who have been keeping track of such things will recall that ten
or so years ago, as the Soviet bloc was falling by the wayside,
Francis Fukuyama proclaimed "the end of history" in a
famous article that he later expanded into a book. There, the neo-conservative
writer maintained that history as the story of large-scale,
fundamental struggles between competing blocs, ideologies, or systems
was over. Liberal democracy had triumphed, more or less,
and was the final form of human existence. True, there were some
pockets of reaction and opposition here and there, but these would
only require a few mopping-up operations on the road to global happiness.
was a depressing message depressing, at least,
for those who had a hard time spotting much liberalism
or democracy in the advanced welfare-warfare states
of North America, western Europe, and Australasia.
Indeed, the argument looked for all the world like
an elaborate Hegelian rationalization for continued
expansion of the world role of the US empire and
its faithful sidekick, the European Union (also
doing business as NATO). Certainly, the argument
THE GLOBAL DEMOCRAT
do not wish to discuss the merits of Hegel as a
philosopher here. There is a strong element of state-worship,
potentially, in Hegel's system, though he was hardly
a co-inventor of fascism or totalitarianism, as
claimed, for instance, by Karl Popper. Anglo-Americans
find Hegel quite murky. Even so, dialectical reasoning
(a mainstay of Hegel's system) has its uses, if
only or mainly in intellectual history.
of course, thought that human history embodied the
unfolding-in-time of Reason, the World Spirit
a sort of totalizing distillation of all that is
rational, progressive, and good. What does that
mean? In practical terms, Hegel wrote that the highest
possible form of freedom under law was being realized
through the rational bureaucratic system of the
innovation was to replace Prussia with the United
States or liberal democracy generally
as the final stage of all possible historical development.
Very flattering to us, no doubt, and his thesis
took off into the stratosphere for a while. Actually,
it wasn't that innovative, since the Hegelian-Jacksonian
American historian George Bancroft was already fitting
the United States in as the end-term of history
as early as the 1840s. Naturally, Bancroft was a
Northerner. (Southerners have their faults, but
with the glaring exception of Woodrow Wilson
inventing big world-healing historical trajectories
is seldom one of them.)
is the problem with secularizing eschatologies
(doctrines about final things). Torn from their
religious moorings, they tend to be quite misleading,
like the Book of Revelation, say, with social classes
substituted for good and evil. That was the point
last column. It was not an attack on Protestantism,
although one reader seems to have read it that way.
philosophy of history seems a case in point. Just
as you can try to put Cromwell into Daniel 2, so
too can anyone put his favorite nation, social class,
or ideology at the end of Hegel's teleology. To
the extent that this is accepted, it tends to stifle
debate by bringing in the notion of inevitability.
BANCROFT, AND FUKUYAMA RECONCILED
this risk of going all dialectical myself, I think
I can reconcile the claims of Hegel, Bancroft, and
Fukuyama. The end-form of all human striving is
in fact the Prussian monarchy and the US
empire. This is true to the extent that the American
leaders have, perhaps through the "cunning
of reason" (a key concept of Hegel's)
Prussianized their country. This may take
a very interesting piece written for a symposium
on total war,1 Alf
Lüdtke says that much writing on political
violence "ignores the perpetual internal 'small
war,' designed by authorities to suppress or keep
at bay all those whom they considered 'dangerous.'"2
This had long been an essential part of state-building,
formalized under the 17th-century concept
of the well-regulated police state. This was not,
I hasten to add, the sort of modern police state
which breaks down peoples' doors at three in the
morning and hauls them off, never to be seen again.
That was a 20th-century development,
for the most part.
the traditional police state involved a lot of policing:
a lot of surveillance and record keeping, so that
everything would be predictable and ordentlich.
It was picky, fussy, orderly, irascible, and arbitrary,
but never as effective, thorough, and occasionally
ruthless as modern-day police in the much-touted
American democracy. According to Lüdtke, 19th-century
Prussian policing only approached modern "liberal"
levels of repression when the army itself was
involved in policing civil society.
UNDERMINED BY DISTRIBUTED POWERS
were purely civil constables in Prussia down to
1848, but the army claimed the right to do a good
deal of the policing there. (This is referred to
as its Supermagisterium, or "final say").
This claim was made good in normal times, but grew
mightily in during emergencies. In July 1870, the
Prussian King, as executive of the North German
Confederation, announced a "state of siege"
in frontier districts in connection with the war
with France. In September, a certain General Vogel
von Falckenstein detained a number of citizens (socialists)
who were agitating for immediate peace, now that
Napoleon III's armies had been defeated. This was
back when socialists were still interested in peace.
General, a good bureaucratic militarist, reasoned
that advocacy of peace was "treason."
Well, what else could it be? The "security
of the state" was at stake.
had acquired in the 1850s a bill of rights. Civil
institutions existed to give life to these. So it
was that in early 1877 a court fined the good General
for infringing the rights of the citizens detained
in 1870. Otto von Bismarck, Ministerpräsident
and chief advisor to the King of Prussia, was quite
unhappy, but advised that the treasury should pay
the fine and Falckenstein's legal costs on the grounds
that the General had acted in his official capacity
should Bismarck so uncharacteristically yield to
a mere civilian court? He did so in part because
the German Empire, founded in 1871 by the inclusion
of several German states formerly not part of the
North German Confederation, was not the centralized
state which Anglo-Americans typically imagine it
was. There were structural limits to the power of
the Prussian King in his role as German Emperor.
other words, the case had arisen in Braunschweig,
one of the constituent states of the Reich, and
not in Prussia. In Prussia, Bismarck could have
had the case overturned. Here, the residual monarchical
federalism of the Reich raised a barrier to full-scale
militarization. As Lüdtke puts it, "a
fundamental principle of the Reich's constitution"
was "the preservation of the German states.
The Reich was established not to absorb but to sustain
and link these given political and monarchical entities."
The drawback, from the centralizers' standpoint,
was "that regulations that were valid in Prussia
were not necessarily binding in other states."3
Think about this, the next time the typically conventional
American historian informs you that "states
rights" has always been a mere reactionary
tactic in US politics and that nobody ever really
believed in it.
BACK IN PRUSSIA...
can't say if cases like the one summarized by Lüdtke
happened very often. What is interesting is his
further account of what the Prussian army (or the
new, military-style gendarmerie after 1848) did,
when acting in its policing role. It "often
controlled speeding carriages or prohibited smoking
in public places." It "patrolled more
frequently" than civilian constables had. Soldiers
also enforced school attendance laws, "intervened
in schools as well [as] in urban neighborhoods to
implement compulsory medical examinations,"
and "searched houses for the mentally ill."4
is worse than Woody Allen's monster with the body
of a lobster and the head of a social worker
and what a lovely set of social reforms! Perhaps
arguments could be made for these regulations, but
to enforce them with an army raises interesting
questions. In Prussia, it seems, the police were
not mere agents of civil society as in English-speaking
countries, but were extensions of the abstract sovereign
Berlin police bureaucrat, Albert Ballhorn, wrote
in 1852 that "it is in the nature of police
to be in a permanent war with everybody in the state
and society; thus it serves the common weal."
Serve and protect. Ballhorn also saw a need "to
train and educate every police officer in an academic
and scientific way."5
FURTHER CUNNING OF REASON
is time for us superior Anglo-Americans to wipe
the silly grins off our faces. The items rehearsed
above should be sounding very familiar. For all
our vaunted "rule of law" and "natural
rights," it appears that we have acquiesced
in, or even demanded, the militarization of American
police, down to the local level. Prussianization,
you might call it. Old Andy of Mayberry is gone.
His successors have helicopters, tanks, all manner
of explosive "devices" remember
the one that leveled several blocks of Philadelphia?
And do they wear military-style uniforms? Just look
around. Watch cop shows on TV, if you have the stomach
for it. (I've quit doing so.) Further, we are witnessing
the complete federalization of American police
departments, which generally goes faster under the
"states rights" Republicans. (Now we know
who it is that treats states rights as a mere slogan.)
I will merely mention in passing my refrain that
much of this unhappy process is directly a spill-over
effect of overseas empire.
you give some haberdasher the power to declare war
on his own motion, don't be surprised if he and
his bureaucrats gain a lot of power along the way.
Oh, I'm sorry, did I say war? Everyone knows that
the brutal war in Korea was a police action.
Let them play these games for half a century, and
you should not be surprised when they wish to rule
at home with the same finesse they typically display
in their colonies.
America, instead of having the army do the police
work, we have militarized the police. Of course
the war on drugs (nice metaphor) has created so
much overlap that it is harder and harder to tell
the difference. Differences still exist on
paper but the 18th-century grocery
list isn't doing us as much good as it once did.
Still, I'm happy enough about my thesis. If you
allow for all the little nuances, the World Spirit
has called a halt to history in the Prussian form,
but tricked us again by doing it in North America.
Thanks Hegel, Bancroft, and Fukuyama. And have a