AT&D #31. Historical Progress

Comment on the use of the term “progress” in world history. How is progress related to modernity and enlightenment? What are the implications of this relationship in relation to the Western view of history and your thinking?

In historical terms, the word “progress” could very well refer to growth, development, and the advancement of a given idea or concept, whether it is to be built upon a society or furthered on by destiny. To relate the term of progress with modernity and the enlightenment, I first think of the (European) Enlightenment to be a catalyst of modernity. Since the Enlightenment established the importance of scientific thought, the development of technology ensued.

But that did not take place overnight; this is where progress fits in, namely progression. The progression of Europe’s and the U.S.’s industrialization and increased reliance on fossil fuels and electricity (among other resources), as Armesto’s history book repeatedly points out, happened gradually and over a period of time. Ultimately, the end result here was that these Western empires were seen as modern, with them having the most up-to-date defense and economic infrastructures; this may accurately describe a global “power” or “powers” if you will.

The definition of progress doesn’t end here. Progress, at least in the western view of history, is to forward the way of life in areas of the world that are lacking and lagging behind in modern advancements and customs (such as integrating technology to improve transportation or forcing government change to allow democracy for the betterment of giving people in a region the right to be represented, at least as a basic premise). Tying into that mindset, the empires of Europe and the U.S. used modernization theory (mentioned by the reading), to back up the assertion that the West should be responsible in reshaping the globe under a world system of sorts, driven by capitalism and macroeconomics.

Ultimately, progress in this case could be best described as the action of carrying out that theory to modernize “unmodernized” nations; me personally, I see a lot of negatives with the Western-dominated influence that formed the basis of what would eventually become the era of colonization. Nevertheless, decades after the end of colonization, progress that has led to and after a country’s independence may have brought a region into modernity, but not without a certain cost at the expense of being dominated by a power, a power aggressively interfering in a region’s natural progression toward their own path to modernity.

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