but please tell me what is life for you!
You are projecting physical phenomenons
on sociological phenomenons.
And how does it end when a society has a
negaitive ambient field or nature as an antithesis? Does it end with,
in, or as a synthesis?
Or for example: If the thesis is a society with
entropy (or anti-entropy) and its antithesis an ambient field with anti-entropy
(or entropy), is then the synthesis a society with an-entropy, with anentropic
S. Saint wrote:
Perhaps this will help; The Communal
A tipping point is reached where there is no longer a choice,
whether the society has artificial support or just happens to have chosen the
wrong thing to call »Positive«. **
have read your op of that thread and answered:
James, but please tell me what is life for you!
You are projecting physical
phenomenons on sociological phenomenons.
And how does it end when a society
has a »negaitive« ambient field or nature as an antithesis? Does it
end with, in, or as a synthesis?
Or for example: If the thesis is a society
with entropy (or anti-entropy) and its antithesis an ambient field with anti-entropy
(or entropy), is then the synthesis a society with an-entropy, with »anentropic
A society or culture has to have a real antithesis (and
not a artificial one), else it can't be a real thesis. But if it is a real thesis
with a real antithesis, then it becomes sooner or later a synthesis. And after
that this sysnthesis becomes the new thesis, either a real or not a real one.
The older a society (culture) the more artificial its thesis and so on.
S. Saint wrote:
Life only has one Thesis. Thus it only
has one Anti-thesis. But life includes the act of learning and adjusting accordingly.
The issue is when people try to hold onto a set of adjustments that no longer
apply and thus stop learning.
When they can't clearly discern life from
non-life, they guess. And when they believe that they have guessed correctly,
they try to hold onto it. They become religious about it. So they err in two ways.
First they err by not understanding what Life really is and then they werr by
attempting to hold onto that error. Such societies (just about all of them) end
up having to almost die out entirely before they are willing to try a different
guess. Thus you see change as something they gave up in order to buy into something
else of hope (a new page in history).
But in an actual society of Life,
many changes are taking place all the time without concern. Thus one can no longer
say that a new page has been turned, that is until they lose Life and begin the
road to death. There is no »new synthesis« to an actual life.
A NEW THESIS, James, because the synthesis becomes a new
thesis. Life with no synthesis would be very boring, merely acting (thesis) and
reacting (antithesis), no qualitative change. There would be no qualitative development
without any synthesis (and further: no new thesis). Humans changed their lives
- compare the humans of the Stone Age and the humans of the last 6000 years.
Without any synthesis life would be merely a ping pong game because
it would merely consist of thesis and antithesis, for example: action
S. Saint wrote:
I think that what you are calling a
»new thesis« is what I call merely »learning«. **
Yes and no - because I meant it more as a kind of development as in
Hegels Dialektik (thesis => antithesis => synthesis),
but also in a kind of a learning process (which is also a development,
but not a so much general one as the dialectic process). One doesn't have
to be a 100% Hegelian in order to use his Dialektik. But in
this case it fits once again.
Learning and synthesis,
they are at least, relational terms. But what of this relationship? What is being
synthesized? And how is that learned? The fact is, they are not always synonymous,
and a »learned« synthesis is one which has become a new thesis, and
an unlearned one is still a synthetic. But at least it has the potential to be
learned, so it is an a-priori synthetic.
But besides being only terms,
their potentiality, when given the opportunity to become actual, will apply to
specific situations, and hence become a new analytic: the new thesis. **
one could say it in this way too.
S. Saint wrote:
out from this cycle for ever is Nirvana/enlightenment.« **
And that is what I have been calling »Anentropic Harmony«.
for you Anentropic Harmony is Nirvana?
from Francis Fukuyama's End of History (**):
triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total
exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. ....
we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a
particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is,
the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western
liberal democracy as the final form of human government. This is not to say that
there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affair's yearly summaries
of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily
in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in. the real or
material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal
that will govern the material world in the long run. To understand how this is
so, we must first consider some theoretical issues concerning the nature of historical
THE NOTION of the end of history is not an original one. Its best
known propagator was Karl Marx, who believed that the direction of historical
development was a purposeful one determined by the interplay of material forces,
and would come to an end only with the achievement of a communist utopia that
would finally resolve all prior contradictions. But the concept of history as
a dialectical process with a beginning, a middle, and an end was borrowed by Marx
from his great German predecessor, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
better or worse, much of Hegel's historicism has become part of our contemporary
intellectual baggage. The notion that mankind has progressed through a series
of primitive stages of consciousness on his path to the present, and that these
stages corresponded to concrete forms of social organization, such as tribal,
slave-owning, theocratic, and finally democratic-egalitarian societies, has become
inseparable from the modern understanding of man. Hegel was the first philosopher
to speak the language of modern social science, insofar as man for him was the
product of his concrete historical and social environment and not, as earlier
natural right theorists would have it, a collection of more or less fixed »natural«
attributes. The mastery and transformation of man's natural environment through
the application of science and technology was originally not a Marxist concept,
but a Hegelian one. Unlike later historicists whose historical relativism degenerated
into relativism tout court, however, Hegel believed that history culminated in
an absolute moment - a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state
It is Hegel's misfortune to be known now primarily
as Marx's precursor; and it is our misfortune that few of us are familiar with
Hegel's work from direct study, but only as it has been filtered through the distorting
lens of Marxism. In France, however, there has been an effort to save Hegel from
his Marxist interpreters and to resurrect him as the philosopher who most correctly
speaks to our time. Among those modern French interpreters of Hegel, the greatest
was certainly Alexandre Kojève, a brilliant Russian émigré
who taught a highly influential series of seminars in Paris in the 1930s at the
Ecole Practique des Hautes Etudes. While largely unknown in the United States,
Kojève had a major impact on the intellectual life of the continent. Among
his students ranged such future luminaries as Jean-Paul Sartre on the Left and
Raymond Aron on the Right; postwar existentialism borrowed many of its basic categories
from Hegel via Kojève.
Kojève sought to resurrect the Hegel
of the Phenomenology of Mind, the Hegel who proclaimed history to be at an end
in 1806. For as early as this Hegel saw in Napoleon's defeat of the Prussian monarchy
at the Battle of Jena the victory of the ideals of the French Revolution, and
the imminent universalization of the state incorporating the principles of liberty
and equality. Kojève, far from rejecting Hegel in light of the turbulent
events of the next century and a half, insisted that the latter had been essentially
correct. The Battle of Jena marked the end of history because it was at that point
that the vanguard of humanity (a term quite familiar to Marxists) actualized the
principles of the French Revolution. While there was considerable work to be done
after 1806 - abolishing slavery and the slave trade, extending the franchise to
workers, women, blacks, and other racial minorities, etc. - the basic principles
of the liberal democratic state could not be improved upon. The two world wars
in this century and their attendant revolutions and upheavals simply had the effect
of extending those principles spatially, such that the various provinces of human
civilization were brought up to the level of its most advanced outposts, and of
forcing those societies in Europe and North America at the vanguard of civilization
to implement their liberalism more fully.
The state that emerges at the
end of history is liberal insofar as it recognizes and protects through a system
of law man's universal right to freedom, and democratic insofar as it exists only
with the consent of the governed. .... Here is no struggle or conflict over »large«
issues, and consequently no need for generals or statesmen; what remains is primarily
economic activity. .... Believing that there was no more work for philosophers
as well, since Hegel (correctly understood) had already achieved absolute knowledge,
Kojève left teaching after the war and spent the remainder of his life
working as a bureaucrat in the European Economic Community, until his death in
FOR HEGEL, the contradictions that drive history exist first of
all in the realm of human consciousness, i.e. on the level of ideas - not the
trivial election year proposals of American politicians, but ideas in the sense
of large unifying world views that might best be understood under the rubric of
ideology. Ideology in this sense is not restricted to the secular and explicit
political doctrines we usually associate with the term, but can include religion,
culture, and the complex of moral values underlying any society as well.
view of the relationship between the ideal and the real or material worlds was
an extremely complicated one, beginning with the fact that for him the distinction
between the two was only apparent. He did not believe that the real world conformed
or could be made to conform to ideological preconceptions of philosophy professors
in any simpleminded way, or that the »material« world could not impinge
on the ideal. Indeed, Hegel the professor was temporarily thrown out of work as
a result of a very material event, the Battle of Jena. But while Hegel's writing
and thinking could be stopped by a bullet from the material world, the hand on
the trigger of the gun was motivated in turn by the ideas of liberty and equality
that had driven the French Revolution.
For Hegel, all human behavior in
the material world, and hence all human history, is rooted in a prior state of
consciousness - an idea similar to the one expressed by John Maynard Keynes when
he said that the views of men of affairs were usually derived from defunct economists
and academic scribblers of earlier generations. This consciousness may not be
explicit and self-aware, as are modern political doctrines, but may rather take
the form of religion or simple cultural or moral habits. And yet this realm of
consciousness in the long run necessarily becomes manifest in the material world,
indeed creates the material world in its own image. Consciousness is cause and
not effect, and can develop autonomously from the material world; hence the real
subtext underlying the apparent jumble of current events is the history of ideology.
idealism has fared poorly at the hands of later thinkers. Marx reversed the priority
of the real and the ideal completely, relegating the entire realm of consciousness
- religion, art, culture, philosophy itself - to a »superstructure«
that was determined entirely by the prevailing material mode of production. Yet
another unfortunate legacy of Marxism is our tendency to retreat into materialist
or utilitarian explanations of political or historical phenomena, and our disinclination
to believe in the autonomous power of ideas. A recent example of this is Paul
Kennedy's hugely successful The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which
ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension. Obviously,
this is true on some level: an empire whose economy is barely above the level
of subsistence cannot bankrupt its treasury indefinitely. But whether a highly
productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP
on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society's political
priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness.
materialist bias of modern thought is characteristic not only of people on the
Left who may be sympathetic to Marxism, but of many passionate Anti-Marxists as
well. Indeed, there is on the Right what one might label the Wall Street Journal
school of deterministic materialism that discounts the importance of ideology
and culture and sees man as essentially a rational, profit-maximizing individual.
It is precisely this kind of individual and his pursuit of material incentives
that is posited as the basis for economic life as such in economic textbooks.
One small example will illustrate the problematic character of such materialist
Max Weber begins his famous book, The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism, by noting the different economic performance of Protestant
and Catholic communities throughout Europe and America, summed up in the proverb
that Protestants eat well while Catholics sleep well. Weber notes that according
to any economic theory that posited man as a rational profit-maximizer, raising
the piece-work rate should increase labor productivity. But in fact, in many traditional
peasant communities, raising the piece-work rate actually had the opposite effect
of lowering labor productivity: at the higher rate, a peasant accustomed to earning
two and one-half marks per day found he could earn the same amount by working
less, and did so because he valued leisure more than income. The choices of leisure
over income, or of the militaristic life of the Spartan hoplite over the wealth
of the Athenian trader, or even the ascetic life of the early capitalist entrepreneur
over that of a traditional leisured aristocrat, cannot possibly be explained by
the impersonal working of material forces, but come preeminently out of the sphere
of consciousness - what we have labeled here broadly as ideology. And indeed,
a central theme of Weber's work was to prove that contrary to Marx, the material
mode of production, far from being the »base«, was itself a »superstructure«
with roots in religion and culture, and that to understand the emergence of modern
capitalism and the profit motive one had to study their antecedents in the realm
of the spirit.
As we look around the contemporary world, the poverty of
materialist theories of economic development is all too apparent. The Wall Street
Journal school of deterministic materialism habitually points to the stunning
economic success of Asia in the past few decades as evidence of the viability
of free market economics, with the implication that all societies would see similar
development were they simply to allow their populations to pursue their material
self-interest freely. Surely free markets and stable political systems are a necessary
precondition to capitalist economic growth. But just as surely the cultural heritage
of those Far Eastern societies, the ethic of work and saving and family, a religious
heritage that does not, like Islam, place restrictions on certain forms of economic
behavior, and other deeply ingrained moral qualities, are equally important in
explaining their economic performance. And yet the intellectual weight of materialism
is such that not a single respectable contemporary theory of economic development
addresses consciousness and culture seriously as the matrix within which economic
behavior is formed.
FAILURE to understand that the roots of economic behavior
lie in the realm of consciousness and culture leads to the common mistake of attributing
material causes to phenomena that are essentially ideal in nature. For example,
it is commonplace in the West to interpret the reform movements first in China
and most recently in the Soviet Union as the victory of the material over the
ideal - that is, a recognition that ideological incentives could not replace material
ones in stimulating a highly productive modern economy, and that if one wanted
to prosper one had to appeal to baser forms of self-interest. But the deep defects
of socialist economies were evident thirty or forty years ago to anyone who chose
to look. Why was it that these countries moved away from central planning only
in the 1980s' The answer must be found in the consciousness of the elites and
leaders ruling them, who decided to opt for the »Protestant« life
of wealth and risk over the »Catholic« path of poverty and security.
That change was in no way made inevitable by the material conditions in which
either country found itself on the eve of the reform, but instead came about as
the result of the victory of one idea over another.
as for all good Hegelians, understanding the underlying processes of history requires
understanding developments in the realm of consciousness or ideas, since consciousness
will ultimately remake the material world in its own image. To say that history
ended in 1806 meant that mankind's ideological evolution ended in the ideals of
the French or American Revolutions: while particular regimes in the real world
might not implement these ideals fully, their theoretical truth is absolute and
could not be improved upon. Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the
consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized
throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous
state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.
have neither the space nor, frankly, the ability to defend in depth Hegel's radical
idealist perspective. The issue is not whether Hegel's system was right, but whether
his perspective might uncover the problematic nature of many materialist explanations
we often take for granted. This is not to deny the role of material factors as
such. To a literal-minded idealist, human society can be built around any arbitrary
set of principles regardless of their relationship to the material world. And
in fact men have proven themselves able to endure the most extreme material hardships
in the name of ideas that exist in the realm of the spirit alone, be it the divinity
of cows or the nature of the Holy Trinity.
But while man's very perception
of the material world is shaped by his historical consciousness of it, the material
world can clearly affect in return the viability of a particular state of consciousness.
In particular, the spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the
infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster
and preserve liberalism in the political sphere. I want to avoid the materialist
determinism that says that liberal economics inevitably produces liberal politics,
because I believe that both economics and politics presuppose an autonomous prior
state of consciousness that makes them possible. But that state of consciousness
that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would
expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern
free market economy. We might summarize the content of the universal homogenous
state as liberal democracy in the political sphere combined with easy access to
VCRs and stereos in the economic.
HAVE WE in fact reached the end of
history? Are there, in other words, any fundamental »contradictions«
in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that
would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure? If we accept
the idealist premises laid out above, we must seek an answer to this question
in the realm of ideology and consciousness. Our task is not to answer exhaustively
the challenges to liberalism promoted by every crackpot messiah around the world,
but only those that are embodied in important social or political forces and movements,
and which are therefore part of world history. For our purposes, it matters very
little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso, for we
are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage
In the past century, there have been two major challenges
to liberalism, those of fascism and of communism. The former saw the political
weakness, materialism, anomie, and lack of community of the West as fundamental
contradictions in liberal societies that could only be resolved by a strong state
that forged a new »people« on the basis of national exclusiveness.
Fascism was destroyed as a living ideology by World War II. This was a defeat,
of course, on a very material level, but it amounted to a defeat of the idea as
well. What destroyed fascism as an idea was not universal moral revulsion against
it, since plenty of people were willing to endorse the idea as long as it seemed
the wave of the future, but its lack of success. After the war, it seemed to most
people that German fascism as well as its other European and Asian variants were
bound to self-destruct. There was no material reason why new fascist movements
could not have sprung up again after the war in other locales, but for the fact
that expansionist ultranationalism, with its promise of unending conflict leading
to disastrous military defeat, had completely lost its appeal. The ruins of the
Reich chancellery as well as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
killed this ideology on the level of consciousness as well as materially, and
all of the pro-fascist movements spawned by the German and Japanese examples like
the Peronist movement in Argentina or Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army
withered after the war.
The ideological challenge mounted by the other
great alternative to liberalism, communism, was far more serious. Marx, speaking
Hegel's language, asserted that liberal society contained a fundamental contradiction
that could not be resolved within its context, that between capital and labor,
and this contradiction has constituted the chief accusation against liberalism
ever since. But surely, the class issue has actually been successfully resolved
in the West. As Kojève (among others) noted, the egalitarianism of modern
America represents the essential achievement of the classless society envisioned
by Marx. This is not to say that there are not rich people and poor people in
the United States, or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years.
But the root causes of economic inequality do not have to do with the underlying
legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian
and moderately redistributionist, so much as with the cultural and social characteristics
of the groups that make it up, which are in turn the historical legacy of premodern
conditions. Thus black poverty in the United States is not the inherent product
of liberalism, but is rather the »legacy of slavery and racism« which
persisted long after the formal abolition of slavery.
As a result of the
receding of the class issue, the appeal of communism in the developed Western
world, it is safe to say, is lower today than any time since the end of the First
World War. This can he measured in any number of ways: in the declining membership
and electoral pull of the major European communist parties, and their overtly
revisionist programs; in the corresponding electoral success of conservative parties
from Britain and Germany to the United States and Japan, which are unabashedly
pro-market and anti-statist; and in an intellectual climate whose most »advanced«
members no longer believe that bourgeois society is something that ultimately
needs to be overcome. This is not to say that the opinions of progressive intellectuals
in Western countries are not deeply pathological in any number of ways. But those
who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old,
or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.
MAY argue that the socialist alternative was never terribly plausible for the
North Atlantic world, and was sustained for the last several decades primarily
by its success outside of this region. But it is precisely in the non-European
world that one is most struck by the occurrence of major ideological transformations.
Surely the most remarkable changes have occurred in Asia. Due to the strength
and adaptability of the indigenous cultures there, Asia became a battleground
for a variety of imported Western ideologies early in this century. Liberalism
in Asia was a very weak reed in the period after World War I; it is easy today
to forget how gloomy Asia's political future looked as recently as ten or fifteen
years ago. It is easy to forget as well how momentous the outcome of Asian ideological
struggles seemed for world political development as a whole.
Asian alternative to liberalism to be decisively defeated was the fascist one
represented by Imperial Japan. Japanese fascism (like its German version) was
defeated by the force of American arms in the Pacific war, and liberal democracy
was imposed on Japan by a victorious United States. Western capitalism and political
liberalism when transplanted to Japan were adapted and transformed by the Japanese
in such a way as to be scarcely recognizable. Many Americans are now aware that
Japanese industrial organization is very different from that prevailing in the
United States or Europe, and it is questionable what relationship the factional
maneuvering that takes place with the governing Liberal Democratic Party bears
to democracy. Nonetheless, the very fact that the essential elements of economic
and political liberalism have been so successfully grafted onto uniquely Japanese
traditions and institutions guarantees their survival in the long run. More important
is the contribution that Japan has made in turn to world history by following
in the footsteps of the United States to create a truly universal consumer culture
that has become both a symbol and an underpinning of the universal homogenous
state. V.S. Naipaul traveling in Khomeini's Iran shortly after the revolution
noted the omnipresent signs advertising the products of Sony, Hitachi, and JVC,
whose appeal remained virtually irresistible and gave the lie to the regime's
pretensions of restoring a state based on the rule of the Shariah. Desire for
access to the consumer culture, created in large measure by Japan, has played
a crucial role in fostering the spread of economic liberalism throughout Asia,
and hence in promoting political liberalism as well.
The economic success
of the other newly industrializing countries (NICs) in Asia following on the example
of Japan is by now a familiar story. What is important from a Hegelian standpoint
is that political liberalism has been following economic liberalism, more slowly
than many had hoped but with seeming inevitability. Here again we see the victory
of the idea of the universal homogenous state. South Korea had developed into
a modern, urbanized society with an increasingly large and well-educated middle
class that could not possibly be isolated from the larger democratic trends around
them. Under these circumstances it seemed intolerable to a large part of this
population that it should be ruled by an anachronistic military regime while Japan,
only a decade or so ahead in economic terms, had parliamentary institutions for
over forty years. Even the former socialist regime in Burma, which for so many
decades existed in dismal isolation from the larger trends dominating Asia, was
buffeted in the past year by pressures to liberalize both its economy and political
system. It is said that unhappiness with strongman Ne Win began when a senior
Burmese officer went to Singapore for medical treatment and broke down crying
when he saw how far socialist Burma had been left behind by its ASEAN neighbors.
- Francis Fukuyama, 1989, The National Interest. **
from Samuel P. Huntington's Clash of Civilizations (**):
World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have
not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be - the end of history,
the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline
of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism,
among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality.
Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics
is likely to be in the coming years.
is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will
not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among
humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states
will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts
of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.
The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between
civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern
With the end of the Cold War, international politics moves
out of its Western phase, and its centerpiece becomes the interaction between
the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations. In
the politics of civilizations, the peoples and governments of non-Western civilizations
no longer remain the objects of history as targets of Western colonialism but
join the West as movers and shapers of history.
On the one hand, the West
is at a peak of power. At the same time, however, and perhaps as a result, a return
to the roots phenomenon is occurring among Non-Western civilizations. Increasingly
one hears references to trends toward a turning inward and »Asianization«
in Japan, the end of the Nehru legacy and the »Hinduization« of India,
the failure of Western ideas of socialism and nationalism and hence »Re-Islamization«
of the Middle East, and now a debate over Westernization versus Russianization
in Boris Yeltsin's country. A West at the peak of its power confronts Non-Wests
that increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world
in Non-Western ways.
The west is now at an extraordinary peak of power
in relation to other civilizations. .... - Samuel P. Huntington, 1993, The
Clash of Civilizations?, Foreign Affairs. **