The Progressive Fallacy

The Liberal-Progressive is the modern day Marxist. When those who push for it are not simply disingenuous , they are peoples whose logic is snared in the Progressive Fallacy. The Progressive Fallacy is misconception that goodness lies on the side of things to come and badness on the side of what is and was. It’s often tied to material eschatology — the view that pushing for social, cultural, biological, and technological change and differences is good and leads to the good and the right. Accordingly, the past is seen as apish and crude, something that needs to be vanquished and transcended, so that the new man and new world can be made way for.

Here is an example of it in play:

But of course this is the trouble with basing your political value system on things like authority and tradition. It’s always changing! William F Buckley’s determination to stand athwart history yelling stop led him to a robust defense of apartheid as a system of government for the American South. At times in different countries, authority and tradition has meant backing absolute monarchy or vicious dictatorships. Or maybe conservatism means women can’t vote. Eventually, you wind up defending the United Federation of Planets just like Captain Picard. Earlier this week TNR did a fun look back at various instances of social progress that the right swore would doom America. By Picard’s time, it’s bound to be a much longer list.

Here is the tragedy that it results in:

Does the past matter?
Renegotiating the past, communal identity, and multiculturalism in Europe
Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway

In our liquid second modernity, as Zygmunt Bauman declared, amnesia has seemingly reached epidemic proportions. Sociologists, cultural critics and historians warn us that our modern society has severed the ties with the past in order to inhabit the present and the future, and has embraced a hodgepodge of ready-made identities, whilst rejecting more traditional forms of identification. However, it is not necessarily so. The past matters. The question remains: how should we relate to national and cultural histories while striving to create a new multicultural Europe? Should we be advocates of Nietzschean antiquarian or critical modes of relating to history? Or is there a need for a more transgressive approach to history that would allow creating a civic European platform? The aim of this seminar is twofold. First, it aims to address the issue of negotiating between past and present at both local and national levels in Europe; secondly, to investigate the influence of this enterprise on the formation of progressive communal identities. The wide scope of the conference is intended to be informed by a variety of perspectives (cultural, political, ethical, religious and social) from which the relationship between the past, identity, and our perception of the ‘Other’ can be viewed. Contributions from a variety of disciplines are welcome: women and gender studies, literary and film studies, political science, philosophy, sociology and history.

[Aside: Quick, someone buy me a ticket; I need to get to the meeting last year. I have an idea. Does anyone want to hear it? If you know that this and this is a problem, why do you keep pushing it? If you know, as I do, that a people’s History and Identity are as important as a person’s memory and personality, why are you pushing this? Why are you helping to liquidate it?]

The Progressive Fallacy is based on two primary errors. The first is an error of causality and the second is an error of historicity. Together, both errors lead a certain type of progressive, the Liberal-progressive, to the most absurd conclusions.

With regards to causality, the Liberal-progressive does not grasp the structure of development. She sees affluence, change, and Left-liberalism and assumes that the causal arrow must go from left-liberalism to affluence. She then advocates left-liberalism as a means to a more affluent society. Razib over at The Secular Right had a good post on how this type of thinking works:

Forces of Fortune is very much about the social implications of material conditions. In other words, the relative economic stagnation of the core Muslim world in relation to the developed world or the BRIC nations. Nasr’s argument is that in the 20th century Muslim elites saw in the West an object of emulation, and fixated on the exoteric aspects without comprehending the deeper structural preconditions of prosperity. Kemal Ataturk exemplified this, he forced Turks to re-conceptualize themselves as Europeans by battering them, both psychologically and literally. He demanded that Turks look the part of Europeans, that they change their dress and switch to a Roman alphabet from an Arabic script. In addition to the cultural shifts Ataturk also set the tone through an emphasis on top-down institutional development, in particular state control and guidance of the economy… But to a great extent Kemalism and its imitators, such as Arab Nationalism, have failed.

In spite of the fact that the Soviet Union fell, Maoist China is now reformed China, and Arab Westernization turned into Arab Islamization, the Liberal-progressive keeps marching on. She imagines that pushing is what is causing dissidence in Iran. She forgets why Iran became a theocracy. She imagines that the Enlightenment caused Europe to change. She forgets why Europe reached the preconditions for enlightenment and change. Post hoc ergo Propter hoc. She sees the 1960′s and the hippies and thinks they caused the civil rights movements; she forgets the post WWII boom. She selectively see’s the 1800′s and the democratic movements (as if the nationalism of ethnic self-determination wasn’t part of that) and thinks it was Philosophes that were behinds this. With regards to change, they were epiphenomenal. More than not, it’s affluence that’s causing change. A change which can be developmental or transformatory. The Liberal-progressive is the modern day Leninist-Marxist. Marx, at least, saw the structure of change, which is why he was not a Leninist. The Leninist tries to impose change, top down; the marxist works within the system — Which brings us to our second point.

With regards to historicity, like other progressives, the liberal-progressives does not grasp the nature of societal-moral development. As a leftist material teleologist and Whigg, she is inclined towards radicalism. She sees an expansion of conscientiousness, change, and Left-Liberalism; and she sees what is considered moral now and what would be considered immoral now then. This leads her to conclude that Left-Liberalism is the apogee of open-mindedness and that other ways are antithetical to that.

Teleological and the whiggish views of history are mistakes. They are mistakes whether interpreted in leftish, rightish,religious, scientific fashions. They are based on a variant of the Anthropic Principle. And when interpreted, they become double mistakes: not only is society not naturally progressing somewhere, it surely is not naturally progressing where the progressives wishes it to. Which is why, in the end, they have to engineer it to go where they want.

Marxism is a classical example. Marxism, the materialistic version of Hegel’s Absolute Realism, sees history evolving teleologically:

The outstanding achievement of Hegel’s Phenomenology and of its final outcome, the dialectic of negativity as the moving and generating principle, is thus first that Hegel conceives the self creation of man as a process, conceives objectification as loss of the object, as alienation and as transcendence of this alienation; that he thus grasps the essence of labor and comprehends objective man – true, because real man – as the outcome of man’s own labor.

What Hegel and Marx saw was a certain pattern of change over time, which resulted from gradual — or punctuated, in the case of the West — societal development. Over time, societies increased their intellectual, material, and social capital. People renegotiated their relationship in light of this. Both saw this as teleological. On top of this, Hegel projected a ‘Leftism,’ in the sense of the French Enlightenment, into this, while Marx projected a ‘Leftism,’ in the sense if communism, into this. Obviously, other people formulate their own historic narratives.

Accordingly, history and society is seen as evolving in the way that many 19th century biological evolutionists saw species evolving. It evolves towards a higher end, away from the apes of the past. It is largely for this reason that Marxism was, and apparently still is, compelling for many. In addition to an socioeconomic system, it offered a substitute world-perspective. Birthed by one of the many 19th century prophets of change, it was one of the more appealing variants of the many modern attempts to create a new way.

There should be no doubt that societies and morality change in relation to material conditions. But they are not developing anywhere. Morality reflects society. Societies change. And the evolutionary path is not linear but branching, with dead ends abound. What counts as the US today or our contemporary moral conventions represents a graveyard of historic dead ends and aborted possibilities. What we are now is one of the workable possibilities that survived.

What Hegel, Marx, and others saw was merely that the number of counterfactual histories is limited. Like biological evolution, there are a set of parameters in which things can change. Physical, Psychosociological, and Historic conditions put constants on societal evolution, just as physical, genetic, and phylogenetic conditions constrain biological evolution. Change occurs in the context of environmental conditions and is limited by various dynamics.

Together, when both historic and causal fallacies unite, we get the Liberal-Progressive. And when reality begins to constrain idealism, the Liberal Progressive like the Leninist Marxist before her, tries to engineer society and people around reality. Liberal-progressivism, Cultural Marxism, the New Left, or whatever you wish to call it is certainly an apogee. It’s a societal evolutionary dead end. The material world is not idealistic — which is why materially successful systems separate the spirit from the world (a la Christianity) and the Church from the state (a la constitutional democracy). They first keep the gods out of the earth, and then the spirituality out of the state.

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One Response to The Progressive Fallacy

  1. Pingback: Atavistic Right « Occidental Ascent

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