7. Conclusion

Will Democracy Survive? Toward A Postdarwinian Liberalism


Section 7.3

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon





7. Conclusion  
     7.1 History and Evolution: A Paradox Resolved 
        7.1.1 Transition and Divide: A New Perspective on Modernity 
    7.2 The Eonic Effect As a Resolution of Kant's Challenge      
      7.2.1 Freedom’s Causality, Teleology and Politics  
        7.2.2 Free Will, Moral Action, and Self-consciousness       
     7.3 Will Democracy Survive? Toward A Postdarwinian Liberalism    
      7.3.1 Modernism, Eurocentrism, Imperialism, and 'Western' Civilization
        7.3.2 Ecological Endgames: A Tyranny Of Markets
     7.4 Ends and Beginnings       
     7.5 Critique of Historical Reason  
        7.5.1 Spengler, Toynbee, and Cyclical Theories 
        7.5.2 Is There a Postmodern Age?  
        7.5.3 Evolution and The Idea of Progress
        7.5.4 The Case of the Missing Centuries 
     7.6  Beyond Darwinism: A Theoretical Self-Defense
         7.6.1 The Meaning Of Evolution
         7.6.2 The Great Transition



    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     7.3 Will Democracy Survive? Toward A Postdarwinian Liberalism


Our eonic sequence, and at first peculiar model, appropriately stage not the trumpet sounds of a Grand Narrative in our current moment, but the needed tonic of an anti-climax as we pass from the five centuries, three of transition, two past the Great Divide, of explosive modernity to a possible period of chaotification such as we see in the wake of the Axial Age. With an eerie exactitude of timing one and the same risk of discontinuance that beset the great democratic experiment of the Athenians, derailing into imperial hubris, threatens the classic recursion seen in the North American political experiment with democracy. We shall see if, this time, democracy can take root in human civilization, or pass away once more in the machinations of economic elites, authoritarian gurus, and Machiavellians of the State complex. Will the curse of empire overtake the emergent systems of freedom given in the field of micro-action?

A strange irony arises in the Darwin debate, as the context of evolution impinges on the confusions of ideology, seen in classical liberalism confused with Darwinian thinking. Armed with Darwinism the idealist tone of true liberalism degenerates into a Social Darwinism that might precipitate the failure of democracy to survive!

Darwinism was always a crypto-conservative ideology. What is needed is a genuine post-Darwinian liberalism as a broad social philosophy that is not forced into the kind of narrow reductionist scientism that can’t support either a true progressive politics or a sound cultural worldview. Is it really the position of liberals that the universe is without purpose, that man has no soul, that survival of the fittest is the key to social evolution, that the mind-brain problem has been solved by computer geeks, that Darwin was the man who founded the science of evolution, noone else need apply?

In fact the politics of evolution goes back a long way, way before Darwin. And that shows the conservative cast of Darwinism, notwithstanding the seeming embrace of Darwin by the rising left of the late nineteenth century. Figures such as Lamarck and Erasmus Darwin show the early progressive character of evolutionary thought. As with Adam Smith, and Thomas Paine, their moment was brief, although Adam Smith survived quite well once house-trained by conservatives. The conservative reaction to the French Revolution then made the idea of evolution suspect for a whole generation, until Darwin, by giving it a sort of Whiggish cast, consolidated the triumph of the idea, but in a fashion that rendered the notion forever ambiguous, in its association with natural selection as a theory.

It is ironic that the left was consistently confused by Darwin's theory. We have forgotten that Marx's early reactions to Darwin’s theory were negative, a suspicion of the connection between the theory and classical liberalism. And yet the later left, due to the influence of Engels, was unable to properly expose this ideological connection. We have seen the leftist challenge to sociobiology, but this has never been able to close the case with a challenge to Darwin's theory of natural selection.

But as S. J. Gould  in his The Structure of Evolutionary  Theory notes, the connection is direct, “I would advance the even stronger claim that the theory of natural selection is, in essence, Adam Smith’s economics transferred to nature”. The point should be obvious from the connection with Herbert Spencer, who is often blamed for the Social Darwinism latent in Darwin's theory. Spencer and Darwin both produced an evolutionary logic that made the confusion of biological and cultural evolution endemic.  

It should be the job of liberals, and was with a figure such as William Jennings Bryan, to expose the ideological character of Darwinian theory and not get confused by this fancy footwork over intelligent design, with the cynical exploitation of this. Even a cursory glance at the politics of the American electorate shows the way conservatives must appeal simultaneously to religious conservatives and market fundamentalists, the neo-liberals. This double play is clever, and apparently beyond the understanding of those on the left still stuck on the confusion so evident in Engels, but not present in Marx who saw the whole game at a glance.   



   Web:  chap7_3.htm





Last modified: 10/04/2010