The end of the future: Hegel and the political ecology of deep time

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)
No.1, 2013
The end of the future: Hegel and the political ecology of deep time
Stefan Skrimshire
Ecological discourse is often framed as a critique of the dominant paradigm of economic and social progress. As such it implicitly critiques the Judaeo-Christian roots of an apocalyptic “revelation” of linear, historic destiny to humanity. A recent trend in ecological discourse can even be linked to an interest in the conceptual reverse of apocalyptic finality: the repetition of cycles of death and rebirth, an ecological interest in “deep time”, and the positioning of the earth’s history within macro-scale cycles of destruction and regeneration. The latter concept might be thought to have its roots in pre-socratic Greek thought or in the heretical “eternal return” of Nietzsche. But it is also implicated in an antipathy to “imminent” apocalyptic future prediction that we find, much earlier, in a pivotal moment in western thinking about time: Hegel’s philosophy of history as pure immanence; the “end” of the future seen as definitive event to come. Such a legacy raises challenging ethical questions for our own situation. For such a view arguably provides moral, spiritual, and scientific bases for doing nothing about either mitigating or adapting to ecological crises.