Printer Friendly

The end-of-history idea revisited.

The present paper undertakes to offer an analysis of central features of modern world history that may contribute to the possibility of a confirmation, and extension, of something resembling Francis Fukuyama's Kojeve-Hegel "end-of-history" thesis. (1) That thesis has been extremely widely discussed. (2) A great deal of that discussion has involved misinterpretation, even distortion and caricature, of the thesis intended. Particularly critical for understanding that thesis is grasping what it means by history, since it is only by reference to what history means for G.W.F. Hegel that the idea of its coming to an end will be intelligible. Hegel rejects an exclusively materialist analysis of human motivation and action. Instead, he adopts the "idealist" view that features of human subjectivity, and of our inner symbolic lives, are importantly involved in what we do, why we do it, and success, resolution, or satisfaction in outcomes that obtain for us. This will be true on the small, quotidian, and individual plane, including matters of (temporally and geographically) local history. There is also large, or world history, history as something that human beings as such are engaged in, and it is this which especially interests Hegel as a philosopher. The idealist view will hold also in this sphere for Hegel. History in this large or universal sense, as Hegel sees it, is a developing series of human attempts, most of them inchoate and little recognized by the particular individuals or groups that have been concerned, to arrive at a set of arrangements that would afford a workable stasis in the mutual relations of selves and collectivities. Ultimately, as populations and knowledge have grown, these will be state-society collectivities. Optimally, what will be striven for--what human world-history conceived in this philosophical manner may be understood as having successively and disparately sought--is the best or most workable such stasis, one that would most successfully fulfill the needs of our natures as human beings. The idea is not, of course, that successive large historical patterns have involved people getting together, with a shared resolve to try now this, now that, blueprint for handling and arranging matters so as to deal with claims and goals of individuals, and claims and goals of groups (of individuals, nuclear or extended families, households, clans, tribes, economic units, a whole national order, or other collectivities). Rather, in much messier ways, typically involving struggle, impositions by some, usually the more powerful, upon others, and also things people did not know but had to learn, history and its manifest array of specific developments and events can be understood--for Hegel, can best, and philosophically, be understood--as an unfolding set of strivings (and what may be viewed retrospectively as experiments) for optimal arrangements for human beings in aggregation. Alexandre Kojeve, then, interpreted Hegel as having affirmed--and argued--that history, in this sense, literally "came to an end" with developments in Napoleonic Europe in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Symbolically, Hegel, and Kojeve, conceive this end of history as able to be identified (given conceptual focus) with Napoleon's victory at the battle of Jena, 14 October, 1806. That victory led to the establishment or consolidation of a European system that embodied--imperfectly, but concretely--the conceptually ideal roles and mutual relations of individual, state, law, and culture (including religious culture) in the aggregated states ruled or presided over by Napoleon.

Another way to put the idea is to call it the notion that the problem of history (3)--how best may we (the human species in general) live? (4)--has been solved. The "solution" of this problem was, as Hegel (or Hegel-Kojeve-Fukuyama) sees it, realized hence implicitly discoverable (Hegel being, of course, that actual discoverer) in the Napoleonic filtering of, and response to, the French Revolution and the imposition of that response on the diverse communities Napoleon's armies conquered (their populations, unlike their leaders, widely welcoming the imposition). Strictly, it might be argued, a problem might be solved, but the solution not be accepted, or not be applied (or be applied only occasionally or haphazardly). Hegel supposes that really solved problems necessarily will have solutions that are instantiated in the world, history's solution, specifically, depending on the unerasable continuity of historical memory--without which there is no such thing as history anyway.

It has been held to be unclear, or doubtful, whether Hegel actually intended the analysis, and the thesis, imputed to him by Kojeve. (5) And it is, of course, noted that the Napoleonic geopolitical structure--the Empire of the French, the Confederation of the Rhine, Kingdom of Italy, Duchy of Warsaw, and other state components of the Napoleonic imperial system--came to a crashing demise a mere seven years after this putatively world-historical inauguration.

The latter at least is not quite the summary refutation of the Hegel-Kojeve view that it might seem to be. For Hegel the universal structures which constitute the progression of the Absolute are importantly independent of the actual concrete historical individuals and doings which embody and implement them. Once realized upon the earth, the idea of a civil society living, under individual rights-respecting law, with a sustainable religious and national normative ideology, is inexpungible. It may have pale and still more imperfect successors, or variant executors of its patterns, but it will resurface, and, for Kojeve has done so, in the gradual articulation of European union and the formations of a League of Nations and its successor the United Nations in the world that is still our present world.

It is much of this model that Fukuyama adopted and conceived more explicitly than perhaps either Hegel or Kojeve had done as a realized triangulation of democracy, liberal individual rights ideology, and capitalism. This realization came to the fore for Fukuyama in the matrix of the events set in motion by the fall of communism in the European world in 1989. Fukuyama's analysis was hailed triumphalistically by champions and advocates of capitalism (and the other partners in the trio), often simplistically, and rebuked and dismissed by critics, especially academic ones, who argued that his interpretations of Hegel were mistaken, and anyway, that he was and was continuing to be massively refuted empirically by all the history that was happening in spite of the claims that it had ceased. (6)

Fukuyama's idea though was that the working out of the end of history does take time, as a Hegelian working out ought to do. It should in fact be expected to be a somewhat messy, gradualistic set of convergences, by differential stages in different parts of the world, some of them quite possibly, and compatibly with the geopolitical thesis, involving long continuing parochial, localized resistance to the unfolding and the success of the liberalism-capitalism-democracy blueprint for the fulfillment of human nature and human satisfaction. ("Resistance" in the sense intended may, of course, be unwitting as well as unwilling, occasioned by circumstances of nonhuman nature, and health, as well as attachments to older ideologies--religions, political cultures, and so forth.)

Still, there has been rather a lot of "history," very dramatically in the years since 1989, and of course especially explosively in 2001. One is not receiving--it may be held--gradualistic even low-keyed even piecemeal or partial corroboration of the end-of-history thesis from what we in the world have been living through on prominent local levels or geopolitically. It will be unsurprising, at least, that views that rival Kojeve-Fukuyama, like Samuel Huntington's currently popular "clash of civilizations" idea, have rather replaced it in the philosophical/historical limelight. (7)

In fact, of course, the Hegelian must take the long and the large view. The idea of liberalism-capitalism-democracy as the end of history is the idea of it as an end state that cannot rationally be thought beyond or superseded, with a model that would better fit and suit human nature (and where human nature as understood here ineradicably includes rational agency, and a symbolic life, as well as materially bio-psychological modes). The identified trio are--so the argument goes--each individually, and jointly quite invincibly, untrumpable. They are synthetic a priori truths, or clusters of truth, of practical reason and practical life for human beings as they are in this world. They are seen as instrumentally best avenues to net human well-being and thriving in respect of arrangements for individuals living together in communities--net, of course, since each will invariably meet with occasional or short-term exception. And perhaps still more importantly, there is no possibility of thinking as plausible or coherent, as making sense, when the details are pursued, when they have become lived and known internally as well as externally. One may try. In the case perhaps of capitalism especially--the argument may go--alternatives (one kind or other of command, or entirely isolatedly local economy will be the usual ones) will be found invariably to fall apart, ceasing to make practicable sense, and fitting the other parameters of desired and internally prompted and valued life, when the consequences and a universal implementation are enacted (in imaginative model or in the real world). Ecological disaster or destruction from without (for example, a comet striking the earth) might make them and the world dissolve, as would likewise an irresistible tyranny. What is not conceivable, the position is, is a human community not changing its human nature and consciously choosing the dissolution of any of the three on the ground that there was a better alternative.

It is important to recognize as well that the Hegel-Kojeve-Fukuyama end-of-history thesis (hereafter abbreviated HKF) does not imply an inevitability or even a probability (nor for that matter a desirability) of material or other sorts of progress, beyond the cultural realization of liberalism-capitalism-democracy as end state. There is, to be sure, an implied expectation that the triangulation of the three will afford "satisfactory life" for those living under it, that it will at least to some unclear minimal level "deliver the goods." But material conditions might stay static in some or most of the world or even undergo declines, temporary or prolonged. The end state is to be understood as chiefly involving inner recognition among the individuals and peoples who have come to know and experience them (in some cases this will be rediscovery, following experience of alternatives to them), that the triad is not satisfactorily or satisfyingly thinkable beyond, for the species we are on the planet we inhabit (except in brief or emergency circumstances).

One must note--importantly--a certain elasticity in the three members of the liberalism-capitalism-democracy trio, as the HKF case conceives them. Universal adult suffrage need not be requisite for democracy. A paternalist welfare state can also qualify as capitalist. Rather severe codes of restrictions may not preclude a state's being a liberal one. The Napoleonic world state of 1806-13 would not impress many today as a model of any of the three; yet we are to view it as the Absolute's first implementation on earth of the fundamental idea, with the fundamentals of that idea.

Still, the elasticity intended is not indefinite. Democracy is supposed to be the people ruling directly or through elected representatives, each citizen counting for one and none for more than one. The liberal idea stems from Immanuel Kant (with prototypes in ancient Stoicism and Christianity), and according to it each individual is invested with a dignity and autonomy that cannot be abridged or compromised by state or majority will or power. The capitalist idea is that wealth-generating private property will obtain and be respected and that economic process will primarily operate autonomously of direct regularized state impulse. None of these will have sharp nondisjunctive formulation; each will be incompatible with systems in its own sphere that have actually obtained in the social and historical world.

Again in order to seek to preclude misinterpretation, these remarks may deserve expansion. The second member of the triad is standardly abbreviated as liberalism. This term is famously elastic, varying remarkably widely in its meaning and in its connotative force. Indeed, it is so varyingly understood in and for past periods as well as currently that it might almost be preferable to use some other term for the intended idea. At any rate, the liberalism meant here is intended to encapsulate the idea of respect for individual human rights, autonomy, and dignity, codified in law and generally successfully honored in practice. It is accordingly essentially a normative position. Just what persons' rights include is itself much explored and contested. The aim in at least the Fukuyama version of the HKF view is to encompass some or much of this elasticity. That is, one liberal regime, constitution, or legal code might assert one set of rights, at least parts of which another such code, equally deserving to be called liberal, might fail to or reject. What is key and essential is the Kantian notion of the worth, dignity, and autonomy (entitlement to self-regulation) of the individual person, and the obligations this may be held to impose on the members of a community with ethical commitment to that notion and its implementation. Both Kant and Hegel discern an ancestry for this notion in Stoicism and Christianity. Hegel, unlike Kant, traces the notion also to a component of human nature, which Hegel sees Plato as having grasped as the middle element of the soul, the so-called thymotic or spirited element. (A more anarchically individualist version of the thymotic idea appears also in Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan [1651].) It is in virtue of thymos that the human being ineluctably requires recognition from others that he or she sees projectively as other selves. This requirement is seen as a need of our nature, only satisfiable if one meets with acknowledgment of one's status as an autonomous person--hence plausibly taken to point to the possibility of secure and reliable satisfaction only in a structure or arrangement of mutual recognition as morally equal selves of all of the persons in one's community or society and ultimately, then, the whole human family.

Democracy and capitalism both also involve complication that deserves comment, especially in the case of the second. The term capitalism is arguably almost as misleading as the term liberalism, at least in this Hegelian context. Apart from images of greedy white males in black stovepipe hats smoking cigars and meeting secretly to plot the spoliation of desperate and insecure laborers and pristine natural environments, or other malfeasance (and without for a moment denying that the equivalents of instances of such images have really sometimes occurred), capitalism presumably will require an economy driven by concentrations of capital. And it is not clear that the economic conception HKF intend does strictly require this. That conception could, for example, be operative in a small isolated society, where institutions of private property obtained and were respected, and there were practices of a division of labor and exchange but minimal accumulations of goods, including precious metals or money. It is arguable, at least, that the key conception we are calling capitalist could apply in such a community. What is essential is that the community permit and respect private property, including property accumulations, and that these be in principle able to serve as engines of economic development, even where this may lead to dramatic and unequal increases in private wealth. Essential as well is a principle which we may call antipaternalism, namely that the autonomous persons already identified as equals will be entrusted with horizons of economic choice, such as may be permitted by material circumstances (theirs and the society's), and without others deciding for them what is their good or their allocation. Again, this will be difficult to give precision, and would appear to admit a range of systemic and institutional implementations (and constraints) and possible qualifications, like prohibitions of economic choices that have been coerced, either through fraud or perceived economic necessity. It seems clear that societies produced by scales of population and organization beyond those of small isolated communities would inevitably be capitalist in usual and familiar senses. But it is by no means the case that they would be capitalist without check, constraint, or sectors that were publicly controlled. Welfare state societies and social democratic systems of the kinds prominently associated with the Scandinavian countries and with India will be unproblematically "capitalist" in the sense intended, for they honor and enshrine private property and permit--indeed, encourage--accumulations of capital as motors of economic activity and development.

It should then be clear that the issue between the HKF position and its rejection is not a quarrel between a so-called "right-wing" or conservative view, and a liberal or "progressive" or "left-wing" stance. It may well be that many who side with a Fukuyama stance are triumphalist friends of realities or prospects of American empire, or an economic world order arranged along lines Adam Smith or Milton Friedman might be pleased by. And similarly it may be that many who reject the HKF position are liberal progressive multiculturalist postmodernists, or people whom many will otherwise regard as being on the side of the angels. Such intellectual demographics are irrelevant to the philosophical and empirical issues that HKF poses.

If one regards people as at least capable of lives of autonomous adulthood, where they can make honest and reflective decisions about choices among economic alternatives, religious and other ideological options, and candidates and political arrangements offered for consideration, and if one thinks also that people tend to lead more satisfying lives when those capabilities are realized, then one shares the rudiments of the HKF view. This is particularly so if one thinks that no rival or alternative mode is credibly sustainable over generations as a framework for human satisfaction at all or to anything like the same degree. This position is universalist. It is arguable, also, that it is culturally elitist in at least one significant sense. It holds that in (contingent) historical fact in a Christian West European matrix was discovered, and developed, the key to psycho-social well-being. Contemporary postmodernist and other historically or culturally contextualist positions will reject a claim of that kind. The logic of the position need not tie it to a western historical and cultural setting. But for HKF the actual fact is that that is where it arose.

The end-of-history conception, like other Hegelian conceptions, is plausibly seen as a lived expression, a moving tableau vivant, of an argument, which moves forward as applications and implications of something undertaken are considered or discovered and then pursued. So one may view the extension of the franchise from literate adult male property owners to the illiterate, to the propertyless, and to females. And even at a single time democratic liberal capitalism, as meant here, may have multiple shapes, and may arguably need to take new and different shapes, in distinct societies under its broad aegis or within single societies. A proponent of this system can be an advocate or an opponent of same-sex marriage, abortion rights, or capital punishment, just as, more obviously, he or she may be an economic or cultural nationalist, an opponent of international free trade, a strong multiculturalist, or someone who favors cultural or economic universalism, even homogenization--so long, of course, as such a proponent preserves an untrumpable commitment to the democratic, liberal, and economic values that have been identified, and to the organic realization of those values in the society in which the proponent lives.

Such dialectical argument also takes the form of reductio. An opposing idea is presented, and a developmental sequence works forward to its refutation. It is seen--sooner by some, later by others, for many only after lived encounter --that the posited conception leads to "contradiction" or "absurdity," in the form of incompatibility with human nature or with fundamental rational desiderata of being a part of a community of free agents in a contingent and only partly known material world; it is so seen, that is to say, in imaginative concept or in the living out--in some cases the quite protracted living out--of its perambulatory pseudo-possibilities until whether quickly or at length, it crashes into the shoals of reality.

The images of violent action are apt. The world-historical process, for Hegel as for his successor Karl Marx, plays itself out in concrete actual interchange among people, involving their natures and their interests, and these typically have clashed and found expression in mutual violence--frequently even paradigmatically as history has unfolded--in wars between states. Armed struggle has been, not an essential but a standard and repeated condition of being. For Hegel such struggles may especially be understood as stemming from competing models of human nature and purpose.

It may be noted that the achievement of an end of history, also described in Hegelian terms as the arrival of the rational state, need not produce a literally universal or world state. One could envisage a world of independent rational states--all of them liberal, capitalist, and democratic, but possibly with considerable variations in how one or more of the three were interpreted and implemented, along lines remarked earlier in respect of the plasticity of the three members of the triad. Further, another Hegelian idea adds to the possible complexity of a "posthistorical" world. For Hegel, a successful rational state cannot simply be a contractual state, a system of independent autonomous persons leagued or aggregated by rational self-interested preferences to form a (voluntary and dissoluble) state society. So supposing was part of the Enlightenment error of atomic individualism. Rather, there is a need for a basis in shared feelings and ideologies, and practices that will form a set of bonds, a social glue, uniting the individuals and families of the society. This is what Hegel means by Sittlichkeit, or ethical culture. Only with such partly nonrational ideologies and praxis can a (state) society endure, and this is as true of the rational state as any other. Hegel sees religious ideology as one (indeed, possibly for Hegel a necessary) component of a Sittlichkeit that can serve to comprise and sustain the sort of solidarity that he discerns as requisite. With several sorts of rational state possible--within definite parameters, to be sure--and a Sittlichkeit that also presumably may vary (even if Hegel was right in supposing, as he did, that Lutheran Christianity is the highest or most rationally developed expression of a religious component of ethical culture), we can envisage a posthistorical world with marked differences, some of them deep cultural differences, among its rational states. Why might these differences not be sufficient to restart history, even if it had stopped, perhaps along the lines of Huntingtonesque "clashes of civilizations" (where we will conceive these civilizations as all being, in their possibly distinct ways, liberal, capitalist, and democratic)? That is, why might we not accept the HKF position with regard to the synthetic a priori status of the central triad, but deny that this would imply an end to major geopolitical conflict, even war? The HKF answer to this concern and objection was partly articulated by Kant and is reaffirmed by Fukuyama, and by several views of less loftily philosophical stamp: states that are liberal, democratic, and capitalist do not go to war with each other. They may well compete, economically and in other respects (in athletic contests, for example). But features of the logic of having made internal and essential commitments to respect individual rights, democratic process, and a market economy preempt and preclude risk of military conflict. So the argument will go, and it may be a plausible one, although the informed critic will note that the Napoleonic "world state," the alleged first concrete embodiment of the rational state, was a highly militarized state, and that subsequent incarnations of the rational state idea, namely, Wilhelmine Germany and the principal "allies" who opposed it, did, of course, go to war with each other. The HKF claim will be that some, perhaps all, of the countries concerned (in the latter conflict) remained in the grip of, or were inchoately seeking to realize, a historical "argument" radically at odds with the logic of the triadic cluster and its rational state implications.

Because it has loomed prominently in recent public and academic discussion of current geopolitics, and because it implies serious objections to the end-of-history thesis, Huntington's "clash of civilizations" analysis deserves further brief consideration. Huntington's theory implicitly reaffirms aspects of older philosophical history of the type systematically developed by Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, according to which there are distinctive and empirically irreducible clusters of identity and engagement with the world that are embodied in major world civilizations. Still more deeply buried in views of this kind, and fundamentally at odds with a Hegelian analysis, are convictions that human nature is not detachable from particularities of culture.

The proof in these matters will, of course, be in the pudding. But it seems highly probable that Huntington is mistaken at the depth level of large and long-term historical and psychosocial analysis--even if there may be considerable substance to features of his analyses of current geopolitical alignments and near-term predictions he makes on the basis of those alignments. If civilizational orientations and commitments really had the aetiological depth Huntington assigns them, one would have expected this to manifest itself more consistently and abundantly than the historical record seems to show. Undoubtedly factors of distinctive culture play important roles in human interactions, including international interactions. But Huntington's civilizational theory seems seriously defective. He identifies nine current civilizations. Some are more plausible than others. And the boundaries, of every kind, between at least most of them appear to be considerably more porous than the theory requires. At least two of the nine break down under close inspection, namely, the so-called Orthodox and Latin American civilizations. (That Greeks have more in common with Belarussians than with, say, Italians, is profoundly unconvincing. Even more implausible is the idea that Spaniards and Portuguese have greater commonality with Latvians and Swedes than with Costa Ricans or Brazilians.) In fact, Latin America should be conceived as a constituent part of western civilization. It shares religion, language, and cultural institutions and practices with the "Latin" component of western Europe. (8) Beyond the Latin American case, there is too great a degree of overlap, cultural and historical, between too many pairs of state societies across allegedly civilizational boundaries, for the hermetic sundering of the world into component civilizations that Huntington's analysis depends on. (Examples are legion, and would take us too far afield to provide in detail.) And on the other side of the ledger, there is too much dissent and disunity too regularly within supposed civilizations for the theory to fit historical realities.

Returning to the framework of the end-of-history perspective, in its terms, and against this background, we may turn to concrete and specific geopolitical developments of the nearly two-hundred-year period that has followed the battle of Jena.

For the end-of-history thesis specifically, four large geopolitical struggles may be identified as constituting sequential clusters of argument, in both senses of the word, aimed at determining the human telos or end-state. They constitute also a sequence of reductios of blueprints rival to the liberalism-democracy-capitalism complex. If there is a fifth comparable rival, it is not yet in view. And there may be no fifth, in which case when the struggle with the fourth of the rival models, which is currently going on, is successfully concluded (if it is), the Kojeve-Fukuyama end-state may be expected to fully consolidate itself and the end of history to have arrived--so the Kojeve-Fukuyama advocate will argue.

The protagonists in all four of these struggles constituted themselves in symbiotic alliance with modern science. Only some of the five contending cohorts (including also liberalism-capitalism-democracy) conceived themselves as having God on their side. But all five have thought, or at least fervently hoped and intended, that science was on their side. Servants--and as they supposed also masters--of the latest cutting-edge developments in scientific technology, especially technology meant to serve military ends, they united a complete technological scientific modernism with ideologies of quite different kinds.

The first of the four geopolitical struggles following the Napoleonic period was the age of contending imperialisms that culminated in World War I. Though seldom seen to be so at the time, this war was essentially a (European) civil war, and the imperial contestations that led up to it essentially the blustering and aggressive posturings of siblings, with the deadly outcomes these eventually produced. None of the warring imperial powers in this prolonged battle sought literal world, or even pan-European, hegemony--unlike Napoleon. Of the four geopolitical struggles we are examining, this first one is least obviously a movement or ideology, with a conception of human nature and its alleged satisfaction through the success of that movement and ideology. Yet the course of world history in the century between Waterloo and Sarajevo can plausibly be viewed in this light. Unlike the Napoleonic period, which sought to implement a single world order (albeit a French-dominated one), the century from 1815 to 1914 was a resumption of the Westphalian state system with the claims of each Westphalian state, at any rate those among them which sought to be (so-called) "great powers," as absolute, both vis-a-vis each other, and on each citizen of such a state. Human good was conceived as patriotic pursuit of the interests and glory of one's state, and defeat of its enemies and rivals. Allegedly sanctified by tradition, and a religion that might well also be that of a rival power, the satisfaction of human nature was to be found in the triumph of one's nation state over its foes or, failing that, the maintenance of a balance of power among the powers in which one's state would endlessly seek maximal military position and "market share." This challenge to liberal capitalist democratic modernism, then, was one whose "solution" and outcome required the discovery that it would not be possible to share the modernist house along the lines of warring Westphalian states. We might call this challenge "the hyper-Westphalian" argument against the Hegelian end-state. Of the three "arguments" against liberal modernism that followed, one was launched in the debacle of the Great War and was concluded only fifteen years ago. Another had a more violent and more quickly concluded career, falling within the span of the last. The third is now ongoing.

I begin with the second of these arguments. Fascism posed itself as hypernationalist enemy of liberal modernism. Particularly, of course, in its German form, it affirmed a primordial tribalist claim of blood, with social Darwinist commitment to struggle and self-renewing purification in war and obedience to a fatherland and a leader, all united with thoroughgoing scientific modernism (slanted, of course, in its choices of acceptable theories and theorists; but scientific technological commitments were unqualified and energetic).

It is easy now to see the "contradictions" in fascism. It was easy then. Yet the movement enjoyed a run of military success that resembled that of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic regimes and an appearance of unbounded pseudobiologistic realism. It was certainly a denial of Hegelian reason, and the repudiation of the essential public/ private polarity of Hegelian civil society was just one of its irreconcilabilities with our triadic cluster. But it was an attempt at forming and implementing a blueprint for how we might live, how a human order might construct and comport itself, with constituent determinations for individual, collectivity, and--rather grimly, of course--subgroupings of the collectivity.

Marxist-Leninist communism was another such attempt. While it was, at least in theory, perhaps the most thorough-going implementation the world has ever seen of the idea of equality, this was an enforced equality, and one with too many exceptions (all were equal, but some "more equal than others," in George Orwell's phrase--party officials, politburos and dictators, secret police). It is problematic whether a realization of Marxism-Leninism ever could have been democratic; for its necessarily command economy must, in a large and complex society, have entrusted unaccountable market decisions to small paternalistic minorities. In any case, the ideal of revolutionary socialism of a breaking of the wheel of history, with the accompanying "eggs" that would need cracking--individual and group eggs--in order to craft the utopian omelette, would seem difficult or impossible to take place in autonomy- and rights-respecting ways. There would be, moreover, too much reason to expect that the egg-cracking and omelette-fashioning would need repetition on a depressingly regular basis.

The alleged final node in the advance to the end of history is provided by the current armed Islamist opposition to the west, especially the United States. (It is from our Hegelian point of view irrelevant, or historically contingent, that its enemy has been specifically America. (9)) This has taken the form so far of Islamic regimes of Sharia law in a small group of countries, and of international structures, the best known of which has been al Qaeda, where, again, regimes and structures have been active opponents of western societies.

It is important to note that the liberal modernist idea is no enemy to religion as such. Indeed, as remarked earlier, for Hegel himself religion is an essential feature of the rational state. But it is critical in the liberal modernist conception that religion, while it may also be a feature of formal ceremonial public life, is essentially located in the sphere of private conscience and private practice, individual or collective, allowing there alternatives to a single mode. The Islamist conception is one that offers itself as a rival to liberal modernism, just as fascism and communism did. It is a conception of a blueprint for humanity living in the world, or, in a restricted version of Islamism, of humanity living in a sector of the world to which Islam has a historic or traditional claim--perhaps, the lands that were Muslim ca. 1400 or ca. 1500. In either case, there appears to be an inevitable and mortal clash with liberal modernism, for it, like Islamism, makes universal claim. The "logic" of its content requires that it do so. It could not accept, or understand, a world in which, in principle and eternally, some would live participants in the liberalism-democracy-capitalism cluster and others not. It must be stressed that the antimodernist protagonist intended is not only not Islam as such, but also not "the Muslim world" in cultural or world-historical terms. Islam and Christianity did certainly have a historical experience of mutual contestation, most notably over the thousand-year period 632-1683 (that is to say, from the death of Mohammed to the failure of the Ottoman siege of Vienna). So too did Catholicism and Protestantism within Christianity, 1519-1648. In both cases mutual acceptance has prevailed since the period of contestation--not always, of course, contented acceptance, but acceptance or toleration nonetheless. The phenomenon intended is as the current enemy of liberal modernism a new and at any rate specific ideology, usually called not Islam but Islamism, or radical fundamentalist Islam.

If Fukuyama is correct about the synthetic a priori status of the triadic cluster, it will almost certainly prevail over this adversary as over the previous two. If such a victory does at length obtain, it need not--indeed, should not--be predicted or expected to be a smooth or ineluctable development--any more than the struggles against, and eventual overcomings of "hyper-Westphalianism," fascism, or communism, were smooth, effortless, or clear in outcome, all of them, indeed, involving long, dark hours of uncertainty and bloody travail, with frequent anticipations at the time either of defeat or of a permanent symbiotic stasis of polar contestation. Should victory in the current struggle also obtain, it will not, of course, be a victory over Islam; rather, it will involve the relegation to the private sphere of Islam as of Christianity and all other religions, even where there is an "official" or ceremonially or publicly mandated religion, which will in some cases very naturally be Islam.

There are dissimilarities among all four of the world-historical movements or phenomena that have been identified. And fundamentalist Islamism may be argued not properly to belong in the same category as the others at all. It may be held that several distinct elements have coalesced, somewhat artificially, into what is of military, political, news media, and broad public concern at the present time. One is a recurrent movement within historical Islam for return to the wellsprings and roots of the faith. This does involve rejection of modernism but is essentially an internal purification revival of a sort that different branches of Christianity have also periodically experienced. A second element is radical discontent with local regimes, perceived as corrupt, brutal, and inefficient in socioeconomic delivery, and as stooges or closet partners of wealthy militarily powerful western regimes, supremely, of course, the United States. This component of the equation is a movement of armed guerrilla resistance, seeking to overthrow hated local regimes and injure the United States and its allies or eject them from the local region, or all Islamic territory. The latter component finds partnership in some instances of non-Muslim majority societies with sizable Muslim immigrant communities, or with disgruntled and alienated members of those immigrant communities. Another element is a more passive but also a very much more extensive and more deeply rooted reality of a very long-standing civilization, held to be profoundly different from western and indeed all other civilizations.

None of these, it may be claimed, involves essential or fight-to-the-death or even very long-term conflict with a liberal-democratic-capitalist west, or even a liberal-democratic-capitalist rest-of-the-world. A live-and-let-live mutual tolerance and subsistence between the latter two and the first and third elements we have identified is achievable, with no particular necessary prospect of being broken down in any foreseeable future. And the violent guerrilla/terrorist phenomenon, while severely disruptive in parts of the world, cannot win its large primary goals and is almost certainly unsustainable for any very long span. Increasing military technological resources are devoted to rooting the terrorists out and killing them. Western systems may be expected to get better at doing those things. Being a terrorist guerrilla, actively or in a sleeper cell, requires stomach and energy of sorts that only males between the ages of about fifteen and about thirty can sustain in any considerable number; neither religious faith nor political animus can do so, except among leadership cadres directing the young. It is dangerous, lonely work for both leaders and led, unsustainable, arguably, without the cushioning and nurturing infrastructure of an ideologically and materially supportive state society. The west is by stages--rather rapid ones, in fact--"getting" (neutralizing) all such state societies. None of the once-active and supportive Islamist states--Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya--except Iran--remain in the field, and even Iran seems largely contained. The United States adventure in Iraq, seeking to go still further and create a local monitoring and politically transforming, and military presence in the midst of the House of Islam, seems now unlikely to succeed: the costs, of every sort, seem to be much too high and the venture not to have been adequately thought-out in the first place. But there nonetheless does not seem serious prospect of Iraq becoming a sponsor of an al Qaeda equivalent in any foreseeable future. May we not then anticipate a future, gradually achieved United States/British withdrawal from Iraq, with most or all Muslim states neutralized or contained, and Islamic civilization continuing for an indefinite future as separate and self-contained, neither liberal nor democratic (even if mostly capitalist), not at the end of history?

The reasons to think otherwise are well developed in Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. They have to do with the ineluctable spread of scientific technology and scientific modernism, and with the eternal imperative of the drive for recognition. The former will increasingly--and with increasing urgency--make evident to those for whom the latter is frustrated and unsatisfied that this is the case. The world-historical argument, whichever one is made, must confront the reality of an increasingly intercommunicative world. The phenomena of the Internet and television, but importantly also radio, immigrant communities from every world community in the wealthy first world, and international trade and athletic relations, all make--and will increasingly make--hermetic isolation not impossible, but increasingly not merely problematic but pathological, that is, felt as pathological and "inauthentic" within any society that attempts it, especially one that is culturally multinational or internationalist, and which wants military and other modernist technology even if it supposes it is committed to controlling and limiting modernity. None of this is to claim that a unitary world culture is imminent or likely, whether a consumerist "McDonaldization," a first-world liberal pluralist version, or any other. We have already argued that the most plausible HKF futurist conception is of considerable variation on broad themes, and much of that variation will be culturally based.

There are key components of future developments that will inevitably bring push to shove, and preclude a seamlessly gradualist evolution to even a broad and loose end-of-history condition. Some features of orthodox and standard Islam are strongly incompatible with that condition, notably including the Koranic position on apostasy. A liberal democratic society can only be one someone can have been born, raised, and acculturated within Islam (or any other faith), but choose in adulthood to abandon that religious commitment, choosing instead another religious commitment or none at all in a fully public way, without legal sanction (indeed, with legal sanction against anyone who would seek to thwart or punish such actions). One might in fact view a full liberalization of apostasy law and practice as a signal indicator or benchmark of the arrival of the end of history in the Islamic world.

With the articulation and achievement of successful liberal democratic capitalist Muslim states that could serve as models for the Islamic world and whose very success--the Kojeve-Fukuyama argument would imply--would ultimately lead to the extension of the triad to all of the Islamic world, a full and final inauguration of the Kojeve-Fukuyama conception of the end of history would have arrived. (10) We will see, of course, whether events in fact come to conform to these prognostications. Their doing so would involve a "hearts and minds" process whereby Islamic populations, both within societies where they are a minority and where they are the majority, would come to find liberal-democratic-capitalist modernist culture unstoppably adhesive (even if in many circumstances formally decried and opposed). Such a process clearly would require a considerable period of time to occur. On present evidence, there is not much indication of its making a very impressive advance; the Hegelian will hold, of course, that such things must take the time that they take.

It is important nonetheless to see that it is a clear and empirical question whether radical Islam is an antimodernist enemy of the end-of-history triad that may be vanquished and overcome in a way and with results that will help corroborate the end-of-history thesis. It is not "mere philosophy." We can retrospectively formulate empirical predictions that could have been made in 1912 of the overcoming of the European rival-imperialisms system; in 1937 of the collapse of fascism; in 1987 of Marxism-Leninism as a dynamic state ideology: predictions in each case couched with reference to the unsatisfactoriness of the respective ideologies in meeting human need, as well as with reference, of course, to military and economic contingencies that were also critical in bringing these vanquishings about at the times and in the precise manner that they did. Such predictions seem not to have been made in clear and focused formulations at least. (Futurology remains definitely an inexact science.) But if they had they would have been empirical predictions, and they would have been correct ones. We can formulate comparable predictions of the defeat of Islamic terrorist fundamentalism, perhaps against a background of democratic-liberal-capitalist Muslim states.

Let me conclude by noting that none of the views under discussion here translates into any substantive political results. Even if the full Kojeve-Fukuyama argument were cogent--and I have not argued that it is, rather, that it is not as obviously refuted by historical events since 1989 as many have supposed--and even if the world-historical analysis of major currents 1806-to-present were plausible in end-of-history terms, it is not obvious that this would provide support for particular political stances or actions, locally or internationally.

The idea is supposed to be that the liberalism-democracy-capitalism cluster is not thinkable beyond a synthetic a priori postulate of practical reason when it is applied to the world we live in and the creatures that we are. An advocate of the idea will no doubt advocate also market rather than command economies, democratic structures, and firm regimens and institutions that identify and guarantee broad individual rights. Such advocacies are--it should be evident--compatible with more than one stance on, say, developments in recent time in the Middle East, and the geopolitical behavior of countries concerned in those developments. Indeed, the actions of the American hegemon in recent events might well be seen, by virtue of their departures from, and indifference to, bases in international covenant and the support even of partners in (Hegelian) geopolitical culture as steps backwards rather than forwards in the full implementation of the end of history. Or alternatively America might be seen as the current incarnation of the world-historical role embodied in 1806 by Napoleon. Which of these alternatives is the sounder is, importantly, not dictated or even suggested by the HKF thesis or by the world-historical analyses offered here as its extension; further analysis, on another occasion, would be necessary to decide that.

(1.) First presented in Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?", The National Interest, 16 (Summer 1989): 3-18. This was followed by Francis Fukuyama, "A Reply to My Critics," The National Interest, 18 (Winter 1989): 21-28; the thesis was then considerably expanded, and reformulated, in Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: The Free P, 1992). Later remarks, and a restatement of the analysis, appear in Francis Fukuyama, "Reflections on the End of History, Five Years Later," in After History? Francis Fukuyama and His Critics, ed. Timothy Burns (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994), 239-58. The earlier Kojeve articulation of the end of history thesis appears in Alexandre Kojeve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980). Thanks to John Russon for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

(2.) Especially useful, among the extensive secondary literature, is Timothy Burns's edition, After History? Francis Fukuyama and His Critics.

(3.) The problem of history is almost comparable, one might suggest, to a problem in mathematics, or natural or social science. Apter comparisons might be to human/existential problems: for example, the problem of health--how best to achieve as lengthy and healthful a life as may be subject to our individual control; or the problem of death--can anything be done about it, and, if not, how best to think about and confront it? Of these additional "problems," it may be argued, the first has also been "solved" (avoid tobacco, get regular exercise, eat several portions of vegetables daily, and so on); and the second, the world's religions and Heideggerian philosophy notwithstanding, is insoluble. Those who reject the claim that Hegel (or Hegel-Kojeve-Fukuyama) solved the problem of history will hold either that the problem has a different solution (world socialism, say) or that it has multiple solutions (different ones for different cultures, historical epochs, and so on) or that, like death, it is insoluble.

(4.) That is, it is quite important to stress, how best may we live in respect of broad social, political, economic, and individual-in-relation-to-the-community arrangements? As intimated above, there is more than one human/existential "problem" that human beings confront. Another is the "problem" of personal happiness and/or individual human fulfillment. It is not to be assumed that a solution to the problem of history would automatically also solve the latter, even if, doubtless, there is some linkage between the two. This has particular Hegelian resonance. Hegel appears to have seen the "atomic individualism" of the Enlightenment conception of human nature as not finally satisfactory for human beings. There would be no reason to believe that he would view what many see as the narcissist consumerism of current western models and aspirations (which many analysts also link to Enlightenment prototypes) as any more satisfactory. The latter is, perhaps, one sort of "modernism." It is not to be confused with the liberal-democratic-capitalist

(5.) The Hegelian texts are famously, or infamously, complex, and often opaque. That Hegel intended, at least in some sense, to identify an end of history that would be concretely realizable on earth does seem well-supported by those texts. See, for example, his statement that "the purpose of the spirit is to ensure that [the abstract destiny of man] is ... realized in practice. In real terms, this represents the final stage of history." G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1975), 178.

(6.) For some of the adverse assessment of the Fukuyama thesis from Hegel scholars, see Jon Stewart, ed., The Hegel Myths and Legends (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1996). For the purposes of the present paper it is not essential, nor of primary concern, whether or not Kojeve and Fukuyama have represented Hegel accurately. The primary concern here is with a certain idea, whoever may have formulated it. At the same time, for the history-of-ideas record, it will be of significance what the origin and development of that idea is; there appears to be at least a good case that it is traceable to Hegel.

(7.) Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

(8.) Huntington betrays, both in this and even more strikingly in his most recent book (Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity [New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004]) an almost xenophobic set of perceptions of Latin Americans as alien intruders into the pure Euro-based air of American cultural space. His prose and tone in the most recent book in particular puts one in mind of the stance of the New Englander Yankee of the 1840s or 1850s viewing the arrival in the land of masses of alien unwashed Irish and other non-Anglo Saxon folk with their threat of sullying or diminishing what had been assembled in the United States.

(9.) Indeed, so irrelevant--or misleading--is it to think of the contestation concerned here as one of Islamism versus the United States, that one will do better, in Hegelian philosophical-historical terms, to conceive the struggle (indeed, all four struggles) as "arguments" against Costa Rica, Denmark, South Korea, and New Zealand--all of which are "posthistorical" societies in the relevant Kojeve-Fukuyama sense.

(10.) That there is no further, fifth, "argument" against liberal modernism lurking in the wings would be difficult definitively to prove. None appears to present itself empirically on current horizons. And it is indeed striking that of the twenty-eight significant violent armed struggles identified as currently taking place in the world, no fewer than twenty-five involve radical Islamist combatants.

University of Guelph

Guelph, Ontario, Canada
COPYRIGHT 2005 Indiana University, Purdue University of Fort Wayne
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Loptson, Peter
Publication:CLIO
Date:Sep 22, 2005
Words:8490
Previous Article:"But the serpent did not lie": reading, history, and Hegel's interpretation of Genesis Chapter 3.
Next Article:The puffers' progress: alchemy and the roots of modern science.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters