What Has Happened to the Idea of Progress?

March 1, 1984

In "What Has Happened to the Idea of Progress?" José Casanova reviews Review of Progress and Its Discontents, an interdisciplinary book on the subject of progress with a number of essays by professors and scholars in different fields of study. Casanova accepts the book's stated purpose of looking at questions about progress but criticizes the book itself for lacking thematic and theoretical unity, arguing that the book fails to answer its own questions about why humanity is discontent with progress, and what role that discontent plays in the modern world. Casanova breaks down analysis of progress and modernity into the three schools of thought on traditions: traditionalism, positivism, and critical-hermeneutism. Casanova argues that many traditionalists, like economists, offer criticisms that are based in unfounded moralism or politics. Positivists, on the other hand, only seek to keep objective progress, but as Casanova points out, virtually all progress is subjective. Finally, Casanova notes that some scholars simply accept progress as a built-in part of science and technology which cannot be removed. This review was published in Contemporary Sociology.

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