The concept of progress has evolved alongside ideas about human and community development, individual self-improvement, evolution, scientific and technological advancement, industrialisation and modernisation, as well as within political ideologies of social reform, piecemeal problem-solving, planning and anti-planning. Progress could be invoked morally in the name of a collective good, pursued through economic planning, or be aligned with freely acting individuals in the market place. In the second half of the twentieth century, largescale rises in material living standards saw progress become a byword for abundance and opportunity. The political rhetoric of progress has been ever-present.
The PhD fellow will propose a project examining the concept of progress in such or related themes. The project could explore, among numerous possibilities, how commitments to moral improvement underpinned political agendas of social reform. It could explore the concept of progress within discourses of human development, the conceptions of progress that tied together notions of community, welfare and state regulation, or the changing conceptions of moral, scientific and economic progress that had political consequences. Projects situated in the more recent past with a specifically environmental focus could explore the history of the concept of progress in environmental politics and ethics, or the rise of alternative green-growth and de-growth discourses. The intellectual histories of progress’s prophets and critics offer another rich source for generating new understandings of the concept’s role in modern society.
The research project will be carried out at the University of Stavanger, Norway. It is expected that the appointee will work full time on the project and that she/he will participate in the academic community at the faculty and university, including the two interdisciplinary program areas of the Greenhouse (environmental humanities) and the Future Pasts Group (uses of history, history didactics). We also encourage the appointee to include an international research stay during the employment period at a renowned and relevant research institution.
The research fellow will produce a thesis written in English.
Associate Professor Tyson Retz will serve as primary supervisor.