Siraj Ahmed Sindhu is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at Brown University, where he studies political theory and philosophy. His interests include, broadly, the intersection of democratic theory and socialist traditions, the position of more-than-human beings within orderings of agency and standing, and political accounts of subjectivity. He is currently at work on a prospectus project exploring what he is thinking of as “temporalities of politics,” drawing on various traditions to rethink concepts such as “progress.” Sindhu enjoys literature, music, mountains, and the oceans. He is originally from the North Country of New York State.
The concept I am presenting on, which also figures prominently in my dissertation prospectus, is progress. We might think of progress simply as a process of normative improvement or as the view that history is marked by the sutured continuity of past and future. If we adopt one or both of these views, we might be concerned with progress talk because, in light of numerous worsening crises, we may come to question its validity as a description of the human condition. We might also become suspicious of progress talk even as a normative goal because if progress is conceived as a logic of continuity, then we might rightly wonder how we can normatively endorse the continuation, even in altered form, of systems and practices that have produced spiraling crises in the past and present. But my particular interest concerns how progress talk organizes the temporal register and energies of political life in ways that tend toward treating present time as an instrument for acting on and changing possible futures. The feature of progress that I want to highlight, then, is how it suggests a distribution of value by which the (mis)relations we feel toward the present are neutralized by an orientation to the future, which might mitigate the intensification of political energies and passions, diverting them away from presence and toward futurity.