Postmodern Conservative

James Ceaser on Progressivism Today

The civil-society-destroying ideology that's in charge, and in denial

James Ceaser’s ”What’s Next for the Left?” is a must-read. You must read it. You must get your friends to read it. Your enemies, too. I would say so even if Jim weren’t a friend/teacher and an occasional Postmodern Conservative contributor.

Here’s my favorite three quotes:

The left today is all about the ideology of progressivism. It is fated to blame all ills on the shrinking part of the political order and society it does not yet fully control and to demand more measures to shrink it still further.


The expansion of national administration over the past seventy years, and notably over the past seven years, may be applauded or deplored. It cannot be denied. Even where institutions of civil society appear to be acting on their own, closer inspection reveals that they often make decisions in accord with existing regulations or, what is just as important, in anticipation of possible new regulations or with a view to preventing unwanted regulations. National administration is palpable, even when it is not acting. The outward forms of civil society remain, but its inner force is dwindling.


Progressivism has been around now for well over a century and can no longer plausibly present itself as new or young. All of its wrinkles — huge and inefficient bureaucracies, ponderous regulations, and endemic violations of the rule of law — are showing through its makeup. Nor is progressivism the innocent outsider or wayfarer begging at the door for admittance to the system. Progressivism is the system, at least as much as, if not more than, liberal capitalism. And with its vast interests to defend and its clients to sustain, progressivism is also every bit as much constitutive of the status quo. Just as liberal capitalism has bred pathologies like crony capitalism, progressivism has created its dysfunction of crony progressivism.

YMRTWT. That “Y” stands for you, and the “M” stands for must. Because you must. As Gertrude Stein once asked, “Do I repeat myself?”  

Well, I do, but Jim does not – this piece is the fruition of many years of development of his thought about our progressives, and one that signals his arrival at a new and decisively higher plateau, one of the few from which the present situation may be fully and clearly viewed.  The title doesn’t begin to suggest how much ground is covered here, as it’s less about what’s next for the Left than about what’s arrived for all of us.


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