The Rise Of Progressivism

Muhammad Bilal

A 21 year old student of political science and know on the web as The Political Hawk.

Latest posts by Muhammad Bilal (see all)

Last year the Western world was dominated by the far right wing movements. However, while Donald Trump, Brexit and the alt right were dominating the mainstream media. Bernie Sander’s “feel the Bern” and Jeremy Corbyn’s rising popularity were kept aside and remained unnoticed by the mainstream media. Moreover the changing political landscape in countries such as Italy, Iceland and Denmark also remained without any significant media coverage. Since the major media corporations are dominated by the liberals. No wonder, the mainstream media was trying to keep such developing stories unnoticed. These developments were (and still are) leading to the ultimate threat to the liberals, the philosophy of progressivism. As the liberals are losing ground on the left, they have a significant threat to be replaced on the left by the new rising progressives.

In the early 19th century, many new philosophies, ideologies and political concepts were introduced as an alternative to the religious monarchies. By the time of the early 20th century notable political concepts like liberalism, fascism, communism and progressivism were well established. Yes progressivism has been around for a long time. It came to existence in the Age of Enlightenment in Europe but was politically developed during the Progressive Era in the United States.

Fascism was an atheistic ideology and anti religion. It had an economic model similar to socialism. However, due to its emphasis on the so called “Aryan race” in other words a pro white supremacist type ideology. Fascism was positioned on the far right on the political compass. After the fall of Nazi Germany, fascism lost its ground. Communism, another atheistic and anti religion ideology. Kept themselves a part of the left wing, due to its economic model much more closer to Karl Marx’s communist manifesto. However, later Lenin turned it into an authoritarian system and deviated from the Karl Marx’s version. Even later, during Stalin’s era communism was almost turned into a religion.

In the early 20th century when in Europe, liberalism, fascism and communism were battling each other. In the United States, liberalism and progressivism were in a confrontation, since the country had entered the Progressive Era. During the Progressive Era the errors made by capitalism were highlighted and reforms were made. Which resulted in the economic comeback of the United States from the Great Depression, which came following the Progressive Era.

Despite the achievements made by the progressives at that time, they failed to achieve power in the political arena. The liberals at that time hijacked the progressive’s success and labeled them as idealists, radicals and the far left. Even their famous progressive president Theodore Roosevelt abandoned his own created progressive party. As he joined the republicans and won the presidential elections as a republican candidate. Many other progressive leaders also changed their beliefs, as many of them became liberals and some even adapted far right ideologies like fascism.

Hence, liberalism was left the only strong and stable ideology on the left wing. After the second world war and especially after the fall of the Soviet Union. The liberals now had a monopoly on the left. However, despite being weak progressivism survived. Unlike communism, which went to its peak, got applied and then failed. Progressivism has remained untested.

Liberalism or neo liberalism, which now for almost have been a fundamental political ideology governing the United States, has now started to crumble. United States of America, a country today facing social instability, involved in wars and drowned in a massive debt. Is turning into a failing state. A failed United States means a failed application of liberalism. Progressivism an ideology still not tested and the last time when it was applied to some extent, pulled America out of the Great Depression. Untested and being linked to successful economic, political and social reforms in the past. Progressivism now has the perfect moment to knock down an already falling liberalism.

What Is Progressivism?

Progressivism is basically a philosophy based on the idea of progress. Now the progress in a society according to a progressive is by the means of advancement in science, technology, economic development and social organizations. These factors for a progressive are vital to achieve their ultimate goal, to improve the human condition.

Progressivism begun as a social movement. However, during the Progressive Era from 1890 to 1920, it turned into a political movement. This movement was made to address the issues caused by industrialization in the Western world. Problems brought by capitalism through industrialization such as, growing inequality between the rich and the poor, monopolistic corporations and the frequent violent conflicts between the workers and the capitalists.

The reason progressives think that it is essential to improve the human condition is because during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. The society progressed and strengthened on the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society.

Sociologist Robert Nisbet an early progressive later turned conservative. Defined five “crucial premises” of the idea of progress; nobility of western civilization, worth of economic or technological growth, faith in scientific knowledge obtained through reason and the importance (and worth) of life on earth. The contents of the five “crucial premises” failed to become an integral part of progressivism due to two reasons. Firstly, it had traits which made it look like a less left wing concept. Secondly, the meaning of progressivism had varied over the time, as more far left concepts were added in this philosophy.

During the Progressive Era a new form of journalism was created Muckrakers. The Muckrakers attacked establishment institutions and leaders as corrupt. These journalist sought to expose the “filth” of society to the public. Examples of such journalism can be found in Ida Tarbell’s reporting on standard oil and Jacob Riis’s pictures of slums.

Eventually, these progressive movements were successful to conduct reforms in the United States of America. Tenement Act of 1901, Formation of NAACPC (1909), Anti Defamation League (1913) and Robert La Follette’s Wisconsin Idea are the notable progressive reforms. Formation of progressive unions to help the workers against state regulations were established. Minimum wage was also sought. The first state to do so was Massachusetts in 1912. However, federally it was not adopted until 1938. Along with the electoral reforms were also purposed on municipal (city) governments.

What Led To The Decline Of Liberalism?

During the Age of Enlightenment, there were several revolts against religious monarchies throughout Europe. The most bloody revolt was in the shape of the French Revolution. Due to the violence occurred and the rise of Napoleon as an aftermath of the revolution. To avoid a French Revolution scenario and to remove the monarchies by much more peaceful means, liberalism was adapted in the West. However, during the early 20th century due to the social crisis triggered by capitalism in the society. Brought progressivism into the spotlight. Since the progressives had a more harder attitude towards the capitalists. Where as the liberals had a much more of a soft spot towards the capitalists. The reforms of the progressives were taken into account during the Progressive Era but due the disunity among the progressives, the liberals united on the political front. Hence, keeping themselves in power.

The liberals then went through the second world war, cold war and finally the uni polar era. Throughout these periods, the liberals were unchallenged on the left. Their policies such as supporting the big banks during the 2008 financial crisis, supporting wars and military interventions along with the neo conservatives. The hawkish foreign policies introduced by the liberals against countries such as Vietnam, Panama, Former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Russia and many more. Have damaged the image of liberals who were supposed to be doves, but turned out to be hawks. Moreover, whether in the United States or in Europe. The mainstream liberal political parties connections with billionaires, big banks and big corporations have also further damaged the liberal image.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, the American establishment tried its all efforts to stop Bernie Sander’s rise to power. To restrict him, they even gave Donald Trump more media coverage than him. However, they did stop Bernie Sanders but exhausted themselves so much that it gave Donald Trump the perfect opportunity to get his own narrative through the vacuum created by the liberals themselves.

Donald Trump’s arrival to the White House exposed the failure of the liberals. Moreover, the Democratic Party’s choice of electing Tom Perez as their chairmen. Indicates that the elite liberals have not yet learned anything from their mistakes. In the United Kingdom the continuous mocking of the progressive labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in the English mainstream media by the liberals. Shows how much below the belt the liberals have gone. Where as, in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is considered as the face of liberalism. Has recently shifted towards more conservative policies. Such as voting against same sex marriage and the recent flip flop on the migrant policy. All of these events highlight the double standards and hypocrisy among the liberals.

How Progressivism Is Replacing Liberalism?

There had been the rise of the progressives in 2016, parallel to the rise of the far right. However, in 2017 the rise has been accelerated. Iceland perhaps the first (and only) country on the planet, which defeated (and jailed) the big bank’s officials. Is now turning out to be the first country in the world, which is actually practically applying progressivism. Courtesy of the Pirate Party in Iceland. This political party was founded in 2012 and is already the third largest party in Iceland’s parliament. The Alternative Party of Denmark is also on the rise with its progressive ideologies. The Five Star Movement in Italy is an experiment of progressivism to change the corrupt Italian democracy. Despite the mainstream media’s mocking, labour party’s gain in the recent UK snap elections under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Shows the backlash against the traditional English liberal elite.

All of these factors represent how progressivism is displacing liberalism on the left. Apart from the recent political success progressivism has also become more prominent as people are realizing the difference between progressivism and liberalism. The liberals are concerned with only moral issues like abortion, race, homosexuality, transgender and feminism. They only take into account ethics and morality, which creates the so called “liberal values”. The liberals are not concerned with rapid progress in political and economic reforms. According to a liberal a society with liberal values has reached its peak.

The progressives are also concerned with issues related to LGBT rights, race and feminism. However, unlike liberals they do not stop here. They go beyond just issues related to ethics and morality. They purpose rapid political and economic reforms. For a liberal it is more than enough to provide education to a child or a certain job to a person. For a progressive, this is still not enough. A progressive will keep track of the child’s progress in education or a person’s progress in life after receiving a certain job. Since the progressives are more interested in improving the human condition.


There is no doubt that liberalism is in decline. Liberalism is now no longer even a right or left wing ideology anymore. Since liberalism was adapted by the globalists, liberalism got exported from the West to the rest of the world. This caused the traditional liberalism definition related to liberty and equality being interpreted differently in different countries. As different countries have different concepts related to liberty and equality. In short, liberalism got manipulated in the rest of the world. Meanwhile, in the West the hawkish foreign policies and alignment with the aristocrats, has severely damaged liberalism. Since liberals in the West openly demonstrate double standards and hypocrisy.

However, progressivism is now a clearer concept. The progressives anti war stance also attracts many people in the West, who are sick of decades of multi billion bloody wars and military interventions in other countries. If someone says progressivism is perfect, well that is a wrong statement. Progressivism has its concerns, especially the old progressive idealist ideologies. Earlier we discussed the five “crucial premises”, have points such as the nobility of Western world. This does not sound left wing, but rather more like a far right concept. Progressivism has an economic model similar to socialism, but not exactly the same. Progressivism has the potential to turn into an authoritarian system like communism or even into a corrupt system like the current neo liberalism.

However, the good news is that the new generation of political progressives insists on direct democracy. Not in an idealist manner, but rather in a pragmatic or realist manner. In short the current progressives are more pragmatic rather than idealists. This pragmatic approach of the new progressives is the core reason of their current success. As they are clearer in their policies and have more common sense in their proposals or reforms, as compared to the liberals.

The progressives are on a serious rise. Especially if the far right fails to deliver, the progressives will become unstoppable. I am neither a progressive or a liberal. However, if I have to chose one of them today. I will go with the progressives.

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