Is Change Really Progressive? Who Knows?

In the West, most would fall into a category of people who believe social change comes progressively on a continuum that is always improving (Bishop & Hines, 2012). The general thought is that the society of the past has yielded itself to a better society today, and the society of the future will be better than the society of today, with Western society currently sitting on the current apex (Bishop & Hines, 2012). The dangerous part of Progress Theory is the question who is determining what is actually a good, or progressive, change in society. The blanket assumption in Progress Theory, which is easily seen advocated in the news media today, is that change is progressive on its own merit. For instance, the change from acceptance of absolute truth to an embrace of subjective truth is often touted as good or progressive.

One indication of progress is the level of comfort found within a society (Bishop & Hines, 2012), however, these comforts are not enjoyed by all. In fact, material progress is believed to actually produce poverty rather than relieve it, producing one of the greatest enigmas of progress (Ikeda, 2005). Part of this may be the lack of consensus of what is truly progressive change as opposed to destructive change, coupled with the deterioration of absolute truths universally held by a society. For instance, as the belief in the universal truth of hard work leading to success is compromised, violated, and abandoned, there is a growing number of people within society who gain success without the appreciation of it or those without success who learn to depend on others to provide for their needs. Both are deteriorations of society, and both are results of material progress.

What does determine positive progressive change?


Bishop, P., & Hines, A. (2012). Social change. In Teaching about the future. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ikeda, S. (2005). Jane Jacobs on Henry George: Progress or Poverty? The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 74(iss. 3), pp.495-509.

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