What Makes a Post-Progressive?
Recently, I wrote about what I believe to be the current era of American history: the Post-Progressive Era. I explained how a general trend has emerged that evokes some of the memories of progressives in past decades but ultimately has a different character and set of values. This post will elaborate more on the phenomenon of post-progressivism and what its common features are, as it continues to take shape.
Post-progressivism appears to display the following features:
- Left-wing political ideology, as opposed to centrism
- Preference for values of identity politics over universal human values
- In addition to a focus on identity groups, a de-emphasis on economic class
- Criticism of markets and private ownership generally (Marxist influence)
- Support for state-sponsored programs, such as universal health care
- Episodic, pragmatic praise of corporations that pander to identitarian values (odd bed-fellows with the economic right-wing)
- Rejection of politically incongruous science and facts
- Hardline opposition to any military action
- Ambivalence toward progressivism
- A pursuit of justice over progress (hence “post-progressive”)
Like all political groupings, this is not a hard list, and some post-progressives as individuals may lack a couple of these features, but it reflects the general direction that seems to manifest itself. It is also worth noting that they possess similar features as other political groups. For example, they want to decriminalize marijuana and some other recreational drugs. They also want to restore Net Neutrality and resist climate change. In many ways, they are not all that radical. This is just highlighting the things that tend to distinguish them.
- Democratic Socialists of America
- Justice Democrats
- Black Lives Matter (with exceptions in respect to local autonomy)
- The Young Turks
Relationship to Progressivism
Naturally, this movement does have a relationship to progressive politics. One area of similarity is a critical attitude of unfettered capitalism and a concern about inequality. Post-progressives also favor certain public programs and borrow progressive terminology (Green New Deal).
Nevertheless, their major outlook and goals diverge decisively. Where progressives are social democrats, post-progressives are often democratic socialists. Where progressives have tended to see civics as a unifying umbrella of human experience and values, post-progressives believe in distinct groups along lines such as race, sex, gender/orientation, religion, and other traits that are often treated as immutable. They go on to view that these groups are mutually exclusive from common understanding and value. Hence, there can be no general progress of human beings, only justice for groups over harms by another group.
Post-progressives are not as welcoming of scientific advancements into the realm of policy as the progressives of old, even if they do abide by science better than the theocrats of the political right. While science does influence their positions of issues like climate change, they tend to abandon biological science about human beings that comes off as offensive.
Post-progressives are a reaction to the events and problems of the time. They consist primarily of millennials who have come of age during events such as the Great Recession of 2008, record wealth inequality, the Iraq War, America’s first non-white President, the melting of glaciers and sea-level rise, increased optics about police brutality/prison abuse, and the Patriot Act and Snowden leaks. With the large gap in time between them and previous progressive movements, it is therefore unsurprising that they diverge significantly and have adopted values that are unrelated to or even in conflict with progressivism.