Derogatory comment
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Backwardism is a derogatory comment intended to brand an ideology 22 as stained by backwardness.[1] While the term has been applied to literature, politics and religion, its precise definition remains unclear. Because of its various connotations and the evolution of its meaning in various times and places, it remains a notion to be played with carefully.


"Backwardism" is composed of the root "back" with a double suffixation, with a first element made of the directional suffix "-ward" substantivized by the final suffix "-ism".


Literature: the abuse of analepsis

In literature, backwardism which is also known as antonymism is a reference to an abusive use of analepsis or "going backwards". While these flashbacks are an important leitmotif in many novels, they can contribute to a certain sense of confusion.[2]

Politics: various meanings in America, Turkey, China and India

James Boyle criticized the "backwardism of American socialism" since 1912.[3]

Backwardism emerged in Chinese revolutionary ideology of Marxist Intellectuals to describe the return to peasant society. [4]

In 1970, backwardism was applied by Turkish reformist İsmet İnönü against the Islamic conservatives who were trying to kill the spirit of Ataturk's secular reforms[5] while others criticized the cult of the former leader saying that "Kemalism leads more to backwardism than forwardism".[6]

Since at least the 1980s, the concept has been applied to the caste system of India as well[7] as a result of the work of the Mandal Commission established in India in 1979 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai[8] with a mandate to "identify the socially or educationally backward classes" of India.[9] The intended purpose of backwardism in India was "attaining social justice through caste", through based reservation in government jobs for example but it ultimately let to the "clustering of backward castes".[10] It was propagated in Bihar especially through the political tactics of Karpuri Thakur.[11] In Tamil Nadu, backwardism has emerged as an element of political theory describing the "phenomenon of the rise of backward castes".[12] It has been used as political concept which is actually used as a "strength card" by politicians like Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi, or Shibu Soren but it may not have a place in Indian politics in the future as "backward castes" remain unsatisfied with being at the fringes of the political system.

Religion: Pope Francis's critique of traditionalism

In the field of religion, backwardism may be a translation from French of the derogatory term first used in 1868 by Baudelaire to described as "arriéristes" those religious conservatives who criticized the artistic innovations of painter Eugene Delacroix.[13]

In 2014, Catholic vaticanist Ken Briggs described the pontificate of "revivalist" Pope Francis as one that had "rolled back the march of backwardism and paved the way for a Bernardinian renewal of the hierarchy in the minds of many reformists."[14] On March 7, 2015, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first vernacular Mass celebrated there by Pope Paul VI in 1965, Pope Francis made these comments his own saying that "it is not possible to go backwards. And those who go backward are mistaken".[15] In the wake of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes published in the summer of 2021, Pope Francis has pejoratively referred to the traditionalist movement resisting the cancellation of the Latin mass by referring to its supports as "backwardists". He used the Italian word "indietristi" in the sense that they are not living tradition in a way that is moving forwards but rather trying to go backwards in the past opposing it to the rule of organic development of doctrine as articulated by Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitorium.[16] This contempt for traditionalists has been criticized by Jesuit priest James V. Schall quoting G.K. Chesterton saying that "progress can only be made by looking backwards."[17]


  1. ^ Adams, Scott (2002-07-11). "Opinion | Cubicle Crimes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  2. ^ Chatman, Seymour (2009). "Backwards". Narrative. 17 (1): 31–55. ISSN 1063-3685. JSTOR 30219289.
  3. ^ Boyle, James (1912). What is Socialism?: An Exposition and a Criticism, with Special Reference to the Movement in America and England. Shakespeare Press. p. 176.
  4. ^ Sheel, Kamal (2014-07-14). Peasant Society and Marxist Intellectuals in China: Fang Zhimin and the Origin of a Revolutionary Movement in the Xinjiang Region. Princeton University Press. pp. 163–170. ISBN 978-1-4008-6042-5.
  5. ^ Daedalus: Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy. 1973. p. 157.
  6. ^ "Professor's Ataturk statements horrifying". (in Turkish). 2006-11-21. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  7. ^ Link: Indian Newsmagazine, Volume 29, Part 3. 1987.
  8. ^ Gehlot, N. S. (1998). Current Trends in Indian Politics. Deep & Deep Publications. pp. 264–265. ISBN 9788171007981.
  9. ^ Bhattacharya, Amit. "Who are the OBCs?". Archived from the original on 27 June 2006. Retrieved 19 April 2006. Times of India, 8 April 2006.
  10. ^ Fifty Years of India's Freedom. Indian Academy of Social Sciences. 1997. pp. 166–167.
  11. ^ Ram, D. Sundar (1996). Readings in the Indian Parliamentary Opposition. Kanishka Publishers, Distributors. p. 65. ISBN 978-81-7391-113-2.
  12. ^ Shah, Ghanshyam (2004). Caste and Democratic Politics in India. Anthem Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-1-84331-085-3.
  13. ^ Baudelaire, Charles (1868). Curiosités esthétiques (in French). M. Lévy.
  14. ^ Briggs, Ken (2014-09-22). "Wish list for an archbishop-in-waiting". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  15. ^ Pope Francis (2015-03-07). "Santa Messa nella Parrocchia romana di Ognissanti nel 50° anniversario della prima Messa in italiano celebrata dal Beato Paolo VI" [Homily given during the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Roman Parish of All Saints on the 50th anniversary of the first Mass in Italian celebrated by Blessed Paul VI]. Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 2022-08-13. non si può andare indietro, dobbiamo andare sempre avanti, sempre avanti e chi va indietro sbaglia
  16. ^ Glatz, Carol (2022-08-04). "Quo vadis? Pope revitalizes ancient theologian's rules as a timely guide". Crux. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  17. ^ Schall, James V.; S.J. (2015-03-30). "On Pope Francis and Understanding Theology". Retrieved 2022-08-13.