One of the core claims of progressivism that Moldbug made such an effort skewering is that of the connection between technological development and the advance of the core ideas and concepts of progressivism – individualism in the liberal sense (man before society,) democracy, scientific governance and the rest.
This brings us to entertain an alternative thesis as to what has created the technological progress which has occurred during the same period. “Progress” and technological improvement aren’t linked causally, but rather they are parallel symptoms of the same underlying process, which opens the possibility of obtaining the one without the other, because if you strip technological improvement from progress, you get a hellish landscape.
This alternative thesis is that what created such technological development were the actions of centralising governance which created the environment for greater concentrations of capital making investment in new enterprises feasible. If we look at the history of western states, in particular those states which advanced the quickest, the driver has everywhere been the state. The real irony has been that for these states to conduct such actions, they have had to align with the most insane, ridiculous and nonsensical elements of their society to conduct these changes. So we see weak centralising states using the whole raft of nonsense that marches under the banner of free trade, liberal capitalism and laissez faire to remove obstacles to greater industrialisation.
All incipient industries of any great scale are usually created by the state, always protected by the state in their initial stages, and remain an integral part of the state thereafter. Their very existence is at the sufferance of the state. They are in reality, part of the state. A look back at all major technological developments may show their initial invention is not always (but often is) from the direct investment of the state, but their adoption, ability to even function, and scaling up, are. The only serious organisation capable of organising such levels of capital and organising the infrastructure needed for such endeavours is a state. Everything from the cotton mills of 19th century England which could only operate as a result of the market placed into their orbit by the Empire, which itself was created by fleets organised under the infrastructure of England, and by companies incorporated in England, to the case of Google and the Internet. All roads lead back to the centralised state capable of supplying the capital or infrastructure to amalgamate the capital, and the ability to suppress competition in direct contradiction to the cynical (at first, but believed sincerely by latter generations) promotion of laissez faire.
So, is it possible to have this centralisation and re-organisation of society without the “progress”? I would answer – yes it is. This progress, individualism, rampant degeneracy and quack economics based on liberal individualism are eminently avoidable, by the expedient of having a political structure with sufficient power and control that it can reorganise without recourse to promotion of degenerate elements of society and the raising of lunatics to prominence. China seems to have been generally successful in this regard, so was Japan, and so was Italy pre- WW2.
The thesis is therefore that liberal individualism and Liberalism proper are unfortunate parallel results of central power raising crazies as a means to undermine society to enact economic changes. Not causal.