Art, History, and the
Question of an End
Many of Hegel's successors, most notably the Left-Hegelians, do him the honor of being one of the first to underscore man's historical nature, albeit, it is quickly added, in a manner "mystified" by Hegel's deep concern with man's religious essence. Many thinkers, not always Marxists, share some such view of Hegel. In broad terms this is how it tends to run: because of his religious "mystical" bias, Hegel spoke of Absolute Spirit, particularly stressing the intimacy of man and God. But nevertheless in this he brought to the fore that aspect of becoming, development, process, all notions converging on the reality of historical manifestation. This intimacy of man and God is disclosed in the dialectical identity of man and Geist. Hegel, it is said, was right to identify man and spirit, but wrong to hypostatize spirit into some power transcending man. In fact, Geist is nothing other than, nothing but, human activity developing itself and coming to determinate articulation through the dynamism of the unfolding historical process. There is no Weltgeist other than man. Rather man is just the Weltgeist of the historical world in that his active power brings it into being and moves it as a world. Man's power is the agency of history and man's power alone. History is the domain of man's work, not the product of God's power. History and the development of humanity are all but synonymous.