Currently, humanity is facing a challenge with no precedents like this before. Scholars and philosophers discuss that the covid-19 pandemic is a negative effect of neoliberalism and globalization. These doctrines have designed a world through shared consuming and a free trade culture. Ironically, the biggest political and social project in humankind history is agitated by a tiny enemy. Throughout “The end of times?” it is discussed whether this is a disruptive or reinforcement momentum for current politics and economics. Technology and ethics are the tools that may consolidate humanity into a new face. Occident and Orient are two spirits in a reaction like two atoms in an atomic hook-up. Absorbing properties from each other; the economy as the bond, because of mutual interest; political ideology as the repulsion object. In this essay, Hegel (1998), Berardi, (2020), and Harari (2017) are cited to analyze whether capitalism is doomed to end or in a postindustrial mutation.
The chronology of world history has come to be according to Hegel, “the record of the spirit's efforts to attain knowledge of what it is by itself” (1998, page 401). Hegel (1998) divided human development in two poles, east and west. He argued that west has attained the ability of looking back into the past to know how to solve current problems. World history is for Hegel (1998) the spirit of common will and reason. Hegel stated that Orientals:
“only know that One is free; but for this very reason, such freedom is mere arbitrariness,avagery and brutal passion, or a milder and tamer version of this which is itself only an accident of nature, and equally arbitrary.” (1998, page 401).
Hegel (1998) described the ideological tensions between Occident and Orient. Occidental ideology is very different from Oriental ideology. However, both sides look forward to expanding their ways of thinking. During current worldwide pandemic, a sort of Second Cold War is taking place between communist China and capitalist United States of America.
The pandemic is a moment for the spirits to make important decisions. If these decisions will contribute to an alienation or reconciliation depends on the way the spirits react in relation to their citizens and between them. The relation between east and west hemisphere has always been in tension. The pandemic is an opportunity for them to hook-up into one unique spirit. A union not intending domination but cooperation and freedom. According to Hegel (1998), this will be the right purpose for the spirit to follow.
The renaissance, enlightenment, liberal revolutions, romanticism, industrial revolution and post industrialism, according to Hegel (1998), shall not be seen precisely in a linear way, but as the record of knowledge that has built present humanity. Without doubt, humans have always tended to a further freedom. Hegel (1998) stated that the purpose of the spirit will only be known when history ends. Berardi (2020), Post-Marxist philosopher, argues that covid-19 pandemic is part of the negative results that will keep developing due to anthropocentrism and post-industrial capitalism. He warned the assistants of his conference “Semiocapitalismo: pandemia, infodemia y neurototalitarismo", anthropocentrism will guide us to end of times. Berardi (2020) also said that technology can be the tool to achieve freedom through the subjectivity of individuals’ brains.
The record of knowledge has built anthropocentrism as the core of the future. According to Harari (2017), anthropocentrism has made man capable of all, of thinking of limited resources as unlimited, of visualizing immortality possible in the future. Harari found that, “In seeking bliss and immortality, humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.” (2017, page 43). This argument directly binds with Hegel’s idea of knowing the ultimate end of the spirit. But what governs the actions of humans? Hegel explained the following:
“The actions of men are governed by their needs, passions, and interests, by the attitudes and aims to which these give rise and by their own character and abilities; we gain the impression that in this scene of activity these needs, passions, interests, etc., are the sole motive forces." (1998, page 405).
Based on what Harari (2017) said, the final achievement of the spirit will be humankind trying to upgrade themselves into gods with capacities like immortality. This objective being fueled by our passions, needs and interests.
We can read Hegel’s thoughts as a warning sign for the future. Nowadays, selfish appetite is what nourishes postindustrial capital societies. Hence, the reason of man is now ruled by their passions and desires. The neoliberal empire has been crafted by man’s passions and desires with no secured frames. A point where individual liberty is the creator of conflict. The Covid-19 pandemic shows the weakness of society due to the unlikeness and incapacity of people to stay home, because they need to go out to work or to fulfill their passions.
Hegel (1998) described laws and principles as objects that have no immediate life or validity in themselves. Hegel (1998) found that the activity which puts them into operation and endows them with real existence has its source in the needs, impulses, inclinations and passions of man. In these terms, when the pandemic ends, it will be needed to define new laws and principles that adapt to our current needs, impulses, inclinations and passions for a reconciliation process to happen.
It is important to underline the current importance of ethics. Hegel found that, “The unity of the subjective will and the universal, is the ethical whole, and its concrete manifestation is the state.” (1998, page 414). This way, ethics can work as a binding force for the union of spirits. Hence, ethics and technology, shown previously as another binding force, are the tools that may consolidate the union of spirits. As two atoms in an atomic hook-up. Technology (subjective force) and ethics (objective force) absorbing properties from each other with the unique purpose of consolidating spirits into one. Common good and freedom as the bonds; individualism and collectivism as the repulsion objects.
From another perspective, Hegel found that, “The state is the reality within which the individual has and enjoys his freedom, but only insofar as he knows, believes in and wills the universal.” (1998, page 414). Therefore, the states are responsible for the decisions and development that will set the direction and union of spirits. President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump are the active great men of history defining the course of history by their passions and interests. China stands as a communist and socialist free-market state. USA stands as a capitalist and neoliberal state. China is taking advantage of the pandemic to gain control, and USA is trying not to lose it.
Universally, we coexist in a system of needs. For what cooperation and interdependence has been the response. At the end, the spirits shall join in a universal one. According to Hegel, “Just as gravity is the substance of matter, so also can it be said that freedom is the substance of spirit.” (1998, page 332). The unique bond between Orient (China) and Occident (USA) is the free market society. For a universal spirit to exist, there must be a bond of freedom and not just of free trade. Freedom is the substance of spirits, hence, the essence of the course of humanity.
Occident and Orient are struggling. How to overcome this knot so that the spirits can continue to develop and merge in one is unknown. Besides, as Hegel (1998) said, ethics are an important tool to achieve union. Also, Berardi (2020) underlines the use of technology as another tool to achieve this. Hence, ethics and technology may be the tools to ease the complexity of modern struggle so that we can achieve freedom and reconciliation. Within its own struggles and tensions, the spirits shall make the decisions to keep developing for the main purpose of its substance, freedom. If spirits decide to keep warring that will bring the end of history. If they decide to unite, a new chapter in history will begin. According to Harari (2017), humankind is trying to upgrade itself into gods. This purpose can possibly be the final achievement of history; however, its course depends on the relation between spirits in the future.
Author: Eduardo Arrieta Laborde
Berardi, F. (2020) “Semiocapitalismo: pandemia, infodemia y neurototalitarismo", Mexico & Italy, Tecnológico de Monterrey.
Green J. (2013). Atomic Hook-Ups - Types of Chemical Bonds: Crash Course Chemistry #22. 26/05/20, de Crash Course Sitio web: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=QXT4OVM4vXI
Harari, Y. N. (2017). Homo Deus. New York, US: Harper Collins Publishers.
Hegel, G. W. F., & Houlgate, S. (1998). The Hegel Reader. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.