Polo wars (Was: War as a happening thing)

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at tsoft.com
Wed Jan 26 01:45:06 PST 2000

[I have been saying mean things about the intellectual content of postmodernism.]

[And I had been trying to say some nice things by historical parallel--Hegel to Prussia, Heidegger to 1930s Germany]

Gaak. There is that quietistic preface to the Philosophy of Right, but the theory of that book is a hell of a lot more radical that the Prussian state could happily accommodate. As far as any connection between Hegel's defense of liberal constitutional monarchy, one of the great and scrupulous articulations of liberal political thought in the history of western thought, and Heidegger's unprincipled and unargued accommodation to Nazism on its terms, not his, fugedaboudid, as we say in Chicago. --jks ------------

Slooow down a little there bubalouie, as we say in Berkeley.

Think about what it means to say that the Spirit of History resides, is inhabited, habituated, manifested as the political State. This isn't a moral claim or ethical defence concerning the structure of government. It is a metaphysical claim about the nature of history and society.

That identification of State with Spirit is the link or what connects Hegel and Heidegger, not that one supported a constitutional monarchy and the other enjoyed academic privileges in an industrial slaughter house.

[I had been noting the division between the empiricist/postivist of the English and French and Hegel's departure into metaphysics.]

"There's something to this, but you need to account for Hegel's relation to Kant here, and both of their relation to Rousseau."

Certainly, but that's a big project and it deals with a more complete reading of the critique of practical reason, the theory of the right, the social contract, the discourse on the origin of inequality--all of which I haven't done. "The first man who enclosed a plot of ground and thought of saying `this is mine' and found others stupid enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society." (Rousseau) Yes, yes of course, but not right at the moment.

At the moment I am lost to a nether world of german romanticism, neo-classical poets, the view of Napoleon arriving in Jena on the eve of Hegel's completion of the Phenomenology, and the fallen ideal of a united, republican Europe under a French hegemony and most especially its disillusionment--the waves and repercussions that rumble through the century to land in WWI and the Russian Revolution. Does anyone remember the closing scene in Tolstoy's War and Peace when fifteen year old Nikolinka wakes from a tormented dream of his dead father, Prince Andrey. "Oh, father, father..."

Ah, yes, that stuff dreams are made on. I didn't understand it when I first read it at nineteen. Huh, I wondered? But I sure got it when I re-read it at forty-two, and lately at fifty-seven it seems even better.

The connection between Hegel and Heidegger isn't just about the similitude of their metaphysical direction, but goes to the formation of nationalism, that most mytho-poetic and binding of collective experiences, the sublime dreams of state. And, this is the point to looking at post-modernist writers in light of Hegel. They are not mere symptoms, but expressions, which is a slightly different metaphor. As an expression, there is no need to postulate a causal chain or disjoin a source from its manifestation. What is going on with all the internal and global reactions to a US-Euro capitalist hegemony of the earth?

Just what could that post-modern world be dreaming?

Well, it certainly isn't of genetically engineered big macs, petro-chemical nikes, and cyberspace cash flows. I would like to think they are dreaming of a sombre and majestic funerary march for this ancien regime of the unreal. I want to imagine they are humming those same slow, sure and massed harmonies in C minor that roll toward oblivion, just as the march in Beethoven's No.3.

Then finally consider this from Cassirer's essay on Hegel's Theory of State:

"`The highest aim that the state can attain', says Hegel in his Lectures on the the Philosophy of History, "is that art and science are cultivated in it and come to a height corresponding to the spirit of the people. That is the principal end of the state--but an end that it must not bring about as an external work but that must arise from itself' The true power of the state is, therefore, always its spiritual power. In the system of Hegel there can be no separation between the concepts of Machtstaat and Kulturstaat; the concepts are correlative to each other and coincide with each other."

Chuck Grimes

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list