The Evolution of Progress

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

For the past several centuries, people have measured progress in large part in economic terms, monitoring steadily increasing levels of income and production. The author of THE EVOLUTION OF PROGRESS argues both that progress in those areas is unlikely to continue, at least at historical rates, and that different measures of progress will become more appropriate.

Paepke is a generalist, having acquired the knowledge on which this book is based from wide reading rather than formal study. He devotes the first section of this book, about two-thirds of the main text, to the past sources of material progress and the reasons why they are diminishing. His basic argument is for saturation and limits. People in the advanced countries have most of the material goods that they need, destroying the incentive to earn, save, and invest. In addition, there are limits to some of the processes, including the opening of new markets, that earlier brought progress. Speeding the processes of production and transportation brought great gains in the past, but there is little left to be gained. Less developed countries surely have the potential for material progress, but they receive little attention here. Paepke assumes that they will not innovate or invest on their own, so that the slowdown in progress in the advanced countries will affect them as well.

Progress in the future will take the form of human capabilities rather than material goods. The second of the two...

(The entire section is 426 words.)