Scrapheap 2014.05.12 – People like Bundy, Eich, Sterling, Robertson, Deen, and Spinoza

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John Holbo recently proposed a definition of “political correctness” in relation to the right’s purported “tribalism,” which Holbo and many of his colleagues or comrades view as a special problem in contemporary politics. Before moving to invert the standard criticism of leftwing speech codes, portraying the right’s supposedly unfounded accusations as evidence of the right’s worse excesses of the same type, Holbo observes several recent stories in connection with the traditional conservative criticism, referring to Cliven Bundy, Brendan Eich, Donald Sterling, Paula Deen, and “that Duck Dynasty guy.” Grouping and dismissing these individuals together is probably itself left-politically correct, but in any event they have been accused of different types or sub-types of liberal wrong, meaning that they have received different types of defense to the varying extents that they or their actions have received any defense at all. Eich made a contribution to a political campaign. Sterling and Deen were caught saying intolerably ugly and very incorrect things (of two different sub-sub-types). Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynastic, offered a politically very incorrect – and inane – historical observation. Bundy is different because he, unlike the others, and however feebly and incoherently, has set out to challenge the law itself on the basis of its guiding and underlying assumptions.

***

One may strongly disagree with the wisdom or morality of Bundy’s theory applied as public policy, but to pretend not to understand its categorical independence from theories of race is to declare oneself a “cretin” of a different type: an individual who has never once considered human nature in relation to goods obtained without effort.

 ***

Such characterizations [racist, gigantic racist, hatemonger, etc.] remain opinions about the man, not reasonable interpretations of his words. These opinions are asserted as though factual determinations because the characterizations are assumed to be factual on the basis of an also stereotypical or counter-stereotypical presumption that Cliven Bundy, given the kind of person he is or is thought to be, must have really meant to say something more and other than what he actually said, that he meant something beyond his words – that, in a manner typical of certain racists or in a manner typical of, to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’ phrase, “people like Cliven Bundy,” he was trying to conceal his true opinions under a false ultra-libertarian, quasi-philosophical diversion, that he was, as we say, “dog-whistling” to his fellow racists.

 ***

…an actual difference, potentially a principled or reasonably arguable one, between people like Ta-Nehisi Coates and people like Cliven Bundy. Perhaps what Coates or people like Coates most dislike is the notion that anything could be compared to slavery or chattel slavery or, as he terms it, “American enslavement.” This point of view will command immediate respect, but the questions remain as to the nature of Bundy’s specific violation of what people like Ta-Nehisi Coates consider a pre-eminently important taboo. As a pre-eminent taboo, accusations regarding its violation are, we jointly presume – we defines ourselves as the ones who so presume – to be handled seriously.

***

The Brendan Eich affair is simpler, since it originated in a single political act rather than in political speech, but it is similar to the Bundy matter in that Eich is now routinely referred to as a bigot on the basis of facts not in evidence. The only backing for the charge is an ideological construction based on his support for Proposition 8 and his refusal to recant in his opposition to marriage equality. The “correct” opinion for those who hope to be considered allies of the marriage equality movement, in other words the correct (right, good) opinion for all correct (righteous, good) people, will be to equate opposition to marriage equality, and especially to equate active support for Proposition 8, with bigotry. To suggest the possibility of an anti-SSM position grounded in anything other than purely irrational (or incorrect) homophobia – a possibility examined at this blog previously – most recently here (see comment also) – verges on branding oneself as also a bigot or fellow traveler at best – to identify oneself as suspiciously, culpably, and dangerously susceptible to bigoted ideas. The existence of an anti-SSM splinter within the gay rights movement is also to be ignored within correct, righteous, good circles, even if the criticisms of leading marriage equality activists, like Andrew Sullivan against Eich’s “hounding,” will be harder to discount.

The others with whom Holbo begins – Sterling, Deen, and Robertson – have in common their comparative remoteness from politics, although Robertson did volunteer a somewhat Bundyesque observation with political intent, and although there are both distinctions and differences between Sterling’s rather bizarrely degraded, quasi-eroticized race-consciousness and Deen’s rather more banal, deep-fried racialisms. Many have noted the troubling fact that Sterling’s legally adjudged racially discriminatory practices as a landlord inspired so much less controversy than his strange demands on his almost 60 years younger “girlfriend” or “mistress.” In sum, in 2014 the state of our mores is such that many speech acts and admissions that would have scandalized our parents and have been all but inconceivable to their parents are normal fare in art, conversation, and politics, but that use of racial epithets, expression of racialized preferences, or invocation of banned historical interpretations leads to an uproar.

Because sports and entertainment serve no purpose intrinsically, a symbolic violation of our mores, our correct beliefs, is the only violation they can produce. Sterling, Deen, and Robertson gave symbolic offense, and we demanded real punishments, just as we directly pay real money for play and art, and have been satisfied or left unsatisfied to varying degrees. The problematic point for a discussion of political correctness remains the fact that in each instance we are acting or being asked to act within civil society to punish people simply for saying the wrong, the unforgivably insulting or offensive, thing. It is certain that the Bill of Rights does not protect bigots and ignorant fellow travelers from being correctly as well as incorrectly identified and socially rejected on that basis. Neither Sterling’, nor Deen’s, nor Robertson’s, nor Eich’s, nor Bundy’s legal rights have been violated (as far as I am aware, and certainly not by criticism), and, under a policy of absolute freedom of speech, any voiced judgment of their blameworthiness would also be protected. Yet we or most of us have instead chosen to treat their words as “actionable,” or even urgently actionable, as something like fighting words. It is a very human response and possibly a for us, at this time, in this culture, a necessary response, but it is not an ideally liberal response, which would not admit of or be interested in the harmfulness of any speech act as speech act at all, or, to paraphrase (and perhaps to overextend) the philosopher, would hold that deeds only should be made the grounds for punishment, and words always be allowed to pass free.

***

Wholly repugnant to the general freedom are such devices as enthralling men’s minds with prejudices, forcing their judgment, or employing any of the weapons of quasi-religious sedition; indeed, such seditions only spring up, when law enters the domain of speculative thought, and opinions are put on trial and condemned on the same footing as crimes, while those who defend and follow them are sacrificed, not to public safety, but to their opponents’ hatred and cruelty. … If deeds only could be made the grounds of criminal charges, and words were always allowed to pass free, such seditions would be divested of every semblance of justification, and would be separated from mere controversies by a hard and fast line.

Spinoza, Baruch (2009-03-10). Theologico-Political Treatise. Classic Philosophy: three books by Spinoza in a single file, improved 8/13/2010 (Kindle Locations 5448-5453). B&R Samizdat Express. Kindle Edition.

***

To “wonder” about different types of slavery is not to claim possession of an answer, even if it may reveal culpable non-possession of the correct one.

***

During periods in which Black Nationalist or Separatist and other sometimes racialized or ethno-nationalized radicalisms had a firmer purchase on mainstream political discourse than they do now, versions of Bundy’s statement – of his actual statement, not the interpretation superimposed on and substituted for the words he spoke – were somewhat commonplace on both sides of the conventional political spectrum, and, when offered by one’s actual or potential coalition partners on the left, would be tolerated or even celebrated, precisely for giving the lie to the liberal-democratic promise. Much polemic from the further-left retains this impetus, as when we are informed that white supremacism remains fundamental to contemporary American political culture. Under this view, the actions of the paternalistic or patriarchal liberal and capitalist state and the results of its policy – in “the ghetto,” in prisons, at war, in menial labor with little or no hope of advancement, and so on – are depicted as little better and in some ways worse than enslavement, or as the equivalent or near-equivalent of enslavement, and certainly as unconscionable oppression, if under a different name. If “American enslavement” is to be understood as “the destruction of the black body for profit,” capitalism, according to the Marxian critique, was to be understood as the destruction of the worker’s body for profit.

The Marxian critique is not heard much today, except occasionally as echoed in discussion of labor conditions in “developing” countries, or at the margins of popular culture where the same approximate sentiments can be communicated indirectly or non-verbally. We take it is prima facie unreasonable, at least for some people in some contexts or with certain accents or skin color, to “wonder” whether current conditions for some somehow representative individuals were or are in fact as bad, worse, or nearly as bad as conditions under legal slavery were for other somehow representative individuals, or to “wonder” whether it might not be better to be a slave on the way to freedom or with a powerful desire for freedom, than to be a nominally free man or woman on the way to enslavement or in conditions of comprehensive curtailment of meaningful freedom – “nothing to do,” in Bundy’s words.

Cliven Bundy’s speech-crime was in the admission of possible uncertainty as to the question he impolitely, or impolitically, posed. We seem not to hold such musings to be self-evidently interesting on their own terms. We seem to hold them, or excessive interest in them, to be self-evidently worthy of condemnation: They provide us with an opportunity to express the nature of our true faith, the more enthusiastically the better.

***

To wonder whether the approach to political discourse typified by the case of Cliven Bundy is a problem within an already liberal-democratic culture may itself be taken as also incorrect and possibly as especially incorrect, as, following the above logic, anti-social and inhuman: The most incorrect thought, if not the worst thought, will be that the thought of the correct thought is incorrect: That our anti-tribalists always become anti-tribal tribalistically; that our champions of free inquiry conspire to shut down inquiry; that a movement for freedom restricts freedom; that our leading anti-bigots may be anti-bigot bigots and traitors to their own cause. On this question as on the others, one is required to treat the opposite opinion as necessarily true, on pain of expulsion from good society, and to overlook or minimize unwelcome evidence. The argument that this type of hypocrisy, in addition to being undesirable in itself or in relation to a search for truth, may be politically highly counterproductive to a movement for liberation, will be dismissed as “concern trolling,” or as diversion from the real issue – the real issue being the issue that it is politically correct to consider real. That this reality is different and distinct from a reality before intellectual correction also helps to explain why there can be a class of “people like Cliven Bundy” who, oddly enough, may not include Cliven Bundy himself, but may include many people not at all like Cliven Bundy.


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25 comments on “Scrapheap 2014.05.12 – People like Bundy, Eich, Sterling, Robertson, Deen, and Spinoza

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  1. No, Sterling paid the danegeld, and that protected him, for a time,
    Dean was induced to make some remarks, that were outside the scope of a nuisance suit, interestingly she was as fervent a supporter of Obama as any member of the Sirius cybernetic corporation, Robertson,
    had an unpolitic but not unremarkable expression, acceptable for some religions and enterprises but not others, Your category error re Bundy, is already wellknown, but one can add another to the mix,
    Nicholas Wade formerly of the New York Times,

  2. If the comparison is between a condition of freedom being imminent & freedom not being forthcoming then it’s obvious which situation is better. That is not the comparison Bundy made though. His was one between a condition of being in literal chains vs figurative chains of dependency. As terrible as the latter can be based on the system constructed that necessitates such conditions in the first place (that is, the dispossession, marginalization & latent force threats holding people to need state “help”, not the “help” in and of itself), the hope of liberation in the former was intentionally & directly to be beaten out of those so held — in a literal sense even. Without the merest dangle of hope for better in the dependency scenario, its subjects would come to question the system itself & eventually seek to destroy it.

    I could at least understand if the question were which *system* is/was more fragile, and the description of each were more accurate. But that would be expecting way too much of someone in Clive Bundy’s position. From him & in the way he said it, it cannot help but sound like punching down, or at best the clueless butting in of a man who simply doesn’t (and arguably CAN’T) Get It.

    I think you confuse statements to the effect of an oppression being more honest from black nationalists and radicals with it being measurably “better”. Any that would actually call it better I’d say are morons, as I said before. Systemic analysis along the way to consider terms of how to fight what came after is a different can of beans.

    • One problem is that for the majority or vast majority of individuals legally enslaved in the US (and wherever else slavery existed), purely as a matter of practicality, the “chains” would also be “figurative” or potential, while there are many ways that someone stepping out of line as a wage-slave or a soldier or caught in the wrong neighborhood or just being a citizen while black could be subjected to violence or deprivation or imprisonment and real chains. At the same time, even if a main intention was to have hope of liberation “beaten out” of slaves, that doesn’t mean it was successful or uniformly successful. Indeed, we know it wasn’t, and can suggest it couldn’t have been.

      Bundy’s contention was something different again, but the point of observing such distinctions is not to defend Bundy’s position, but to isolate the difference if any between it and what’s said about it, and then to understand the meaning of that difference – presuming that having an honest, open, and informative discussion that doesn’t get stuck in the “same dull round” is worthwhile. I’ll refrain from further comments on it for now, since I have a longer piece that I may or may not publish, recapitulating and extending our twitter discussion on Bundy, and intended to take into account much other discussion. (The “scrapheap” in the title of this post didn’t mainly refer to the people mentioned, but to a kind of post consisting of material that doesn’t seem to fit in “real” posts even in footnotes, but that I don’t want to consign to the recycle bin.)

  3. Good point on Sterling though. I suspect that the combination of the Clippers still sucking back then & the league wishing to play apolitical blocked doing the heavy lifting when he was caught doing concrete harms. I recall a recent column observing how different the tradeoff between commercialism and identity is among players now (I.E.: Jordan “Republicans buy shoes too” vs LeBron adding voice by demonstration to the Trayvon Martin case).
    The punishment by now is more about the absurdity of someone who disrespects blacks running an NBA team.

    As for the rest of them (Deen, Eich, Robertson)? Hey, boycotting works, oh well.

  4. Paul pere has much stupider things, so feeding the crocodile won’t help Rand, even though he has an argument re the Drug War, But on the Trayvon matter, many made a fool of themselves, chief among them Spike Lee, the New Black Panther Party, our version of Boko Haram, similarly can we forget the Dorner groupies, the followers of a homicidal cop,

  5. “Since most regimes are in fact defective, and hence based on untrue assumptions of one kind or another, most laws, being dependent on the regime, lack evidence. If the basis is questionable, what is derivative of it must also be questionable.” ~Leo Strauss

    Mr. McLeod: As always, a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece. I especially appreciated the thought concerning whether it might not indeed be preferable to be a slave prospectively ascending to freedom rather than to be a ward of the welfare state descending to irremediable dependency–a thought that seems to me to depend on the ancient distinction between the noble and the base, a distinction that is hardly grasped these days.

    From the time of the founding, the explicit rationale of our liberal democratic regime has increasingly shifted from liberty to equality. This closely tracks the thesis that in a democracy (which is the rule of the demos, the rule of the working class) the more excellent rationale, which is liberty, masks the less excellent, equality. As time goes on, the regime’s esoteric basis can be made more and more explicit and the political virtue that formerly lent an air of excellence to an otherwise mediocre project can gradually be retired.

    The specific manifestation of equality that has our country in its tight grip and that your post references is the doctrine of racial equality–which is more specifically the doctrine of racial intellectual equality. This doctrine is an offense to the untutored, commonsensical mind, to which it seems obviously untrue. Which offense in turn offends the sophisticated and/or sophistical mind, to which it seems, not obviously true, but, let’s say, rationally true. Whether the rationalism of sophisticates can triumph over the deliverances of common sense remains to be seen.

    In your piece, you critique these ostensible liberals’ attack on instances of free speech from the standpoint of liberal free speech doctrine, thus criticizing them for their hypocrisy. This is rhetorically effective, but I’m curious whether you intend genuinely to uphold the doctrine of free speech in an absolutist or “libertarian” sense. One might suppose so, since you prominently quote Spinoza’s abstract argument that only deeds be censured and not words.

    Can any regime at all, especially liberal democracy, tolerate extensive discussion of the inadequacy or defectiveness of the regime itself? Let us keep in mind that when thoughtful people have spoken in the past of the virtue of the doctrine of free speech, they have always had primarily in mind critical speech concerning the regime itself–or at least I thought so. But that doesn’t seem plausible or viable, given that the only transformation which a liberal regime can undergo is an illiberal one. That is to say, if free speech extensively criticizes the liberal or libertarian basis of the regime and that criticism gathers strength, the liberal regime is liable to be transformed necessarily into an illiberal one.

    Given these issues–the paradox of free speech turning against the liberal regime and the problem that abstract doctrines of equality pose to the everyday realm of common sense, where we actually live out our lives for the most part–is it possible in your view that what we are witnessing and living through in this present time is a kind of internal contradiction (in something like a Hegelian sense) of the liberal state, which portends a crisis of the collapse of that state?

    • Thanks for your kind words and your cogent comment, Mr. McKenzie. Indeed, I find it somewhat disturbing that the comment is more cogent than the heap of scraps that inspired it, but I’ll soldier on anyway.

      My reply for now both to your observations on doctrines of liberty and equality as well as to your questions will be to seek the middle term or concrete result – with the nature of a mixed, contradictory but also dynamic and evolving regime form, the mass polity, in mind.

      The eventual subversion of liberty by democracy, to be followed in historically short order by the subversion of democracy by itself, was the process or cycle according to classical science of politics that modern or (for Strauss Wood, and others) American science of politics was supposed to interrupt. The solution does not produce excellent or the most excellent conceivable results, as a rule: the preferred result, since the immediately best results turn out to be unsustainable and to contain the seeds of the immediately or deceptively best regime’s own destruction as surely and predictably as with all of the other regime forms. The mixed regime or polity seeks in a sense to inoculate itself against the diseases of each main regime form by tolerating less virulent forms and building up immunities, but the process seems to require continual re-infection, producing a general appearance of ill or sub-optimal health and a tendency toward hypochondria, under the standing danger, or perhaps it’s a certainty, of eventually killing itself (ourselves) by mistake or under some combination of error, disintegration, external pressure, and so on. (To the extent it’s like a living being, it’s a mortal being, as prophets and philosophers remind us.)

      On equality v liberty, I don’t disagree completely with your statement that the doctrine of equality “has our country in its tight grip,” though I think the concreteness of the metaphor is somewhat misleading. It’s at a minimum ironic, and perhaps something more troubling, that doctrines of social or moral equality reign at the same time that concrete economic and arguably political inequality appear to be at historical extremes, attended by massive political apathy and doubt. It’s as though we have chosen to compensate purely symbolically, or psychologically, for our real excesses and frustrations: Bread, circuses, and the occasional civil proscription of a figure who stands for the patriarchy. How much longer this particular version of a “mixed” result will prove adequately balancing or satisfying I do not claim to know.

      As for Spinoza, I acknowledged I was possibly overextending his thought, though I’m not sure how far I was overextending it: What if, for us, civil proscription or trial by massified jury stands in for conventional legal processes? As for the extent of my own libertarianism, when Americans today speak about “free speech absolutism,” I think we tend to picture deranged cultists shouting curses at soldier’s funerals, pornography in primetime, and loud all-night parties keeping the neighbors up. I’m against those. I’m in favor of free inquiry; I suspect the costs of submitting to a reign of lies and stupidity are easy to underestimate; and at this point in my life I find philosophical politics – thinking called to its own defense – one of a few sufficient motivations to take time off to put my thoughts in writing.

      I think I have one answer to the two questions you pose, though I fear it will be disappointing or look like a dodge.

      First, you ask: “Can any regime at all, especially liberal democracy, tolerate extensive discussion of the inadequacy or defectiveness of the regime itself?” The regime defined by that extensive discussion not only would have to be able to tolerate it, but would absolutely depend on it. When that extensive self-criticism ceased, the regime would be dead. If its self-criticism is inauthentic, then the regime is “dead-in-life.” So, you may be right that the only transformation open to a liberal regime would be to an illiberal one, but a mixed regime, a regime constantly in a state of transformation and self-transformation in all respects except that one, would be in a different predicament.

      In another sense “liberal regime” is an oxymoron, just like the figure “liberal democracy.” To the extent the regime is liberal, its not a regime. To the extent it’s a regime, it’s not liberal. So, “liberal” as a description of any regime may always have to be taken as a comparative or relative assessment: A regime that overall creates or protects more space for liberalities of different types than other regimes do. Or: Liberal democracy as a regime form is the institutionalization of (acknowledgment of) its own defectiveness, and of the even greater defectiveness of liberalism or democracy left to their own devices. It is its own constant self-criticism and exercise of judgment against itself, and against other judgments.

      The only available answer to your second question, regarding the “crisis of the collapse of [the] state” follows as a corollary: The political-administrative state of liberal democracy is an institutionalization of crisis, or crisis is its stasis, and we are certainly living through its internal contradictions pointing to collapse: That’s what it is.

      I tend to think the actual failure of the particular regime, the realization of its absurdity in time, as its irrecoverable negation, must occur organically or concretely, as a result of processes beyond our ability to predict with any useful specificity: Indeed, the arrival or attainment of such an ability as a rational ability – an unprecedented, truly transcendent intellectual competence directly accessible to human beings – would already signal and possibly constitute a dire threat to the regime, or might be another way to say “apocalypse” or “on the knees of the gods.”

      • I thank you for this extended reply, which is as interesting as your pieces customarily are.

        If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that the United States–perhaps from the very beginning, from the very founding–was intended to be a polity that would be in a state of permanent long-term cultural revolution, so to speak, and that this state of affairs would give the regime the chance to be an everlasting regime, one that would not deteriorate into its inferior type a la classical political philosophy.

        In other words, the regime would somehow be self-transformative and thus, paradoxically, abiding and permanent. If the regime can itself manage the transitions and transformations of state and society, then it might escape the hitherto inevitable cycle of the regimes.

        You have recourse to a vivid and striking analogy–you liken our regime to a man who is continually inoculating himself against various diseases. And while he does gain extraordinary life-extension as a result, he is perhaps nevertheless deteriorating inexorably and painfully. Now if this analogy is valid (I find it compelling myself), the implication for our regime–our state and society, our body politic–is rather creepy.

        If the “natural” condition of any regime (per the classics) is to be mortal and thus to transition into another sort, our regime’s quest for immortality is not only anti-natural and bizarre, but stores up tremendous and ultimately irresistible tensions that portend, as you suggest, an apocalyptic finale. The demise of the man who’s extending his life far beyond the natural lifespan is liable to be far worse than that due to ordinary old age, which is bad enough as it is.

        Now, just to be clear, I didn’t quite say that the doctrine of equality simpliciter has our country in its tight grip, but that the doctrine of racial intellectual equality does–though perhaps that’s a distinction without a real difference. That doctrine is a key component in a system of premises that is intended to validate one of the greatest transformations that the regime has ever undertaken to bring about (and I do believe it is being engineered by the regime–it isn’t just “happening”)–that of turning the polity that was formerly overwhelmingly white (with a relatively small black cohort) into a hodgepodge. It seems to me that this is the transformation that will prove to be unsustainable and self-destructive.

        In your last paragraph, however, you imply that, while you think the contradictions of the regime will result in its collapse, the true causes of its collapse will not be the visible antagonisms that confront us in the news or in our everyday experience, but higher and deeper causes hidden from view.

        You speak of the type of regime under which we live as needing, even requiring, criticism. According to you, if that criticism ever comes to an end, then it’s “lights out” for the regime. But mustn’t we distinguish between mere criticism, which, though directed against the regime, is substantively false or uncompelling and thus doesn’t pose a serious challenge; and true criticism, which brings the nature of the regime authentically to light? Your own critique of the regime, which is inscribed throughout this website, is philosophic–which means that it aspires to be both true and wise, and not merely critical. If you have come close to succeeding in your aspiration, and I believe you have, then that philosophic criticism poses a very real challenge to the regime.

        That challenge, though very real, may of course be purely theoretical. That is to say, in the light of reason the regime is plainly revealed to be questionable, even absurd, so beset with internal contradictions that it must eventually topple after a long and fascinating run; but the critique can’t be translated into any program of reform–perhaps because the critique itself must remain necessarily incomplete due to the limitations of human wisdom, but more pertinently because the audience of the critique is extremely narrow due to the limitations of human intelligence.

        Whatever the case, the critique is intellectually stimulating and makes for fascinating reading. I look forward to your upcoming posts.

        • I’ll be thinking further about your comment, Mr. McKenzie, but, since it figures so prominently in the critique and in your response, I thought I should refer you and anyone else reading along to Gordon Wood more directly, as in the following words I’ve frequently quoted or cited at this blog, though not recently:

          The illimitable progress of mankind promised by the Enlightenment could at last be made coincident with the history of a single nation. For the Americans at least, and for others if they followed, the endless cycles of history could finally be broken.

          The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, p. 614

          Wood’s conclusion, which is a scholar’s rendering of an insight that he credits to the collective work of the American Founders and Framers, not to any single foundational thinker, is, I think, embedded in different ways in Strauss’ writing on the Early Moderns, in Hegel’s philosophy of world history, and in Fukuyama’s widely misunderstood (perhaps at this point even by Fukuyama!) updating of Hegel’s/Kojève’s “end of history” paradigm. I think in our era the emphasis turns increasingly to “the others”: The unsustainability of “this regime” as a “national” or “ethno-national” regime, and all the more as a “white racial” regime, might be foretold in its origins, but whether that result needs to be a catastrophic end or series of catastrophes or can or has to be something much more complex, and to a crucial extent manageable, might not be something we or anyway I can derive directly from its concept.

          • Would it be fair to say that you can see the United States cum Enlightenment Project going either way?

            On the one hand, you can see it working out (at least manageably so) in accordance with the intention of the founders as depicted in the quote from Gordon Wood above–or as Hegel, Kojève, or Fukuyama each in their respective ways forecast?

            On the other hand, you can as well see that it might end badly, even disastrously, a la Nietzsche or Heidegger?

            If this would be a fair characterization of your perspective–that you are holding or trying to hold two very distinct possibilities in view, without deciding in favor of the one or the other, but simply being aware of them as possibilities–then I think it would go a long way to accounting for the unusual nuance and perspicacity of your analyses.

            However, when we speak of Hegel, Kojève, and Fukuyama we’re ultimately talking about Hegel, the most brilliant of the “Enlightenment as absolute difference” theorists. If Hegel isn’t largely right, then the notion of the Enlightenment as an irrevocable paradigm shift wouldn’t seem likely.

            I paraphrase the last sentence of your comment above, which seems to be an allusion of sorts to Hegel: The final outcome of the new order “might not be something we or anyway I can derive directly from its concept.”

            • Have spent hours I can’t spare working up a longer reply – for which diversion I both blame and thank you, Mr. M, but I can’t afford to work it through. For now, I’ll summarize the thought, which we’ve previously discussed in these parts in relation to ecologism, as follows: Ultimate success both requires and produces ultimate danger, and as soon as the “bottom line” begins to look too much like one or the other, the effect will be to produce compensatory but not finally predictably sufficient movement in the opposite direction. If we knew the movement would always be sufficient, and that success of some type was guaranteed, then we would therefore know that the danger was not really the ultimate danger or potential ultimate danger, as required by the system. I have to stop myself here, for now, but there’s much in the discussion above that I look forward to and dread considering further at a later time, either on this thread or in a new post or posts.

  6. Well libertarian or progressive side of the regime, they have little of the former, in fact community organizing must by it’s very nature eschew the former, how else ‘to rub raw, the sources of discontent’ Sterling I don’t care for, apparently his deeds were not significant to stop receiving his danegeld, Eich, a real thought criminal, supported Tom McClintock, a sign of his clear
    recidivism,

  7. I would beg to differ with Hegel, liberty and tyranny do not coexist, like matter and antimatter they explode, the dialectic does not work, the problem with Fukuyama, pre marxist philosophies were a problem, note Solovviev, in Bely’s Petersburg

    • liberty and tyranny do not coexist

      Yes, Miguel–but I don’t think Hegel would disagree.

      Unfortunately for us all, if Hegel wasn’t right, tyranny (or at least the Counter-Enlightenment) may be exactly where we’re headed.

      Everything depends on whether the novus ordo seclorum really is the new order of the ages.

      • My assumption, based on my knowledge of don miguel, which of course goes back centuries, is that he interprets Hegel the way that many conservative academics and pundits do (see, esp. Ronald Pestritto), as intellectual architect of the Bismarck state and semi-secret progenitor of the progressive or Progressive “cancer.” You have to remember that for them Obamacare is already tyranny or at best crypto-tyranny, that the Great Society was a refurbishment and expansion of a “liberal plantation,” and so on – the “Liberal Fascism” notion that is a somewhat more polite version of Bundyism.

        It’s also true that Hegel frequently acknowledged different ways in which liberation or the zone of liberation might be expanded by tyrannical and even fanatical means and measures. So Napoleon, for him, through military conquest and dictatorship still served to consolidate and extend the “positive freedom” and idea of universal equality embodied in the Napoleonic Code and the Rights of Man.

        The same tendency is even more pronounced in Kojève or Kojève’s Hegel: The idea, for instance, that the Terror could be or had to be understood as an historically and mass-psychologically necessary step in the internalization and higher realization of the same entirely anti-Terroristic values. Kojève in his response to Strauss seems to suggest that even the likes of Stalin and Hitler can and must be approached in the same way, as Mephistophelian figures doing good, or advancing universal freedom, despite themselves. It’s hard to say “doing God’s work,” because Kojève was a committed atheist who insisted that Hegel was really an atheist despite his claims to the contrary. However Kojève described his or Hegel’s ideas, the Hegelian “cunning of history” does seem to take the same form as traditional theodicy, and can be counted on to produce the same appalled reaction from those committed to more conventional notions: that horrible events, movements, and ideas are simply horrible, and “bright sides” of the Holocaust, colonialism, Communism, Nazism, world war, etc., are for the morally blind or worse.

        • My comment was too flippant and you’re quite right that the relation of liberty, tyranny and wisdom in Hegel is complex. It is enough to be reminded of the role that figures like Alexander and Napoleon play in the “slaughter bench” of history to demonstrate that.

          Nevertheless, would it be correct to say that phenomena like tyranny, imperialism, militarism, etc. are, for Hegel, the instruments whereby liberty and wisdom are wrought into being in the course of history–that is, they are the means and never the end?

          And would it be fair to say that, if Hegel wasn’t right about that, then even the liberal democratic capitalist order at the end of history is really just another dead end?

          • As for the first question, I think the answer is “absolutely” yes.

            As for the second question, from Hegel’s point of view or from a point of view grounded in his outlook, there’s nothing to worry about on the basic premise: You cannot even ask the question, or suffer or imagine suffering the idea of its untruth, without implicitly re-affirming it. I don’t think, however, that that necessarily means that the liberal democratic capitalist order as we understand it (or explain it to ourselves) must be thought the necessary final and exclusive phenomenal form that the world “after history” takes (and Hegel himself wasn’t in a position to “get” capitalism).

        • Btw–when I first came to this website about a year and a half ago, you were regularly discussing Hegel and it was one of the things that attracted me to the blog. So I know you’ve studied Hegel to a certain extent, whereas I really don’t know much more than the thumbnail sketch–though every time I come across synopses of Hegel’s thought I always feel the fascination of it.

          Could I trouble you to recommend a book or two on the subject?

          • According to Strauss, Kojève, and Hegel, it’s ALL secondary literature on Hegel since Hegel!

            I think the book you’d enjoy the most, and that for the same reason would prove most dangerous in your hands, would be Lectures on the Philosophy of World History . It includes many of H’s most universally reviled and rejected, proto-Spenglerian ideas on the fates of races and nations, all presented in a for Hegel easily accessible manner. Along the way, he gets America wonderfully and I think very usefully wrong.

            The first of the other two introductions that I would highly recommend would be Hegel’s own “Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit,” which can be purchased separately, though I don’t know why you wouldn’t just go ahead and get the whole book as an admirable addition to any bookshelf, real or virtual. Not having the time and confidence to test my German against the original text, the edition I that I read a few years ago now, that I usually refer and return to, is this one: Phenomenology of Spirit

            Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel is now sometimes treated as Kojève’s Introduction to Kojève using Hegel as a Pretext. It’s a great read (assuming you like this kind of thing, of course) in its own right, arguably of great importance to post-war continental philosophy, whether or not you’ve read or are reading Hegel: Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit

            I’m also a fan of the Philosophy of Right, which you might turn to after the Phil of World History if you find yourself falling into the Hegelian well and aren’t seized with a sense of desperation to escape. In terms of accessibility I’d rate it a midpoint between the Lectures and the main text of Phenomenology.

            • Thank you for this reading list–I think I’ll really try to take a crack at it in the months to come.

              The more I think about the issues that we’re discussing, the more I can’t help but feel that it is incumbent on every student of philosophy in our day and age to determine for himself the answer to the question: was Hegel right?

  8. Actually, before I heard of Pestritto, I see it from the classically liberal perspective, which got such short shrift in Bismarck’s Germany, along with List, Wagner and Schmoller, re
    Caldwell’s bio of Hayek, a Lockean view, ultimately the German philosophers you can Nietzche and Schopenhaer, evinced such a negative and ultimately wrong view of human nature, it’s not an
    accident that shrunken societies arose from that environment,

  9. Did you ever get around to that comparative tale, of late 18th political developments, the Great Upheaval, it shows how despite some close calls, the US was able to ignite a liberty revolution, whereas the French, lapsed into tyranny, Committee of Public Safety, and Catherina only tasted the enlightenment and Russia returned to repression in short order,

  10. I picked it up second hand, in a supermarket sale, as a paperback, I’m still kind of traditional that way,

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