Circulation and Constitution at the End of History
Publication: in Endings: Questions of Memory in Hegel and Heidegger, ed. by Rebecca Comay and John McCumber. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1999, 57-76.
Hegel’s claims about the end of history seem bold and disturbingly specific. Could he really have believed that the institutional forms he discerned in the Europe of his day were the last word in society and politics? Many argue that developments since Hegel’s time have undermined any claim that the particular political and economic structures he describes are the final and necessary mediations of social unity. Some others, liberals or postmoderns, do speak about what amounts to an end of history today, but they are satisfied with far less detail than Hegel; usually, they restrict themselves to general commendations of capitalism and representative democracy. But their real difference from Hegel concerns more than generality; it concerns the necessity Hegel sees for definite intermediate structures in thought and society. This necessity also puts Hegel at odds with Heidegger’s comments about the end of metaphysics and the final technological society.
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