Deconstructing Debates on History

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by Shahzada Rahim Abbas

Overview

The title of the book was chosen due to inspiration from Nietzsche’s famous book ‘Beyond good and Evil’, which has marked an unprecedented turning point in the history of philosophy. Hence, the book titled ‘Beyond Civilization and History’ is intended to outline the politico-historical debate, since the dawn of the 20th century. The discussion in the book will cover pre-modern, modern, and post-modern discourse of the history of civilizations. The debate mainly focuses on the modernist and post-modernist historical context especially surrounding the writings of Oswald Spengler, Norman Angell, Arnold J. Toynbee, and Alexander Dugin.

The discussion will begin with modernist historical literature based on Arnold J. Toynbee’s ‘Study of History (I-XII Volumes)’ by vying the interplay of various parallels such as growth, rise, decline, decay, disintegration, breakdown, and fall of civilizations. Then, the discussion will be moderated by anti-modern historical literature based on Oswald Spengler’s ‘Decline of the West’ by vying the interplay of countering parallels such as ‘Culture as the sign of growth’ and ‘civilization as the symbol of decline’. Furthermore, the discussion in the book will be interlaced by the technical historical literature based on Norman Angell’s ‘Europe’s Optical Illusions’ by taking into account the impact of industrialism and finance on history. Finally, the discussion will be shifted to post-modern historical discourse developed by Alexander Dugin through Heideggerian phenomenology by vying the role of political theology and radical politics in the study of history and civilizations.

On the contrary, in the philological context, history is chaos, civilization is a dystopia, culture is contamination and philosophy is the process of re-discovering the ontological tenets of the meta-phenomenon. With the dawn of the twentieth century, the degeneration of the glorious west was speculated by Oswald Spengler, who asserted that western society has reached its peak. After the two Great Wars, famous British Historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who designated the transformative phase of western society by indicating the rapid socio-political developments of post-war Europe, reiterated this debate. With this dialectical confrontation between declinists like Spengler and pragmatists like Toynbee, the debate surrounding history and civilization became polarized for decades to come. This book explores the new philosophical study of modernist and postmodernist perspectives on History.

Exerpts:

“Carl Schmitt pioneered the concept of political theology by overhauling forces in history. In addition, it was the very context of anthropological architecture, which gave birth to the philosophy of history. But in Schmittian discourse, the philosophy of history must be replaced with ‘inquiry of the truth’. Martin Heidegger denied the philosophy of history by saying that modern philosophers have not understood the political philosophy of Aristotle and Plato.” pp. 4.

“In his book ‘Beyond good and Evil’ Nietzsche explains a clear distinction between the ‘written and painted thoughts’ and the thoughts in their original form that resembles the strength of Logos. Moreover, the subtitle of the book is ‘prelude to a philosophy of the future’, which refers to a new kind of philosophy, which will liberate the minds of men from the prejudice of other philosophers—the specimen for the beginning of a new philosophy.” pp. 15

“Anthropologically, history as discipline has diffused itself into qualitative and quantitative lots because as anthro-history, the level of analysis revolves around the idea and knowledge of past. To be more precise, in the anthropological domain, history as a discipline bears a solemn responsibility of instituting facts by ordering the patterns, founding the series, defining the unities and describing the relations. As an illustration, the historical discourse appraises the genesis of everything ranges from sociology, politics, anthropology, economics and archeology to develop description of ‘Whole’ from ‘Parts’. The major aim of this description is to break the ‘totality’, by grounding the essence of historical subjects. Consequently, the formation and deformation of ‘Totalities’ have been one of the important faculty of history. It is because, by breaking ‘totality’, history transcends itself from the absolute phenomenon to universalized discipline.” pp.22

“if we move to the historical discourse of Oswald Spengler; it is monumental and methodologically reductive. Moreover, in various contexts, it engulfs epistemology and metaphysics because the term ‘Decline’ is a pure discourse that explains the degeneration of European modernity. In this regard, Oswald Spengler compels us to re-envision our understanding of the world history by emphasizing the Modern European historical discourse. If we try to understand the phenomenon of modern history especially from the perspective of Lord Acton then the whole analysis of history has taken science and scientific methods as a genuine technique of analysis. But Oswald Spengler had rejected this notion and given birth to the metaphysical interpretation of the history of the modern world and calls the whole history as world history, not nature. For Spengler, the world as nature and its scientific methods or mathematical calculations give us the understanding of the world as ‘Space’ while Spengler’s analysis of the ‘World as history’ gives the understanding of the world as ‘becoming’—the world of time. In the Karl Popperian domain, Spengler rejected the notion that the principles and laws of natural sciences can be exactly applied to the social sciences—especially history.” pp. 133

Contents:

List of Tables and Figures   v

Acknowledgement   vii

Preface   viii

  1. The essence of the philosophy of History   1
  2. The breakdown of the civilizations   25

Nature  35

  1. The Universal Prejudice against Civilization   40
  2. Physical environment: the Curse  43
  3. Human Environment: The living apocalypse  48
  4. Russia and the Great European Civilization: 62
  5. Industrial Age and rise of new social forces   73
  6. Industrial revolution and Capitalism   83
  7. Democracy and Education  84
  8. The quest for Futurism    93
  9. The onslaught of Modernity on Civilization    103
  10. The Antagonism   111
  11. Great trial: Toynbee, Spengler, and Dugin    115

Notes   167

Photo: Shahzada Rahim

January 2nd 2022