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In Defense of Progressive Political Change: Against Conservative Progress and Other Normative Troubles

Political Methodology
Political Theory
Methods
Realism
Normative Theory
Ilaria Cozzaglio
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Ilaria Cozzaglio
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Abstract

This paper has an analytical and a critical aim. The analytical aim consists in bringing clarity about the options for elaborating a notion of political progress. I argue that the notion of political progress varies according to two variables: the type of normativity we apply to politics – a ‘morality-first normativity’ or a ‘politics-first normativity’; and whether progress is conceived of as either teleological or nonteleological. After laying out the four resulting combinations, I proceed with the critical aim of the paper: to criticise teleological notions of progress for being more conservative than nonteleological notions. I then offer some criteria for developing a directional notion of political progress, independently of whether it is grounded on a morality-first or politics-first conception of political normativity. Finally, I put forward some reasons why a directional, politics-first approach might be more fruitful than the rival ones in accounting for political progress.