The belief in inevitable progress as magic thinking

| June 7, 2015 | 3 Replies

From Chris Hedges at Truthdig:

The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.

The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it, to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse, and may soon get much worse, is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture. The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels, potentially dooming us all.


Category: cognitive biases, Magic thinking, Psychology Cognition, Risks and Dangers, Sustainable Living

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, I have examined history and it appears that moral advancements do accompany technological advancements. The dilemmas facing the world have needed and will need paradgm shifts in order for the species to advance. We did not articulate a collective moral philosophy in the face of the challenges of the nuclear destruction of our species. The failure to address the necessary new morality in the face of species extinction is at the core of the failures Hedges addresses in your post.

    Now, we face environmental disasters which will force moral advancements in other-regarding principles or we will perish of our own selfishness and insanity. The very “radical” advancements Hedges speaks of will of necessity have to emerge quickly and spread rapidly or efforts to preserve our world and ourselves will be in vain.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    I think Pope Francis has just plopped the problem right into our collective human laps. Will we see and act upon the moral dimension to preserving creation and therefore our species?

  3. Tim Hogan says:

    Francis has gone farther by linking economic disparity with climate change and forming a committee to address the same with noted lay contributors and new Cardinakls from the South.

    Erich, we may see the necessary immediate fomulation of new ethical and social advances in tandem with technology and an articulation of what is necessary for us to save ourselves from our own errors and injustices.

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