Monday, March 06, 2006

1806-2006: Bicentennial of the End of History

The End of History: I love that campy academic idea.

To commemorate the bicentennial on this blog, I link to Francis Fukuyama's lecture The End of History? presented at the University of Chicago to an audience including the late Allan Bloom.

In 1806, as Napolean I and the French army defeated the Prussians at Jena, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote that civilisation had reached the End of History. What was he thinking? Napolean of course had been a general in the fledging French Republic before seizing power as an "enlightened despot."

For Hegel, it was about the big picture, the evolution of society from tribe, to theocracy, to democracy, not about the bumps and snags along the way. Hegel believed that after winning independence in the US (1776) and France (1789), humanity had realized the ideal of Liberal Democracy and so achieved the final evolution of human government, never to look back, because there were no more unbearable and irrational contradictions to resolve. But others begged to differ. Communists of course thought that inherent contradictions between Labor and Capital would force an evolution to Socialism. Facists saw inherent human political, psychological, and moral weaknesses (anomie) as contradictions to be resolved by martial dictatorship. At least yesterday's facists stated their case clearly.

I first heard this phrase "end of history" in 1995 as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois - Chicago, just a few years after Francis Fukuyama published his 1992 book The End of History and The Last Man. Having a dark sense of humor, an appreciation of camp, and an apocalyptic imagination, of course I made this idea my own. You have to realize that, in 1992, things were looking pretty good. People swaggered with the belief that global peace could really follow economic and political liberalization. As for myself, I was not so predisposed to such happy talk.

I want to believe. But I cannot - not yet. And so I add my two cents with just two words. To Georg Hegel and to Francis Fukuyama, I say "death drive."

2 Comments:

Anonymous jacko said...

Gotta love the carcass - a needed serving up of Hegel, garnished with a soupcon of Freud. Well done, truly.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Aethlos said...

Bloom was actually a friend of mine... he was a hypocrite and a tramp... but a genius... sometime when the world is dark and filled with memory i will tell you stories about my times with bloom.... juicy. :)

12:22 PM  

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