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Progressivism is a way of thinking that holds that it is possible through political action for human societies to improve over time. As a political movement, progressivism purports to advance the human condition through social reform based on advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization. [1] Adherents to this way of thinking hold that progressivism has universal application and endeavour to spread this idea to human societies everywhere. Progressivism arose during the Age of Enlightenment out of the belief that civility in Europe was improving due to the application of new empirical knowledge to the governance of society. [2]


Early-20th century progressivism included support for compulsory sterilization and eugenics, the temperance movement, American engagement in World War I, and the creation of and participation in the League of Nations. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Progressives believed that progress was stifled by economic inequality, inadequately regulated monopolistic corporations, and conflict between workers and elites, arguing that corrective measures were needed. [9]

In modern political discourse, progressivism gets often associated with social liberalism. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] In the 21st century, 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". [15]


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 toward civilization. [16] 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 sex inequality, prison reforms which at the time were harsh and the decline of poverty. [17]

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. [18]

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 capitalists and workers, with a need for measures to address these problems. [19] Progressivism has influenced various political movements. Social liberalism was influenced by British liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill's conception of people being "progressive beings". [20] British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli developed progressive conservatism under one-nation Toryism. [21] [22]

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 anti-clericalism, humanism and republicanism. Especially anti-clericalism was the dominant influence on the centre-left in many French- and Romance-speaking countries until the mid-20th-century. In Imperial Germany, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck enacted various progressive social welfare measures out of paternalistic conservative motivations to distance workers from the socialist movement of the time and as humane ways to assist in maintaining the Industrial Revolution. [23]

In 1891, the Roman Catholic Church encyclical Rerum novarum issued by Pope Leo XIII 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 right to property and criticizing socialism. [24] A progressive Protestant 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. [25]

Contemporary mainstream political conception to the philosophy

Theodore Roosevelt President Roosevelt - Pach Bros.jpg
Theodore Roosevelt

In the United States, progressivism began as an intellectual rebellion against the political philosophy of Constitutionalism [26] as expressed by John Locke and the founders of the American Republic, whereby the authority of government depends on observing limitations on its just powers. [27] What began as a social movement in the 1890s grew into a popular political movement referred to as the Progressive era; in the 1912 United States presidential election, all three U.S. presidential candidates claimed to be progressives. While the term progressivism represents a range of diverse political pressure groups, not always united, progressives rejected social Darwinism, believing that the problems society faced, such as class warfare, greed, poverty, racism and violence, 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. [28] 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". [29]

Woodrow Wilson Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1919.jpg
Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson was also a member of the American progressive movement within the Democratic Party. Progressive stances have evolved. 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. [30] In response to World War I, President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points established the concept of national self-determination and criticized imperialist competition and colonial injustices. Anti-imperialists supported these views in areas of the world that were resisting imperial rule. [31]

During the period of acceptance of economic Keynesianism (1930s–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 adopting the Third Way, which emphasized a major role for the market economy. [32] There have been social democrats who have called for the social-democratic movement to move past Third Way. [33] Prominent progressive conservative elements in the British Conservative Party have criticized neoliberalism. [34]

In the 21st century, progressives continue to favour public policy that they theorize will reduce or ameliorate the harmful effects of economic inequality as well as systemic discrimination such as institutional racism; to advocate for environmentally conscious policies as well as for social safety nets and workers' rights; and 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 social progress, i.e. for positive change as defined by any of several standards such as the expansion of democracy, increased egalitarianism in the form of economic and social equality as well as improved well being of a population. Proponents of social democracy have identified themselves as promoting the progressive cause. [35]


Cultural progressivism

Progressivism, in the general sense, mainly means social and cultural progressivism. There is cultural liberalism in a similar term, which is used substantially similarly. [36] However, cultural liberals and progressives may differ in positions on cultural issues such as minority rights, social justice,[ citation needed ] cancel culture and political correctness. [37] [ original research? ]

Unlike progressives in a broader sense, some cultural progressives may be economically centrist, conservative, or politically libertarian. The Czech Pirate Party is classified as a (cultural or social) progressive party, [38] but it calls itself "economically centrist and socially liberal". [39]

Economic progressivism

Economic progressivism is a term used to distinguish it from progressivism in cultural fields. Economic progressives' views are often rooted in the concept of social justice and aim to improve the human condition through government regulation, social protections and the maintenance of public goods. [40]

Some economic progressives may show centre-right views on cultural issues. These movements are related to communitarian conservative movements such as Christian democracy and One-nation conservatism. [41] [42]

Techno progressivism

Progressive parties or parties with progressive factions

Note: Rather than mainstream centre-left or left-wing parties with a long history as possible, it is recommended to focus on political parties with prominent socially progressive tendencies such as Czech Pirate Party, Más Madrid and Syriza.

Current parties

Former parties

See also

Related Research Articles

Conservatism is a cultural, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional social institutions and practices. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to the status quo of the culture and civilization in which it appears. In Western culture, conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as organized religion, parliamentary government, and property rights. Conservatives tend to favor institutions and practices that guarantee stability and evolved gradually. Adherents of conservatism often oppose modernism and seek a return to traditional values, though different groups of conservatives may choose different traditional values to preserve.

The Third Way is a centrist political position that attempts to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of centre-right economic policies with centre-left social policies. The Third Way was born from a re-evaluation of political policies within various centre to centre-left progressive movements in the 1980s in response to doubt regarding the economic viability of the state and the perceived 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 starting in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

Social liberalism, also known as new liberalism in the United Kingdom, modern liberalism, or simply liberalism in the contemporary United States, left-liberalism in Germany, and progressive liberalism in Spanish-speaking countries, is a political philosophy and variety of liberalism that endorses a social market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights. Social liberalism views the common good as harmonious with the individual's freedom. Social liberals overlap with social democrats in accepting economic intervention more than other liberals, although its importance is considered auxiliary compared to social democrats. Further terms for social liberalism include the terms welfare liberalism, liberal paternalism, New Deal liberalism in the United States, and Keynesian liberalism. The world has widely adopted social liberal policies.

Liberal conservatism is a political ideology combining conservative policies with liberal stances, especially on economic issues but also on social and ethical matters, representing a brand of political conservatism strongly influenced by liberalism.

This article gives an overview of Liberalism in South Korea. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proven by having had a representation in parliament.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Centre-right politics</span> Politics that lean to the right of the spectrum, but closer to centre than others

Centre-right politics lean to the right of the political spectrum, but are closer to the centre. From the 1780s to the 1880s, there was a shift in the Western world of social class structure and the economy, moving away from the nobility and mercantilism, towards capitalism. This general economic shift toward capitalism affected centre-right movements, such as the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, which responded by becoming supportive of capitalism.

Economic progressivism or fiscalprogressivism is a political and economic 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.

Conservative liberalism or right-liberalism is a variant of liberalism, combining liberal values and policies with conservative stances, or simply representing the right-wing of the liberal movement. In the case of modern "conservative liberalism", scholars sometimes see it as a more positive and less radical variant of classical liberalism, but it is also referred to as an individual tradition that distinguishes it from classical liberalism and social liberalism. Conservative liberal parties tend to combine economically liberal policies with more traditional stances and personal beliefs on social and ethical issues.

Modern liberalism in the United States, often simply referred to in the United States as liberalism, is a form of social liberalism found in American politics. It is the dominant tendency within liberalism in the United States. It combines ideas of civil liberty and equality with support for social justice and a "checked-and-validated" market economy. Economically, modern liberalism opposes cuts to the social safety net and supports a role for government in reducing inequality, providing education, ensuring access to healthcare, regulating economic activity and protecting the natural environment. This form of liberalism took shape in the 20th century United States as the voting franchise and other civil rights were extended to a larger class of citizens. Major examples of modern liberal policy programs include the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society.

Cultural liberalism is a social philosophy which expresses the social dimension of liberalism and favors the freedom of individuals to choose whether to conform to cultural norms. In the words of Henry David Thoreau is often expressed as the right to "march to the beat of a different drummer". Cultural progressivism is used in a substantially similar context, although it does not mean exactly the same as cultural liberalism.

Liberalism in the United States is a political and moral philosophy based on concepts of unalienable rights of the individual. The fundamental liberal ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, the right to due process and equality under the law are widely accepted as a common foundation of liberalism. It differs from liberalism worldwide because the United States has never had a resident hereditary aristocracy and avoided much of the class warfare that characterized Europe. According to Ian Adams, "all US parties are liberal and always have been. Essentially they espouse classical liberalism, that is a form of democratized Whig constitutionalism plus the free market. The point of difference comes with the influence of social liberalism and the proper role of government."

The Democratic Party of the United States is composed of various factions.

Social democracy is a left-wing political, social, and economic philosophy within socialism that supports political and economic democracy. As a policy regime, it is described by academics as advocating economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal-democratic polity and a capitalist-oriented mixed economy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Left-wing populism</span> Political ideology that combines left-wing politics and populist rhetoric and themes

Left-wing populism, also called social populism, is a political ideology that combines left-wing politics with populist rhetoric and themes. Its rhetoric often consists of anti-elitism, opposition to the Establishment, and speaking for the "common people". Recurring themes for left-wing populists include economic democracy, social justice, and scepticism of globalization. Socialist theory plays a lesser role than in traditional left-wing ideologies.

Conservatism in South Korea is chiefly associated with the People Power Party. Traditional South Korean conservatism is a political and social philosophy characterized by Korean culture traditions originating from Confucianism. South Korean conservative parties largely believe in the following; pro-business, opposition to labor unions, strong national defense, free trade, anti-communism, pro-communitarianism and pro- US-S.Korea aliance.

Centre-left politics lean to the left-wing on the left–right political spectrum, but are closer to the centre than other left-wing politics. Those on the centre-left believe in working within the established systems to improve social justice. The centre-left promotes a degree of social equality that it believes is achievable through promoting equal opportunity. The centre-left emphasizes that the achievement of equality requires personal responsibility in areas in control by the individual person through their abilities and talents as well as social responsibility in areas outside control by the person in their abilities or talents.

The Progressive Party was a short-lived moderate left political party founded after the Korean War in South Korea under the leadership of Cho Bong-am. It was a major political force from 1956 to 1958, and fell apart in 1959.

Progressivism in South Korea is broadly associated with social democracy, cultural progressivism and left-wing nationalism. South Korea's "progressivism" is often used in a similar sense to 'South Korean Left' or 'leftist'.

Kakushin Sētō(革新政党) means reformist party or progressive party in English. Kakushin Sētō is generally 'anti-conservative', and in Japan, it has generally referred to democratic socialist, social democratic and socially progressive parties that respect parliamentary democracy. Japan's "progressive parties" are basically opposed to constitutional amendments led by right-wing conservatives, so they are partly in solidarity with "liberal parties".



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