So in response to the modest demand that I say more about the Strauss-Kojeve panel at the APSA, here is another portion of my comments.
In Hegel himself and in Kojeve sometimes–and, of course, in Fukuyama’s lullaby version of Kojeve–the philosophical observation that history has ended isn’t meant to produce progressivist revolution but actually a kind of conservative satisfaction. There’s no more need for revolution and the accompanying slaughter–although the need for police action against deviant irrational evildoers remains. The end of history isn’t the radical negation of, say, THE CAPITALIST given. The end of history IS America. America properly understood has always been the end of History.
So, as Marx explains in “On the Jewish Question,” God is absent from the American Constitution because the presence of religion signifies human dissatisfaction rooted in historical imperfection. Because the American Constitution recognizes perfectly, in principle, that equal freedom of every human person, it has no need for God. For Marx, all that remained to be done was to infuse the “heaven” of American political principles into every nook and cranny of American hellish and therefore very religious private life. Someone might say–certainly Justice Kennedy has– the Supreme Court has been using the 14th Amendment to get that job done. As the feminists used to say, the personal increasingly has become the political, as women now–in the service of their free existence as Historical and so not natural or biological beings–have the right not only to abortion but the right to free contraception. And we all have the right to be recognized in or have dignity accorded to our free and equal relational autonomy. As Kennedy explains, American history is nothing but the working out of the details over time of the Constitution’s true idea of human liberty.
Fukuyama’s case for there being no credible political alternative left in the world but American-style liberal democracy is strong. One piece of evidence among many is our pervasive political correctness: The only criticism of America allowed concerns residual racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. Criticism is limited to the inconsistent application of American principle so far.
But one reason among many, we Tocquevillians say, philosophers shouldn’t be satisfied with contemplating America is Americans don’t seem so satisfied. America is good when it comes to justice and prosperity. But it stinks when it comes to love and death and relational issues generally. So America isn’t really the end of History, we can say, as long as Americans are remain free beings born to know, love, and die. We Americans haven’t really attained the wisdom we most need, that’s for sure. We really don’t know who we are and what we’re supposed to do.
Kojeve agrees, when he’s most persuasive, that the end of History means that members of our species are no longer free beings moved by loved and death. The end of History is the end of the Historical being, the being with time in him, the end of man properly so-called. That means that the most consistent effort to describe America as the end of history was written by that student of Kojeve Allan Bloom– the one originally called SOULS WITHOUT LONGING. A soul without longing, a flat soul, of course, isn’t really a soul. It isn’t, as Hegel and Kojeve say, part of the phenomenology of spirit at all. Bloom says the key to understanding America is that we’ve returned to Rousseau’s state of nature. We’ve become–as we were in the beginning–emotional solitaries unmoved by love and death.
So you would have thought that Bloom would have taken satisfaction in his wisdom in describing America as the free and rational or completely unaccidental working out of the project of the philosophers. The end of that rational project would have to be the end of freedom or History and the replacement of philosophy by wisdom.
But no, Bloom isn’t satisfied with contemplating America and Americans. He remains in the thrall of the philosophic experience, which is all about being moved by death–meaning his death. He says he finds flat-souled people incomprehensible in terms of his own experience. But he really can explain why his own experience has become incomprehensible; everything and everyone else can be explained without it. So what causes Bloom to differ from Kojeve is his intransigent refusal to affirm the wisdom he can see with his own eyes, just because he can’t include himself in it. That “the philosopher” can’t be satisfied with History’s end isn’t much of an objection if philosophy has been replaced by wisdom.