FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Age of Ego

Hegel’s conception of history taught us that the meaning of history was the liberation of the individual through his or her recognition as a fully autonomous rational person.

Indeed, since the French Revolution, the Age of the Individual has expanded apace even if not always in a straight line.

Today, more than ever, our politics, economics, culture, and society are all, at least nominally, directed at the well being and full recognition of each and everyone of us.

If this is so, then why are so many people still frustrated and unhappy in their daily life?

In part, this state of affairs might be due to our neglecting of the second part of the Hegelian equation: the individual’s place and relationship to others mediated by the State.

The State, according to Hegel, is the representation of universal rationality. Put in another way, the state is the structure which allows individuals to be recognized as full individuals through their participation in it. Each and every individual has a role to play within the state. The fulfillment of that role satisfies our need for recognizing one another and the constant realization that we are not and cannot be just for ourselves but for each other.

A culture, such as ours, which celebrates the socially untethered individual is propagating a fundamental lie. Individuals cannot be fully realized without the cooperation of all other individuals; an essential activity which, in the modern world, is mediated by the state.

Yet, what is the state in the modern world? What has it become? Is it a universalist, rationalist tool for the realization of the greater good?

Certainly not.

Today, the modern state is a tool of elites to ensure their total domination and power over all other classes and groups. It does not matter if the state calls itself “democratic” or a “one party state”. In effect, all states today are “one party” states controlled by their respective elites who are often tied to one another transnationally. We are, all of us, under the thumb of a new global elite who dictates the nature of our social being. “Global Empire” is not an all too fanciful term for the present situation.

And like the Roman Empire before it, it is not a coincidence that many people are turning spiritually inward toward personalistic philosophies of self-help and care. Ironically, even the philosophy of ancient Stoicism is making somewhat of a comeback.

None of this is surprising.

The individual cannot be truly satisfied if he or she is not a participating and consequent member of a polity; of a state. The elites of this world have carefully and calculatedly castrated our social and economic potentialities to do so.

The root of our gnawing unhappiness in our brave new world is simply this: consequential inter-personal participation in the sphere of the political has been vanishing for decades. The ability to effect collective change from below has been diminishing. True collectivity has been consistently denied.

The disassociation of the individual from the polity; in effect the non-existence anywhere of true democracy has led to a hollowing out of the human personality. It is only in concrete social action that we materialize fully as human beings. It is as members of a community who are able to truly guide that community that we find a deep human purpose.

Once again, recalling Hegel and the Greeks before him, it is not enough to exist as economic man symbolically feigning electoral freedom every two or four years ; one must directly participate in the polis.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
Kim Ives
Haiti’s Popular Uprising Calls for President Jovenel Moïse’s Removal
John Carroll Md
Dispatch From Haiti: Trump and Breastfeeding
Alycee Lane
On Heat Waves and Climate Resistance
Ed Meek
Dershowitz the Sophist
Howard Lisnoff
Liberal Massachusetts and Recreational Marijuana
Ike Nahem
Trump, Trade Wars, and the Class Struggle
Olivia Alperstein
Kavanaugh and the Supremes: It’s About Much More Than Abortion
Manuel E. Yepe
Korea After the Handshake
Robert Kosuth
Militarized Nationalism: Pernicious and Pervasive
Binoy Kampmark
Soft Brexits and Hard Realities: The Tory Revolt
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Localization: a Strategic Alternative to Globalized Authoritarianism
Kevin Zeese - Nils McCune
Correcting The Record: What Is Really Happening In Nicaragua?
Chris Wright
The American Oligarchy: A Review
Kweli Nzito
Imperial Gangster Nations: Peddling “Democracy” and Other Goodies to the Untutored
Christopher Brauchli
The Defenestration of Scott Pruitt
Ralph Nader
Universal Voting Dissolves the Obstacles Facing Voters
Ron Jacobs
Vermont: Can It Happen Here?
Thomas Knapp
Helsinki: How About a Fresh START?
Seth Sandronsky
A Fraught Century
Graham Peebles
Education and the Mental Health Epidemic
Bob Lord
How to Level the Playing Field for Workers in a Time of Waning Union Power
Saurav Sarkar
I Got Arrested This Summer (and So Should You)
Winslow Myers
President Trump’s Useful Idiocy
Kim C. Domenico
Outing the Dark Beast Hiding Behind Liberal Hope
CounterPunch News Service
First Big Strike Since Janus Ruling Hits Vermont Streets
Louis Proyect
Survival of the Fittest in the London Underground
David Yearsley
Ducks and Études
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail