The Hegelian 21st Century

While politics and society have changed enormously over the decades of this century, the Hegelian paradigm has not. In the attempts to rescue liberal democracy, there has been basically no attempt at tweaking it so as to fix the problems that led to its decline. They are attempting to restore the Rawlsian system in a crusade of shocking stupidity. The main problems that led to the decline of liberal democracy were the spiritual and psychological voids being unfilled by the nebulous and dry nature of Rawlsian liberalism. They needed community, religion, belonging, meaning, and so forth. We’ve known that for a while. There has been no major attempt to impart these to liberalism so as to save liberalism which is scary since it is the only thing that will work. I recently wrote a blog about John Oliver’s position on the monarchy and how he is sabotaging a civic religion which gives ritual and ceremony to a public psychology that needs it or it may turn further to nationalism. I often write about Jane Jacobs, New Urbanism, and TNDs since that type of urban planning fixes a lot of the problems of liberalism without threatening liberalism. It is easier, for example, to have a macro system of cultural thinness and Lockean deontological rights and/or Millian utilitarianism (I prefer the latter) if the micro systems are thick and characterized by virtue ethics.

That is a Hegelian shift that would save liberalism where our ethics are Millian utilitarianism and some Lockean deontology on the most marco scales and Aristotelian-esque virtue ethics and polis-fraternity on the micro scales. Currently, our public philosophy is the Rawlsian thin-good on all scales. Even with Lockean deontology constituting a significant portion of macro ethics, I would not go as far as a Rawlsian thin-good. I support a ceremonial monarchy, having a ceremonial state religion, old fashioned aesthetics and rituals, and so forth which are all a cultural thick good and I support things like tax incentives and public platforming of artists who promote benevolent virtues such as musicians who eschew revenge anthems and sing about forgiving their exes, who write about about saving the environment, who do anti-war pieces, who wire about interpersonal kindness, who promote healthier lifestyles, generally. As I have written before, I support public institutions purveying a thick moral good but, unlike the Hays Code, this moral good doesn’t focus on avoiding stereotypical vice which is a stupid and primitive definition of “moral”. John Rawls apparently was against the government taking strong emotional stances on endangered species and war and interpersonal hatred.

The public discourse surrounding the collapse of liberal democracy is frighteningly threadbare. It is miniscule. The daily headlines about various scandals and stuff is common but even among political and social scientists, the decline of liberalism is a relative minority topic compared with things like economic recessions and gender dynamics. The little discussion there is fails to do much more than describe what is happening to the huge audience that is unaware which is way before treating the problem. The result is that the public response to the symptoms of liberalism’s decline is to claw for the 1990s default of Rawlsian liberal democracy back. They’re living in 2023 but they’re doing political philosophy like it’s 1999. Political philosophy has made no progress since the “end of history”. The political left opposes things like a ceremonial monarchy and ceremonial religion for reasons I believe history has solidly disproven. Stephen Fry made the point that European countries with state religions tend to be more secular and liberal than those without and, really, we shouldn’t be making decisions based on deontological notions that feel like they should be true but on empirical science that is true and the past three decades have given ample case studies in sociology mainstream political philosophy just flat ignores to stay with John Rawls and in a Hegelian 1999.

This is not just on the macro scale because on micro scales, things have happened like the collapse of friendship, the rise of ghosting, the increase in anxiety, and so forth which philosophy has failed to account for. Philosophers and social scientists don’t have any solutions for these problems and, in large part, that is because they are Rawlsian and, again, stuck in philosophical 1999. Ultimately, if you are a Rawlsian then one believes that, morally, the individual has the right to do anything that does not infringe upon the rights of another which includes ghosting and, really, most passive and passive aggressive shitty things. The Rawlsian thin-good basically says that one can be a terrible person as long as one avoids explicitly violating the negative liberties of another. It also turns ethics into a flow-chart of consent which justifies any form of less than formal (and sometimes formal) exclusion and rejection. The Rawlsian thin-good is grouped by me with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, Peter Singer’s Sapientism, and Social Darwinism as the worst moral codes devised in the 20th century. Mainstream ethics, if it is going to solve these micro social issues, must be able to tell people that they don’t have a right to ghost but a responsibility not to.

There needs to be a Hegelian 21st century. Mainstream thinking in philosophy and the social sciences needs to evolve past 1999 and create a post-Rawlsian liberalism tweaked to be sustainable based on the science and empiricism we have gained since “the end of history”. To no longer reach back for Fukuyama’s supposed paradise and to realize it is not coming back and that it was not sustainable. Rawls based his ideas not on psychology or empiricism but on deontological ideas about fairness and what should seemingly be true. We now know that many of his assumptions were not true. In fact, we knew some of them weren’t true back then such as the idea that thick-goods are a major etiology of sectarian conflict. Religion and ideologies have caused wars but only a minority of them and virtually none of them were fought over the traditional virtues or religious morals. Humility, meekness, charity, chastity, kosher, vegetarianism have basically never contributed to any sectarian conflict. We also knew Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Durkheim’s suicide studies, and Weber’s impersonal bureaucracy. We had a lot of the science to disprove Rawls’ system in his lifetime and we have way more now. We just have to act on the science.

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