Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Apocalypse, Undercover : Living After the End of History (I)

By Prof Rowan

The zombie apocalypse heralds not just the end, but the annihilation of history. The mutism of the (post) modern zombie signifies the irrevocable loss of language – that fickle mistress that first led human civilization from primordial Chaos to the Cosmos of myth, then from exile to the millinery Kingdom of Judeo-Christian theology, and thence into our times. Of course, the sum total of this inheritance has since passed into and come to give shape to the practices of both history and politics: eschatology – secularized – takes the form of the ideology of progress that has long deluded “the left.” In Germany, during the 1920s and 30s the SPD remained convinced until the bitter end that Hitler and the Nazis represented a temporary aberration and that the country would “come to its senses.” This history continues to repeat: we on the political left in the United States have a long way to go and much work to do so as to reverse the damage done by failing to recognize the stark differences between the Neoconservatives and just about everyone the fuck else. Georges W. Bush and Al Gore were the same so you voted for Nader. Fuck you!

While Neoconservatism has fallen out of favor and is scarcely taken seriously outside of a few remaining enclaves, its theoretical underpinnings and fundamental myths have not. The political philosophy and philosophy of history to which Neoconservative thinkers and politicians have subscribed are in truth a particularly theatrical and shamelessly bare-assed instance of the dark inverse of the ideology of Progress, by means of which many cling to the wreckage of Modernity and the Enlightenment project. While for the progressive, justice, utopia, apocalypse, etc, etc, are thought to be part of an inevitable future End of History – a Last Judgment that will brook no more delays, the Neoconservative, begins with and builds upon the extremely ideosyncratic reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit developed by Alexandre Kojève in his 1933-39 lecture course at the Sorbonne, later published as “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,” in 1947, as transmitted through Leo Strauss, Francis Fukuyama, etc, etc. According to this line of reasoning, the vanguard of humanity has, in fact, already reached the end of History, and all that remains to be done as a political task is to bring the rest of the world “up to speed” (c.f. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. Now that all went according to plan, right?)
Kojève was, in fact, a spy in the French government
Here, Kojève's words are every bit as intelligible as my own:

The disappearance of Man at the end of History... is not a cosmic catastrophe: the natural World remains what it has been from all Eternity... it is not a biological catastrophe either: Man remains alive as animal in harmony with Nature or given Being......the end of human Time or History – means quite simply the cessation of Action... the disappearance of wars and bloody revolutions. And also the disappearance of Philosophy; for since Man himself no longer changes essentially, there is no longer any reason to change the (true) principles which are the basis of his understanding of the World and of himself. But all the rest will be preserved indefinitely; art, love, play, etc, etc; in short, everything that makes Man happy.
- A. Kojève – footnote to the first edition of Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, pp. 158-9.

Post-historical humanity would thus be “happy zombies,” as it were. For, with the cessation of Action, the disappearance of Philosophy and the end of Becoming, language would become superfluous, mere glossolalia.

According to a footnote added to the second edition, which happened to appear during that fateful year that saw both Kojève's death and the release of Night of the Living Dead, this apocalypse signifies the post-historical epoch during which the Lion of American Capitalism shall lie down with the Lamb of Soviet Marxism (or vice-versa): One can even say that the United States has already attained the final state of Marxist “communism,” seeing that, practically all the members of a “classless society” can from now on appropriate for themselves everything that seems good to them, without working any more than their heart dictates.

...I was lead to conclude that the “American way of life” was the type of life specific to the post-historical period, the actual presence of the United States in the World prefiguring the “eternal present” future of all of humanity. Thus, Man's return to animality appeared no longer as a possibility that was yet to come, but as a certainty that was already present. (161)

Now, I am absolutely exhausted. My next piece will pick up precisely where I leave off today. For now, I need sleep lest I begin to crave sweet, succulent brains.

Hey, James, old Kojevnikoff says that Philosophy is over. He's wrong, but he makes a damn good case.

In the idea of classless society, Marx secularized the idea of messianic time.” -Walter Benjamin - “Paralipomena to 'On the Concept of History,” XVIIa, Selected Writings, Vol 4, pg. 401.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

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