “Moral Man and Immoral Society”

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