The Past Is Prologue

From both a Hegelian and Durkheimian perspective, world history is moving towards a “collective end” or goal. In Hegelian terms, the collective end or goal is the evolution of the collective mind or spirit (“Geist”) which can be explained phenomenologically. From a Durkheimian perspective, the collective end or goal is the result of “structural functionalism,” which suggests that the world system functions as a unified body despite its different parts. Whereas the Hegelian perspective on the teleology of world history has to be explained phenomenologically, the Durkheimian perspective towards the teleology of world history is explained sociologically, given that the Durkheimian perspective holds that society – or the “collective life” – exerts itself as well as its ends and goals on the individual.

            On the other hand, the Anglo-American utilitarian perspective suggests that the ends or goals of human life are individualistic and cannot be explained collectively, and these ends or goals on an individualistic level pertain to the individual’s attainment of individual happiness. Thus, whereas the Hegelian and Durkheimian perspectives on ends and goals are collective in nature, the utilitarian perspective of Anglo-America sees ends and goals as being limited to the individual level. Collective ends or goals from an Anglo-American utilitarian perspective are largely seen as drivers for dangerous economic, political, and social systems such as communism or fascism. Also, the “Great Man Theory” – which plays a large role in the philosophical life of Continental Europe and Eurasia as a whole – is discarded and dismissed as authoritarian and anti-democratic by Anglo-America as a result of the experiences with individuals such as Napoleon and Hitler.

            Thus, the ends or goals of world history are either individualistic and scattered as suggested by Anglo-American utilitarian philosophy, or there is a collective nature to the ends and goals of world history as suggested by Continental European philosophy. As a result, there are different interpretations and outlooks towards the teleology of world history depending on the philosophical camp or tradition one espouses. If one were to take the ontological state underpinning each side of the issue, the Anglo-American utilitarian perspective towards the teleology of world history seems hollow and superficial. Meaning and purpose – and thus a richer ontological state – is found in the Continental European perspective towards the teleology of world history.

            Anglo-American hegemony over the international system through the course of the last two centuries has imposed its peculiar worldview and its perspective towards the teleology of world history on others. But one may argue that the tide is turning, considering that the age of Anglo-American global hegemony is winding down. Instead of having world history end with the dominance of an Anglo-American worldview, there may be a reversion to the Continental European or Eurasian worldview as world history reaches its end. After all, Anglo-American global hegemony covers only 200 out of the 300,000 years of human history. What if the ontological state and worldview of Anglo-America which dominated the international system for the last 200 years was an anomaly or aberration from the natural course of world history? Clearly, there is a rich debate to be had over this particular question.

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