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Encyclopedia > Social progress

Social progress is defined as a progress of society, which makes the society better in the general view of its members. The concept of social progress was introduced in the early, 19th century social theories, especially those of social evolutionists like August Comte and Herbert Spencer. It was however already present in the Enlightenment's philosophies of history. Progress can refer to: The idea of a process in which societies or individuals become better or more modern (technologically and/or socially). ... Human relationships within an ethnically diverse society. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Social theory refers to the use of abstract and often complex theoretical frameworks to explain and analyze social patterns and large-scale social structures. ... In the unilineal evolution model at left, all cultures progress through set stages, while in the multilineal evolution model at right, distinctive culture histories are emphasized. ... Auguste Comte Auguste Comte (full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte) (January 17 (recorded January 19), 1798 _ September 5, 1857) was a positivist thinker and a founder of the discipline of sociology. ... Herbert Spencer. ... Look up Enlightenment in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Philosophy of History is an area of philosophy concerning the eventual significance, if any, of human history, and speculation as to a possible teleological end to its development. ...


When it was conceived, the notion of social progress was extremely radical. The reason is that previous to that time, the social order was viewed as unchangeable and immutable, often divinely ordained. In other words, ultimately God had created the social system, and that system as well as the place people had in that system was eternal, constant and permanent (but cyclical, like the seasons). Nothing really changed, and the more it changed, the more it stayed the same; the emphasis was on seeing the constant, eternal aspects in human life. This interpretation of society was very conservative, because even if change occurred, this was merely a superficial aspect of an underlying social order which was eternal. In turn, this way of seeing things was based on a way of life in which very little changed (except seasonally, as with the weather, or the stages of a man's life), and in which people stuck to their station in life, not having or expecting the option or chance of moving out of it to a different station in life. The term Radical (latin radix meaning root) has been used since the late 18th century as a label in political science for those favoring or trying to produce thoroughgoing political reforms which can include changes to the social order to a greater or lesser extent. ... Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences. ... The concept of the divine or of The Divine, meaning matters relating to a god, forms an important ingredient in many religious faiths (but compare Buddhism, for example, or Scientology). ... Michelangelos depiction of God in the painting Creation of the Sun and Moon in the Sistine Chapel Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, one of the manifestations of the ultimate reality or God in Hinduism This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... Social structure (also referred to as a social system) is a system in which people forming the society are organized by a patterns of prelationships. ... Eternal can refer to: The British R&B group Eternal Eternals, the Marvel Comics characters created by Jack Kirby The eternity puzzle The concept of eternity The philosophical notion of the incorporeal, or immaterial realm. ... Conservatism or political conservatism is any of several historically related political philosophies or political ideologies. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Superficial is a general term meaning regarding the surface, often metaphorically. ...

Contents


Enlightenment

The big breakthrough to a new idea in Europe came with the Enlightenment, when social commentators and philosophers began to realize that people themselves could change society and change their way of life. Instead of being made completely by God, there was increasing room for the idea that people themselves made their own society - and not only that, as Giambattista Vico argued, because people practically made their own society, they could also fully comprehend it. This gave rise to new sciences, or proto-sciences, which claimed to provide new scientific knowledge about what society was really like, and how it could be changed for the better. World map showing Europe Political map Europe is one of the seven continents of Earth which, in this case, is more a cultural and political distinction than a physiographic one, leading to various perspectives about Europes borders. ... The Age of Enlightenment refers to the 18th century in European philosophy, and is often thought of as part of a period which includes the Age of Reason. ... Social commentary is the act of expressing an opinion on the nature of society. ... A philosopher is a person who thinks deeply regarding people, society, the world, and/or the universe. ... Giambattista Vico or Giovanni Battista Vico (1668–1744) was a Neapolitan philosopher, historian, and jurist. ...


In turn, this gave rise to progressive opinion, in contrast with conservative opinion. The conservatives were skeptical, critical and cynical about panaceas for social progress - believing that any scheme of social amelioration was doomed, given that people just are as they are, and nothing changes very much except the rhetoric of change; try what you like, it was impossible to change human circumstances, and the more things appeared to change, the more they stayed the same anyhow. The only progress there could be, is if people could only understand the eternal conditions of human life, and stopped fighting against that reality. Progressivism is a political philosophy whose adherents promote public policies that they believe would lead to positive social change. ... In Greek mythology, Panaceia, or Πανάκεια (Latin Panacea), was the goddess of healing. ... Rhetoric (from Greek ρήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is the art or technique of persuasion, usually through the use of language. ...


By contrast, the progressives focused on real changes actually occurring, and introduced the concept of choice. Life did not have to happen in a pre-ordained way; people could make choices, and on the basis of those choices, there would be different outcomes. Ethically, this implied a human responsibility for what happened to people, rather than seeing it just as God's will. Choice consists of that mental process of thinking involved with the process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one for action. ... The word responsibility means the obligation to answer for actions. ...


The notion of freedom

This new idea implied a new concept of human freedom, i.e. people independently making their own lives using their own good judgement. Initially, this concept appeared rather paradoxical; thus Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote: "People are born free, but are everywhere in chains". A big breakthrough was the French Revolution of 1789, which inspired a lot of new philosophical thought. In the philosophy of the German thinker Hegel, history is radically recast as the continual development of humanity towards ever greater freedom, continually extending the limits of freedom. This philosophy is still religious and mystical however, insofar as Hegel sees history as culminating in the unity of God with the world, but at the same time, Hegel also affirmed and imputed a Logos or teleology to human history, and fully recognised that both evolutionary and revolutionary transformations took place in history. This was a hopeful philosophy, which in a rational way sees real progress occurring in history. Mohandas K. Gandhi - Freedom can be achieved through inner sovereignty. ... Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 – July 2, 1778) was a Genevan philosopher of the Enlightenment whose political ideas influenced the French Revolution, the development of socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism. ... Liberty Leading the People, a painting by Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830 but which has come to be generally accepted as symbolic of French popular uprisings against the monarchy in general and the French Revolution in particular. ... Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 - November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher born in Stuttgart, Württemberg, in present-day southwest Germany. ... The Greek word λόγος or logos is a word with various meanings. ... Teleology (telos: end, purpose) is the philosophical study of design, purpose, directive principle, or finality in nature or human creations. ... For other uses, see Hope (disambiguation). ... Rational may be: the adjective for the state of rationality acting according to the philosophical principles of rationalism a mathematical term for certain numbers; the rational numbers the software company Rational Software; now owned by IBM, and formerly Rational Software Corporation This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which...


It was possible to detect human advances, as well as human regressions to an earlier state. In Hegels' view, if something existed, it was rational; if it passed out of existence, that was because it had become irrational. This contained a very important idea, however poorly expressed, namely that history was not a fluke of fate (a kismet) but that it could at least in principle be rationally understood. There are several things which use the word Kismet: Kismet in Arabic and related languages refers to fate. Kismet (program) is the name of a computer program used to analyse wireless network traffic. ...


Marx's radicalism

This trend of thinking is powerfully developed in the thought of Karl Marx (a student of Hegel's thought) and his secular historical materialism. With splendid rhetoric, Marx describes the mid-19th century condition in the Communist Manifesto as follows: Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818, Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883, London) was an immensely influential German philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary. ... Historical materialism is the methodological approach to the study of society, economics and history which was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818-1883), although Marx himself never used the term. ... Malayalam editon of the Manifesto The Communist Manifesto, also known as The Manifesto of the Communist Party, first published on February 21, 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, is one of the worlds most historically influential political tracts. ...


"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind." bourgeoisie is basically a trem that meens middle class. ...


The capitalist era in history is understood here very radically as a process of continual change, in which the growth of markets dissolve all fixities in human life. This is an almost absolute rejection of the conservative ethos, according to which nothing really changes in human life.


Modernism

This kind of idea is also the radical harbinger of modernism, a trend of thought which affirms the power of human beings to make, improve and reshape their society, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation. It reaches its extreme limits with the Russian Revolution and the third Chinese revolution, inspired by Marxist ideology. Here, people claimed such confidence in the ability to change their world for the better, that they thought that, in a relatively short time, largely illiterate peasants could begin to build a just, egalitarian and socialist order in a conscious way, armed with science and technology. Modernism is a cultural movement that generally includes the progressive art and architecture, music, literature and design which emerged in the decades before 1914. ... For the scientific journal named Science, see Science (journal). ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with epistemology. ... ... The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a series of political events in Russia, which, after the elimination of the Russian autocracy system, and the Provisional Government (Duma), resulted in the establishment of the Soviet power under the control of the Bolshevik party. ... Survivors of the Long March coalesce Mao Zedong declares the Peoples Republic of China The Chinese Revolution or Chinese Revolution of 1949 refers to the final stage of fighting (1946–1950) in the Chinese Civil War. ... Marxism is the political practice and social theory based on the works of Karl Marx, a 19th century philosopher, economist, journalist, and revolutionary, along with Friedrich Engels. ... Confidence is trust or faith that a person or thing is capable. ... Egalitarianism is the moral doctrine that equality ought to prevail among some group along some dimension. ... Socialism is a social and economic system (or the political philosophy advocating such a system) in which the economic means of production are owned and controlled collectively by the people. ... For mathematical sciences, see mathematics. ... ...


Postmodernism and social progress

In the postmodernist thought steadily gaining ground from the 1980s, the grandiose claims of the modernisers are steadily eroded, and the very concept of social progress is again questioned, relativised and scrutinised. In the new vision, revolutionaries like Stalin and Mao appear as mad, murderous totalitarian maniacs, whose vision of social progress appears totally deformed. Postmodernism (sometimes abbreviated pomo) is a term applied to a wide-ranging set of developments in critical theory, philosophy, architecture, art, literature, and culture, which are generally characterized as either emerging from, in reaction to, or superseding, modernism. ... Iosif (usually anglicized as Joseph) Vissarionovich Stalin (Russian: Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин), original name Ioseb Jughashvili (Georgian: იოსებ ჯუღაშვილი; see Other names section) (December 21, 1879[1] – March 5, 1953) was a Bolshevik revolutionary and leader of the Soviet Union. ... Mao could refer to: Mao Zedong, (Mao Tse-Tung in Wade-Giles) leader of the Communist Party of China from 1935 to 1976. ... The concept of Totalitarianism is a typology or ideal-type used by some political scientists to encapsulate the characteristics of a number of twentieth century regimes that mobilized entire populations in support of the state or an ideology. ...


What progress is made, if new industries are stamped out of the ground by state directives to supply consumer goods, but peasants are pressed into forced labour, and any dissent from the state's decree results in imprisonment or death, while even the most ordinary human requirements like tampons are in short supply? What is progress if people are afraid to speak their mind, for fear of persecution? How do these so-called "revolutions" honour the striving for human freedom and human dignity? It is one thing to argue that the existence of human freedom requires a certain level of material productivity as its basic prerequisite; it is quite another to silence or kill masses of people in its pursuit. Unfree labour is a generic or collective term for forms of work, especially in modern or early modern history, in which adults and/or children are employed without wages, or for a minimal wage. ... Dissent is a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to an idea (eg. ... A tampon is a plug of cotton or other absorbent material inserted into a body cavity or wound to absorb fluid. ... Political freedom is the right, or the capacity, of self-determination as an expression of the individual will. ... Dignity in humans involves the earning or the expectation of personal respect or of esteem. ...


Thus, the contemporary culture of postmodernism leads to a more or less critical re-evaluation of social progress and human progress. This re-evaluation takes many different forms. In its most extreme form, the very notion of social progress is rejected. How are people better off, if they have all modern consumer goods, but they are hopelessly unhappy and alienated? How can we validly say, that people are better off now than they were hundreds of years ago, if they cannot even make sense of their own lives? What can we truly change, beyond changing our individual lives? Even if things change, how can we say that they really change for the better? This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...


Four recent trends of thought about social progress

In the present time, this trend of thought about social progress leads to four main kinds of responses:

  • Neo-conservatism, which returns to the old idea that nothing ever truly changes in the human condition, and the eternal values of religion. The ability of people to change anything other than themselves is vastly overrated. Here, the emphasis is on honouring a traditional way of life which allegedly proved itself as superior in the past, and to which we should return.
  • Neo-liberalism, which affirms the power and potential of change, but only on a personal, individual level. The idea that the state could be an instrument of social betterment in society as a whole is totally rejected; only free choices made in markets can hold any promise of social progress.
  • Socialism, which argues that although terrible mistakes were made, state direction of social progress booked very important positive results; at the simplest level, it was able to overcome problems of hunger and disease, and raise the material and cultural standard of living for the great masses where markets could not. This leads to the defence of public services and assets, and the case for regulation of market activity.
  • Various strands of new radicalism, which begin to question again the objective criteria by which we could measure human social progress. For example, labour productivity might be a criterion of social progress, but how about infant mortality? This kind of thinking rejects the political traditions of the past, and argues that a variety of criteria must be applied to assess social progress. In some cases, this leads to new charters for the moral criteria to which a society should aspire; in other cases, authentic lived experience in society with all its complexities is emphasized.

Neoconservatism describes several distinct political ideologies which are considered new forms of conservatism. ... Eternal can refer to: The British R&B group Eternal Eternals, the Marvel Comics characters created by Jack Kirby The eternity puzzle The concept of eternity The philosophical notion of the incorporeal, or immaterial realm. ... A tradition is a story or a custom that is memorized and passed down from generation to generation, originally without the need for a writing system. ... The term neoliberalism is used to describe a political-economic philosophy that had major implications for government policies beginning in the 1970s – and increasingly prominent since 1980 – that de-emphasizes or rejects positive government intervention in the economy, focusing instead on achieving progress and even social justice by encouraging free... Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines or political movements that envisage a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to social control. ... The term Radical (latin radix meaning root) has been used since the late 18th century as a label in political science for those favoring or trying to produce thoroughgoing or extreme political reforms which can include changes to the social order to a greater or lesser extent. ... For early system failures, see failure rate. ... See also authenticity (philosophy) and authentication (which deals only with computer security). ...

References

Barrington Moore, Reflections on the causes of human misery and upon certain proposals to eliminate them. Barrington Moore Jr. ...


Barrington Moore, Moral Purity and Persecution in History.


Barrington Moore, Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience & Revolt.


Barrington Moore, Social origins of dictatorship and democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world.


Barrington Moore, Moral Aspects of Economic Growth, and Other Essays.


See also

It is common to hear both philosophers and non-philosophers complain that philosophy makes no progress. ... // Latin root meaning The term social is derived from the Latin word socius, which as a noun means an associate, ally, companion, business partner or comrade and in the adjectival form socialis refers to a bond between people (such as marriage) or to their collective or connected existence. ... For other meanings of development used in and outside social sciences, see development. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences. ... Decadence generally refers to the supposed decline of a society because of moral weakness. ... In the unilineal evolution model at left, all cultures progress through set stages, while in the multilineal evolution model at right, distinctive culture histories are emphasized. ... Origins of theory According to Czech philosopher Radovan Richta, in his 1967 publication “Man and Technology in the Revolution of Our Day”, technology (which he defines as “a material entity created by the application of mental and physical effort to nature in order to achieve some value”) evolves in three...

External links

  • 1969 United Nations Declaration on Social Progress and Development
  • United Nations Economic and Social Development
Philosophy Portal

  Results from FactBites:
 
Declaration on Social Progress and Development (2695 words)
Social progress and development shall be founded on respect for the dignity and value of the human person and shall ensure the promotion of human rights and social justice, which requires:
Social progress and development are the common concerns of the international community, which shall supplement, by concerted international action, national efforts to raise the living standards of peoples.
Social progress and development shall aim at the continuous raising of the material and spiritual standards of living of all members of society, with respect for and in compliance with human rights and fundamental freedoms, through the attainment of the following main goals:
Declaration on Social Progress and Development (2695 words)
Social progress and development shall be founded on respect for the dignity and value of the human person and shall ensure the promotion of human rights and social justice, which requires:
The rapid expansion of national income and wealth and their equitable distribution among all members of society are fundamental to all social progress, and they should therefore be in the forefront of the preoccupations of every State and Government.
Social progress and development are the common concerns of the international community, which shall supplement, by concerted international action, national efforts to raise the living standards of peoples.
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