From Last and First Men:
As we examine world history with its suggestion from the brief interval for which records in real time are available of a cascade of successive epochs, the significance of the modern age becomes clear, as enter into a new stage of civilization, and yet one, as the early socialists saw, that had at its beginning not yet achieved it conclusive final state, in the creation of a potential leading to a possible endstate.
As the consequences of the capitalist revolution close on themselves two centuries downfield from the conclusion of the modern transition, the better conclusion in the form of a meta-economic understanding confronts the reckless abandon with which modernity was equated with economic free for all, and this in turn with an extravagant fantasy of evolving economic agents.
It was the science fiction writer Olaf Stapleton who coined the phrase ‘last and first men’, and in the wake of our evolutionary discussion, it would seem appropriate to wonder if the chronicle of the first and last men is not reflected in the stages of what we suppose is the macroevolution of the species ‘homo sapiens’. We tend to think, as noted, in terms of
‘evolution’ stopping, for history to begin, but we should rather suspect a braided set of evolutionary histories, between transitional phases, such as history indeed shows, to be the real ‘evolutionary saga’, as yet incomplete, between the first and the last men. That this phrase echoes a quite different notion to the philosopher Nietzche is an additional irony, for we can see that the ‘last man’ of that philosopher’s tirades against modernity is in reality a parody of Darwinian pseudo-evolution, and, absurdly, the false victor of the economic game, unfit to survive due to the blunting of his humanity in the phases of alienation.
The year 1848 is a symbolic token of this state of affairs, prophesied by the witnesses to the French (and American) revolutions who saw a future and final revolution to come, yet one, as in the tales of Scheherezade, forever delayed to a new episode of the old. We should rather consider the scale of our larger chronicle, to see that events have
proceeded faster than we might have thought, and that the urgency of the early challengers to capitalist domination seemed to sense that the endgame would not be a distant future, but a nearly imminent crisis in the system at hand. And so, two centuries form their urgency, we can indeed see that an unadulterated system of markets can in short order destabilize an entire ecological system, and in the name of free markets produce a kind of social madness in the octaves of Social Darwinist utopianism.
The revolutions of the year 1848 are thus an apt reference, more so than those of the classic early modern, to our current realities, since precisely the constellation of market liberalism triumphant and liberalism reborn in the resolution of its contradictions in the new banner of socialist democracy was at work, and powerfully recorded in the writings of the scions of the 180’s, that seminal decade that saw the first phase of the modern world compromised at the start by the legacies of scientism, Darwinism, and economic
ideology. That moment of high potential remains to find its realization in the last, and first new age of man’s true speciation as man, the stage of homo sapiens as yet unachieved. Sooner or later, and, as it now seems, sooner, we will be forced to conclude the revolutions of 1848, as a global movement toward postcapitalism, environmental sanity, and in the context of an epochal transition in the macroevolutionary legacy of man.