The Perils of Progressivism: Whiggish Thoughts

Typical distortions thereby introduced are:

  • Viewing the British parliamentary, constitutional monarchy as the apex of human political development;
  • Assuming that the constitutional monarchy was in fact an ideal held throughout all ages of the past, despite the observed facts of British history and the several power struggles between monarchs and parliaments;
  • Assuming that political figures in the past held current political beliefs (anachronism);
  • Assuming that British history was a march of progress whose inevitable outcome was the constitutional monarchy; and
  • Presenting political figures of the past as heroes, who advanced the cause of this political progress, or villains, who sought to hinder its inevitable triumph.

I was thinking about this today.

I remember a professor in our history class always warning us about taking a Whig’s Interpretation of History. He made us read Butterfield. (This whole thing kind of reinforce the idea that even the british empire is highly ideological, as oppose to being merely opportunistic.)

Look at the list above. Take out the word “British” and insert your own little ideological terms. Does it still work?

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