Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

This book explores and explains the reasons why the idea of universal history, a form of teleological history which holds that all peoples are travelling along the same path and destined to end at the same point, persists in political thought. Prominent in Western political thought since the middle of the eighteenth century, the idea of universal history holds that all peoples can be situated in the narrative of history on a continuum between a start and an end point, between the savage state of nature and civilized modernity. Despite various critiques, the underlying teleological principle still prevails in much contemporary thinking and policy planning, including post-conflict peace-building and development theory and practice. Anathema to contemporary ideals of pluralism and multiculturalism, universal history means that not everyone gets to write their own story, only a privileged few. For the rest, history and future are taken out of their hands, subsumed and assimilated into other people’s narrative.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. In the Beginning

Abstract
John Locke’s claim that “in the beginning all the world was America” is taken to mean that all peoples literally emerged in a state of nature. The Enlightenment idea of universal history idea holds that all peoples can be situated in the narrative of history on a continuum between that start and an end point, what we call civilization. The related idea of teleological history maintains that the passage of history has direction and purpose, history is heading toward a particular ends. This chapter explores the thinking behind these ideas and what they mean for humankind.
Brett Bowden

2. Universal History

Abstract
Despite the advent of terms such as world history and global history, the idea of universal history has remained remarkably persistent in Western political thought since the middle of the eighteenth century. The large-scale histories represented by these terms are indicative of humankind’s desire and efforts to find connections and meaning in the myriad of people, places, and events that make up human history. This chapter outlines the variations to each approach, with a particular focus on the key thinkers and philosophical underpinnings associated with the idea of universal history.
Brett Bowden

3. Progressive History

Abstract
The idea of progress has two related components: the first is that the human species universally progresses, albeit at different rates, from an original primitive or child-like condition, through savagery, through barbarism, and culminates at the apex of progress in the status of civilization. The second component holds that human experience, both individual and collective, is cumulative and future-directed, with the specific objective being the ongoing improvement of the individual, the society in which the individual lives, and the world in which the society must survive. This chapter outlines the sources and theorizing behind the idea of progress in Western political thought, highlighting its central role in the broader Enlightenment.
Brett Bowden

4. Making History

Abstract
Karl Mark suggests that “Men make their own history.” The idea that humankind can shape or make its own history with a real sense of purpose directed toward a particular end is central to the ideas of progress and universal history. This chapter demonstrates how since the end of the Second World War, at the instigation of President Harry S. Truman, international organizations dedicated to economic development and modernization more generally, have sought to harness science and technology to drive human progress.
Brett Bowden

5. The Ends

Abstract
The ideas of progress and universal history represent a search for meaning in history that almost necessitates an end to history. The universal historian is one who looks backward from present to past to find meaning and purpose in the passage of history. If all of humankind is progressing along the path of human history, there must be a particular end point toward which we are traveling. In seeking meaning in history, and actively trying to make it happen, there is a danger that the ends can come to justify the means, however unsavory they might be.
Brett Bowden

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen

Premium Partner

    Bildnachweise