Progressivism is the opposite of reactionary, right? We tend to think so, but I no longer believe it to be true.
Think of the early leftists, surrounded by religion and royalty and privilege and hierarchy, roused to dream of something better.
The left today tends to care less about things like monarchy, focused as it is instead on family, marriage, gender, race, systemic oppression, microaggressions.
There is no utopian vision for progressivism, no master plan. One step is followed by another, but no one can know or control where it is headed. It is by nature a slippery slope, unmanaged, undirected. It is a tendency, but a reactive tendency.
We tend to think of conservatism as reactionary, and that’s certainly true. It is a reaction to the reaction. It aims to return to what came before, but it soon becomes characterized more by its hatred of progressives than by its love for what preceded them. All too much of the political spectrum’s right half is actually two degrees removed from reality. Desire to return or preserve is not sufficient, without a clear sense of what was good in the past and what was indeed in need of some correction.
Progressives see real problems with the existing or established order, problems that conservatism too often overlooks and denies.
Finding the problems isn’t the same as finding the solution, however, and that is commonly the failure of the left. Rather than seeking to improve a thing by strengthening what is weak or weakening what is corrupt, too often the impulse is to destroy, to replace, and this perhaps marks a failure to understand human nature.
Still, credit where credit is due. Reaction is not a bad response to injustice. The how might often be flawed, but the why cannot be faulted.