Article

Regression in history: where are we now?

This paper starts from a remark by Jürgen Habermas to the effect that, while evolutionary sequences are irreversible – i.e., there is always progress – there can be retrogressions in evolutionary processes, brought on by force, such as Nazi Germany. It raises doubts about the supposed inevitability of historical progress, however defined, and then goes on to explore the meaning of history and the intelligibility of history, taken to be two distinct notions. Sartre‟s view that history has no final meaning which we could ever know is preferred over Hegel‟s and Marx‟s conceptions of the meaning of history. The issue of intelligibility is explored in the light of recent “surprises,” such as the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc. Finally, it is maintained that the current cult of free market capitalism, which assumes the pursuit of libido dominandi to be supremely good, constitutes a serious, destructive historical regression that deserves to be combatted with the tools of criticism. This paper starts from a remark by Jürgen Habermas to the effect that, while evolutionary sequences are irreversible – i.e., there is always progress – there can be retrogressions in evolutionary processes, brought on by force, such as Nazi Germany. It raises doubts about the supposed inevitability of historical progress, however defined, and then goes on to explore the meaning of history and the intelligibility of history, taken to be two distinct notions. Sartre‟s view that history has no final meaning which we could ever know is preferred over Hegel‟s and Marx‟s conceptions of the meaning of history. The issue of intelligibility is explored in the light of recent “surprises,” such as the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc. Finally, it is maintained that the current cult of free market capitalism, which assumes the pursuit of libido dominandi to be supremely good, constitutes a serious, destructive historical regression that deserves to be combatted with the tools of criticism.

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