“As work in black studies has demonstrated, the major works of Kant and Hegel set the current terms of race. They do so not only by playing race against a falsely transparent humanity, but by constructing what counts as real. One effect among many is that the real becomes aligned with the non-racial. In Hegel, historical relation functions as a medium of reality that entails that properly historical societies appear as ‘non-racial’ in their self-understanding, while non-historical societies, located in the medium of reality but without opening themselves to it, now appear as ‘racial’ in their self-understanding. A crucial characteristic that people now have, in this view, one that is symptomatic of their relation to historical reality, is their supposed practice of raciality and/or their incapacity to desire to be non-racial. Assigning non-raciality to historicity reassigns racial characteristics elsewhere – in fact, exactly where they are in systems of scientific racism, and to the same degrees. It also continues to be the case that blackness is placed inside and outside ethnic categories, as a kind of exemplary pure raciality that is more and less than Africanness. As we will see, Hegel attributes racialisation primarily to racialised people themselves. This line of thought terminates in the political priority of the non-racial.
These implications bear upon the radical, negative, non-teleological, ‘left’ Hegel specifically, and are for that reason especially pertinent as a matter for radical self-examination. The problem with the critical consensus that Hegel’s dialectical subtlety triggers ‘right’ and ‘left’ interpretations is that left Hegelians often assume that anti-Hegelians are objecting to the rightist Hegel and that their own task is therefore to explain the resources that Hegel still offers to the left. This leaves no room for left criticism of left Hegelianism, and more to the point, threatens to close the logical space for racism in radical thought. At the most, as modelled by postracialism, radical thought finds left racism in other leftists making mistakes of conceptual exclusion. My goal here isn’t to rehearse right/left arguments, and so I start with the following understandings:
(1) Hegel is radically historical rather than dogmatic. He is opposed to nature and essence, even as he preserves the extent to which communities may require some ideas of nature and essence. Further, his vision of history is neither progressive nor simply teleological, because
(2) Hegelian subjectivity and historicity centre self-division, aporia, disarticulation and negativity, and are radically non-identitarian; [BONDE DA TELEOLOGIA SEM FREIO]
(3) Hegel promotes radical openness to history as a structural necessity of relation; relation and speculation should be understood as the media of openness, and themselves incomplete and open;
(4) the speculative proposition is the container of relation in flux, and the model for all Hegelian propositions;
(5) relation in Hegel is grounded in non-relation, the Absolute of the system, and this Absolute is absolutely the opposite of the ‘given’. [NADA ESTÁ DADO – HISTÓRIA É NIILISMO]
It is in these philosophical choices that I find Hegel’s specific contribution to racial capitalism. They matter particularly much because they continue to characterise the preferences of left political theory. Despite their inadequacies, I cannot help preserving the ambiguity of the terms ‘progressive’, ‘left’ and ‘radical’ for the time being, not only because it is as difficult to say whether Hegel was radical or liberal as it is to say whether he was right or left, but because the structure of (post)racial thinking consolidated in Enlightenment philosophy affects the range of ‘progressive’ views from liberal to radical. I am concerned to make the point that radicals cannot distinguish themselves from liberals in this regard. The racism of radical circles is not a matter of inconsistency, but of the values affirmed above, which are often shared by positions that agree on little else.”
“When instead we grasp that ‘racial thinking’ is not only used to subordinate others in open racism, but also projected, in a way that is itself racist, in order to cast them as less political, we may see more clearly that the set of radical Hegelian values can’t be relied on to ensure its own enlightenment. Efforts to devote radical politics to anti-racism in general are likely to be recuperated into the idea that this will make anti-racism more properly political in comparison to the practice of other groups who are still stuck in racial thinking and its errors of exclusion. Since such a radical stance is perfectly consistent with anti-blackness, a specific address to anti-blackness needs to become a radical platform in its own right. [O MOVIMENTO ANTI-RACISTA PRECISA EXISTIR, INEXORAVELMENTE, LIGADO AO MARXISMO OU ANTI-CAPITALISMO, PORÉM AUTÔNOMO, POR SI SÓ, POIS NÃO SE RESOLVE SÓ ECONOMICAMENTE, TEM UMA DINÂMICA PRÓPRIA.]
The frantic anti-blackness of Hegel’s depiction of sub-Saharan Africa in Lectures on the Philosophy of World History is well-known. Building on that knowledge, we might explore Hegel’s curious use of postracial ideals of relation there and in the less-discussed Philosophy of Religion. If Africa is ‘savage’, after all, it is because ‘Africa proper’ is ‘self-enclosed’.” RESUMINDO: HEGEL NÃO ERA SÓ RACISTA, COMO XENÓFOBO. SEU RACISMO E SUA XENOFOBIA SÃO PERFEITAMENTE COMPLEMENTARES PARA JUSTIFICAR SEU PONTO DE VISTA QUANDO É NECESSÁRIO “DESLIGAR A CHAVE RACISTA” OU “DESLIGAR A CHAVE XENOFÓBICA”, ALTERNATIVAMENTE. UM ETNOCENTRISMO BRANCO-EUROPEU DE DUAS BASES.
“If Hegel’s geographical materialism predicts cultural backwardness for Africa, his theory of historical realisation, and particularly its emphasis on openness and negativity, predicts his geographical materialism. In order for Hegel’s account of Africa to be what it is, it has to be able to indict African societies for being racial. That is, ‘racial’ practices are already a benchmark of the non-political. The key element of African societies’ inferiority is their self-enclosure and ‘government … patriarchal in character’, by which Hegel means their reliance on kinship structures, or what he assumes are kinship structures. Self-enclosure and kinship-centredness collapse into one: Hegel’s causal logic here is that African societies, having no access to the foreign influences that would expand their scope, fall back into themselves and reproduce the prehistoric family unit. Insofar as kinship structures are blood ties (Hegel does not explore the possibility of a difference between the two), Hegel’s African societies are cast as racial in the way that later political science would criticise them for being ‘tribal’. The series abstract – non-racial – open and familial –racial – closed renews the model of race that it finds in travel literature, not despite but through its greater abstraction.”
“Hegel mentions, for example, that ‘the original organisation that created social distinctions’ in India ‘immediately became set in stone as natural determinations (the castes).’ In Hegel’s account of India, ‘distinctions imposed by nature’ trap consciousness of social relations at the first available moment, the moment that locates value in natural origin. Such periods of entrapment, he explains, may occur whenever ‘peoples may have had a long life without a state before they finally reach their destination.’”
MENOS QUE HUMANOS, OU NA REALIDADE MENOS QUE ANIMAIS (POIS OS HINDUS, ACIMA NA ESCALA, JÁ SERIAM OS SUB-HUMANOS): “In Hegel’s account of Africa, by contrast, no impulse ever arises to make what is happening into a conscious social system, so that ‘even the family ethos is lacking in strength.’ What Hegel imagines to precede incipient social organisation is a reproductive primal horde that, if it were to be systematised, would generate a natural order, as in the example of Hegel’s imagination of caste; but Hegel’s sub-Saharan Africa does not even get that far. These imaginations function as justifications for colonisation. Yet, Hegel’s disapproval of ‘natural’ orders is taken to be something he gets right and as evidence for the extent to which he is not racist. As Joseph McCarney writes, defending Hegel from Robert Bernasconi’s explanations of his racism, ‘history is precisely, in one aspect at least, the escape of spirit from nature, its overcoming of all natural determinants such as common descent or blood relationship.’”
“Hegel’s posthumanist and humanist ideas of relation are shaped by his radical negativity. Diverging political uses of Hegel are made possible by this speculative destabilisation of identity. At the same time, negativity generates the historical subject and, along with it, the nonhistorical actor, as nonraciality advances by saddling nonhistorical societies with racial practices whose ‘depth’ appears as the ambiguity of blackness. Negativity is especially able to legitimate the historical subject because the historical subject is shattered in it, displaying the objectivity of historical process. Not primarily a recognition of an other, it is more fundamentally a capacity to be dismembered, and therefore formed, by the Absolute. This capacity, it turns out, cannot be taken for granted. The negativity of the historical life that ensues affords a position from which to dismiss nonhistorical life.”
“A radically anti-identitarian movement of subjective undoing often walks in the tracks of subject-building, as Gayatri Spivak pointed out in her criticism of Deleuze in 1988.” Cosmopolitismos anti-historicistas que estão apenas criando neo-historicismos.
“it’s problematic that Hegel substitutes pulp fiction images of Africa for something that he states he cannot comprehend (‘because it is so totally different from our own culture, and so remote and alien in relation to our own mode of consciousness’). It can seem obviously better for Hegel to stay in non-relation, and in his famous formulations Hegel calls precisely for staying with the negative, which renews itself at every moment. Yet, Hegel also makes the ‘openness’ of the negative into the measure of authentic development and then uses it to generate racist images of Africans who ‘lack’ it.”
“This reasoning is more than a problem in Hegel and more than a matter of Eurocentrism, or of stereotypes. It’s a specifically postracial Enlightenment technology that imputes racism elsewhere to demand colonial access (which figures as non-racial because it demands opening) to, and disposition over, the racial human. For radical philosophy, [entendo o termo como aqui como ‘marxismo ortodoxo’, me corrijam se eu estiver errado] racism is a priori elsewhere. That’s why the defence of racial hierarchisation by ‘mention’ – the criteria are not the radical writer’s criteria – redoubles the contradiction of attributing raciality by postracial praise of the non-racial. Postracial reasoning as such creates racial elsewheres through complaints about over-valuation of kinship, attachment, and so forth on the part of the others of Europe: their lack of openness, their lack of access to and/or disinterest in relation, their failure to be properly disturbed by non-relation.”
“As Donna Jones suggests, this imputed imperviousness to disarticulation (historical subjectivity) entails that ‘black people are not thought to die.’ [a crítica VINDA DA ESQUERDA de que ‘os negros não se des-essencializam como haveria de ser’] Much as they can only merit the full force of slavery by proving to be slaveholders, what Hegel believes is African indifference to foreign stimulation allows them to be the objects of a peculiarly postracial racism. In this sense, I’m not sure that blacks are being correlated to the Real of the system, in which case their non-given status would have the history-authenticating function of non-relation itself. Postracially, they are lined up before the Real along with others, and singularly fail to notice it. Thus, life in sub-Saharan Africa ‘consists of a series of contingent happenings and surprises’ – by which fact itself, however, Africans in particular cannot, according to Hegel, be surprised.” Uma espécie de PILATISMO (Pôncio Pilatos) aplicado à África.
“‘The Jewish religion’, as recent anti-political theology tracks very well, lacks the ‘latitudinarian tolerance’ of international modernity. As the historian of time [e tem como ser historiadora de outra coisa?] Vanessa Ogle points out, 19th-century coordinators of time schemes, building global capital, quickly came to perceive ‘peoples who do not partake’ in the global effort as ‘guilty of the crime of opposing it.’ Similarly, Christianity not only moralises, but invents particularity by offering itself as freedom from it. [ECUMENISMO HIPÓCRITA] Hegel stresses that he judges Judaism only by its lack of commitment to access: ‘it is only a limitation in this respect and not a limitation of the religion qua religion’ – necessarily, or it would otherwise be Christianity! In this way Judaic ‘particularity’, Muslim ‘excarnation’ and the provinciality of certain forms of Christianity are born only together with their vaunted open alternative, [pensar na crítica hegeliana das infinitas seitas norte-americanas] the historical real of global relation. The Christian structure of Hegel’s anti-identitariansim is as well-known as his hostility to certain actually existing forms of Christianity for still not being open enough.”
“Hegel aligns them [primitives, non-political societies] with nonraciality and raciality, the political [societies] of course being nonracial. Political consciousness may now order more and less mature fractions of citizenry against the background of groups not sufficiently political, as were the racial societies of the past.”
“For its part, the individual degrades into barbarism, Hegel writes, if relation does not occur. Complementarily, every time Hegel specifies that collectivity is not enough, is not yet political, he is acknowledging that societies can have every other kind of coordination and interest and still not be relational, historical or political. If, in view of the tendency for ‘authentic’ politicality to project the raciality of the insufficiently political, the political loses some lustre, that loss can enhance a radical view of the capacity of other ways of inhabiting well-being and justice.”
“In a memorable footnote, Hegel compares the entity in relation to an element in chemical reaction: ‘the acid is nothing else than the specific mode of its relation to the base – that is the nature of the acid itself.’
The metaphor of acid is a fine articulation of how entities within social relation are not yet congealed into objects, a view that wholly avoids reification. A lot of radical philosophy is linked to this sentence; everyone will like it – I like it. And indeed maintaining a relational view of the world is for Hegel what it is for contemporary theory, a safeguard against reification. In the name of this safety, however, the relation becomes utter, and the entities in relation ‘nothing else than’ the relation. ‘Nothing else’ lays all attachments down at the door at considerable expense, so no complaint of easiness-on-the-self can be made. Inside the door, then, is the political, and it sounds well-earned. But an outside, and exterior interiors, have now come into being. There, myriad phenomena, which look from within relation like attachments and identities, but may be anything from agricultural arts to diverting habits, now become evidence of nonpoliticality if they are really important to a community, i.e. if they happen to be preferred to the ‘discipline of the world’ in any friction between the two. This stigma of nonpoliticality, which can now be aimed, is, as a weapon, a kind of compensation for the historical subject’s sacrificial self-nullification. [EU ABANDONEI MINHA IDENTIDADE MODERNA, VOCÊ DEVE ANULAR A SUA TAMBÉM!] It is a place where the aggression that cannot be turned against history goes. A ‘progressive’ race discourse begins to appear here, backed up by the clarity and force of belief in the real movement of history. It could never be biologically racist; it could only speak of a nonracial alliance to which anyone could belong, if they only cared to or knew how.”
“Unlike Rousseau, he doesn’t consider how his ideas would be evaluated within African and Asian social systems, even as he observes their existence. The situation would not necessarily be improved if he did, and, notably, epistemic critique per se also cannot improve it even as, at the same time, I have not reached the end of it. The end of it is the fact that Hegel’s pejorative descriptions of imaginary societies indicate fictive alternative societies that Hegel also imagines in order to reject them.”
O PROFESSOR RACISTA QUE PREFERIRIA DESTRUIR SEUS PAPÉIS ANTES DE MORRER SE PUDESSE: “It is still merely studying what Hegel thinks to consider them, at the hallucinatory limit of his language. [HISTÓRIA DA ÁFRICA HEGELIANA (FICCÇÃO)] By gathering ideas that recur across his descriptions of various regions (reflecting the fact that the descriptions never describe actual regions), it is possible to piece together, as fantastic literature, what the societies of World History and Philosophy of Religion would look like if they were not being characterised as racial for not being statist. The blank pages of history aren’t completely blank: this other fictional society is in Hegel’s lectures ephemerally, a 2nd apparition reflected in their medium, [livros baseados em discursos que ‘não deveriam ter sido publicados’, provavelmente H. diria das Lectures…] and so it is also something to consider.”
“Hegel has read that in India the creation of the world involves ‘going forth’, meaning that agency lies in beings that go forth rather than in an original force that expresses them. The gods themselves go forth, which implies that they are finite and that the origin is just any place at all.”
“The story is problematic logically and politically, even as fiction; it is the negated, not entirely negated other of Hegel’s philosophy of history in particular, which is to say that it is primitivist – the inside-out of what he organises, in ambiguous implication. Hegel’s incidental images of other societies are able to do no more than raise the question of what he stands against. As such, whether such societies exist is not the main question to ask, but why, regardless of whether they exist or not, Hegel is so concerned to overcome these features of possible societies, and, moreover, what it means that the principles of radical history that he develops espouse their subordination as desirable, and their elimination as possible, practices. For this set of principles is racialised through and through in terms that black studies scholarship of the last 30 years makes amply available.
It is not simply that the values placed on characteristics of development and ‘tradition’, consciousness and ‘immediacy’, and so on down the line could be different, but that terms like tradition and immediacy come to be in the process of consolidating the historical in the first place, and do not function non-circularly at all. That’s why translation into any terminology other than Hegel’s own – ‘prosaic activity’ instead of ‘immediacy’, for example – illuminates the circularity of his assumptions even though there is no non-racist language to use instead.”
“Hegel breathlessly fetishises the radicality of this gesture in and of itself, focused on its power rather than its function. The same ecstasis greets the torn and disarticulated historical subject; its dismemberment is told and retold as a graphic dazzle. The ‘severe’ edge of the lines that caricature it mimic the ‘discipline of the world’. No one is a stranger to the elation of the gesture, and it can be a fine thing – for instance, to put it to work toward the destruction of all, under the name of racial capitalism, that made it possible to eliminate ‘nonhistorical’ life. But the gesture, and more than gesture, the strategies that align with it cannot but apotheosise historical mentality at the expense of something that then is not properly political. In its recurrent pattern, that something has been: the supposed racialism of ‘primitive’ societies, then racialised people’s interest in racial identity, then critical conviction about the scope of a critique of antiblackness. Because the social forms that appear as essential, provincial, and so on – the contemporary ones as much as the antique – appear so within a set of values controlled by the global open, they are something else apart from that control. What they then are isn’t necessarily better, but does have to be otherwise than what they seem to be in the grammar of their totalised antagonist. Like Hegel’s unwittingly possible snapshots of polytheism and of Africans undisturbed by non-relation, the foils of political authenticity necessarily bear more possibilities, for better and worse, than can be seen from a postracial horizon.
Hegel’s philosophy of history has appeal because it makes contingency and negativity into badges of honour, but it may look different if it is thought through that, in doing so, he makes them powerfully normative of political reality for all. Dismemberment’s power to legitimate the historical subject is visible in the frequency with which contemporary Hegelians point to it, as though to say that no one would invent a subjectivity based on dismemberment. Rebecca Comay, for example, and Lacanian Marxism generally, endorses historical dislocation as Hegel’s way of being ‘dead right’, and pathologises demurral from its affirmation. (…) Because anyone can affirm historical dislocation, everyone who is anyone must.”
“The complex that Hegel refines is not the only way to organise race in the early 19th century or now. It is the progressive’s way of organising it and a key to radical racism thereafter, for, unlike reaction, radical political thought needs its racism to be postracial. [mascarado, pasteurizado]”
“On Kant, see especially R.A. Judy, (Dis)forming the American Canon: African-Arabic Slave Narratives and the Vernacular (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993); Fred Moten, ‘Black Kant (Pronounced Chant): A Theorizing Lecture’, Kelly Writers House, 27 February 2007 (http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Moten.php#2-27-07) and ‘Knowledge of Freedom’, CR: The New Centennial Review 4 (2004); and Denise Ferreira da Silva, ‘1 (life) ÷ 0 (blackness) = ∞ − ∞ or ∞ / ∞: On Matter Beyond the Equation of Value’, E-flux 79 (2017) (unpaginated). Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze’s ‘The Color of Reason: The Idea of <Race> in Kant’s Anthropology’, in Postcolonial Philosophy: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), J. Kameron Carter’s discussion in Race: A Theological Account (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), and Robert Bernasconi’s ‘Kant as an Unfamiliar Source of Racism’, in Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays, ed. Julia K. Ward and Tommy L. Lott (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 145–66, show how Kant’s construction of the human and of teleology position black people as unable to survive. Eze and Bernasconi, however, preserve the value of ‘moving beyond’ race, Eze explicitly so. See Eze, Achieving Our Humanity: The Idea of the Postracial Future (New York: Routledge, 2001).
On Hegel, see especially Denise Ferreira da Silva, Toward a Global Idea of Race (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Hegel’s racialisation is dialectical whereas Kant’s is transcendental, and inclusive whereas Kant’s emphasises limits. [nenhuma diferença, na boa] Kant’s contribution ends in the ‘void’, absolutely alien space reserved to the noumenal; Hegel begins by confronting Absolute non-relation to set in motion a concrete, historically produced postracial reality, behind which (self-)racialised peoples lag. The Kant/Hegel opposition is a lose/lose situation. Hegel’s role in the double bind can be seen in dialectics’ treatment of its objects of analysis as racial or not, although my focus in these pages is on the Hegelian-postracial strategy of inclusion, made possible by mandatory relation” Ok, um é racista nominal, o outro racista prático!
“G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Robert F. Brown and Peter C. Hodgson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 196. As usual, the question of which translation to use of Hegel’s necessarily contested lectures, assembled from sets of student notes, is not really solvable. John Sibree’s 1858 translation of the Introduction and Lectures together is still the only place to find English versions of certain material. See Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. John Sibree [Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, 2001]. I use Brown and Hodgson, the most recent translation, where possible and fall back on Sibree as necessary. Hugh Nisbet’s less apologetic edition of the Introduction is sometimes indispensable. See Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History. Introduction: Reason in History, trans. H.B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975). As Nicholas Walker observes, Brown and Hodgson’s claims to modernisation are problematic and ‘in the last analysis most of the old and many of the new problems associated with this controversial work remain largely impervious to such textual and editorial changes and revisions’ (Nicholas Walker, review of Brown and Hodgson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 14 December 2011, https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/lectures-on-the-philosophy-of-world-history-vol-i-manuscripts-of-the-introduction-and-the-lectures-of-1822-3/). I find Brown and Hodgson’s translation anodyne, [não-degradantes em relação à nomenclatura hegeliana clássica] but use it as a control.”
“A political reply to the construction of caste that Hegel uses, and that is still in use, is Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor’s argument that the British regime codified caste out of scattered heterogeneous practices and solidified the term ‘Hindu’. See Shashi Tharoor, An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2016).”
“a nationalisation of God is not exclusive to Judaism, but paradigmatic in it; when Christians act this way they are unnecessarily restricting Christianity.”