And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.
Hegel's idealism has fared poorly at the hands of later thinkers. Marx reversed the priority of the real and the ideal completely, relegating the entire realm of consciousness - religion, art, culture, philosophy itself - to a "superstructure" that was determined entirely by the prevailing material mode of production. Yet another unfortunate legacy of Marxism is our tendency to retreat into materialist or utilitarian explanations of political or historical phenomena, and our disinclination to believe in the autonomous power of ideas. A recent example of this is Paul Kennedy's hugely successful , which ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension. Obviously, this is true on some level: an empire whose economy is barely above the level of subsistence cannot bankrupt its treasury indefinitely. But whether a highly productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society's political priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness.
(10) Cf. also Broodryk (1997a:10).
(2) Many definitions of Ubuntu have already been given, all of which relate closely to the one given here (cf. Broodryk, 1995:5ff; 1997a:1-2; 1997b:27ff; Prinsloo, 1995:2; 1996:1-2; Sindane, 1994:1-2; Teffo, 1995:1-2). The South African Governmental White Paper on Welfare officially recognises Ubuntu as: "The principle of caring for each other's well-being...and a spirit of mutual support...Each individual's humanity is ideally expressed through his or her relationship with others and theirs in turn through a recognition of the individual's humanity. Ubuntu means that people are people through other people. It also acknowledges both the rights and the responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being" (Government Gazette, 02/02/1996, No.16943, p.18, paragraph 18quoted by Broodryk, 1997a:1).
Taylor, Charles. 1985. . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
For Kojève, as for all good Hegelians, understanding the underlying processes of history requires understanding developments in the realm of consciousness or ideas, since consciousness will ultimately remake the material world in its own image. To say that history ended in 1806 meant that mankind's ideological evolution ended in the ideals of the French or American Revolutions: while particular regimes in the real world might not implement these ideals fully, their theoretical truth is absolute and could not be improved upon. Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.
Teffo, Joe. 1994a. . Pretoria: Ubuntu School of Philosophy.
I have neither the space nor, frankly, the ability to defend in depth Hegel's radical idealist perspective. The issue is not whether Hegel's system was right, but whether his perspective might uncover the problematic nature of many materialist explanations we often take for granted. This is not to deny the role of material factors as such. To a literal-minded idealist, human society can be built around any arbitrary set of principles regardless of their relationship to the material world. And in fact men have proven themselves able to endure the most extreme material hardships in the name of ideas that exist in the realm of the spirit alone, be it the divinity of cows or the nature of the Holy Trinity.
Teffo, Joe. 1994b. . Pretoria: Ubuntu School of Philosophy.
In the West, individualism often translates into an impetuous competitiveness. Individual interest rules supreme and society or others are regarded as nothing but a means to individual ends (cf. Khoza, 1994:4, 5, 7; Prinsloo, 1997:2). This is in stark contrast to the African preference for co-operation, group work or ("work as one", i.e. team work). There are approximately 800 000 so-called "stokvels" in South Africa. Stokvels are joint undertakings or collective enterprises, such as savings clubs, burial societies and other (often formally registered) cooperatives. The stokvel economy might be described as capitalism with (humanness), or, if you like, a socialist form of capitalism. Making a profit is important, but never if it involves the exploitation of others. Profits are shared on an equal basis. As such, stokvels are based on the Ubuntu "extended family system", i.e. all involved should be considered as brothers and sisters, members of the same family (Broodryk, 1997a:4, 11, 13-14; 1997b:38f, 70f; Lukhele, 1990).