Sunday, 13 April 2008

War On Progress

What annoys me most about the term "progressive" is that it only every seems to be used by lefties who think that the left has a monopoly on "progress", whatever that is. A lot of people think that Thatcher made a lot of "progress" by crushing the trade unions in the 80's, but does she get the "progressive" mantle? Of course not - progressivism is only for elitist left-wingers who think that their vision is the one and only true one. Just fuck off, m'kay? If you want to say that you are an environmentalist feminist multiculturalist left-leaning liberal, then don't try and appropriate a word that connotes "good". It's like the whole mess of the "decent left" all over again.

What progressivism really reminds me of is the wanky non-speak of the Transition Towns movement that seems to use an awful lot of words to mean not very much at all.

ps. no post on progress can go without mention of Daniel Davies superb "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There": the great thing about the status quo is that it is no worse than the status quo.

4 comments:

Miller 2.0 said...

"What annoys me most about the term "progressive" is that it only every seems to be used by lefties who think that the left has a monopoly on "progress", whatever that is. A lot of people think that Thatcher made a lot of "progress" by crushing the trade unions in the 80's, but does she get the "progressive" mantle?"

'Progressive' gets on my nerves for the exact opposite reason; its use by right-wingers, yes, Cameron, but also heaps of Labour righties.

The point is that to 'progress' something is to do something markedly different to conserving it. Progressive means 'not conservative', or even 'anti-conservative'.

Now, one could argue of course that Mr T. revolutionised the way in which Britain works. But in my view, this was a retrograde step. This is a view half-absorbed by many tories, who accept, after all, that Thatcherism is 'conservative'.

If Thatcherism is conservative, then I am progressive. Makes sense to me...

sanbikinoraion said...

"But in my view, this was a retrograde step"

It might indeed be your view - but can you honestly picture being where we are now in terms of wealth in this country if the trade unions (which themselves are of course desperately, desperately conservative) had been allowed to continue having the level of power that they had then, now? I can't. Whether or not that involved setting the rules back to a previous, better setting, Thatcher clearly brought economic progress to Britain. I'm not saying the results were perfect, but then ten years of Labour "progress" from the centre-left has hardly been perfect either.

Either way, "progressive" is still a label claimed by the people making changes to make it sound like their changes will be necessarily good. Like "reform", which is inevitably used to describe changes, whether those changes are good or not. Both the introduction and removal of the 10p tax rate was labelled as "tax reform"!

Tristan said...

Unfortunately most political terms are like this.
Progressive seems to mean big-government leftists - that is people who seek to use coercion to bring about progress to their desired ends but seek to add a veneer of democracy (actual elections, not the sham elections of the totalitarian regimes).

I believe that we can make progress towards a more prosperous, more secure, freer more equal society, but I am not allowed the progressive mantle because I view the state as being opposed to all these aims, even when it acts with good intention.

Matthew said...

You mean the left doesn't have a monopoly on progress?! I'm sure there are many besandalled people who would be choking on their muesli if they were to read this over breakfast.