The Forgotten Ghost of Hegeliansim
...a commonplace, inane, loathsome, repulsive and ignorant charlatan, who with unparalleled effrontery compiled a system of crazy nonsense that was trumpeted abroad as immortal wisdom by his mercenary followers... Arthur Schopenhauer on Hegel
Duty - Community - Desire. These words frequently appear in political and philosophical writings. They are seen in the words of Mussolini and in the words of Lenin. They explain Five Year Plans and Fractional Reserve Banking. They imply Cults of Personality and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. They have justified the utter failures of the twentieth century and all modern atrocities.
Duty - Community - Desire. To understand these words and their horrific application to our world one should look no further than the philosophy of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Influenced heavily by Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Hegel rejected Individualism on the grounds that reason is not to be determined by an individual, but rather by History. History, says Hegel, has set up the circumstances in which we desire, and so our individual choices are subject to these authoritarian, unavoidable, and completely arbitrary circumstances.
As a result, Hegel vaguely advocates in freedom through community. Though paradoxical, he claims that an individual is no less free in a community than an arm is to a body. He claims that true freedom comes through organic organisations of people who live with their consciences...an inner voice that subjects them to the true compass of History.
This irrationalism was taken up by fascists and communists in the twentieth century, and even today, though it is rarely named, can be seen in the authoritarian impulses of corporatism. Furthermore, though oppressive in theory, Hegelianism has a particularly notorious history for being bastardized by the Elite to enslave masses of individuals.
Hegelian thought has always been used as a haven for attacks on individualist and libertarian movements. They claim that people are at the whims and will of History, and so the pursuit of their individual desires are temporary and unfounded, and must be suppressed. And perhaps, in view of the sick commercialism of today there is some truth to the shallowness of people's desires.
Though anyone in my opinion is free to choose what they want for themselves despite its commercial basis, at best I further reject this attack on individualism by evoking the advice Nietzsche who claimed that one could overcome unimportant trivialties to better themselves. It is not often that I turn to Nietzsche, but think, if we are really unduly influenced by circumstance, what better way to better ourselves than to recognize the hype of our episteme and truly push ourselves, through reason, to achieve our desires.
Of course, it is the method in man which we find admirable, not his will. That is not my point. Still there is an important lesson to be learned. The minds of the Romantics in the nineteenth century were brilliant and they pushed the possibilities of the mind. Now we are stagnated by a bombardment of suppression via technology, etc. Hegel may have been correct in his analysis, but his prescription was flat-out ill-founded and wrong. Popular distractions warrant not a destruction of individual desire, but rather a call for that individual to find in themselves the clarity to seperate the distractions from their desires.
Perhaps one of the most courageous books written in the twentieth century was Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. He specifically and methodically targets Hegelianism as the basis of all totalitarian regimes, and much of his book is a deeply calculated attack on the conciousness of such a philosophy. He, as a former Communist himself, gives great insight into the question of how even a sincere revolutionary may be corrupted or compromised by Hegel's reasoning.
In the book you see the words duty, community, and desire, but you see them in their true context of a failed and tyrannical world view. Koestler best attacks Hegel by pointing out a circle in his argument: An individual is truly free only if he knows and understands the movement of History, but he can only know History when he is truly free. This fallacy, not alone in Hegel's writings, should stand as red flag to people everywhere that those who champion Hegel's philosophy will also champion the slavery of those they rule.
It seems that A=A, logic itself, is a sufficient refutation of Hegel's philosophies. After all, non-contradiction does not care what History says to us or what circumstances influence our thought. It is always true.