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Social Change - Progress Theory

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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:

This book represents the pattern of Progress Theory in fiction. Twenty-five years after J.B Bury introduced his classic about the origins of Progress, Ayn Rand wrote her classic novel.

Atlas Shrugged tells the story of Dagny Taggart, the vice president in charge of operations for Taggart Transcontinental. Rand’s view of Progress is optimistic and against all odds.

Dagny Taggart eventually falls in love with the mysterious John Galt, who leads a “strike of the mind” against the bureaucratic forces that hamper industrial progress.

It is likely that Rand’s work had some influence on thinkers such as Herman Kahn and Julian Simon, who were vocal critics of those with a negative view of progress in the 1970s, “asserting progress was endemic to human society” (Bishop & Hines, 2012, pp. 151-152).

Key Theorists / Tenants

  • J. B. Bury (1932) wrote about the history and development of Progress Theory

  • Herman Kahn (1983) described a future with potentially unlimited progress

  • Julian Simon (2008) Presented evidence from over 50 scholars arguing for an optimistic view of the future


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