|ND Guide Pages 295-353|
Universal History 313-315|
Universal history is to be construed and denied. The assertion that an all-encompassing world-plan for the better manifests itself in history would be, after past catastrophes and in view of future ones, cynical. This however is not a reason to deny the unity which welds together the discontinuous, chaotically fragmented moments and phases of history, that of the control of nature, progressing into domination over human beings and ultimately over internalized nature. No universal history leads from savagery to humanity, but one indeed from the slingshot to the H-bomb. It culminates in the total threat of organized humanity against organized human beings, in the epitome of discontinuity. Hegel is thereby verified by the horror and stood on his head. If he transfigured the totality of historical suffering into the positivity of the self-realizing absolute, then the One and the whole, which to this day, with breathing-spells, keep rolling on, would teleologically be absolute suffering. History is the unity of continuity and discontinuity. Society preserves itself not in spite of its antagonism but through it; the profit-motive, and thereby the class relationship, are objectively the motor of the process of production on which everyone's life depends and whose primacy has its vanishing-point in the death of all. This implies also what is reconciling in the irreconcilable; because it alone allows human beings to live, without it there would not even be the possibility of a different life. What historically created that possibility, can destroy it just as easily. The world-spirit, a worthy object of definition, could be defined as permanent catastrophe.
Antagonism Contingent? 315-317|
However the intransigence of the doctrine, especially in Engels, was for its part precisely political. He and Marx wished for the revolution as one of the economic relationships in society as a whole, in the fundament of its self-preservation, not as the changing of the ground-rules of domination, its political form. The point was directed at the anarchists. What motivated Marx and Engels to translate even humanity's prehistory, its fall from grace, as it were, into political economy, although its very concept, chained to the totality of the exchange-relationship, is itself something late, was the expectation of immediately impending revolution. Because they wished for this right away, it was of the utmost importance to them to strike down tendencies, which they feared would be similarly defeated just as Spartacus formerly, or the rebellious peasants. They were enemies of utopia for the sake of its realization. Their imago of revolution stamped that of the primal world; the overwhelming weight of the economic contradictions in capitalism seemed to demand its derivation from the accumulated objectivity of what, since inconceivably distant times, was historically stronger. They could not have suspected what appeared later, in the failure of the revolution, even where it succeeded: that domination is capable of outlasting the planned economy, which neither of them to be sure would have confused with state-capitalism; a potential, which the antagonistic tendency explicated by Marx and Engels of the economic, sharpened against mere politics, prolongs beyond its specific phase. The tenacity of domination after the fall of what the critique of political economy had as its main object, confers upon ideology the cheap triumph, which deduces domination, be it out of presumably inalienable forms of social organization, for instance those of centralization, be it out of those of the consciousness abstracted from the real process – the ratio – and subsequently prophesizes an infinite future for domination, with open understanding or under crocodile-tears, for as long as any sort of organized society exists. By contrast the critique of the politics fetishized as an existent-in-itself, or that of the Spirit, inflated into its particularity, retains its power. The idea of the historical totality is touched upon however by the events of the twentieth century, as one of calculable economic necessity. Only if things could have been different; only if the totality, socially necessary appearance [Schein] as the hypostasis of the generality, which is squeezed out of individual human beings, is broken of the claim of its absoluteness, does critical social consciousness preserve the freedom of thought, that one day things might be different. Theory is capable of moving the immeasurable weight of historical necessity solely by cognizing this as appearance [Schein] turned into reality, the historical determination as metaphysically accidental.
Popular Spirit Obsolete 333-335|
Hegel's thesis, that noone could "leap beyond the spirit of [their] people, any more than one could leap beyond the earth", is in the epoch of telluric conflicts and the potential of a telluric arrangement of the world utterly provincial. In few other places does Hegel pay so dear a toll to history, as where he thinks history. Nevertheless he also thought to the point, where the popular spirits he hypostasized were for their part so relativized in the philosophy of history, that he might have considered it possible for the world-spirit to one day escape from the popular spirits, and clear a space for cosmopolitanism. "Every single new popular spirit is a new stage in the conquest of the world-spirit, towards the winning of its consciousness, its freedom. The death of a popular spirit is the transition into life, and indeed not as in nature, where the death of one calls a similar one into existence. Rather the world-spirit strides forwards from the humble determination to higher principles, concepts of itself, to more developed portrayals [Darstellungen] of its idea." Accordingly the idea of a world-spirit to be "conquered", realized through the downfall of the self-realizing popular spirits and transcending them, would in any case be open. Only no progress of world-history by virtue of its transition from nation to nation is to be trusted anymore in a phase, in which the victor no longer ends up at that higher stage, which was probably only attested to it, because it was the victor. Thereby however the consolation of the downfall of peoples comes to resemble the cyclical theories down to Spengler. The philosophical decree concerning the germination [Werden] and extinction [Vergehen] of entire peoples or cultures drowns out the fact that what is irrational and incomprehensible in history became self-evident, because it was never any different; robbing the talk of progress of its content. In spite of the well-known definition of history, Hegel did not work out any sort of theory of progress. The Hegelian migration of the world-spirit from one popular spirit to another is the migration of peoples puffed up into metaphysics; this latter indeed, something which sweeps over human beings, is the prototype of world history itself, whose Augustinian conception fell in the era of the migration of peoples. The unity of world history, which animates philosophy to trace it out as the path of the world-spirit, is the unity of what rolls over, of horror, the immediate antagonism. Concretely Hegel did not go beyond nations except in the name of their unforeseeably repeated annihilation. The Ring of the Schopenhauerian Wagner is more Hegelian, than Wagner ever knew.
In human experience, the bane is the equivalent of the fetish-character of the commodity. What is self-made becomes the In-itself, out of which the self can no longer escape; in the dominating faith in facts as such, in their positive acceptance, the subject worships its mirror-image. The reified consciousness has become total as the bane. That it is a false one, holds the promise of the possibility of its sublation: that it would not remain such, that false consciousness would inescapably move beyond itself, that it could not have the last word. The more the society is steered by the totality, which reproduces itself in the bane of subjects, the deeper too its tendency towards dissociation. This latter threatens the life of the species, as much as it denies the bane of the whole, the false identity of subject and object. The general, which compresses the particular as if by an instrument of torture, until it splinters, labors against itself, because it has its substance in the life of the particular; without it, it sinks down into the abstract, separate and voidable form. Franz Neumann diagnosed this in the institutional sphere in Behemoth: the disassembly into disconnected and warring power-apparatuses is the secret of the total fascist state. Anthropology corresponds to this, the chemism of human beings. Unresistingly delivered over to the collective bad state of affairs, they lose identity. It is not entirely improbable that the bane is thereby tearing itself apart. What would like to provisionally gloss over the total structure of society under the name of pluralism, receives its truth from such self-announcing disintegration; simultaneously from horror and from a reality, in which the bane explodes. Freud's Civilization and its Discontents has a content, which was scarcely available to him; it is not solely in the psyche of the socialized that the aggressive drives accumulate to the point of openly destructive pressure, but the total socialization objectively breeds its counter-force [Widerspiel], without to this day being able to say, whether it is the catastrophe or the emancipation.
"Natural History" 347-351|
The so-called law of nature, which nevertheless would only be one of capitalist society, is therefore termed mystification by Marx: "The law of capitalist accumulation, mystified into a law of nature, expresses therefore in fact only that its nature excludes every such decrease in the degree of exploitation of labor or every such increase of the price of labor, which could seriously endanger the continual reproduction of the relationships of capital and its reproduction on a constantly expanded level. It cannot be otherwise in a mode of production, wherein the laborer is there for the necessity of valorization of extant values, instead conversely of the objective wealth for the developmental needs of the laborer." That law is nature-like due to the character of its inescapability under the dominating relationships of production. Ideology does not eclipse social being like a detachable layer, but is inherent in the latter. It is grounded in the abstraction, which counts as essential for the process of exchange. There would no be no exchange without disregarding living human beings. This implies the necessarily social appearance [Schein] in the real process of life to this day. Its core is value as a thing in itself, as "nature". The natural-rootedness of capitalist society is real and at the same time that appearance [Schein]. That the assumption of natural laws is not to be taken à la lettre [French: literally], least of all to be ontologized in the sense of a however stylized draft of so-called humanity, is confirmed by the strongest motive of Marxist theory of all, that of the potential abolition of those laws. Where the realm of freedom had begun, they would no longer apply. The Kantian distinction of a realm of freedom from one of necessity is transposed, by means of the mobilization of the Hegelian mediating philosophy of history, onto the sequence of phases. Only such an inversion of the Marxist motives as that of Diamat [Eastern bloc acronym for the state-approved version of "dialectical materialism"], which prolongs the realm of necessity with the assertion that it would be that of freedom, could degenerate into falsifying the polemical Marxist concept of natural lawfulness from a construction of natural history into a scientific doctrine of invariants. In the meantime the Marxist talk of natural history loses nothing of its truth-content, namely that of its critical one. Hegel still made do with a personified transcendental subject, which indeed already fell short of the subject. Marx denounces not only the Hegelian transfiguration, but the matter-at-hand which it experienced. Human history, progressive natural domination, continues the unconscious one of nature, of devouring and being devoured. Marx was ironically a social Darwinist: what the Social Darwinists praised and wished to act according to, is for him the negativity, in which the possibility of its sublation awakens. A passage from the Outline of Political Economy leaves no doubt as to the critical essence of his insight into natural history: "Now as much as the whole of this movement appears as a social process, and as much as the individual moments of this movement proceed from the conscious will and particular ends of individuals, so much does the totality of the process appear as an objective context, which originates naturally [naturwuechsig]; indeed proceeds out of the reciprocal effect of conscious individuals, but neither lies in their consciousness, nor is subsumed under them as a whole." Such a social concept of nature has its own dialectic. The natural lawfulness of society is ideology, to the extent it is hypostasized as an immutable given fact of nature. Natural lawfulness is real however as a law of motion of unconscious society, as it is pursued in Capital from the analysis of the commodity form down to the theory of economic crisis in a phenomenology of the anti-Spirit. The changes in each constitutive economic form took place like those of animal species, which arise and go extinct over millions of years.
History and Metaphysics 351-353|
Instead, it would be up to thought to see all nature, and whatever installs itself as such, as history and all history as nature, "to comprehend the historical being in its uttermost historical determinacy, there, where it is most historical, as itself a nature-like being, or to comprehend nature, there, where it is apparently most profoundly rooted as nature, as a historical being." The moment however, in which history and nature become commensurable, is that of transience; Benjamin centrally cognized this in the Origin of the German Tragedy-Play. Nature hovers before the Baroque poets, runs the text, "as eternal transience, in which the Saturnine glance of that generation alone recognized history." Not only of theirs; natural history was ever in the canon of the interpretation of the philosophy of history: "When history made its entrance onto the stage in the tragedy-play, it did so as script. On the countenance of Nature stood 'History' as the signifying text of transience. The allegorical physiognomy of Natural History, which was introduced to the stage through the tragedy-play, is truly present as ruin." This is the transmutation of metaphysics into history. It secularizes metaphysics into the secular category pure and simple, that of decay. Philosophy points to that signifying text, the always new Menetekel, in that which is smallest, the fragments struck loose by decay and which bear objective meanings. No meditation on transcendence is possible any more except by virtue of transience; eternity appears not as such but as shot through with what is most transient. Where Hegelian metaphysics equates, by transfiguring it, the life of the absolute with the totality of the transience of everything finite, it gazes at the same time just the slightest bit beyond the mythical bane, which it captures and reinforces.