The Recurrence of the End Times: Voegelin, Hegel, and the Stop-History Movements explores the deep connection between modern political ideologies and the secular eschatological hopes and dreams of a post-Christian society. Focusing primarily upon the thought of 20th century German émigré political scientist Eric Voegelin, the book argues that we cannot understand the globalized world in which we live unless we appreciate the lasting influence of the various "End of History" speculators—specifically, G.W.F Hegel, Alexandre Kojève, and Francis Fukuyama. Through a Voegelinian lens, he dissects the relationship between these three thinkers, also claiming that while Voegelin may have misunderstood Hegel, his critiques of the Hegelian approach to history offer fresh and important perspectives on the contemporary world. This makes a forceful argument that the idea of history as a teleological path, leading toward some goal—whether perfect harmony between nations, a technocratic utopia, a return to some romanticized idyllic “state of nature,” or what Kojève and Fukuyama called the “universal and homogenous State”—has vast, and perverse, implications for the trajectory of American foreign and domestic policy.
Michael J. Colebrookteaches in the World Languages and Religious Studies Department at St. John's High School.
Part I: General Introduction to the End of History Controversy
Chapter 1: The End of History, Identity Politics, and Transcendence
Chapter 2: The Origins of a Hegelian Misunderstanding
Part II: Hegel and the Crisis of Christian Salvation History
Chapter 3: Universal History Reimagined
Chapter 4: Elements of Historiogenesis
Chapter 5: Tradition-Bound Historiogenesis: Christian Historia Sacra
Chapter 6: Gnostic Historiogenesis: The Case of Hegel
Chapter 7: Historical Mankind and Historical Traditions
Part III: Intentionality and the Historical Process
Chapter 8: Voegelin on Human Consciousness
Chapter 9: Kojève’s Hegel on Time and History
Chapter 10: Voegelin on the Problem of Time and the “Stop-History” Movements
Part IV: Hegel’s Eclipse of Reality
Chapter 11: Hegel as Psychiatric Case Study?
Chapter 12: Voegelin and R.D. Laing on the Divided Self
Chapter 13: Does Hegel Manifest Schizoid Symptoms?
Chapter 14: Shortcomings in Laing’s Theory of the Two Selves
Chapter 15: Ontological Insecurity and Von Doderer’s Analysis of Second Realities
Chapter 16: Voegelin on Hegel’s Second Reality
Chapter 17: Voegelin’s Kojèvian “Code” as an Inadequate Interpretation of Hegel’s System
Part V: Kojève’s Hegel: Deliberate Falsification or Valid Exegesis?
Chapter 18: Possible Interpretations of End of History Thesis
Chapter 19: Kojève on the Present and Future
Chapter 20: How Valid Are Kojève’s Observations on the Modern World?
Chapter 21: Why Hegel’s Rational State is neither Universal nor Homogeneous
Chapter 22: What is Hegel’s Position on the End of History?
Chapter 23: Hegel on Transcendence and the “Beyond”
Conclusion: Transcendence, Death, and the Search for Order
Beginning with the assumption that we today are still fundamentally inhabitants of Hegel’s world-- the modern world-- Michael Colebrook has provided an always insightful and often provocative analysis of the relationship among Hegel, Alexandre Kojève, and Eric Voegelin. The latter two are themselves first-class thinkers whose commentaries on Hegel have generated considerable controversy. Colebrook’s focus is on the symbol “End of History,” made famous in Kojève’s lectures in the 1930s in Paris and a staple of French political thinking ever since. Coming to terms with Colebrook’s judicious interpretation will be a significant future task for scholars of any, or all, of these three thinkers.
It is of critical importance, in our cultural moment, that we understand the meaning of modern theories proclaiming “the end of history,” as well as the origins and appeal of the “stop-history” movements that are prevalent across the political spectrum. Colebrook’s study of Hegel and Voegelin illuminates these issues with remarkable vigor, incisiveness, and scope, and addresses also the outsize influence on twentieth-century thought of Alexandre Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel. Political theorists should be very grateful for this unique and timely book.
Western thought has been tempted for two centuries or more by the dream of putting an end to things by solving the human political problem once and for all. As Colebrook has argued with impressive clarity and insight, Voegelin saw that only grave evils could flow from the effort to replace the only human condition we know with a “Second Reality” that was fictive in every sense of the word. But along the way, Voegelin more or less accepted Alexandre Kojève’s mistaken claim that Hegel was wholly complicit in this project. Colebrook’s truly thoughtful book vindicates Voegelin’s anti-utopian wisdom while rescuing Hegel from his misappropriation by Kojève, the theorist par excellence of “End of History” and the “universal and the homogenous state.” Colebrook’s book is political philosophy and intellectual history at its best.