Monday, December 20, 2010

Will "History" Ever End?

That's the title to a post I did today at Dispatches From the Culture Wars. I'm going to reproduce the part of it that relates to the American Founding so that we might, if we wish, discuss it here as opposed to there:

But Marx wasn't the first to predict an End to History either. While I can't speak for the other religious traditions in which I am less learned, the Bible speaks of an End to History in the Book of Revelation.

Yet, the Bible is not a book of modern politics. Whatever the Christian Americanists may tell you, the Founding Fathers' idea of republicanism did NOT originate in the Bible, just as Marxism did not originate there either. Yet, the Bible did influence both systems. Certain tales in the Bible resonate with both Marxism and the American Founding.

Interestingly, the idea of "Ending History" with liberal democracy traces to America's Founding era. Liberal democracy as originally articulated by America's Founders and the philosophers who influenced them was "settled" as the final form of government with a top down, God given metaphysics. Yet, the God of the Bible is not an apparent liberal democrat.

When one therefore mixes biblical revelation with Founding era democratic-republican theory, one gets results that are "interesting" to say the least. This is what the original "history enders" (most notable among them Enlightenment unitarian Christians Joseph Priestley and Richard Price) believed: Jesus would return at the success of the French Revolution to usher in a millennial republic of "liberty, equality, and fraternity." This was part and parcel of the same line of thought that argued the Bible established a "republic" as opposed to a "Kingdom" of Heaven, that the Ancient Israelites had a "republic" instead of a theocracy and that the Romans 13 really did teach revolution was permitted, indeed demanded, to secure liberal democratic ends.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Fukuyama is not Straussian; he's a historicist, a Hegelian, by way of his mentor Alexandre Kojève, the philosophical godfather of the European Union.

I hate to cite Harry Jaffa, but this limns the differences, with some Founding Fathers and anti-historicist Lincoln thrown in.

There was a certain confluence between the Enlightenment belief in human progress and Protestant millennialism in the Founding, but Hegel hadn't been born yet; neither is it certain that any of the Founding era believed history was "ending" rather than just beginning.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It depends on what we mean by Straussian. I think it's fair to term Fukuyama an East Coast Straussian; Kojève was someone the East Coasters had a great deal of respect, even if they had their differences with him.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"neither is it certain that any of the Founding era believed history was 'ending' rather than just beginning."

The Burkean wing as represented by Adams' Federalists probably would have agreed with you.

However a great deal of Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans did believe in this millennial republican idea that Jesus would soon return after the success of the FR and establish Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as the 1000 year form of government.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Strauss-Kojève debate contained in Strauss' On Tyranny is what's to the point here. Kojève believes in a Hegelian "end of history," where everyone becomes a "philosopher" and the Universal Homogeneous State of bourgeois liberal democracy is the final end of politics, in essence making them superfluous. Fukuyama simply follows Kojève.

The key point is "historicism"; Strauss believes man's permanent problems are permanent.


The confluence of Protestant millennialism is relevant here. I don't know much about it, or how widespread it was, but it was in the mix.

King of Ireland said...

I am glad to see we are back on Strauss and Fukuyama and Milleialism. I will not repeat what I stated in my posts last Summer on this but want too re-ask whether Fukuyama's brand of Liberal Democracy is that of the founders?

I think it is more Marxists than Lockean and these is seen in the modern liberal eversion to private property.

King of Ireland said...

Here is a link to part three of a series of posts I did on property rights on my Real Estate Blog asking Marx or Locke?