Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Regressivism (or reactionism) is a term used to critically denote policies, ideologies or philosophies that are characterized as advocating a reversal to ones long abandoned or deprecated. At the most fundamental level, what regressivism reacts against is modernity itself.
Regressivism, sometimes called "reactionism", is in the same spectrum of political terms as progressivism and conservatism, and is used to distinguish between ideologies that advocate slow changes to those advocating a reversal. Obviously, regressivism is to the right of conservatism. Many social debates involve some degree of regressivism, where conflicts arise between new scientific issues and their interpreted moral ramifications.
The term "regressive" is a relatively recent one in political discourse. The reason it is coming into increasing use is that the old distinction liberal/conservative appears to have outlived its usefulness. When those two terms were introduced, in the historically optimistic time know as the Enlightenment, there was no question that society progresses over time, and that political institutions must adapt to these changes. The only question was whether this adaptation should be planned, with a systematic ideology to guide it, as is held by liberals, or gradual and "organic", as held by conservatives. Today however there exist influential groups calling themselves conservatives which hold not that we must adapt more gradually to change, but that we must abandon various achievements of modernity: the governance of international relations by international law; the regulation of the economy by the democratic state; science as an autonomous activity not subject to control by the state (it is claimed that there is no such thing as disinterested science, so that all science is "political"); the recognition that religion is a human activity, and so something that must be made rational by being subjected to critique. Since such groups are not conservative by definition, but radical, the introduction of the new political term "regressive" was required.
Two current examples, both in the field of medicine, are stem cell research and abortion. The Flat Earth Society is also an example of reactionism, as was the Arts and Crafts Movement in the 19th century.
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