What are theories on the perfectibility/development of individuals & societies

I’m not sure if this is a debate or question. Either way, it is probably something covered in a freshman level college class I never took.

So some concepts like transhumanism feel we are marching towards a more perfect state. One with less poverty, more empowerment, more medicine, more freedom, etc. Certain religions have the same concept of an empowered utopia, but they usually have a period of intense hardship before the utopia which transhumanism does not have (aka armageddon).

Political liberals tend to feel we are moving towards more egalitarianism. Womens rights, childrens rights, minority rights, economic justice, environmental justice.

But some thinkers like Strauss and Howe think societies are more cyclical and just keep looping. That we aren’t necessarily moving up (like the transhumanists and liberals feel), just moving in circles.

Fukuyama feels countries are moving away from dictatorship and towards liberal democracy (an upward march) while Plato felt there were cycles of democracy and dictatorship.

And many political conservatives tend to feel we are moving away from the good times into a time of more decadence, immorality, instability and danger.

And on the subject of individuals, is it theorized that individuals grow and develop as time goes on (crystallized intelligence supposedly keeps growing as you age). But other thinkers like Erikson seem to imply the stages of an individual are different at each stage, but not necessarily better or compounded (that is the impression I get).
So on a societal level it seems there are various theories on the outcome over time

a) move towards a perfect state
b) move towards a better state
c) stagnate or face different (but not better or worse than previous) problems and outcomes
d) move downward towards a worse state

The same can be said of individual development. Some feel you move towards a better state with time, some feel you stagnate, some feel you get worse.

So what is all of this called (the concept of where we are headed and if it is better, worse or the same; whether it is linear or cyclical)? Is there a name for this subject?
Some subjects like science and medicine seem like they are obviously either b) or possibly a), moving towards a better and if possible a perfect state (modern medicine is only 150 years old and is already extremely good so another 150 years of compounded advances will be interesting to watch). They are not stagnating or getting worse. And social justice and anti-poverty efforts are constantly improving. But studies have shown quality of life and happiness has been about the same the last 60 years in the west, so that is stagnating.

Either way, I don’t know. It seems we are globally moving forward with political rights, civil rights, human rights, science, technology, medicine, wealth.

Is there a cyclical shift between socialism and capitalist oligarchy where excess in one leads to the other? I have read that societies do build themselves up, then become complacent, then get knocked out of power by competitors (I think it was in the book the Lucifer Principal). So that could be a cycle of political power. Hunger for power, obtain power, get complacent, get taken down by a new challenger. So rather than nations marching towards bigger and better futures (a linear movement) it is cyclical with a predictable rise and fall.

Are individuals and societies moving towards something better, worse or just different?

Do societies and individuals get better, worse or stay the same over time? Do we go in circles or do we march up or down? Is perfectibility even possible?

-G. K. Chesterton

It is worthless to ask whether we are marching towards a more perfect state or a less perfect state or moving upwards or downwards. As a nation (or a world) we are not marching or moving anywhere. The United States of America is merely a geographic unit that contains a lot of people. At any given moment, each person is in a different state, doing a different thing, and rarely viewing himself or herself in terms of how society is changing. A change in society is merely a shorthand for denoting a change in large numbers of people. As each person has free will, any group of personal also has free will, and hence there’s no way to predict what the United States of America or any other group of people will do. Sure, there are plenty of examples of nations that made definite progress in various fields throughout history, but there are also plenty of examples of nations that stagnated or went backwards. It all depends on the choices made by individuals.

The idea that at some point “Canada should soon produce a literature” is not so absurd as it sounds. The U.S. produced practically no literature, other than religious tracts and political journalism, during the colonial period or in the first couple of decades after independence; everybody was too busy surviving and building wealth. Then literature emerged when it came literature-time, to paraphrase Charles Fort.

I think you’re misunderstanding Chesterton’s point. He’s condemning the pathetic fallacy…saying that “Canada should soon produce a literature” is false because countries don’t produce things. People do.

Literature aside, Canada should definitely grow a mustache. It would look much more distinguished.

But, that is a false dichotomy. Countries do produce literature. And they produce literature under some circumstances and not others. And a country or culture can, in fact, be collectively vigorous or decrepit, even though it will include both vigorous and decrepit individuals either way. Chesterton was wrong, as Ayn Rand was wrong: There is such thing as a collective brain, in fact there are all kinds of collective brains.

I’d recommend you check out Steven Pinker’s book ‘The Blank Slate’ which discusses the ‘Tragic vision’ and ‘Utopian vision’ which distinguish political views (I the terms are from a book by Thomas Sowell).