Saturday, 26 October 2019

On the Doctrine of Historical Teleology

Hegel believed that history ended in 1806 when Napoleon marched into Jena, a point of time, when he, Hegel, finished writing his The Phenomenology of Spirit. 1806 was, according to Hegel, the year when mankind had experienced all the stages of mental and political evolution. The future, he believed, would not bring any further transformation in human mentality and political systems. On the back of Napoleon’s army there had arrived in Jena, the idea of a society of freedom, law, and equality based, not on religion, but on science, and from Hegel’s Phenomenology there came the ultimate philosophy. Nothing else was required.

In the 20th century, Hegel’s doctrine was used by the communists to make a case for “historical teleology.” They saw history as a process with communism as its built-in goal. The collapse of communism did not lead to the end of the doctrine of historical teleology, which was picked up by the neo-liberals and the neo-conservatives who were motivated by the utopian vision of turning the entire world into a free-market and democratic paradise. In his 1992 book on political philosophy The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama asserted that the Western liberal democracy was the final form of government for all nations and it represented the end-point of mankind's ideological evolution.

Margret Thatcher, who was a traditional conservative, untouched by utopian revolutionary ambitions, rejected Fukuyama’s thesis with these words: “The end of history! The beginning of nonsense!”

1 comment:

Paul Marks said...

Yes indeed - history is just what people do. It has no predetermined end. Events can go in any direction.