Jane Addams and the progressive mindset

A quotation from Jane Addams, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Rockford College student, on progressivism’s meaning of democracy.

addams“In this effort toward a higher morality in our social relations, we must demand that the individual shall be willing to lose the sense of personal achievement, and shall be content to realize his activity only in connection with the activity of the many …

“As the acceptance of democracy brings a certain life-giving power, so it has its own sanctions and comforts. Perhaps the most obvious one is the curious sense which comes to us from time to time, that we belong to the whole, that a certain basic well being can never be taken away from us whatever the turn of fortune.” (Source: the concluding paragraphs of Addams’s Democracy and Social Ethics.)

As these compact three sentences from Addams indicate, progressivism’s politics and economics — its unique account of “democracy” — are driven by an ethic that is collectivistic in four ways:

addamsj-reading* Individuals will give up their belief in personal achievement,
* Individuals will act only with the many,
* Individuals will feel that they belong to the whole, and
* Individuals will feel that they will be looked after by the whole.

All of which means that attacking the political and economic manifestations of progressivism is important, but the deeper battle is moral — between ethical individualism and ethical collectivism.

Related:
On progressive education: My post, “John Dewey on Education as Socialization” (2009).
On progressivism’s traditional support for racism, sexism, and eugenics: Damon W. Root, “Progressive History 101 (Minus All that Uncomfortable Racism, Sexism, and Support for Eugenics)” (Reason, 2010).
On progressivism’s anti-individualist economics and law: David N. Mayer, Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right (Cato, 2011).

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