Has history worked out the way so many have hoped? What did “progress” used to look like and who could possibly have been against it? What areas of human life and political realms does the term “progress” encompass? As Sarah Palin famously asked in 2010, “How's that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?”
It turns out that some major, influential thinkers were not wild about the idea of progress—or at least not the version of it served up to them by the left. It is the counterarguments about the supposed bounties of progress that Matthew W. Slaboch examines in his book, A Road to Nowhere: The Idea of Progress and Its Critics
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). He does this by profiling and discussing in depth the ideas and key writings of such figures as Arthur Schopenhauer, Oswald Spengler, Leo Tolstoy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Henry Adams and Christopher Lasch among others.
Nothing much changes about change—there are always those who embrace it and minimize the massive societal damage done in its name and those who loathe it and fear it and who brush aside the possible social betterment that change can bring.
In a time when we are deluged with lectures by the left about “being on the wrong side of history” and exhortations to “be the change,” Slaboch enables us to consider anew the views of notable philosophers, historians, novelists and others who were not enamored of the latest shiny ideological objects peddled by intellectuals and activists on the left.
This is a thoughtful, scholarly study appealing as well to general readers. Give a listen.