Western society comports itself under the assumption that real progress occurs in the human condition. But this assumption was (1) not always held and (2) not always true. Instead, most ancient societies believed in a previous "Golden Age," from which society had ever since been slipping.
This perspective lost popularity in the Enlightenment period, with the onset of the scientific method and medicine. By 1800, the idea of the inscrutable progress of Western society (as a whole) dominated.