You see, sometimes, my voracious and borderline psychotic reading habits end up striking some really cool, productive synergies.
Late last month, I began diving into Francis Fukuyama, the last of the Big Four thinkers that define modern conservatism that I have to explore for what I want to do in my Utopias manuscript. He’s also the weirdest of the Big Four, for reasons I've gone into before, and will again.
I also discarded the second-hand biography of David Foster Wallace I had been reading, for reasons I've also explained on the blog. Instead, I picked up Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx from my shelf. An old friend from McMaster gave me a pile of Derrida books when he was cleaning out his bookshelves a few years ago. And I finally got around to this one.
|Because that "invading a country into democracy" plan|
worked out really well, didn't it?
I thought it would be a little useful to the project, but I didn't realize just how much. Spectres of Marx is an extended response to the popular impact of Fukuyama’s End of History.
Derrida takes End of History to task for all kinds of flaws, all the flaws that made it so seductive to the movement in the Washington elite that would found Project for a New American Century.
The idea that, as soon as oppressive or autocratic state machinery was destroyed, its population would naturally form a peaceful, fully functional liberal democracy, because this was the universal endpoint of the human struggle for freedom. This is the notion behind the W. Bush Administration's ideology that the people of Iraq would welcome the invading American army as liberators.
Fukuyama’s revival of Hegel as a prophet of capitalist liberal democracy is the unexpected philosophical centre of this notion that’s led to more than a decade of brutal war in Arabia, the Maghreb, and the Fertile Crescent already.
Fukuyama essentially pitched liberal democracy as the only possible outcome of the inherent human drive for freedom because it’s the only kind of state through which everyone recognizes each other as having equal civil rights before the law.
I’d venture that Derrida is probably best at poking holes in other people's supposedly iron-clad ideas and ventures by hauling their blind spots into the light. An example is one jab at Fukuyama that appears in Spectres of Marx.
Fukuyama considers his conception of freedom ideologically neutral when it comes to religion. Freedom in liberal democracy is entirely secular because liberal democracy enshrines your freedom to worship as you wish among your civil rights to freedom of thought. As long as your religious practice doesn't infringe on the rights of another, you’re cool.
|Fukuyama was also wrong about the Middle East's|
Muslim population having no desire for freedom from
their autocratic regimes, as we could see in the
revolutions of 2011-12. Bouazizi lives.
Then he does something very weird, not only for a supposedly secular thinker, but for one who'd have such a deep influence on people who believed they could democratize the entire Middle East by invading Iraq and installing a parliamentary government.
He says the Muslim world of the Persian Gulf and the Maghreb are exceptions from this universal drive. Ostensibly, this is because their governments satiate their populations with handouts from their states' massive oil wealth.
But this is a poor excuse, making no allowance for autocratic regimes in Muslim states without oil wealth, like Egypt and Jordan. It makes no allowance for there having been no successful revolution against Saddam Hussein during the international sanctions regime, when oil wealth couldn’t reach the populace anymore. It makes no allowance for why there hasn’t been a mass uprising among the enslaved populations in Saudi Arabia and the small, oil-rich emirates.
There's something more going on here, and Derrida identifies it as rooted in the parts of Hegel’s philosophy that Fukuyama wants to ignore when he adapts the German's system to justify the perfect character of liberal democratic ideals.
It's a philosophy that holds Christianity to be the one true religion. . . . To be continued