Thursday, 28 February 2019

Genghis Khan’s Order of God and Marxian Dialectics

It is common for societies to arrive at their truth or essence through self-interpretation. Eric Voegelin looks at this issue in Chapter 2, “Representation and Truth,” of his book The New Science of Politics.

He points out that Lord Genghis Khan and his followers were convinced that by the Order of God the entire world was Mongol empire, and that it was the duty of every nation to submit to the authority of Genghis Khan. By self-interpreting themselves as the sole beneficiaries of the Order of God and the rulers of the entire world, they found the inspiration to conduct formidable military campaigns. Here’s an excerpt:
The empire of the Lord Genghis Khan is de jure in existence even if it is not yet realized de facto. All human societies are part of the Mongol empire by virtue of the Order of God, even if they are not yet conquered.  The actual expansion of the empire, therefore, follows a very strict process of law.  Societies whose turn for actual integration into the empire has come must be notified by ambassadors of the Order of God and requested to make their submission.  If they refuse, or perhaps kill the ambassadors, then they are rebels, and military sanctions will be taken against them.  The Mongol empire, thus, by its own legal order has never conducted a war but only punitive expeditions against rebellious subjects of the empire.
Voegelin goes on to make a comparison between the self-interpretation of the Mongol Empire and that of the Marxists:
In Marxian dialectics, for instance, the truth of cosmic order is replaced by the truth of a historically immanent order.  Nevertheless, the Communist movement is a representative of this differently symbolized truth in the same sense in which a Mongol Khan was the representative of the truth contained in the Order of God; and the consciousness of this representation leads to the same political and legal constructions as in the other instances of imperial representation of truth.  Its order is in harmony with the truth of history; its aim is the establishment of the realm of freedom and peace; the opponents run counter to the truth of history and will be defeated in the end; nobody can be at war with the Soviet Union legitimately but must be a representative of untruth in history, or, in contemporary language, an aggressor; and the victims are not conquered but liberated from their oppressors and therewith from the untruth of their existence.
I think this is an amazing analysis. It is the tendency of most nations, even the democratic ones, to think that they are on the right side of history—so some amount of self-interpretation is there in all nations, but the self-interpretation is most pronounced in totalitarian societies.

No comments: