The Fall of Real Socialism and the Crisis in the Human Sciences, with Implications for Social Justice

By Ishitsuka, Shoji | Social Justice, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

The Fall of Real Socialism and the Crisis in the Human Sciences, with Implications for Social Justice


Ishitsuka, Shoji, Social Justice


The relatively brief history of the Socialist Enlightenment - which played such an important role by realizing the idea of equality, wbile tragically enforcing dictatorship - has come to an end. As Norbert Ehas' analysis of the civilizational process in France and Germany eloquently shows, the idea of freedom in the West is closely related to its cultural traits, that is, to the culture of the court and bourgeois culture. The development of freedom is therefore the flip side of the coin of Western class society, elements of which endure under contemporary conditions.

The idea of equality has taken root within this Western societal context. Centered in the majority of classes in Western civilizational development, this idea was realized in the socialist transformation that began within revolutionary Russia of 1917, at the periphery of Western Civilization, and spread over Eastern Europe. Historically speaking, the modern idea of freedom has developed whenever the idea of equality was negated in class society; the idea of equality, on the other hand, has flourished where freedom lacked a base and where a collective orientation was dominant, particularly in the non-Protestant regions of the Occident.

However, both ideas - the idea of freedom and its negation, the idea of equality - have the same origin in the identity principle of European Christian civilization. The transition from the identity principle also engendered the idea of "World history" through the world-historical development of the European Christian civilizational process since Columbus: it is a profound closure, because the Soviet Socialistempire has ended. The identity principle - the idea of the assimilation of all civilizations centered on Christianity - presupposes the idea of progress, which can be traced to Sir Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, and illustrates the development of modern natural science. Thus, both enlightenments, the modern Enlightenment and the Socialist Enlightenment, are the subject of a critique of modernity. The difference principle is currently gaining recognition with reference to anticolonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-ethnocentrism, and anti-cultural chauvinism. The following antitheses are becoming increasingly evident and are being emphasized both theoreticar, and practically: republicans versus federalists, centralism versus regionalism, center versus periphery, and system versus the living world.

The Decline of Real Socialism: An End to History or Modernity?

Elsewhere, I have discussed the significance of the decline of real socialism for the history of civilization.(1) The decline of real socialism led to a chaotic world situation followed by worldwide economic, social, and political crises, including the deepening economic crisis in the European Community, the rise of racism there, nationalist and religious confrontations in Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, and the upsurge in Islamic dogmatism. Following the capitalist-oriented revolutions throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, the possibility of a "revival of communism" has arisen, with two notable events in September and October 1993, in Poland and Russia. In Poland, the former Communist received almost 70% of the vote in a free election and Russia temporary had two presidents and an intense conflict between a populist presidential leader, Boris Yeltsin, and parliamentary power dominated by former Communists.

The decline of real socialism has been variously interpreted, including as part of the end of history. Yet what does the concept of an "end of history" connote today? Francis Fukuyama's well-known thesis regarding "the end of history" first appearect in an article by that title (1989) and was fully developed in his exceptional book, The End of history and the Last Man (1992). My thesis on "the end of modernity" first appeared with the publication of my second book, Vers une critique du [urlogos] moderne (in Japanese, 1992b) and the theme is enlarged in Social Justice for the first time in English. …

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