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2006-09-08 - 7:00 a.m.

Siebert’s book on Hegel’s philosophy of history has arrived from Ohio – a paperback set in a typewriter type face, derived from his teaching and published at the end of the 1970s. In a sense its written at the end of modernism – before pomo gets into its stride especially in US arts and letters. But it is also written from a point of view that takes for granted that Marxism is discreditted and a thing of the past, whereas Hegel is alive and well and should be used for making sense of the present. I have sympathy with this starting point – skip all that pomo business because it’s a swamp and there are millions of people wading around in it. The world doesn’t need any more souls lost in this way, particularly as it doesn’t seem to illuminate where we are in the post post-modern age.

And yet I am not inclined to take the Siebert volume page by page – possibly on account of laziness. The better justification that I can find is that one should stand over Hegel. Something like – Hegel laid the foundation for Marx and on that foundation Marx built something that didn’t quite work in practical terms – something that revealed the hidden barbarity in reason. What has followed Marxism clearly doesn’t work either – this is a widespread concensus just now especially at this 5 year anniversary point. I think this growing sense explains why there is the passion to rid the UK of the prime minister because he is the visible totem of the post-marxist progressive vector having run into the sand.

I think the piece that Siebert wrote for the forthcoming Yalta Conference helps configure some of the current impasse. In the USA on the one hand you have a brutal form of techno-rational capitalism and in this character it polarises other traditions against it with disastrous consequences. But there is an extra twist – the economic system in the USA is particularly perverse in that the income of the bottom 50% remains static for years on end.

The bottom 50% - or key segments of it are drawn to a brand of superstition to make sense of their plight – a kind of fundamentalism. There are good sociology of belief reasons for linking the economic system to the fundamentalist belief system . The ruling elite utilise that fundamentalism as a political tool to maintain their hold on power. At the heart is the barbarous techno-rationalism of US capitalism and it engenders two fundamentalist belief systems – one which enslaves the dispossed within the US - and the other which powerfully alienates certain other traditions and cultures across the globe. So the growing war of cultures is a susperstrucural consequence of the brutal techno-rationality which underpins US nationhood – it is reflected in two different mirroirs and different groups sign up to each illusory reflection and configure the other as the core of the global problem.

In simple terms we are in a position where Marx out of Hegel provides the tools to enable to understand what is going on but doesn’t provide us with any practical models for dealing with it..


Its clear that the social models which will prevail in the next 50 years will be those which blend Marxism with something else – this is true of China, obviously, but also of India which was a non-alligned state for much of the post war period and tended to ally with USSR against China. Equally obviously Europe has a chance to blend its own mix of post-marxist solutions as it brings in more and more.

I was reading a newsletter from the HQ of the methodology TRIZ yesterday – this is an approach to problem solving and design which was developed in the USSR at the end of the 1940s. The newsletter discussed whether TRIZ was about to really catch on in the way that lean and six sigma have. Lean started in Japan and six sigma in the US as a response. The newsletter suggested that at long last – after fifty years TRIZ may at last be getting the recognition it deserves and starting to spread more widely. Interestingly, there is some evidence that the version of lean which has been developed for new product introduction may not be working very well. Ford are currently trying to generalise methods which they sourced from Mazda. The new man from Boeing brings with him experience of the successful application of time compression techniques on a grand scale.

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