I get the feeling that Kalb wavers between forced optimism and overwhelming cynicism. But perhaps I’m just projecting.
I think the heart of modern “social action” issues lies in our lack of a shared conception of Good. We all agree that murder is wrong, but is abortion murder? There society disagrees. We all agree that theft is wrong, but are forcible government redistributions theft? There society disagrees. Etc.
I don’t know anything about the pre-industrial world, but it does at least seem like people knew what was a virtue and what was a vice.
Our confusion about the nature of the good is the heart of the issue. And this confusion can only stem from lack of personal knowledge of God, who is the source of all Good; who is Goodness Itself.