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No end of history

Once again I was able to come to a September conference hosted by Brighton University's CAPPE (Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics). This time the theme was where we might be headed 30 years after a certain Francis Fukuyama wrote of an 'end of history'. I doubt that anyone there thought history - even in Fukuyama's sense of evolving ideological issues - has ended, or is going to end. But curiously, I was almost the only one making a contribution dealing directly with history carrying on in its own sour way.

I enjoyed the conference, except for the half-hour after my own talk when I struggled with questions and was grateful for help from my co-presenter. Yet I can feel conflicted at academic events (and sometimes elsewhere). My crude philosopher's instinct is to challenge notions taken for granted by other people, such as that there is no conflict between a political case for discarding capitalism and an economic case for retaining it. At the same time, I remain profoundly hostile to right-wing campaigns, whether conservatives who don't understand how to conserve anything worthwhile, pretentious libertarians with no idea of the insecurity of others, or neo-fascists who turn masculinity into an obscenity. For more than 40 years they have infuriated me by vindicating everything arrogant left-wing dogmatists ever say.

As always, I learnt much, not least from informal conversation between panel sessions. For the first time in my life I met someone who shares my cynical sense that if machines ever do surpass humanity in intelligence that might be a moment to celebrate. Very appropriately, he is a (mostly) Marxist academic who is gloomy about the future being liveable for more than a privileged minority. I am not a Marxist (unless right-wingers force me to become one) but I share his foreboding. I wish those who compain about prevalence of left-wing attitudes in academia would actually listen to what is said. It's about far more than tuition fees.

 

 

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