The idea of progress guided human expectations and actions for over two centuries. From the Enlightenment onwards, it was widely believed that the condition of humankind could be radically improved. History had embarked on an unstoppable forward trajectory, realizing the promise of freedom and reason. The scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, and the French Revolution, in some views also the socialist revolution, were milestones on this march of progress.

But since the late twentieth century the idea of progress has largely disappeared from public debate. Sometimes it has been explicitly declared dead. The wide horizon of future possibilities has closed. The best we can hope for, some say, is to avoid regress.

What happened to progress? Why did we stop believing in it, if indeed we did? This book offers answers to these questions. It reviews both the conceptual history of progress and the social and political experiences with progress over the past two centuries, and it comes to a surprising conclusion: The idea of progress was misconceived from its beginnings, and the failure of progress in practice was a result of this flawed conception. The experiences of the past half century, in turn, has allowed us to rethink progress in a more adequate way. Rather than the end of progress, they may herald the beginning of a new, reconstructed idea of progress.


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Peter Wagner is a German sociologist and political theorist. He is currently a research professor at the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies, University of Barcelona. He has studied economics, political science and sociology in Hamburg, London and Berlin and is active in academia in many European countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Norway, as well as the United States and the Republic of South Africa. He was Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and the University of Trento, Professor of Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute in Florence and Visiting Professor at the Université de Paris 8, the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve, the University of Berkeley and other prestigious universities.

From his rich opus we single out the following titles: A Sociology of Modernity: Liberty and Discipline;  A History and Theory of the Social Sciences: Not All That is Solid Melts into Air;  Theorizing Modernity. Inescapability and Attainability in Social Theory;  and Modernity as Experience and Interpretation: A New Sociology of Modernity.
Progress: A Reconstruction is Wagner's first book published in Croatian.


  • ISBN: 978-953-8075-82-7
  • Dimensions: 128x200 mm
  • Number of pages: 204
  • Cover: paperback
  • Year of the edition: 2020
  • Original title: Progress. A Reconstruction
  • Original language: English
  • Translation: Nenad Zakošek

„Wagner's book is a convincing argument in favor of the idea of progress, which, in the key of critical theory of society and philosophy, distinguishes the advantages and disadvantages, ups and downs of progress as one of the developmental processes of mankind. The author proves that progress has no theoretical and practical development alternative and skillfully avoids objections in terms of Eurocentrism. Progress is one of the vital interests of mankind: one part of humanity cannot achieve it at the expense of the decay of another part without jeopardizing the entire development. Progress, according to the author, is a goal that cannot be approached without a firm belief in the creative essence of man.“

prof. dr. sc. Vjeran Katunarić

„In Progress, Wagner discusses a topic of interest and implications for the whole field of social sciences and humanities – from historical sociology and political science, through history and philosophy of science, to a number of thematic areas such as economic development, climate change, democracy and civil rights, etc. In doing so, he excellently articulates the relevant positions of other authors and comprehensive literature from a number of different disciplines, not burdening the reader with dense bibliographic referencing, but guided by the clarity of statements and derivation of theses.“

izv. prof. dr. sc. Danijela Dolenec