From Domination to Autonomy: Two Eras of Progress in World-sociological Perspective
Od panství k autonomii: Dvě období pokroku z hlediska světové sociologie
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In recent decades, the belief in progress that was widespread across the two centuries following the French Revolution has withered away. This article suggests, though, that the diagnosis of the end of progress can be used as an occasion to rethink what progress meant and what it might mean today. The proposal for rethinking proceeds in two big steps. First, the meaning of progress that was inherited from the Enlightenment is reconstructed and contrasted with the way progress actually occurred in history. In this step, it is demonstrated that progress was expected through human autonomy, but that it was actually brought about by domination and resistance to domination. A look at the short revival of progress after the middle of the twentieth century will confirm this insight and direct the attention to the transformation of the world over the past half century, on which the second step focuses. This socio-political transformation is analyzed as spelling (almost) the end of formal domination. The current era has often been characterized by the tendencies towards globalization and individualization as well as, normatively, by the increasingly hegemonic commitment to human rights and democracy. A critical analysis of the current socio-political constellation, however, shows that the end of formal domination does not mean the end of history; it rather requires the elaboration of a new understanding of possible progress. Progress can no longer predominantly be achieved through resistance to domination, but rather through autonomous collective action and through the critical interpretation of the world one finds onself in.
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