Time and Revolution: Marxism and the Design of Soviet Institutions

By Stephen E. Hanson | Go to book overview

2
TIME IN THE WORKS OF KANT AND HEGEL

The gradual destruction of the traditional conception of time in western Europe and its replacement by the rational idea of time as abstract and linear was not a neutral process, politically, culturally, or intellectually. Indeed, the triumph of rational time gave rise to a whole set of unprecedented problems for men and women trying to understand their place in the universe, problems that demanded some sort of philosophical resolution, for such a time conception fundamentally relativizes all human experience, and indeed even the existence of human beings themselves. The traditional conception of time as a concrete cycle, though it could not guarantee permanent social stability, did allow for the comforting view that human beings and their social arrangements were somehow essential to the very nature of things in time. In addition, since traditional politics defended a conception of sacred timelessness lying outside the mundane realm, philosophical ideas of beauty, truth, and morality could be seen as themselves timeless in nature, unaffected by earthly natural or social changes.1

The new conception of time as linear and abstract, however, undermined one by one all such traditional understandings of humanity's relationship to the universe. First, during the Enlightenment, time-honored social practices

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