What does it mean to be a progressive?

“Progressive” is a word that we use a lot at Compass to describe who we are and what we stand for. But it is an especially ambitious term and perhaps for this reason is almost never defined. 

In a new paper On Being Progressive, Grace Barnett looks into the history and application of the term and interrogates some of the potential points of pain or contradiction, with the aim of creating a clearer picture of where we stand today as self-described Progressives.

We want to know what being a ‘progressive’ means to you and whether you think it’s still a useful and accurate description of our politics. Comment below…

Download and read the paper here


4 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a progressive?

  1. I will read with interest.

    Here is the baggage that I bring to my reading. I find the term progressive elitist. It frames the debate in a way that makes a claim to some moral high ground at the same time implying a direction of travel (i.e. progress must be too somewhere) but where is the articulation of a vision off better? What does good looks like? Why and how is it better?

    If politicians continue to triangulate opinion rather than persuade then given that we don’t control the media we’ll only ever get a distorted reflection back and be condemned to a starting point built on sand.

  2. Hi Brian

    Yes. I agree that “progressive” can sound elitist, but do you have an alternative description?
    Perhaps, instead of “progressive”, we might use the words “of the 21 st century”.
    Yes. I agree that it is important to describe “the better life”, and that it must be “inclusive”.
    Perhaps “the better life” aspirations also need to be practicable and sustainable too.
    After December 2019, we surely know what doesn’t work?

  3. I wouldn’t call the word Progessive elitist, it excludes nobody and implies no moral high ground – if anything, it’s too all-encompassing; no one’s against progress, are they?

    The key question, as Grace states, is, “progress towards what?”

    To which the answer is probably the same as the one reached in recent months by the Fair Voting campaigns – there are different traditions with different end goals, but I bet there’s a one page summary all those traditions can sign up to. The hard part is making that both brief enough to be worth bothering with and precise enough to be more than just a statement of piety.

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