January 6, 2010

THE GENIUS OF THE END...:

Progress (Gleaves Whitney, 01/05/10, First Principles)

In the course of American history, the Right’s view toward the idea and reality of progress has been complex and admits of no easy generalizations. Historically Puritans, Jeffersonians, classical liberals, and social Darwinists have all believed in and championed some form of progress, as have some modern conservative scholars like Nisbet. Reactionaries, Catholic traditionalists, and Burkean conservatives, on the other hand, tend to repudiate the very idea of progress if it implies that man’s nature can be improved or that society can be significantly perfected. John Lukacs has warned that while human conditions change, human nature never does. In his autobiography, Confessions of an Original Sinner (1990), Lukacs strikes a “reactionary” posture toward progress with which many conservatives would agree: the reactionary

knows, and believes in, the existence of sin and in the immutable essence of human nature. He does not always oppose change, and he does not altogether deny progress: what he denies is the immutable idea of immutable progress: the idea that we are capable not only of improving our material conditions but our very nature, including our mental and spiritual nature. We must never deny the potentiality of possible improvements of the human condition. But we must be aware—especially at this time, near the end of the twentieth century—of the need to think about what progress means.

Among cultural critics one of the most provocative theories of the late twentieth century—which some have mistaken for an unqualified apology for progress—has come from Francis Fukuyama. In a much discussed 1989 article in the National Interest, Fukuyama gave new life to an old theme, the end of history, which he defined as “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Based on Alexandre Kojeve’s and G. W. F. Hegel’s idealistic view of history, Fukuyama’s end-of-history thesis asserts that the triumph of Western liberalism in the realm of idea and consciousness is now virtually complete.


..., of course, lies in its dependence on the God-given truth that Man's nature can not be improved

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 6, 2010 6:38 AM
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