Political Development and Social Progress
During the nineteenth century, political theorists equated development with social progress. Heirs to the Enlightenment tradition, they assumed that statesmen would apply reason to public affairs and bring beneficial changes to society. Liberals saw constitutional government and the capitalist market economy spreading throughout the world, producing greater freedom, peace, and prosperity. Radicals like Marx believed that reliance on science and reason would enable the proletariat to establish a classless socialist society based on liberation from capitalist exploitation and state repression.
Contemporary intellectuals remain skeptical about the possibilities of establishing such a paradise on earth. After the horrors of two world wars, several mini-wars, guerrilla struggles, the Nazi holocaust, the executions in Cambodia, military dictatorships, and industrial pollution, even liberals and radicals seem disillusioned about the benign consequences of development. 1 For them, paradise has been postponed, if not altogether lost.
In his book Paradise Postponed, British novelist John Mortimer sketches the disillusionment in post-World War IIEngland. The first nation to begin industrialization, England since the mid-nineteenth century has been one of the longest- surviving reconciliation systems. Britain took the lead in fighting two world wars against German dictatorships, and although Britain won the Second World War, she lost the peace. From 1950 through 1980 the British faced one of the lowest growth rates, highest unemployment rates, and greatest inflation rates in the industrialized capitalist world. In Paradise Postponed, Anglican rector Simeon Simcox, a strong Labour Party supporter, asks his son Fred:
Do you ever get the feeling the whole world's going backwards? It's as if we got tired of chugging on slowly and put the whole engine into reverse. Back to the dole queues and poverty being thought of as a shameful little secret, something respectable people don't get involved in. 2