The Quality of Progress

The concept of progress—the notion that somehow or other steady betterment is taking place for individuals and for society— is being increasingly questioned. It is not that people talk sentimentally of the "good old days." They have always done that. It is that for the first time in many centuries the forward movement of all human society is seriously doubted.

This advent of disillusionment should not dismay us. It gives a great opportunity for redefining the terms of progress—terms that have not really been questioned since at least the beginning of the industrial revolution two centuries ago.

Humanity today, disturbed by many of the things which had seemed to be progress, is increasingly ready to see that progress (and, indeed, growth) cannot be measured merely in quantitative terms. Progress is not the piling up of material goods or wealth, not the awesome swelling of populations, not the ubiquitousness of communication and entertainment, not even the fantastic accumulation of the stockpile of knowledge. Indeed, progress viewed quantitatively has reached the danger point: too many things, too many people, too heavy a strain on the environment's self-purifying capability, and so on, up to the splitting of the atom and the challenge of nuclear armaments and nuclear power.

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Progress in Healing
May 8, 1976

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