Thursday, August 02, 2007

Progress and "Progressives"

As long as I can remember, "progressive" has been the term of choice of people on the left. Not for me personally. When I was a Trot, we considered the word a badge of the class-collaborationist popular front. (A big part of the appeal of being a Trot is attacking progressives.) As I drifted rightwards, I preferred "social democrat." Like everyone else in the Anglophone world, I am in some sense a "liberal," although I'm beginning to like "Christian Democrat without faith in Christianity (or Democracy)." Or maybe "eclectic reactionary"? I'll have to work on it...

But enough about me. The point is that those we used to imprecisely call "liberals" now want to be called "progressives." But, in general, the progressives don't believe in progress -- or, at minimum, are less annoying on the subject than crazed Hitchensites and libertarians. True, they view traditional virtues and gender relations with disdain and are unable to be fair to any of their countrypersons of more than two generations ago. They view Canadian history -- for example -- as a long litany of horrors imposed by the establishment on ethnic groups concentrated in strategic ridings, at least until Pierre fixed everything. (Trudeau himself despised precisely this kind of history, and was a progressive of a more full-blooded sort. But so it goes...)

But it got me thinking about Progress, and who would believe in it. At first blush, you'd think that it would be today's winners who would believe most in the upward march of history. After all, here they (we?) are, winners. It's hard not to see the past as precursor to this satisfactory situation.

And so it often is, and probably always would be, were it not for the aforementioned Christianity. It taught the world that the Kingdom is at hand, and the last shall be first and the first last. To the extent Marx inverted Hegel, he just emphasized this apocalyptic version of progress over the more self-satisfied one.

Of course, the genius of the current social system is its ability to turn revolutionary elites into conservative elites. The way is smoothed by the religion of progress -- we can always invert Marx and turn him into Hegel again.

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