What Is Progress

Aldo Schiavone, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Europa, $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-60945-668-9
Historian Schiavone (Pontius Pilate) mixes philosophy, politics, and anthropology in this stimulating inquiry into the “paradigm of progress.” He details how the idea that humankind is on an “irresistible forward march” took hold during the 19th century, when it was reflected in the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories, and the philosophies of Marx and Hegel. In the first half of the 20th century, however, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation undercut humanity’s faith in scientific and technological progress, which has disappeared “almost completely” in the face of today’s economic inequalities, climate change anxieties, and political extremism. Schiavone proposes a new, “dialectical” way of thinking about progress that acknowledges its “different directions: toward the abyss or toward an increasingly complete fulfillment of the human.” Only by accepting that the arc of human history is both “intrinsically progressive” (more complex technologies, greater mastery of nature) and highly fragmented and chaotic, the author suggests, can society muster the vision and resolve to tackle its biggest problems and pursue greater freedom, equality, and self-knowledge for all. Goldstein’s graceful translation complements Schiavone’s incisive thinking and the book’s broad scope. The result is an erudite and thought-provoking call for embracing the possibilities of the future. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/22/2021
Release date: 07/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 128 pages - 978-1-60945-679-5
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