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Progressivism is a political and social term for ideologies and movements favoring or advocating changes or reform, usually in an egalitarian direction for economic policies (public management) and liberal direction for social policies (personal choice). Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative ideologies.

In the United Statesmarker, the term progressivism emerged in the late 19th century into the 20th century in reference to a more general response to the vast changes brought by industrialization: an alternative to both the traditional conservative response to social and economic issues and to the various more radical streams of socialism and anarchism which opposed them. Political parties, such as the Progressive Party, organized at the start of the 20th century, and progressivism made great strides under American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Despite being associated with left-wing politics, the term "progressive" has also been used by groups not particularly left-wing. The Progressive Democrats in the Republic of Irelandmarker took the name "progressivism" despite being considered centre-right, or classical liberal. The European Progressive Democrats was a mainly heterogeneous political group in the European Union. For most of the period from 1942-2003, the largest conservative party in Canada was the Progressive Conservative Party.


In the past few years in Australia, the term "progressive" has been used to refer to what used to be called "The Third Way". The term is popular in Australia, and is often used in place of "social liberal". The term "liberalism" has become associated with free markets, small government, and personal freedom; in other words "classical liberalism". Progressivism, however, means in part advocating a larger role for government, but one that does not involve central planning.


Western Canada at the turn of the 20th century began to receive an influx of political ideas. The Progressive Party of Canada was founded in 1920 by Thomas Crerar, a former Minister of Agriculture in the Unionist government of Robert Borden. Crerar quit the Borden cabinet in 1919 because Minister of Finance Thomas White introduced a budget that did not pay sufficient attention to farmers' issues. Crerar became the first leader of the Progressive Party, and led it to win 65 seats in the 1921 general election, placing second, ahead of the well-established Conservative Party. The Progressives also had a close alignment with the provincial United Farmers parties in several provinces. However, the Progressives were not able to hold their caucus together well, and progressive-leaning MPs and voters soon deserted the Progressives for the Liberals and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (later the New Democratic Party).

Dating back to 1854, Canada's oldest political party was the Conservative Party. However following that party's disastrous showing in the 1935 election, held during the depths of the Great Depression, the party was leaderless and lacked new ideas. The party drafted Manitobamarker Premier John Bracken, a long-time leader of that province's progressive "United Farmers" party, who agreed to become leader of the Conservatives on condition that the party add Progressive to its name. The party adopted the name "Progressive Conservative," which it kept until its dissolution in 2003. Despite the name change most former Progressives continued to support other parties.


In Indiamarker, there are a large number of political parties which exist on either a state-wide or national basis. The United Progressive Alliance, as the current ruling political alliance in India, comprises leftist political parties which lean towards socialism and/or communism. Thus, the definition of "progressivism" may be interpreted differently in India, as communism was not a branch of thought that played any major role in the original western progressive movement. Furthermore, on a social level, the leftist parties in India do not espouse policies that would be considered progressive in the West, though policies in regards to caste system, worker's rights, and women's rights are far more progressive than the non-progressive Indian parties.

The alliance is externally supported (supporters that are not part of the government) by the four main leftist parties; Communist Party of India , Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc. The Indian National Congress is currently the chief member of the United Progressive Alliance coalition.

New Zealand

The then Prime Minister of New Zealand - Helen Clark, leader of the Labour Party - announced in 2005 that she had come to a complex arrangement that led to a formal coalition consisting of the Labour Party and Jim Anderton, the New Zealand Progressive Party's MP. A further arrangement was made with the Green Party, which gave a commitment not to vote against the government on confidence and supply. The coalition continues in opposition after the 2008 election.

Jim Anderton formed the Progressive Party after splitting from the Alliance Party. The Progressive Party states a particular focus on the creation of jobs, and has said that it is committed to achieving full employment. They seek to raise the legal age of alcohol consumption to 20. They are pro-environment, and list free education and free healthcare as other policy objectives.

The Progressive Green Party was formed in 1995 but has now disbanded.


The Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (Prohresivna Sotsjalistychna Partiya Ukrayiny/Progressivnaya Sotsialističeskaja Partiya Ukrajiny, Прогресивна соціалістична партія України) is a political party in Ukrainemarker, created by Nataliya Vitrenko a flamboyant former member of Socialist Party of Ukraine in 1995. Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine is a radical left-wing populist party that supports integration with Russiamarker and Belarusmarker as an alternative to the EU. PSPU traditionally campaigns on an anti-NATO, anti-IMF and pro-Russian platform. During the 1998 parliamentary elections the party won 4 % of the vote, and its candidate for the 1999 presidential elections, Nataliya Vitrenko, came 4th, with 10.97% of the vote in the first round.

At the legislative elections, 30 March 2002, the party established the Nataliya Vitrenko Bloc alliance, including the Partija Osvitjan Ukrajiny. It won 3.22% of the votes, little short of passing the 4% threshold needed to enter the Verkhovna Radamarker. PSPU was a vocal opponent of President Leonid Kuchma but supported Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian prime minister since 2002, during the 2004 elections. After the Orange Revolution of 2004, the party joined the opposition to new president Viktor Yushchenko in a coalition with the "Derzhava" (State) party led by former Ukrainian prosecutor Gennady Vasilyev.

In the March 2006 parliamentary elections, the party again failed to gain any seats in Parliament, participating as People's Opposition Bloc of Natalia Vitrenko. At the 2007 parliamentary elections the party failed once more to enter the parliament.

United States

In the United Statesmarker there have been several periods where progressive political parties have developed. The first of these was around the turn of the 20th century. This period notably included the emergence of the Progressive Party, founded in 1912 by President Theodore Roosevelt. This progressive party was the most successful third party in modern American history. The Progressive Party founded in 1924 and the Progressive Party founded in 1948 were less successful than the 1912 version. There are also two notable state progressive parties: the Wisconsin Progressive Party and the Vermont Progressive Party. The latter is still in operation and currently has several high ranking positions in state government.

Today, most progressive politicians in the United States associate with the Democratic Party or the Green Party US. In the US Congress there exists the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is often in opposition to the more conservative Democrats, who form the Blue Dogs caucus. Some of the more notable progressive members of Congress have included, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, John Lewis, and Paul Wellstone.

Relation to other political ideologies


The term "progressive" is today often used in place of "liberal". Although the two are related in some ways, they are separate and distinct political ideologies. According to John Halpin, senior advisor on the staff of the Center for American Progress, "Progressivism is an orientation towards politics, It's not a long-standing ideology like liberalism, but an historically-grounded concept... that accepts the world as dynamic." Progressives see progressivism as an attitude towards the world of politics that is broader than conservatism vs. liberalism, and as an attempt to break free from what they consider to be a false and divisive dichotomy.

Cultural Liberalism is ultimately founded on a concept of natural rights and civil liberties, and the belief that the major purpose of the government is to protect those rights. Liberals are often called "left-wing", as opposed to "right-wing" conservatives. The progressive school, as a unique branch of contemporary political thought, tends to advocate certain center-left or left-wing views that may conflict with mainstream liberal views, despite the fact that modern liberalism and progressivism may still both support many of the same policies (such as the concept of war as a general last resort).

American progressives tend to support interventionist economics: they advocate progressive taxation and oppose the growing influence of corporations. Conversely, European and Australian progressives tend to be more pro-business , and will often have policies that are soft on taxation of large corporations . Progressives are in agreement on an international scale with left-liberalism in that they support organized labor and trade unions, they usually wish to introduce a living wage, and they often support the creation of a universal health care system. Yet progressives tend to be more concerned with environmentalism than mainstream liberals, and are often more skeptical of the government, positioning themselves as whistleblowers and advocates of governmental reform. In the United Statesmarker, liberals and progressives are often conflated, and in general are the primary voters of the Democratic Party which has a "large tent" policy, combining similar if not congruent ideologies into large voting blocs. Many progressives also support the Green Party or local parties such as the Vermont Progressive Party. In Canadamarker, liberals usually support the national-majority Liberal Party while progressives usually support the New Democratic Party, which usually dominates provincial politics on the coasts. Despite the names, liberals in the United Kingdom often support the right-wing of the ruling Labour Party, while progressives tend to support the left-wing of the party, or the Liberal Democrats.


Socialism is properly characterized as the advocacy of a specific political end rather than either an economic system or a set of specific means. The objective in question is the achievement of the greatest good for the greatest number; in this regard, socialism stands in most direct contrast to economic elitism, which advocates for the greatest possible good for a relative handful of individuals. Socialists seek social change in conformity with the political end advocated: whether such change should be gradual or not is a decidedly peripheral issue. The question of whether or not socialists should advocate a planned economy or a mixed economy requires a judgment call as to which sort of economy is most effective in bringing about the greatest good for the greatest number.

Progressives also seek the greatest good of the greatest number, but their perspective has been strongly shaped by the influential role of the large corporation in American society, and particularly by the role that the large corporation has played both in politics and economics in American society. More so than most liberals, Progressives have argued that the large corporation: 1) acts as an economic engine for the concentration of wealth (in which respect it runs counter to achievement of the greatest good for the greatest number); 2) since being questionably recognized by the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker as an entity with "rights", has achieved greater rights than individuals in America (largely because of the failure of meaningful campaign finance reform); and 3) therefore stands in opposition both to good democratic practice and general economic welfare. (See, for example, [148687]

See also


  1. Gary Sauer-Thompson weblog 3-17-07


  • Tindall, George and Shi, David E.. America: A Narrative History. W W Norton & Co Inc (Np); Full Sixth edition, 2003. ISBN 0-393-92426-2
  • Lakoff, George. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-931498-71-7
  • Kelleher, William J.. Progressive Logic: Framing A Unified Field Theory of Values For Progressives. The Empathic Science Institute, 2005. ISBN 0-9773717-1-9
  • Link, Arthur S. and McCormick, Richard L.. Progressivism (American History Series). Harlan Davidson, 1983. ISBN 0-88295-814-3
  • Kloppenberg, James T.. Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920. Oxford University Press, USA, 1988. ISBN 0-19-505304-4

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