Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” We can take this to be the standard liberal-progressive way of looking at the arc of history.
There are two other possible variations:
- that of the reactionary right: “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward vengeance.”
- that of the revolutionary left: “The arc of history is long and it’s going to keep getting longer unless we put a stop to it.”
8 thoughts on “Three ways of looking at an arc of history”
“In the long run, we’re all fodder for the arc of history”
That’d be the neoliberal version, I guess.
The cynical version: “The arc of history is long; and it bends to the prevailing wind.”
Also, Raiders of the Lost Arc of History
The Foucaldian version: “The arc of justice is long, but it bends towards history”
Euclid’s historical geometry: “The arc of history is long, but it eventually bends into a circle”:
I appreciate the cleverness of this post and the insights of your posts in general. For what it’s worth (apologies if this isn’t helpful), following Theodore Parker, MLK actually said, “The arc of the *moral universe* is long, but it bends towards justice” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129609461). I see the version about “history” fairly frequently, but to me there’s an inevitability in that misquote not present in the original King version–which I (perhaps incorrectly) take to mean that if we choose morality (love/compassion/solidarity), then we will move toward justice. The alternative is not to follow the arc of the moral universe, and instead head toward hate, division, and inequality.
Thanks for the correction — King’s statement does make more sense than the inaccurate version I quoted.
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