The Burden of the Past

Roberto Unger begins his book Law in Modern Society with this thought-provoking quote:

It is commonplace that great men impose a burden upon those who come after them.  When there has been remarkable achievement in politics, art, or thought, the generation that follows in its wake, and benefits from it, may suffer the paralyzing sense that nothing really important remains to be done.  It may feel that the most brilliant opportunities have already been explored and turned to advantage.  As a result, the successors seem faced with a dilemma: either they become mere caretakers of the monuments the great have left them, or, desirous of independence, but despairing of excellence, they drastically narrow their ambitions and set out to till, with technical proficiency, a small field.[1]

I am sure that Mr. Unger and I would have radically different ideas about what amounts to truly great achievements, or at least what kinds of achievements would point humanity in general and law in particular in the right direction.  Still, that being said, this quote is a striking way to begin a book on the place of law in society.

[1] Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Law in Modern Society: Toward a Criticism of Social Theory 1 (1976).