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Progressivism and Its Discontents

Well, I was reading a post from another blogger here (Joe S.) on whether Progressivism means anything anymore. Wanted to comment on his post but that avenue seemed closed to me.

Truthfully, I have self-identified here as “Progressive” with some misgivings. It’s shorthand for I feel I might belong here as a voice. But I might take it off my profile now.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I am always uncomfortable when people use terms with a certain precise historical meaning in a new way – such as “anarchist,” for example, which has made a strange reappearance.

I’m never quite sure in what spirit these terms have been borrowed.

“Progressive” formerly might have referred to an era, a movement and even a party in the early years of the 20th century. The reforms of that era aided activist women more than they aided American blacks. The Chinese, meanwhile, were cruelly excluded from the polity.

It was a time of muckraking and of upheaval for labor, and an era of official, even violent repression of seekers who envisaged new, sometimes radical forms of social justice.

And yet, certain truths of the time could not be hidden about, say, the miserable lives of immigrants in the workforce, and the shocking exposés of child labor.

Often the pious do-gooder Progressive establishment practiced a form of noblesse oblige from on high that did not resonate well with those whom it sought to “help.”

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