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THE IDEA OF PROGRESS

J. B. Bury

Subtitle: An Inquiry into Its Origin and Growth, Dover Pub. N.Y., 1955, reprint of 1932, 357 pgs., index, notes, paperback

 
 

Reviewer comments
Dr. Bury traces the development of and final to the concept that humanity is 'progressing', that is the general condition of humanity in the world is now becoming 'better'. Of course the 'idea of progress' (or lack of it) is a central concept in the understanding of history and of man's role in the world. He shows that the idea was not accepted universally by the intelligentsia but was controversial for many. And it was the intelligentsia that predominated in the discussion. Most of the authors whose theories he discusses were French, but they also include major English and German philosophers. First, he outlines the predominant theories in the classical and Christian centuries. The ancient Greeks mostly accepted the idea of a 'golden age' from which mankind has degenerated or a cyclical history of ups and downs. The Christian philosophers focused on 'progress' being achieved only in future life in heaven and not in this world. He focuses on the ideas about 'progress' and related concepts as expressed by the most influential writers from the 16th century to its ultimate acceptance in the 19th century.
The 'Idea of Progress" is broader than the subject on which Dr.McCloskey focuses in her three books in Bourgeoius thought as an essential basis for the expansion of Western economy. They were contemporary. Dr. Bury describes the 'idea' in philosophical terms. Dr. McCloskey describes the interaction of belief and material economic development.

 
 

Introduction

 
 

Chapter 1 - Some Interpretations of Universal History: Bodin and Le Roy

 
 

Chapter 2 - Utility The End of Knowledge: Bacon

 
 

Chapter 3 -Cartesianism

 
 

Chapter 4 - The Doctrine of Degeneration: TheAncients and Moderns

 
 

Chapter 5 - The Progress of Knowledge: Fontenellie

 
 

Chapter 6 - The General Progress of Man: Abbe de Saint-Pierre

 
 

Chapter 7 -New Conceptions of History: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Turgot

 
 

Chapter 8 - The Ecnyclopaedists and Economists

 
 

Chapter 9 - Was Civilization a Mistake? Rousseau, Chastellux

 
 

Chapter 10 - The Year 2040

 
 

Chapter 11 - The French Revolution: Condorcet

 
 

Chapter 12 - The Theory of Progress in England

 
 

Chapter 13 - German Speculations on Progress

 
 

Chapter 14 -Currents of Thought in France After the Revolution

 
 

Chapter 15 - The Search for a Law of Progress: I. Saint-Simon

 
 

Chapter 16 - The Search for a Law of Progress: II. Comte

 
 

Chapter 17 - "Progress" in the French Revolutionary Movement (1830-1851)

 
 

Chapter 18 - Material Progress: The Exhibition of 1851

 
 

Chapter 19 - Progress in the Light of Evolution

 
 

Epilogue

 

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