Progress: Fact Or Illusion?

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Leo Marx, Bruce Mazlish
University of Michigan Press, 1996 - History - 232 pages
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Progress, perhaps the fundamental secular belief of modern Western society, has come under heavy fire recently because, after three centuries, advances in science and technology seem increasingly to bring problems in their wake: alienation, environmental degradation, the threat of nuclear destruction. The idea of progress is brought into question by postmodern critique, attacking the notion of science as truth. Yet no other meaningful organization of humankind's sense of time looms on the horizon. This volume seeks to reassess the meaning and prospects of the idea of progress.
Looking toward the millennium, the volume seeks to evaluate the idea's worth both in theory--is it intellectually viable and defensible today?--and practice--even if theoretically defensible, is the idea undermined in actual life? Approaching these questions from the perspectives of science, anthropology, economics, religion, political philosophy, feminism, medicine, environmental studies, and the Third World, the contributors, all distinguished scholars, provide a unique and critical balance.
Ultimately, the contributors find that progress is both a fact and an illusion: it does occur in certain areas, but it does not sweep all before it as its Enlightenment votaries thought it would. This foundational idea permeates discourse in the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities and will engage historians, students of the history of science and technology, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers, literary scholars, and art critics, as well as those interested in civilization in general.
Contributors include: Jill Ker Conway, Zhiyuan Cui, Leon Eisenberg, Robert Heilbroner, Gerald Holton, Leo Marx, Bruce Mazlish, Ali A. Mazrui, Alan Ryan, John M. Staudenmaier, George W. Stocking, Jr., and Richard White.
"A discerning reconsideration of the idea of 'progress' in a variety of carefully defined theoretical and empirical-historical contexts." --David Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
Leo Marx is Professor of American Cultural History, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bruce Mazlish is Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
A Historical and Critical Perspective
27
Medicine and the Idea of Progress
45
Rousseau Redux or Historical Reflections on the Ambivalence
65
The Economic View of Progress
83
Feminist Views of Progress
111
Transcending Western
141
The Enlightenment Ideal and
175
The Domination of Nature and the Redefinition of Progress
201
Contributors
219
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About the author (1996)

Scholar, writer and educator Leo Marx was educated at Harvard University, where he received a B. A. and a Ph. D. Marx taught at the University of Minnesota, Amherst College, and MIT. The school has also created the Leo Marx Career Development Professorship in the History and Culture of Science and Technology to honor his service. Marx's works, such as "The Machine in the Garden," explore the relationship between technology and culture in the past two centuries.

Bruce Mazlish was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 15, 1923. During World War II, he served in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the C.I.A. He received a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a Ph.D. in European history from Columbia University. He joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty in 1955 and became a full professor in 1960. His first book, The Western Intellectual Tradition: From Leonardo to Hegel, written with the British mathematician and poet Jacob Bronowski, was published in 1960. His other books include In Search of Nixon: A Psychohistorical Inquiry, The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines, and The Uncertain Sciences. He also wrote psychoanalytic biographies about Henry A. Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, and Mao Zedong. He died on November 27, 2016 at the age of 93.

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