The idea of progress is necessary to capitalism—or rather,
to capitalism's illusion about itself—but is not strictly
necessary for the well-being of people. Pre-capitalist
humanity had no concept of earthly progress such as we
cherish today. Their idea of progress was to get to heaven.
Progress was all right for a while. It just went on for too
The “growth” of which economists and politicians speak is
strictly finite. All that grows will ungrow. Ask a tree.
If there were no calendars, we would have only a limited
sense of linear time. The sun rises each day, but only to
set again and begin the whole business over again the
next day. Similarly, the seasons repeat. Only the aging of
physical bodies suggests a linear progress from one point
to another. But perhaps we age inwards, not onwards.
Our individual sense of going somewhere—albeit only to
death—is projected onto the human race as a whole to
create the illusion of progress.
Throughout the whole medieval period the cyclic and
linear concepts of time were in conflict. Scientists and
scholars, influenced by astronomy and astrology, tended
to emphasize the cyclic concept. The linear concept was
fostered by the mercantile class and the rise of a money
economy...time was now regarded as something valuable
that was felt to be slipping away continually.
—G J Whitrow, What Is Time?
In 1602 Francis Bacon, promoting the linear concept,
wrote a work called The Masculine Birth of Time.
Welcome to our world.