Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History

Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History

Susan Buck-Morss
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 160
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    Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History
    Book Description:

    In this path-breaking work, Susan Buck-Morss draws new connections between history, inequality, social conflict, and human emancipation.Hegel, Haiti, and Universal Historyoffers a fundamental reinterpretation of Hegel's master-slave dialectic and points to a way forward to free critical theoretical practice from the prison-house of its own debates.Historicizing the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the actions taken in the Haitian Revolution, Buck-Morss examines the startling connections between the two and challenges us to widen the boundaries of our historical imagination. She finds that it is in the discontinuities of historical flow, the edges of human experience, and the unexpected linkages between cultures that the possibility to transcend limits is discovered. It is these flashes of clarity that open the potential for understanding in spite of cultural differences. What Buck-Morss proposes amounts to a "new humanism," one that goes beyond the usual ideological implications of such a phrase to embrace a radical neutrality that insists on the permeability of the space between opposing sides and as it reaches for a common humanity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7334-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Part One: Hegel and Haiti
      (pp. 3-20)

      “Hegel and Haiti” was written as a mystery story. The reader is encouraged to begin with it directly, before the introduction provided here. For those already familiar with the plot and its denouement, this new introduction (that can be read as the afterward as well) describes the process of discovery behind the essay and the impact of its first reception. It traces the years of research that led to “Hegel and Haiti,” fleshing out material condensed in the footnotes so that the scholarly implications can be more easily ascertained, and situating the essay within ongoing intellectual debates that have realᖎworld...

      (pp. 21-76)

      By the eighteenth century , slavery had become the root metaphor of Western political philosophy, connoting everything that was evil about power relations.¹ Freedom, its conceptual antithesis, was considered by Enlightenment thinkers as the highest and universal political value. Yet this political metaphor began to take root at precisely the time that the economic practice of slavery—the systematic, highly sophisticated capitalist enslavement ofnon-Europeans as a labor force in the colonies—was increasing quantitatively and intensifying qualitatively to the point that by the mid-eighteenth century it came to underwrite the entire economic system of the West, paradoxically facilitating the...

  6. Part Two: Universal History
      (pp. 79-86)

      Today’s neoliberal hegemony sets the stage for “Universal History” that continues in the spirit of “Hegel and Haiti” to unearth certain repressions surrounding the historical origins of modernity. Present realities demand such historical remappings as an alternative to the fantasies of clashing civilizations and exclusionary redemptions. The essay works through the historical specificities of particular experiences, approaching the universal not by subsuming facts within overarching systems or homogenizing premises, but by attending to the edges of systems, the limits of premises, the boundaries of our historical imagination in order to trespass, trouble, and tear these boundaries down. The task is...

      (pp. 87-152)

      Could slavery have taken root in the colonizing metropoles of Europe? The answer to this question was contested rather than assured. What made colonial slavery modern was its capitalist form, extracting maximum value by exhausting both land and labor to fill an insatiable consumer demand created by the addictive products themselves (tobacco, sugar, coffee, rum). Forged out of the most current economic forces, why would the plantation systemnotbecome the dominant form of industrial labor in Europe as well as the colonies? The fact that today we find it difficult to imagine a Manchester textile revolution powered by the...

    (pp. 153-164)