Genel

Neoconservatism Proves Heidegger Is Right

Years ago Leo Strauss(1899-1973) began one of his most prominent articles saying “(W)hoever is concerned with political philosophy must face the fact that in the last two generations political philosophy has lost its credibility.”[1] That means to him “…politics itself has become more philosophic than ever in a sense.”[2] Thus is the rule of philosophy came upon politics, in other words, the rule of ideologies. The problem is in modern times politics becomes universal as opposed to any other time in history. In most history “political philosophy was universal while politics was particular.”[3] But now in our global age every particular politics has a universal implication, therefore, all politics tends to be universal. Then, if politics should be universal, what could make politics universal? Naturally, philosophy! The philosophy of Hegel, or Marx or Communism or Fascism or Nazism or say Islam. Maybe beyond all good and evil the philosophy of the teacher of Heidegger: the overman of Nietzsche who overcomes himself and all history and philosophy including Greek philosophy. “His supremacy is shown by the fact that he solves the highest, the most difficult problem”[4] that is “the problem of Socrates” and eventually of Adam the human.  Leo Strauss thinks according to Heidegger, we are in “the absolute moment” which “may be the absolute moment of all previous history.”[5] Here Hegel, another German, comes up. “His system of philosophy, the final philosophy, the perfect solution of all philosophic problems belongs to the moment when mankind has solved in principle its political problem by establishing the post-revolutionary state, the first state to recognize the equal dignity of every human being as such.” So this is “absolute peak of history, being the end of history.”[6]

It strangely sounds like Fukuyama. Sorry indeed Fukuyama sounds like Hegelian progressive history as he relates the historical base of his theory to Hegel. For Fukuyama the last stop of history is his liberal democracy which may establish hegelian post-revolutionary global state. But not does every hegelian think so. Some other Hegelians thought it could be a perfectly global Nazi state based on the Nietszchean super men of “blond beast.” On the other hand, Marxist Hegelians thought it could be a universal global communist state which overcomes all class warfare and “men would be able or compelled for the first time to lead truly human lives.”[7] And Nietszche “identified” this type of man, “the man of the communist world society as the last man”[8] which was even not close to his own type. His “alternative to the last man is the over-man, a type of man surpassing and overcoming all previous human types in greatness and nobility; the overmen of the future will be ruled invisibly by the philosophers of the future.”[9] Unfortunately we are not able to know what Usame bin Ladin thinks about Hegel.

Apparently, Fukuyama picks up a Marxist-Hegelian argument for his version of “end of history” and “the last man.” So he labels his ex-neoconservative friends being Marxist-Leninist(American Bolsheviks) who believe history could be changed and progressed by force(his own terms: “history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will.”)[10] But he thinks the reverse: history could not be pushed by force, it has to evolve in its course by itself(his own terms: “the existence of long-term process of social evolution.”)[11] However, is it not Marx who said “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”? Indeed, it should be enough to recognize the fact that all these Marxist or Leninist arguments are exchanged between neoconservative Americans who are happened to live in the castle of liberal capitalist democracy. Anyway were most of them ex-Trotskyites as Fukuyama indicates?  No question the irony of being American is great.

What is more, Fukuyama thinks his end of history is “an argument about modernization” not liberal democracy at all.[12] Of course the writer of any text has the most priority and correctness to interpret what he writes as a thinker thinks what he really thinks among all. But in my opinion Fukuyama’s interpretation of his own text might have problems. Fukuyama’s argument is not about modernization as he thinks or liberal democracy as others think but it is about what system would best fit thymotic urge of humanity( thymotic urge could be thought to echo as “the will to power” in Nietzsche.)

The problem of humanity is not about the satisfaction of economics or anything else. It is about the plausible and consistent organization of universal values in the form of various thymotic urges(the need or struggle for individual recognition.) So here Fukuyama’s argument is that “liberal democracy and capitalism are best equipped to remain stable while seeking the balance point between material equality and satisfaction of thymos.”[13] He thinks so because in liberal democracy power is shared by many, basically people of any given country, and in a democratic governmental establishment the distribution and intensity of power could be checked by the three branches of government, legislature, executive, and judiciary. In addition, capitalism can be a good means to domesticate the various types of thymotic urges, and calm and integrate the strong willed people into society in a healthy and positive way. Otherwise, if these people go to not the direction of market but the direction of religion and politics as Bush and his true believer neoconservative bodies and their allies, evangelicals, do, they can damage both themselves and society and unbalance world order in a great proportion and maybe some unreturnable ways.

It is obvious Fukuyama puts his trust into the ability of liberal capitalist democracy to represent thymotic urges of people, and transform them into some kind of domesticated stabilized conditions of citizenships. Here people should not run in a battle field with his sword and shield in full strength and make-up yelling warcries against his national/theological enemies, but simply they can do the same kinds of things like Redskins versus Cowboys in Fedex fields of NFL arenas peacefully. And in the end some bones and hearts could be broken but no serious casualties probably would be reported, and most people go home his thymotic urge satisfied without harm. The key point in this scenario is that liberal democracy allows, and capable of the popular representation and distribution of power in a way Platonic facilities of human mind; thymos, desire, and reason can come together in tranquility, balance and wisdom(because they could be trained for common good in liberal democratic structure), so we can avoid Aristotelian “endless oscillation” of human history in which “‘last men’ composed of desire and reason would ultimately give way to a thymotic society of bestial ‘first men.’”[14]

Fukuyama can theorize a scenario like this because he lives in the most successful example of liberal democratic state. Because of that, the core process of his scenario is rooted in what has happened in Europe and America in the last 500 years. The said period witnesses not only Enlightenment and Reform but also a development which might be the most significant development in the European continent: the rise of bourgeoisie. No doubt the rise of a new middle class accompanied by Reform and Enlightenment movements and geographical discoveries changed all equations in Europe. As Tocqueville rightly pointed out, “when a nation begins to modify the elective qualification, it may be easily be foreseen that sooner or later, that qualification will be entirely abolished.”[15] That’s exactly what European(French Revolution) and American(American Revolution) bourgeoisie did in their continents and countries. That was the beginning of popularizing, distributing, and separating power into different but more importantly multiple hands.

Al in all bourgeoisie needs a place to legislate laws and to secure its rights and privileges and to put limits to the rights and privileges of King. So did the Parliaments and Houses of Common and Representatives emerge. In other words, democracy: popular government. For its own justification Bourgeoisie needs to take the legitimacy of Kings and monarchies based on divine law, and its theoretically revealing place, the authority of church. So was secularism conducted: separation of church and state. Beyond all what bourgeoisie does for its life? It trades, buys and sells, so its business is in the free market. So did capitalism unfold. And what is the best fit for this bourgeoisie enterprise? It is obviously modern nation-state. It is democratic, secularist, capitalist and eventually national(Does it universal?) With the rise of bourgeoisie, more thymotic urges were able to be represented in social-political system and more so many people below bourgeoisie level would follow that path too. In the end maybe bourgeoisie has been only a means to expand and distribute power into all levels of society, so all thymotic urges could be balanced and represented and satisfied in this process like Adam Smith’s free market theory in which all exchanges in market balance itself if it is left in its own natural course. But the question is it really happens in practice as it is thought in theory. We could say existing evidence testifies against theory.  Then, the theory of Fukuyama is tied to an assumption which there is an essential link between liberal democracy and thymos of people to create and endure peaceful and universal societies and states. The rise of bourgeoisie enabled to establish and develop this connection which was transformed into all levels of society. Therefore, the ultimate point of Fukuyama is about how the representation and conduction of all kinds of thymotic urges could best be realized in a social-political system for which he thinks modern liberal democratic structure is the most meaningful and logical candidate. As it is illustrated above, Fukuyama’s theory is not about any “modernization” project as he thinks so, but it is about the representation and conduction of all kinds of thymotic urges in a relative balance which he thinks possible at best in terms of liberal democracy. That’s why, he disfavors Nazi modernization as he does Stalinist or Maoist one. It is important to bear in mind that there is always a possibility for a modern tyranny which was already attempted in the past century several times in various places of the earth. It is clear Fukuyama would see that kind of realization of thymotic urge as an ill development. Then, at the moment it is fair to ask what is the problem of modern liberalism and liberal democracy which could not bring “the end of history” and “the last man” yet as Fukuyama theorizes.

Indeed, very problem I just mentioned make busy many modern minds but probably mostly our neoconservatives including Fukuyama, and primarily their great inspiration, American- German Jewish thinker Leo Strauss.[16] As Fukuyama indicates Leo Strauss “was concerned with the crisis of modernity brought on by the relativism of Nietzsche and Heidegger.”[17] In an individual level, this concern could be read as a consequence of a potential conflict between one who is the member of the God’s chosen clan and another who declares ‘God’ who is the God of Israel or the father of Son ‘is dead.’ Whether Leo Strauss’ comments on Heidegger’s voluntary support to Nazis whose ideology he “could speak of ‘the inner truth and greatness of National Socialism’”[18] even in 1953 could be counted as an opinion on “contemporary politics” or not, it is certain there should be some kind of animosity between the two men one of whom supports Nazis philosophically and another whose family members could be Holocaust victims because of their philosophical-theological-political conditions, simply being Jew.

So does “the German-Jewish Question”[19] arise. Leo Strauss thinks modern liberalism failed in Germany in the form of Weimar Republic who was taken over by Nazis and transformed to III. Reich, so “the German Jewish question was never solved. It was annihilated by the annihilation of the German Jews.”[20] Because Jews could not trust in liberalism, the state of Israel is come into being. But this distrust creates another one because Israel is located in the middle of Muslim-Arab landscape. Now Muslims who see their land is occupied by a foreign nation does not trust the nations and states who let this process evolve has happened to be liberal democratic states. “Trust” is key and it seems liberal democratic states could not win two major faith’s members’ hearts, Jews’ and Muslims’ yet.[21]

This predicament creates a dilemma like German Jewry confronted in Germany decades ago. Leo Strauss thought West is in crisis because modernity creates a situation in which Athens(reason) is favored at the expense of Jerusalem(revelation) as more than it should be.[22] Therefore, this tendency increases tension which has always been there between Jerusalem and Athens.[23] Jerusalem never wants to surrender to Athens. Then, if the balance between them is broken in a way non-returnable, there would be two possibilities: “the fundamental alternative is that of the rule of philosophy over religion or the rule of religion over philosophy.”[24] Leo Strauss, certainly a production of German Jewry, in other words, the tension between German Philosophy and Jewish Theology, Athens and Jerusalem, reason and revelation, does not want to choose one of these alternatives. He wants to stay with both as far as possible because “finite, relative problems can be solved; infinite, absolute problems cannot be solved. In other words, human beings will never create a society which is free of contradictions.”[25] Nonetheless, at the same time, he is the one who says “in the last two generations political philosophy lost its credibility.” Is it not that means politics and philosophy could not live together in equal terms anymore? Politics should be ruled by philosophy. Political philosophy had existed until Nietzsche because they could recognize, reconcile and accept each other. Not anymore. After the second tree of knowledge of good and evil, everything has changed. God is dead. And now we have another one who was vindicated from philosophy. Indeed the tension Leo Strauss feels in his Jewish human soul is always felt by all humans between rationality and irrationality, reality and utopia, the world and God.

And now people who are called neoconservatists regard Leo Strauss a great inspiration for themselves become the greatest ideologs America has never seen. Ironically, as again Fukuyama indicates, most of them are Ashkenazi “Jewish intellectuals”, the product of German Jewry. As mysterious and irrational as human history, when they came to U.S.A., they brought not only their Jewish heritages but their German one too. The heritage of the super-man who “is meant to unite in himself Jerusalem and Athens on the highest level.”[26] Or being the ex-American Trotskiyets, the pursuers of “global democratic revolution” who want to establish German philosopher Hegel’s post-revolutionary state. The Jews of Athens versus the Muslims of Jerusalem. What an irony my Lord!

I just wonder America is aware of all these things or will be aware at all. How much being American is closer to being German would make Bush closer to Hitler or further. No one can refuse the fact that there is a familiarity as much as a distance between these two men. In other words, whatever elements Hitler represents in being German, Bush represents the same elements in being American. Here the question is Americans could overthrow Bush-machine and take over the system with the same kind of elements which were thought to represent the opposite of Hitlerian Germany and reestablishing the system.[27] As Fukuyama more or less said, conducting other American elements and reassuring the world with American morality, kindness, goodness, and fairness would be a tough task in any given future to overcome or to be overwhelmed by America.

If not only neoconservatism but also America proves ‘Heidegger is Right,’[28] then, humanity is about a turn which has all apocalyptic and messianic implications and can bring either extinction of human race or exaltation of humanity in a place nobody imagines. We still don’t know we get closer to the end of history or we are the last men, and probably we should not pray for that. But if America goes in the direction of neoconservative agenda, it could possibly be the end of the dreamland. Between the worlds, the Jews of Athens and the Muslims of Jerusalem, we need a fair mediator who can make people trust each other again.

Fear and hope are our two inseparable friends. We should not lose them in favor of anything like we should not trade Athens and Jerusalem for anything.

God bless all!

(Murat Sofuoğlu, Ekopolitik, 30 March 2006)

 


[1]Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, “Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy”(Chicago, 1986), p. 29.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid. However, it is questionable, for example, whether the politics of Alexander the Great was just particular or not. Or the politics of Romans and Christian apostles, or the politics of Muhammed and early Muslim people. Therefore, it is doubtful that it is possible to distinguish ancients’ politics from the moderns’ in terms of particularity.

[4]Ibid. “Note on the Plan of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil”, p.190.

[5]Ibid. p.32

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Ibid.

[10]The New York Times, After Neoconservatism, February 19, 2006, p.4.

[11]Ibid.

[12]Ibid.

[13]http://swig.standford.edu/pub/summaries/books/end_history.html Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, p.1

[14]Ibid, p.8.

[15]http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/home.html Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Book I, Chapter 4, p.2.

[16]It is weird Fukuyama calls the teacher of his teacher as German Jewish as if he is not qualified being an American. He became an American citizen in 1944. For Fukuyama’s “German-Jewish” mention of Strauss look at NYT, After Neoconservatism, p.4. However, it is also wise to think about the possibility that maybe Strauss never philosophically regarded himself as American.

[17]After Neoconservatism, p.4. One of the critics of this article was strangely able to doubt about the relationships between Strauss&neoconservatism and Fukuyama &the end of history. Obviously, the book of Fukuyama is a clear testimony to these relationships.  Beyond that Fukuyamawas a neo-conservatist as he indicated many times and he was one of the main figures of that movement. Also he was the student of Alan Bloom who was one of the protégé of Strauss at the University of Chicago. Beyond these personal relationships, Fukuyama was clearly affected by Straussian convictions about the fate of political philosophy which has important implications regarding the end of history. He wrote a book about neoconservatism(“after neoconservatism”) in which he criticized Neoconservatist movement as being Leninist who wants to end the history by force. As one could easily recognize, there are undeniable connections between the mentioned subjects. It is impossible to understand what neoconservatism means as long as one does not get the end of history, Strauss and his conviction about the last condition of political philosophy.

[18]Leo Strauss, Ancient and Modern Liberalism(Chicago, 1995), “Preface to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion”, p. 227

[19]Strauss made certain arguments about the origin of  “German-Jewish question.”(Liberalism, p.253) It seems Strauss thinks modern Judaism which in most part owes its existence to German-Jewry is a synthesis between rabbinical Judaism(a derivative of Moses Moimonides) and the secularist consequences of Spinoza’s philosophy. Therefore, a synthesis between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. At some length, I discussed the issue in “Yahudilik Sorunu”(the Jewish Question). The secularist philosophy of Israel, Zionism, and Zionist movement could be a result of this interaction.

[20]Ibid.

[21]It is worrisome that the failure of modern liberalism to resolve the Jewish Question creates collateral problems which in Middle East are more than obvious. “Israel or the failure of liberal democracy” is one of the sources of Muslim fundamentalism. The Jewish Question brings forth the Muslim Question(a derivative of the Eastern Question). If a “Muslim Israel” comes into existence in “Middle Earth”, liberal democracy and Jewish Israel would get a lot credits for that. Sofuoğlu, the Jewish Question, p.8-11. Also Noah Feldman, Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age, NYT, October 29, 2006. p.9 and 15.

[22]Probably, one of the deepest evidences of this inclination is Jews who increasingly become more secularist. It is good to bear in mind Israel was theorized and later established by secularist Zionists like Herzl, Hess(the friend of Marx), and Pinske. The people of David of Jerusalem looks more and more like Athenians. Even Strauss seems to be closer to Athens than Jerusalem though his article is titled “Jerusalem and Athens.”

[23]Now, on the other side of the spectrum, the Muslims of Jerusalem seems to take their place as one of the generators of the tension. In any case, it shall be said the whole representation of Athens and Jerusalem in modern context as attempted above could be a grave mistake because the truthful religiosity of Muslims and truthful secularism of Jews are completely controversial and we never know it could be known perfectly.

[24]Strauss, Studies, “ Note on the plan of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil”, p.176. To some extent in “the Jewish Question” I discussed the possible implications of this improvement and a likely role Jews could play. As Strauss said the key indication is “the Jewish problem is the most manifest symbol of the human problem.”

[25]Liberalism, “Preface to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion”, p.230

[26]Studies, “Jerusalem and Athens: Some Preliminary Reflections”, p.149. Strangely, when Strauss makes this statement, it sounds like to me he means Jews as God’s chosen nation are the best candidate to be supermen of Nietzsche.

[27]By the way the existence of Gehlen org. is not reassuring.

[28]It is really unfortunate I have to explain why ‘Heidegger is right” because one of the critics of the article questioned what I mean with this statement.  As the critic got it right, to me “the neoconservatives in America (who claim to be followers of Strauss) are guilty of the very attempt to impose ideology on politics that Strauss so strongly criticizes.” Heidegger who was a convert to Nazi ideology because he saw in that a way to go “beyond good and evil” and all political philosophy and philosophy itself. To Strauss he thought so because he desired to fill the place of god or gods with a human vindicated God from philosophy. This was some kind of rule of overmen by “the rule of philosophy on religion” and everything else. Strauss clearly remarked these speculations in his writings which are not in any rate my interpretations. This was to Strauss as the critic observed “to impose ideology on politics” which “Strauss so strongly criticizes.” After all, I am saying what neoconservatism has done recently is exactly what Heidegger meant to do “to impose ideology on politics” according to Strauss. I do not think I am alone by saying this in the world at the moment. From Fukuyama to liberal American press neoconservatism and Bush administration are labeled by being too ideological. This approach crystallized in neoconservatism frankly proves in American conditions what Heidegger means for Nazis or humanity. Neoconservatist Americans against Strauss’ warnings and Fukuyama’s arguments about liberal democracy consciously or not defend a position in which political philosophy loses its meaning against ideology that could be shaped by either religion or philosophy. It is weird all these happen for the sake of democracy, a so-called secular popular system, and in America, the cradle of democracy. Therefore, I claim “Neoconservatism proves Heidegger is right” not their inspiration Leo Strauss.

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