Progressivism

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Progressivism is the support for or advocacy of social reform. [1] As a philosophy, it is based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition.

Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy includes activities and publications to influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research. Lobbying is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on a specific issue or specific piece of legislation. Research has started to address how advocacy groups in the United States and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Science systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

Contents

Meanings

The meanings of progressivism have varied over time and from different perspectives. Progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, out of the belief that Europe was demonstrating that societies could progress in civility from uncivilized conditions to civilization through strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society. [2] Figures of the Enlightenment believed that progress had universal application to all societies and that these ideas would spread across the world from Europe. [2]

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".

Civility comes from the word civilis, which in Latin means "citizen". Merriam Webster defines civility as civilized conduct or a polite act or expression. Historically, civility also meant training in the humanities.

Empirical evidence Knowledge acquired by means of the senses

Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ἐμπειρία (empeiría).

In the modern era, a movement that identifies as progressive is "a social or political movement that aims to represent the interests of ordinary people through political change and the support of government actions" [3] In the 21st century, those who identify as progressive may do so for a variety of reasons: for example, to favor public policy that reduces or ameliorates the harmful effects of economic inequality as well as systemic discrimination, to advocate for environmentally conscious policies, as well as for social safety nets and rights of workers, to oppose the negative externalities inflicted on the environment and society by monopolies or corporate influence on the democratic process. The unifying theme is to call attention to the negative impacts of current institutions or ways of doing things, and to advocate for progress, that is, for positive change as defined by any of several standards, such expansion of democracy, increased social or economic equality, improved well being of a population, etc.

The contemporary common political conception of progressivism in the culture of the Western world emerged from the vast social changes brought about by industrialization in the Western world in the late-19th century. Progressives in the early-20th century as well as now, take the view that progress is being stifled by vast economic inequality between the rich and the poor; minimally regulated laissez-faire capitalism with monopolistic corporations; and intense and often violent conflict between workers and capitalists, thus claiming that measures were needed to address these problems. [4] Early-20th century progressivism was also tied to eugenics [5] [6] [7] and the temperance movement, [8] [9] both of which were promoted in the name of public health, and were promoted as initiatives toward that goal. Contemporary progressives promote public policies that they believe will lead to positive social change.

Western culture Norms, values and political systems originating in Europe

Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies that originated in or are associated with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are European. Western culture has its roots in Greco-Roman culture from classical antiquity.

Social change Role of social change in society

Social change involves alteration of the social order of a society. It may include changes in social institutions, social behaviours or social relations.

Economic inequality divergence in economic well-being within a group

Economic inequality covers a wide variety of topics. It can refer to either income distribution or the distribution of wealth. Besides economic inequality between countries or states, there are important types of economic inequality between different groups of people.

Progressivism in philosophy and politics

From the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution

Immanuel Kant Kant gemaelde 3.jpg
Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant identified progress as being a movement away from barbarism towards civilization. 18th-century philosopher and political scientist Marquis de Condorcet predicted that political progress would involve the disappearance of slavery, the rise of literacy, the lessening of inequalities between the sexes, reforms of harsh prisons and the decline of poverty. [10] "Modernity" or "modernization" was a key form of the idea of progress as promoted by classical liberals in the 19th and 20th centuries who called for the rapid modernization of the economy and society to remove the traditional hindrances to free markets and free movements of people. [11]

Immanuel Kant Prussian philosopher

Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

Marquis de Condorcet French philosopher, mathematician, and political scientist

Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis of Condorcet, known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher and mathematician. His ideas, including support for a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutional government, and equal rights for women and people of all races, have been said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and Enlightenment rationalism. He died in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities.

Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period, as well as the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in the wake of the Renaissance—in the "Age of Reason" of 17th-century thought and the 18th-century "Enlightenment". Some commentators consider the era of modernity to have ended by 1930, with World War II in 1945, or the 1980s or 1990s; the following era is called postmodernity. The term "contemporary history" is also used to refer to the post-1945 timeframe, without assigning it to either the modern or postmodern era.

Contemporary mainstream political conception

John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill by London Stereoscopic Company, c1870.jpg
John Stuart Mill

In the late 19th century, a political view rose in popularity in the Western world that progress was being stifled by vast economic inequality between the rich and the poor, minimally regulated laissez-faire capitalism with out-of-control monopolistic corporations, intense and often violent conflict between workers and capitalists and a need for measures to address these problems. [12] Progressivism has influenced various political movements. Modern liberalism was influenced by liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill's conception of people being "progressive beings". [13] British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli developed progressive conservatism under "one-nation" Toryism. [14] [15] In France, the space between social revolution and the socially-conservative laissez-faire centre-right was filled with the emergence of Radicalism, which thought that social progress required humanism, republicanism and anticlericalism, and which was until the mid twentieth-century the dominant influence on the centre left in many French- and Romance-speaking countries. Similarly in Imperial Germany, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck enacted various progressive social welfare measures out of conservative motivations to distance workers from the socialist movement of the time and as humane ways to assist in maintaining the Industrial Revolution. [16] Proponents of social democracy have identified themselves as promoting the progressive cause. [17] The Roman Catholic Church encyclical Rerum novarum issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 condemned the exploitation of labour and urged support for labour unions and government regulation of businesses in the interests of social justice while upholding the rights of private property and criticizing socialism. [18] A Protestant progressive outlook called the Social Gospel emerged in North America that focused on challenging economic exploitation and poverty and by the mid-1890s was common in many Protestant theological seminaries in the United States. [19]

Laissez-faire is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from any form of government intervention such as regulation, privileges, imperialism, tariffs and subsidies. Proponents of laissez faire argue for a complete separation of government from the economic sector. The phrase laissez-faire is part of a larger French phrase and literally translates to "let (it/them) do", but in this context usually means "let go".

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.

Monopoly Market structure with a single firm dominating the market

A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. This contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with oligopoly which consists of a few sellers dominating a market. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit. The verb monopolise or monopolize refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry.

Theodore Roosevelt President Roosevelt - Pach Bros.jpg
Theodore Roosevelt

In the United States, progressivism began as a social movement in the 1890s and grew into a political movement in what was known as the Progressive Era. While the term "American progressives" represent a range of diverse political pressure groups (not always united), some American progressives rejected social Darwinism, believing that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism and class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated and believed that government could be a tool for change. [20] American President Theodore Roosevelt of the Republican Party and later the Progressive Party declared that he "always believed that wise progressivism and wise conservatism go hand in hand". [21] President Woodrow Wilson was also a member of the American progressive movement within the Democratic Party.

Progressive stances have evolved over time. Imperialism was a controversial issue within progressivism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the United States where some progressives supported American imperialism while others opposed it. [22]

In response to World War I, progressive President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points established the concept of national self-determination and criticized imperialist competition and colonial injustices; these views were supported by anti-imperialists in areas of the world that were resisting imperial rule. [23] During the period of acceptance of economic Keynesianism (1930s to 1970s), there was widespread acceptance in many nations of a large role for state intervention in the economy. With the rise of neoliberalism and challenges to state interventionist policies in the 1970s and 1980s, centre-left progressive movements responded by creating the Third Way that emphasized a major role for the market economy. [24] There have been social democrats who have called for the social democratic movement to move past Third Way. [25] Prominent progressive conservative elements in the British Conservative Party have criticized neoliberalism. [26]

Criticism of progressive theory in Aldous Huxley's Ape and Essence

Aldous Huxley defined progressive theory in his novel Ape and Essence as:

Progress -- the theory that you can get something for nothing; the theory that you can gain in one field without paying for your gain in another; the theory that you alone understand the meaning of history; the theory that you know what's going to happen fifty years from now; the theory that, in the teeth of all experience, you can foresee all the consequences of your present actions; the theory that Utopia lies just ahead and that, since ideal ends justify the most abominable means, it is your privilege and duty to rob, swindle, torture, enslave and murder all those who, in your opinion (which is, by definition, infallible), obstruct the onward march to the earthly paradise. Remember that phrase of Karl Marx's: 'Force is the midwife of Progress.' He might have added -- but of course Belial didn't want to let the cat out of the bag at that early stage of the proceedings -- that Progress is the midwife of Force. Doubly the midwife, for the fact of technological progress provides people with the instruments of ever more indiscriminate destruction, while the myth of political and moral progress serves as the excuse for using those means to the very limit. I tell you, my dear sir, an undevout historian is mad. The longer you study modern history, the more evidence you find of Belial's Guiding Hand." [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, organic society, hierarchy, authority, and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as religion, parliamentary government, and property rights, with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity. The more traditional elements—reactionaries—oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".

Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. Closely related to economic liberalism, it developed in the early 19th century, building on ideas from the previous century as a response to urbanisation and to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States. Notable individuals whose ideas contributed to classical liberalism include John Locke, Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Robert Malthus and David Ricardo. It drew on the classical economic ideas espoused by Adam Smith in Book One of The Wealth of Nations and on a belief in natural law, utilitarianism and progress. The term classical liberalism has often been applied in retrospect to distinguish earlier 19th-century liberalism from social liberalism.

Liberal may refer to:

A market economy is an economic system in which the decisions regarding investment, production and distribution are guided by the price signals created by the forces of supply and demand. The major characteristic of a market economy is the existence of factor markets that play a dominant role in the allocation of capital and the factors of production.

Right-wing politics holds that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences or the competition in market economies. The term right-wing can generally refer to "the conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system".

Neoliberalism Political philosophy that supports economic liberalization

Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism. While it is most often associated with such ideas, the defining features of neoliberalism in both thought and practice have been the subject of substantial scholarly discourse. These ideas include economic liberalization policies such as privatization, austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. These market-based ideas and the policies they inspired constitute a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus which lasted from 1945 to 1980.

Third Way centrist political and economic ideology

The Third Way is a position akin to centrism that tries to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of some centre-right and centrist economic and some centre-left social policies. The Third Way was created as a re-evaluation of political policies within various centre-left progressive movements in response to doubt regarding the economic viability of the state and the overuse of economic interventionist policies that had previously been popularised by Keynesianism, but which at that time contrasted with the rise of popularity for neoliberalism and the New Right. The Third Way is promoted by social liberals and some social democratic parties.

The Progressive Era was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States that spanned the 1890s to the 1920s. The main objectives of the Progressive movement were eliminating problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption. The movement primarily targeted political machines and their bosses. By taking down these corrupt representatives in office, a further means of direct democracy would be established. They also sought regulation of monopolies and corporations through antitrust laws, which were seen as a way to promote equal competition for the advantage of legitimate competitors.

Social liberalism, also known as left liberalism in Germany, modern liberalism in the United States and new liberalism in the United Kingdom, is a political ideology and a variety of liberalism that endorses a regulated market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights. A social liberal government is expected to address economic and social issues such as poverty, health care, education and the climate using government intervention whilst also emphasising the rights and autonomy of the individual. Under social liberalism, the common good is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual. Social liberal policies have been widely adopted in much of the capitalist world. Social liberal ideas and parties tend to be considered centrist or centre-left. In the United States, current political usage of the term social liberalism describes progressivism or cultural liberalism as opposed to social conservatism or cultural conservatism. A social liberal in this sense may hold either more interventionist or liberal views on fiscal policy.

Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century. It was middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large corporations, pollution and fears of corruption in American politics. In the 21st century, progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice. While the modern progressive movement may be characterized as largely secular in nature, by comparison, the historical progressive movement was to a significant extent rooted in and energized by religion.

Economic progressivism is a political philosophy incorporating the socioeconomic principles of social democrats and political progressives. These views are often rooted in the concept of social justice and have the goal of improving the human condition through government regulation, social protections and the maintenance of public goods. It is not to be confused with the more general idea of progress in relation to economic growth.

Syncretic politics, or spectral-syncretic, refers to politics that combine elements from across the conventional left–right political spectrum. The term "syncretic politics" has been derived from the idea of syncretism. The main idea of syncretic politics is that taking political positions of neutrality by combining elements associated with the left and right can achieve a goal of reconciliation. Since this umbrella term is defined by the combination of the two standard poles of a given one-dimensional political spectrum, it refers to quite heterogeneous approaches.

Associationalism or associative democracy is a political movement in which "human welfare and liberty are both best served when as many of the affairs of a society as possible are managed by voluntary and democratically self-governing associations." Associationalism "gives priority to freedom in its scale of values, but it contends that such freedom can only be pursued effectively if individuals join with their fellows"

Liberalism in the United States is a broad political philosophy centered on what many see as the unalienable rights of the individual. The fundamental liberal ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion for all belief systems and the separation of church and state, right to due process and equality under the law are widely accepted as a common foundation across the spectrum of liberal thought.

Libertarian conservatism political ideology

Libertarian conservatism, or conservative libertarianism, is a political philosophy and ideology that combines right-libertarian politics and conservative values. Libertarian conservatism advocates the greatest possible economic liberty and the least possible government regulation of social life, mirroring laissez-faire liberalism, but harnesses this to a belief in a more traditional and conservative social philosophy emphasizing authority and duty. Libertarian conservatism prioritizes liberty, promoting free expression, freedom of choice and laissez-faire capitalism to achieve socially and culturally conservative ends and rejects liberal social engineering. Libertarian conservatism can also be understood as promoting civil society through conservative institutions and authority—such as family, country, religion and education—in the libertarian quest to reduce state power.

Economic liberalism political ideology

Economic liberalism is an economic system organized on individual lines, meaning that the greatest possible number of economic decisions are made by individuals or households rather than by collective institutions or organizations. It includes a spectrum of different economic policies such as freedom of movement, but its basis is on strong support for a market economy and private property in the means of production. Although economic liberals can also be supportive of government regulation to a certain degree, they tend to oppose government intervention in the free market when it inhibits free trade and open competition.

<i>Illiberal Reformers</i> book by Thomas C. Leonard

Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era is a book written by Thomas C. Leonard and published by the Princeton University press which reevaluates several leading figures of the progressive era of American economics, and points out that many of the so-called "progressives" of the late 19th and early 20th century who created policies such as minimum wage and maximum-hours laws, workmen’s compensation, progressive income taxes and many others had beliefs rooted in Darwinism, racial science, and eugenics, revealing a dark underside to the economic reformers often considered by history to be the altruists in the story of American economic progression.

A property-owning democracy is a social system whereby state institutions enable a fair distribution of productive property across the populace generally, rather than allowing monopolies to form and dominate. This intends to ensure that all individuals have a fair and equal opportunity to participate in the market. It is thought that this system is necessary to break the constraints of welfare-state capitalism and manifest a cooperation of citizens, who each hold equal political power and potential for economic advancement. This form of societal organisation was popularised by John Rawls, as the most effective structure amongst four other competing systems: laissez-faire capitalism, welfare-state capitalism, state socialism with a command economy and liberal socialism. The idea of a property-owning democracy is somewhat foreign in Western political philosophy, despite issues of political disenfranchisement emerging concurrent to the accelerating inequality of wealth and capital ownership over the past four decades.

References

  1. "Definition of progressivism in English". oxforddictionaries.com. Oxford English Dictionary . Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  2. 1 2 Harold Mah. Enlightenment Phantasies: Cultural Identity in France and Germany, 1750–1914. Cornell University. (2003). p. 157.
  3. The Cambridge English Dictionary https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/progressivism
  4. Nugent, Walter (2010). Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 2. ISBN   9780195311068.
  5. Leonard, Thomas (2005). "Retrospectives: Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era" (PDF). Journal of Economic Perspectives. 19 (4): 207–224. doi:10.1257/089533005775196642. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. Freeden, Michael (2005). Liberal Languages: Ideological Imaginations and Twentieth-Century Progressive Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press. pp. 144–165. ISBN   978-0691116778.
  7. Roll-Hansen, Nils (1989). "Geneticists and the Eugenics Movement in Scandinavia". The British Journal for the History of Science . 22 (3): 335–346. doi:10.1017/S0007087400026194. JSTOR   4026900.
  8. "Prohibition: A Case Study of Progressive Reform". Library of Congress . Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  9. James H. Timberlake, Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, 1900–1920 (1970)
  10. Nisbet, Robert (1980). History of the Idea of Progress. New York: Basic Books. ch 5
  11. Joyce Appleby; Lynn Hunt & Margaret Jacob (1995). Telling the Truth about History. p. 78. ISBN   9780393078916.
  12. Nugent, Walter (2010). Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 2. ISBN   9780195311068.
  13. Alan Ryan. The Making of Modern Liberalism. p. 25.
  14. Patrick Dunleavy, Paul Joseph Kelly, Michael Moran. British Political Science: Fifty Years of Political Studies. Oxford, England, UK; Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000. pp. 107–08.
  15. Robert Blake. Disraeli. Second Edition. London, England, UK: Eyre & Spottiswoode (Publishers) Ltd, 1967. p. 524.
  16. Union Contributions to Labor Welfare Policy and Practice: Past, Present, and Future. Routledge, 16, 2013. p. 172.
  17. Henning Meyer, Jonathan Rutherford. The Future of European Social Democracy: Building the Good Society. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. p. 108.
  18. Faith Jaycox. The Progressive Era. New York, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2005. p. 85.
  19. Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865–1915 (1940).
  20. he Progressive Era (1890–1920), The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project (retrieved 31 September 2014).
  21. Jonathan Lurie. William Howard Taft: The Travails of a Progressive Conservative. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. p. 196.
  22. Nugent, Walter (2010). Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 33. ISBN   9780195311068.
  23. Reconsidering Woodrow Wilson: Progressivism, Internationalism, War, and Peace. p. 309.
  24. Jane Lewis, Rebecca Surender. Welfare State Change: Towards a Third Way?. Oxford University Press, 2004. pp. 3–4, 16.
  25. After the Third Way: The Future of Social Democracy in Europe. I. B. Taurus, 2012. p. 47.
  26. Hugh Bochel. The Conservative Party and Social Policy. The Policy Press, 2011. p. 108.
  27. Huxley, Aldous (1948). Ape and Essence. New York: Bantam Edition, Harper & Brothers.
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