Posthistorical

Between 1933 and 1939 Kojève lectured on Hegel at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris (Kojève 1947).8 Kojève placed the dialectic of Master and Slave at the center of, and as the key to understanding, what he considered to be the most significant of the "écrits hégéliens," the Phenomenology of Spirit. It is the fight for recognition that is essential to becoming a self - an "I" (Kojève 1980: 7). Kojève, like Hegel (1977: 109-10), posited a distinction between the desire to fulfill instinctual needs or "appetites" and a higher Desire. This higher Desire is human desire and must win out over the purely animal desire. Human Desire, however, is not, as is animal desire, simply instinctual:

Desire is human only if the one desires, not the body, but the Desire of the other; if he wants "to possess" or "to assimilate" the Desire taken as Desire - that is to say, if he wants to be "desired" or "loved", or, rather, "recognised" in his human value, in his reality as a human individual. (Kojève 1980: 6)

This "recognition" is not simply a matter of some supplementary status that sorts the masters from the slaves - it is an essential characteristic of human identity. As Kojève declares, "the human being is formed only in terms of a Desire directed towards another Desire, that is - finally - in terms of a desire for recognition" (Kojève 1980: 7; my italics). Thus Kojève, in positing the fight for recognition as pivotal, proposes a reading of the Phenomenology in which we are presented with an "account of universal history in which bloody strife - and not 'reason' - is responsible for the progress towards the happy conclusion" (Descombes 1980: 13). The conclusion being, of course, Absolute Knowledge and the End of History. Kojève bequeathed to his readers "a terrorist conception of history" (Descombes 1980: 14). For Desire to be Desire, then, thanatos must be its precondition in an economy of becoming that is sacrificial and where death only has meaning to the extent that its meaninglessness is wagered.

While commentators and critics have repeatedly emphasized this violent element of Kojève's legacy, there is an often-ignored factor that is central to the realization of the consummation of desire: happiness is the ultimate goal of history, conflict, and Man. This point is of the utmost importance not least because the once-certain distinction between human and animal disappears on reaching happiness - the End of History - and desire is once again transformed.

The Selbst - that is, Man properly so-called or the free Individual, is Time; and Time is History, and only History . . . And Man is essentially Negativity, for Time is Becoming - that is, the annihilation of Being or Space. Therefore Man is a Nothingness that nihilates and that preserves itself in (spatial) Being only by negating being, this Negation being Action. Now, if Man is Negativity - that is, Time -he is not eternal. He is born and he dies as Man. He is "das Negative seiner selbst," Hegel says. And we know what that means: Man overcomes himself as Action (or Selbst) by ceasing to oppose himself to the World, after creating in it the universal and homogeneous State; or to put it otherwise, on the cognitive level: Man overcomes himself as Error (or "Subject" opposed to the Object) after creating the Truth of "Science." (Kojeve 1980: 159-60)

The ends of Man can be discerned with the coming of the "universal and homogeneous state" and the closure of ideology. At this point, when Man is no longer, "life is purely biological" (Kojeve 1947: 387). Man is once again pure animality and, in a footnote to the first edition of his Introduction in 1947, Kojeve confirms and affirms this telos of the human: Man becomes an animal who is "in harmony with Nature or given Being" (Kojeve 1980: 158 n. 6). Although this "annihilation of Man" brings about the end of philosophy and wisdom, there is sufficient consolation in this "state" of being animal: "art, love, play, etc., etc." (Kojeve 1980: 159 n. 6). Nevertheless, Kojeve's vision is fundamentally horrific: human life has become what we might call "lifestyle as biopolitics," where biopolitics is the constitution of life as little more than "birth, death, production, illness, and so on" (Foucault 2003: 243). Mere survival of the flesh is the logic of the biopolitical era in which traditional sovereign power - to make die and let live - has been superseded by biopower - to make live and let die (Foucault 2003: 241).

In the second edition of his Introduction & la lecture de Hegel (1959), Kojeve returned to this biopolitical footnote with a change of mind. The animality of the post-historical human that is so persuasively delineated in the first edition is abandoned in the midst of a complete reappraisal of a culture after History.

If Man becomes an animal again, his acts, his loves, and his play must also become purely "natural" again. Hence it would have to be admitted that after the end of History, men would construct their edifices and works of art as birds build their nests and spiders spin their webs, would perform musical concerts after the fashion of frogs and cicadas, would play like young animals, and would indulge in love like adult beasts. But one cannot then say that all this "makes Man happy." One would have to say that post-historical animals of the species Homo sapiens (which would live amidst abundance and complete security) will be content as a result of their artistic, erotic, and playful behaviour, inasmuch as, by definition, they will be contented with it. But there is more. "The definitive annihilation of Man properly so-called" also means the definitive disappearance of human Discourse (Logos) in the strict sense. Animals of the species Homo sapiens would react by conditioned reflexes to vocal signals or sign "language," and thus their so-called "discourses" would be like what is supposed to be the "language" of bees. What would disappear, then, is not only Philosophy or the search for discursive Wisdom, but also that Wisdom itself. For in these post-historical animals, there would no longer be any "[discursive] understanding of the World and of self." (Kojeve 1980: 159-60 n. 6)

In the wake of pure animality comes pure formalism and the refusal of reflexivity -Japanese aristocratic snobbery is the exemplar of post-History. But Kojeve is being disingenuous here. Animal desire, as the merely sentient condition of human desire, is characterized by Kojeve as lacking the essential reflexivity or ability to disquiet Man (Kojeve 1980: 3-4). This, in turn, remains the very status of post-historical humanity even in its revision as formalism (Kojeve 1947: 387). Notwithstanding his reservations, Kojeve cannot escape the biopolitical implications of his analysis - political action is no longer possible or commendable and desire is always aligned to the mores of the "universal state" in which the human is a refugee (Kojeve 1947: 387). The universal state is now realized as global liberal governance and the latter is enforced, for the most part, by multinational corporations and transnational agencies.

The consequences, for a Christian eroticism, of the ascendancy of constructs of being that are inert in the civitas terrana are manifold. In the post-historical, biopolitical context of the end of the Human, desire is essentially a timeless and goal-less satedness that gives birth to the dreamy, technological practices of the inhabitants of late-capitalist societies. The nature of the human, as with all existence, has been transformed into a set of material possibilities and potentialities that are managed through an economy of sentient desiring and the capture of that which is imminent to the species. There is no point or end and, as Kojeve reminded Bataille, a beautiful death is definitive failure. Is it surprising that the church also expends the bulk of its energy on managing bodies and establishing moral parameters that define what it is to be Christian in the wake of the Messiah? The church is managing its own beautiful death. In contrast, the church might retrieve the fecundity of its reflections upon, and practices of, desire. In doing so, it is not only a question of rethinking Divine desire but of being theologically political by desiring Divine desire. The starting point for such reflections and practices, however, must be a rejection of the ideology of moral values and the violence of sacrificial origins, of the laws that divide the Christian. Only then is a truly radical Christian eroticism possible.

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