Progress and the greatest irony

This being 2014, I picked up my copy of Paul Fussell’s brilliant 1975 book

. Although I very much want to read Margaret Macmillan’s new book,
, I’m tempted to say that if you only read one thing this centenary year, make it the Fussell. This early passage caught my eye:

“Every war is ironic because every war is worse than expected. Every war constitutes an irony of situation because its means are so dramatically disproportionate to its presumed ends. … But the Great War was more ironic than any before or since. It was a hideous embarrassment to the prevailing Meliorist myth which had dominated public consciousness for a century. It reversed the Idea of Progress.”

I, like many economists I would guess, incline toward meliorism. A hundred years on from Fussell’s Greatest Irony, it’s probably right to reflect on Progress, though.

[amazon_image id=”0195133323″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Great War and Modern Memory[/amazon_image]