Let's Talk About SACS, Baby!

Since returning to South Florida one of the inevitable questions I’ve been asked by friends and family is “Where are you working?” and my response has been “Right now, I’m not because I can’t. I re-enrolled in graduate school so I can.” While I’ll not go into the reasons why I’m not pursuing non-academic career options right now, suffice it to say people are confused by this response as I’d received a Masters degree from N.Y.U. What I want to accomplish with this article is explain to in some detail why this is so and to mention an objection to the new regulatory framework outlined by the Department of Education (D.O.E.) as manifested in the form the Southern Assocation of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that has resulted in my inability to obtain a position in Florida.

At the beginning of my second year at NYU, in 2010, the hiring guidelines for university professors that had held across America for more than seventy years was changed. As I was focusing on my graduate studies, I was unaware of its adoption. In a largely unreported policy shift, colleges across the country were given two years to align themselves with the new guidelines and those that failed to comply to them would result in punishment appropriate to the severity of the infraction. A warning could be given for something small or DOE accreditation could be revoked for something large. Schools not yet accredited via DOE affiliated institutions or who have had their licensure revoked, it should be noted, are ineligible for government funding. Ostensibly, lacking the ability to directly impose it’s will upon state and local educational institutions, the federal government threatened to starve those that did not comply. The new regulatory framework was not overly drastic nor contemptible, but this does not mean that they are insignificant either. In fact for students, professors and administrators there’s a whole lot that has changed.

For one, the passing of the reforms backed by the Obama administration resulted in the consolidation of various collegiate accreditation agencies by stating that only a few of them would be eligible for federal funding. The quasi-governmental bodies which report to the Department of Education were reduced in number to regional bodies, which would now be in charge of all the schools and universities in their district. There are several reasons for doing this, the most obvious being a reduction of redundancy as there are a large number of institutions that deem themselves licensing agencies for colleges and universities. Examples of these could include the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing (ABN), the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). While previously each of these would have been involved in the accreditation of a college or university’s Nursing School or Business School – their pre-existing requirements are now subsumed under the policy guidelines of the regional commissions on colleges. Those schools must follow these guidelines as well as those of the regional Commission on Colleges.

Creating a set of guidelines which applies to these various enterprises doesn’t mean they have been divested of crediting power, but simply increases standardization of grading for schools across various regions. This policy thankfully provides increased ease for students wishing to transfer credits to other universities. With curriculum and standards at one university basically aligned with others there is less likelihood that transfer credits would be denied, thus making credits received at a community or state college valid at another should a student decide to transfer to a state or private university.

While I’ve had no personal experience with this, my wife’s dual-enrollment experience is illustrative of the problem some students have faced. While in high school, prior to the adoption of the new SACS standards in 2010, Josselyn entered a dual-enrollment program at Broward College. She received twenty-four university credits while enrolled, but was unable to use only nine of these credits when she transferred to Nova Southeastern University. The time that she had spent in attending and studying for the classes and the money spent by the state for her education were, in essence, wasted as she was forced to retake those classes which she had already passed.

Today, this would not happen due to this form of stronger consumer protections. Also worth mentioning in passing is the additional function the new regulatory regime has is: giving it the power to prevent schools not authorized by the DOE from advertising that they are an “accredited school”. This is in large part a response to the proliferation of online diploma mills that have hoodwinked those that paid for courses and received degrees which other, more reputable and established accrediting agencies don’t view as valid. To accomplish this type of academic credit compatibility amongst the universities requires a degree of standardized hiring practices and movement towards a uniform curriculum. If this process sounds familiar, it should. The consolidation of regional values and goals into a singular, national pattern is based on the federal government’s initiation of K-12 school curriculum standards and learning goals.

In my discussions with university representatives on Broward College, Palm Beach State College and FAU, I’ve learned that many of the professors in the humanities were dismissed prior to the start of this academic year because their academic record was not on par with the newly adopted SACS rubric. Professors that had been hired to teach American political science on the due to their having graduated law school rather than an M.A. or Ph.D. in that field have been let go. History professors who were teaching introductory level political science classes without 18 graduate credits in that field were cut – even if they’d taught the class any number of times before. Speaking with professors, those that have degrees specialized in a certain area are no longer allowed to teach classes on something else.

This means that someone like me, who focused their graduate studies on political science and history (24 of 32 total graduate credits plus my masters thesis) but did not have 18 credits solely in either are not eligible to teach either. While I do find the situation I’m in loathsome, I am generally in favor for such a model of credentialing as subject area expertise emerges from a significant amount of field research and those that are only partially familiar with a subject should not be passed off as someone that has mastered the material and is thus able to teach it. What I do take issue with these standards for accreditation are the certain ambiguities of assessment not addressed by SACS or the COC. Simply put, people who actively pursue academic careers do not just read field literature for credit but as part of an ongoing enrichment process and the current model doesn’t account for this.

On average, I read from three to seven books a month and according to these new standards, my “personal research” isn’t within the framework of SACS credentialing and are thus are not “credited” to me. It is this situation that has caused me to start writing responses to most of the books that I’ve been reading in the past several months.

With this in mind I feel that there needs to be other options for university professors to develop their professional standing without being forced to pay for courses in or out of their field – especially at a time when the humanities are under attack and thus the options available for “crediting” via free tuition benefits are reduced. If this seems somewhat abstract, let me give you an example.

Because of their historical and political relevance to my own field of expertise, I’ve read quite a large number of utopian and dystopian novels as well as the historical context of their emergence and comparative literature responses to them. While I wouldn’t qualify myself as “comparative literature” professor per se, I would not only feel comfortable leading a undergraduate level class on this topic but would do so without any sense that I was providing them a sub-par education. A similar standard holds true to Nietzsche’s philosophy, Marxian interpretations of society, etc. and especially in the situation I find myself in now where I have to take more credits to become a SACS credentialed history and political science professor.

Now I don’t know whether or not SACS will make room for this in the future, but I would imagine that as they are still coping with the transitions of the new regulatory frameworks I don’t think it will do so soon. However I do think this is something to be considered seriously now rather than seventy years down the road.

Review of "A New Earth"

There are few books with which I have had more difficulty in getting through than A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. It was not the density of his prose, my inability to grasp what was being written but that I was constantly writing critical comments in the margins next to absurd propositions conceived of as esoteric nuggets of wisdom and my constant state of surprise at the logical leaps that he made, not to mention it’s lack of academic rigor. While adherence to generally standardized regulations for intellectual compositions aren’t something most people use when making value judgements about what they are reading, especially in the realm of popular literature, caring more for the “feelings” it gives them instead, it is worth noting those objections in order to better ascertain the validity of Tolle’s position.

There are a total of thirty citations found in the Notes section of A New Earth and of these there are a total of twelve different texts. 19 of them are from the New Testament, two are from Shakespeare, and there is one each from works by Hafiz, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Einstein, Lao Tzu, one of the Upanishads, A Course In Miracles, a New York Times article and a statistic for the U.S. Department of Justice. While it is common to relate one’s own positions to the literature which came before it in order to show knowledge and mastery of material – we see here that Tolle doesn’t do this and that one of the intellectually troubling aspects of the book is in its use of other people’s perspectives to justify his own position when they fundamentally disagree with him.

One such example of this occurs on page 235, where Tolle quotes Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra: “For happiness, how little suffices for happiness! … the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a whisk, an eye glance – little maketh up the best happiness. Be still.” Just as there are lies, dirty lies and statistics – any person who has been trained with high standards of academic discipline will tell you that it is quite easy to misrepresent someone by decontextualizing a quote. This Tolle does by saying that this is evidence that Nietzsche, a seminal authority on human thought as the forefather of depth psychology, justifies his position that it is the simplest things in life, like nature, which lead to the greatest happiness.

For one, there is the explicit claim that a character through which Nietzsche used to clarify some of his own positions, Zarathustra, is in fact Nietzsche himself. As a variation of the bildungsroman and as other scholars working of Nietzsche’s oeuvre have noted, it is clear that all that Zarathustra says is in fact not meant to indicate Nietzsche’s final position as it evolves over the course of his life any more than we are to take Werther to be Goethe, or Kierkegaard to be any of his many pen names. This is not to say that Nietzsche did not use Zarathustra as a mouthpiece for some of his ideas, but Nietzsche’s use of irony and writing style defies any such cut and paste hermeneutics. We able to discern this not just through Tolle’s misattribution of who spoke the text but by looking further in his work to see if the two actually share the same notion of happiness.

It is widely noted by Nietzsche scholars that as a result of his philosophical and psychological investigations he did not propound that the type of “happiness” which Tolle describes (and ascribes to Nietzsche) was the ideal to which human being do or ought to aspire. As noted Nietzsche scholar and translator Walter Kauffman puts it in Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, in a statement that seems almost to anticipate Tolle’s misreading: “Every pleasurable sensation, however trivial – the smell of a flower or the taste of cold water – is valued for his own sake. The indefinite addition of such pleasures, however, does not make for happiness…” (Kauffman 279). The dissonance between their notions of happiness is not unique and there are many other points of departure.

In addition to this quote used by Tolle, there is other evidence of his misprision of Nietzsche as a supporter of the “inner space” happiness that Tolle claims is a state to which people should aspire. Shortly following this quotation, Tolle writes that people should focus just on the “being conscious” and “add nothing to it” so that all of the physical attributes fall away and you thus connect to the “spacious womb of creation (Tolle 236). While Nietzsche recognized that one could attempt to negate oneself though such a practice, he felt that doing so was not a sign of spiritual strength but of weakness. Tolle wants to negate conflict and drama, whereas Nietzsche sees these as the human, all to human qualities which can lead people to greatness and self-overcoming. The areas of divergence between the two are myriad, yet the reader uninformed of them reads not of it and thus assumes that the two are in agreement on this point. Unfortunately Nietzsche is not alone in receiving this type of aggressive misreading that Tolle imposes on them in order to justify positions that is fundamentally at odds with their own work.

While I’ll not speak on behalf of Tolle’s biblical scholarship, suffice it to say it’s worth noting that Richard Abanes published A New Earth, An Old Deception: Awakening to the Dangers of Eckhart Tolle’s #1 Bestseller in order to delineate Tolle’s perceived misuse of the Bible. While I’m not qualified to comment on it as Biblical exegesis is not my specialty nor have I read Abanes’ criticism, something that does strike me is his use of Jean Paul-Sartre. Before I speak on this, however, I must contextualize A New Earth so that I don’t give Tolle the same foul treatment that he gives others.

If one looks to find examples of human history on earth in A New Earth, one will find a dearth of them. Discussions on history and social policy are almost staggeringly absent. Tolle claims that because the Now doesn’t have any history it’s not necessary. I would provide the counter-interpretation that as Tolle simply doesn’t know much history, he de-emphasizes it to the point of insignificance. What replaces the struggles for social, racial, ethnic and economic justice are instead comments stating that once enough people get in touch with their inner space and find purpose everything just “gets better”. Be Scotfield’s article Why Eckhart Tolle’s Evolutionary Activism Won’t Save Us at Tikkun presents a number of insightful criticisms on Tolle’s model of social and political change that are worth reading. While Scotfield’s incisive comments focus on a small number of the many errors he makes, he is quiet on the points where Tolle addresses what he cites as an alternative to his own conception of how to bring about a better world: socialist politics.

In the few historical descriptions Tolle writes in a New Earth, no other class of people receive the same sort of haughty disdain as Socialists and Communists. On page thirteen Tolle writes: “The history of Communism, originally inspired by noble ideas, clearly illustrates what happens when people attempt to change external reality – create a new earth – without any of the prior change in their inner reality, their state of consciousness. They make plans without taking into account the blueprint for dysfunction that every human being carries within: the ego.” Tolle later goes on to cite Pol Pot and Stalin, two figures renowned for the blood they’ve shed, as examples of applied Marxism and thus evidence of it’s ideological paucity. While no apologist for either of these figures, no historian who has been presented with the evidence would claim that their actions was simply a result of ideas in their head. As it unfolds, for Tolle, Marxism, socialism, communism is just a “materialist” straw man with which to counterpose his amorphous, “spiritualist” enterprise.

Now how does all of this relate to Jean Paul-Sartre? Quite simply, he was an anti-imperialist, reconstructed Marxist. Sartre wrote extensively on how his entire existentialist project was but an offshoot of Marxist models of historical materialism and stood in opposition to the violent excesses of Stalin. Tolle uses another decontextualized and unattributed quote by Sartre to deconstruct Cartesian dualism. However after doing so he then does away with “Sartre’s Insight” a few lines later by claiming that Sartre was unable to perceive the awareness of awareness. He does this to buttress aspects of his intellectual edifice, if one could even look beyond it’s shoddiness and call it that, by saying that following this there is a “new dimension of consciousness which is “awareness of that awareness”, the “egoic mind” defined as it is by a “pain-body”.

Unfortunately, I do not have all of my personal library with me at the moment to pull quotes from Sartre or about him to prove that such a reading of Sartre is false.
Suffice it to say Sartre’s range of concepts, being in an intellectual tradition which includes Marx and Hegel, certainly includes alienation, perspectivism, individual and social consciousness, resentment, different levels of abstraction, etc. In fact not only did they recognize such aspects of the human condition, but they did so while maintaining a position that was deeply at odds with Tolle, thus disallowing any grace to Tolle for his misrepresentation of Sartre due to their valences being different. Where Tolle reifies space and nothingness as the ideal inner state to direct one’s being as according to him it is the only one that brings peace, the philosophy of historical materialist seeks to instrumentalize individual and collective historical agency to bring conflict to a state of peace.

Tolle says people suffer because their “pain-body” sustains injuries due to it’s identifications with the body or ideas at the level of personal experiences or inherited narratives, whereas materialists say that they sustain injuries due to limited access to affordable health care, genocidal policies to dispossess people of their tribal lands and capitalist social relations, etc. As I said before, Scotfield’s article goes into some criticism of this so I won’t repeat them here.

What I will say is that for the above reasons I believe it’s important for readers of Tolle to be aware of his intellectual heritage. His year of graduate studies at Cambridge University was in Latin American literature and what research I have been able to garnish from online articles his emphasis is on ancient and medieval spiritual leaders and mystics. As is clear from the above quotes that I’ve analyzed, if he is familiar with post-enlightenment philosophies, it is only tangentially so and his understanding of them is not just weak but fundamentally wrong. This of course begs the questions as to why it is he would avoid such people considering the giant leaps in human consciousness and experience that have occurred since then. If forced to make an estimation why this is so, and why it is that so many people have taken to Tolle’s A New Earth is not because they want to better know themselves, but as they want to avoid knowing themselves too well for according to Tolle, peace is preferable to drama.

Review of "A Government Out Of Sight"

Brian Balogh’s A Government Out of Sight: The Mystery of National Authority in Nineteenth-Century America illustrates how contrary to popular conception of the first century of American as defined by laissez-faire policies, the Federal government used much of it’s purchasing and administrative power to help build the American market in a manner that was largely kept out of sight. The manner in which this was accomplished was through subsidies, legal rulings, injunctions, contracts for labor and goods, the use of the military to encourage western settlement, import taxes and the use of state and local governments as a mediator of Federal policy.

Balogh frames the evolution of the American government as emerging from ideological debates stemming from the Federalist and anti-Federalist political campaigns. Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams on the national level and many others on the state level attempt to govern using classical, small state Republican ideals. However in a vast expanse of land settled by people with tenuous allegiance to the government the appeals to virtue and affect often fell on deaf ears. As they wrestled with traders and settlers who held no or only a tenuous allegiance to the new general government, these leaders found themselves in situations that forced them to adjust these a priori valuations to the matter at hand.

One such example of this given by Balogh is in the years immediately following the revolution. “Tanners, hatters, glass manufacturers, and manufacturers of cloth all clamored for protection against foreign imports. Ever with such protection, they faced competition from better capitalized British agents” (174). Such a policy in favor of national manufacturing, however, was not desired by the much wealthier, aristocratic mercantile elite. In a period of conflict with Britain these interest groups has their greatest wish granted by Jefferson when he declaimed an embargo, however the mercantile interests all but ignored them. Lacking the popular support, military powers and desire to potentially reignite direct conflict – such a policy was dropped. The lessons learned from such an experience were not missed and led to policies oriented towards personal interest and the growth of military capabilities justified perhaps most pithily in the modern context by Thomas Freidman who said that “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas”.

It was in this context of competing allegiances, to the Republic and to personal interest, that the judiciary began it’s transmogrification of a set of juridical beliefs premised on the commonwealth notion of governance inherited by the British to one of natural rights based individual personhood. As business and government pushed for development of the interior, the value of the “people” was diminished to make way for an increased conception of rule of law and private property. In this context Balogh insightfully points out that states and local governments often fought and won the right to direct development inside the state. It was in this was that the state were able to replace or reform the designs of northern capitalists that sought to specialize farming or manufacture in areas they deemed most fitting to their needs rather than according to those that lived there. Thus while Balogh describes the effects that the economic power of the railroads, the need for greater capital investment for machinery, farmers transition from partial self-sufficiency via crop variety to monocultural practices totally dependent on the market has, he simultaneously seems to ignore the wider implications of having more people involved in market transactions defined by an international scale.

A recurring theme that Balogh references frequently is that much of the taxation powers of the government weren’t “seen” by the people of the time as it was hidden in the price of the imported goods they were purchasing. While during normal times this wasn’t a contentious issue, during periods of conflict with other nations the federal government suspended this “invisibility” and that this was met with opposition and later, during periods of Federally sponsored development the states would assert their prerogative as those knowledgable of a given area to contract out work.

One point that relates to my historical research is the development of the American identity as opposed to the regionally defined one as well as the ideologies and policies of early American Socialist parties. The Knights of Labor are mentioned in passing during the period of the “amorphous stage of the labor movement” however Balogh gives them and their later off-shoots any mention in depth (317). I do not fault him for this as his concern is primarily with demonstrating the manners in which the Federal or “General Government” has consistently played a role in the development of markets and the regulation of commerce, however as his history is institutional and top-down he overlooks how it was that political actors/workers at the time recognized the role the government was playing and desired to take it over to change the tempo of development. Additionally elided are the private corporate security forces such as the Pinkertons whose policing role was in later taken over by national guardsman.

In his concluding section, Balogh lauds the renaissance of an associative order of para-states as being both more pragmatic and attuned to the historical circumstances of America. He sees the attempt of socialists or liberals ignorant of the historical failures of such a policy whereby government takes a more energetic role bound to failure by citing the “spontaneous” growth of professional institutions as regulating bodies. Presumably, all that is needed to counteract the effects of the carceral state and vast economic disparity are paternalistic organizations (which can appeal for federal aid) that redistribute wealth and attempt to alter legislation rather than a government or political party that takes the general welfare clause to signify that it actually cares about the welfare of all the people rather than putting primary concern on it’s corporate citizens. Considering the account that he just wrote that explicitly shows that such organization flourish only on the largesse of business this seems surprising, but as his concern is primarily with the captains of industry and their political counterparts it is less so.

Review of "El Filibusterismo"

I approached El Filibusterismo knowing that it and Noli Me Tangere’s publication was the legal justification for the judicial execution of the author by the Spanish government. Incidentally the site of the execution was a ten minute walk from my apartment in Barcelona. I’d previously read Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination for my Global Histories course at NYU and was fascinated by the life of the author. After being so close to his execution site and having seen his former student residence while exploring the streets of Madrid, I decided that after I returned to the States I would finally read it. After having read it, all I can say is that it is possible that due to the working up of it in my mind of the novel that it wasn’t able to fulfill the expectations that I had of it. I wouldn’t say that it is bad, but more so that its emphasis of the political level tended to overwhelm the aesthetic dimensions of the novel, which while present aren’t given the same sort of attention. In stating this I know that I am not alone, as surely the Spanish government must have felt this way as well and am aware that this has much to do with Rizal’s changes in the urgency of the need for political change in the Philippines.

El Filibusterismo picks up the general narrative development from where Noli Me Tangere left it 13 years later and in such a way that the one misses little not for having read the first one. All we need know, and this is illustrated in the book, is that the innocent love of Ibarra has turned into a obsessive hatred against the Spanish colonial government. Rather than plan an outright guerilla rebellion himself, he seeks to pit foes against one another, defrauds the colonial powers and later attempts but fails to bomb a number of the government functionaries.

Some of the novel’s greatest prose comes from Ibarra, who in his new guise goes by the name of Simoun, when he describes to Basilo his rationale and plans for attack, and the conversations amongst the priests and students. The attempt by the students to use their own rhetoric of universal human brotherhood and various legal proclamations against the friars is met with the sophism that devolves into naked power games. The numerous Philippine youths that are attempt to play a positive role in the direction of their country are one by one put in a situation that forces them to kill themselves, be killed by the army or self-emasculate themselves to save their lives and futures.

Rizal’s criticisms of the colonial friarocracy are devastating. The educational system is shown to be a not only a farce but a true barrier to the proper education of it’s pupils, native women are sexually preyed upon by the friars – who are constantly trying to increase the extracted amount of forced labor or goods from the population. The image of the populations poverty and impossibility of upward mobility or peace due to these friars is indeed serious and Rizal shows that though there are bureaucrats that are willing to side with justice, with the natives, they are placed in a situation that to do so openly is conceived by the power apparatus as to be a traitor and cause for dismissal and immediate exit from the country. The flip side of this is the constant production of rebels, such as Cabesang Tales and the group of bandits that he soon turns more political, that must be continually fought against. Spanish colonialism is constantly shown to be a cancer on the native people. Despite all of this, Rizal manages to intersperse enough comedic phrases that it is not all moribund and depressing for the reader.

Humorous comments alight on the peculiarities of the Chinese living the Philipines, the intellectualism of the friars that is sizable only in this colonial provinces and shrinks to nothing once moved to the cities of Europe, the near autocratic powers of friars that have in many respects the same sociopathy of children and many more.
One of the jokes that I found particularly amusing occurred when a group of Friars decides to go visit a fair. Amongst the carved goods of people typical to the area is a statue of a one-eyed, disheveled woman holding an iron with puffs of steam coming out of it. What is the carving of this woman supposed to represent? The Philippine press.

As a novel which praises suffering for a righteous cause in the face of a greater force than oneself, in it’s criticisms of Spanish rule, documentation of the immorality of the friars and call for action towards a national renewal that will eventually lead to their expulsion by any means necessary El Filibusterismo makes a political tract into a narrative. While to be sure it has it’s moments of description rather than narration, to use a literary distinction coined by Georg Lukacs, it is as the whole telling the story of the Fillipino, their enemies and hinting towards means to get them out. While Rizal doesn’t present a character in the book that it meant to substitute for his particular beliefs, but having so many characters in there that repent then prevalent political tendencies, ideas and showing their interrelation he is able to present a compelling piece of historical literature.

Review of "Hegel: A Reinterpretation"

Walter Kauffman’s Hegel: A Reinterpretation provides a wonderful assessment and contextualization of the Hegel’s entire work. Unlike The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic, which I read for my course on Hegel with Avital Ronell and Slavoj Zizek, the book does not focus on a few keys philosophical concepts but provides an overview of his entire work with critical commentary and contextualization of Hegel’s intellectual and historical milieu. Kauffman’s stated intent in doing this is to act as a corrective to what he calls “lazy scholarship,” a trend which he sees as creating a poorly distorted image of his thought.

Kauffman opens with description of the ambitions, atmosphere and main concerns of German romantic literature. He delves into some of Hegel’s contemporary influences, Goethe, Kant, Schiller and Lessing, in order to show the evolution of their projects as well as the manner in which Hegel formulated his own ideas in response to them. Primarily, these thinkers were looking at the social and individual effects of incipient industrialism and the increase of capitalist work relations and expressing disdain towards it. To them, and Hegel, the increasing commodification of social relations led to a decrease in individual’s autonomy and general social unrest. Their skepticism, however, was not of the prevailing British variety but that found in several of the schools of the ancient Greeks, which was distinct by it being not only destructive of values but also able to construct new ones. The restoration of the values that made the life of the Greeks so appealing to all of these German intellectuals, however, was to be “shipwrecked by the conditions of modern life” leading to the restoration “fleeing into the form of idealism, into the form of philosophy” (83). Hegel’s philosophy, however, was not going to merely cobble together several intellectual pleasing aspects he found but to address the conflicts within these schools as being a part of a cumulative process of continual unfolding of the truth. Thus, even prior the Phenomenology, he was concerned with the sectarian criticisms and contextualizing them in such a manner as to avoid repeating the mistakes.

The extension of this preference for the Greek model of spirituality implied a corresponding degradation of the Christian one. These criticisms, collected in T. N. Knox’s collection of Hegel’s Early Theological Writings, were never published in Hegel’s lifetime. Kauffman differentiates these writing, characterized by their clarity (a quality lacking in his later work), psychological insight and criticism of Christianity to such a degree that he thinks it surpasses Nietzsche’s writing on the same themes in The Anti-Christ. However, for Hegel, this is merely the exposition of viewpoints that were to be refuted and transcended by Hegel. Quoting material from his unpublished notebooks, Kauffman shows how Hegel conceived of these being written so that he could overcome them. While Hegel’s positions of non-separation from God, the desirability of a strong, coherent community of peers, etc. are still seen as praiseworthy, many of these soon become transmogrified into the radical, crypto-Protestant theology that would later be remixed by Marx into socialist ideology. Thus his ethical foundations based upon the possibility of a beautiful, harmonic order remains within the concepts of the Greeks, specifically Aristotle, yet adjusted itself to the conditions of a “modern society”. One such conceptual result of this is the prioritization of the ethical realm, exemplified by art, religion and philosophy, over that of the state. Another important result of taking such a position is the conceptualization of philosophy as therapy – something found in the Stoics and Spinoza.

In the section on the Phenomenology of the Spirit, Kauffman mobilizes a wealth of close reading against those who would call Hegel as an idealist or simply a German Metaphysician by showing how he did not merely consider the content of consciousness in the abstract but was concerned with discerning what type of human spirit would hold such propositions and what were the preconditions of their evolving into something else. As Kauffman words it “Every outlook… is to be studied not merely as academic possibility but as an existential reality” (115). Kauffman shows how the spirits in the Phenomology are in fact a number of people, the text is highly allusive and that there are many insights and that are still quite worthwhile. This is not to say that Kauffman is all praise. For one he does not find Hegel’s developmental process as being necessary, inclusive of all the positions of consciousness that are possible and being extremely difficult to read. Kauffman cites last aspect as something that sharply contrasts with the introduction to the Phenomenology. All of the positive aspects of the Introduction, such as clarity of terminology and rationality of development, Kauffman sees as not being as present in the rest of the text – which as someone who’s read it I would energetically concur.

One of the key terms of the Phenomenology that Kauffman highlights is the “dialectic,” as it is a term that has gained wide currency despite Kauffman’s belief that it lacks definition and major significance in this or any of his works. For Kauffman, while Hegel used the term, there is no “Hegelian dialectics” and Marx’s claim that he was able to turn this method on it’s side in order to arrive at the form of analysis called historical materialism is simply false. He does admit to the primary role of struggle amongst positions and forces passionately propounded by people in Hegel’s writing and says that this is in fact the Hegelian dialectic. The natural course, which Kauffman follows, is an examination of the categories and claims found in Hegel’s logic which on the whole is seen as highly satisfying. In his Logic, Hegel shows the absolute intellectual bankruptcy of positivism and, before this became a trend in universities, illustrates how the segregation of academic fields is a specious process.

One of Hegel: A Reinterpretation‘s strengths, and at times point of excessive flight, is its engagement with Hegel’s lifeworld. Hegel’s personal and professional relationships of course played a large factor in the development of his thought, however at times Kauffman can get sidetracked in explaining minutiae that, while tangentially important to the matter at hand, can take away from the flow of intellectual analysis. One such example is in relation to the long explanation of all the stressors that Hegel was dealing with while writing Phenomenology and thus led to it being a rushed work. Where a list would be sufficient to get the point across, Kauffman takes several pages to do into details related to the development and effects of personal (H’s procrastination in writing, having a child out of wedlock, etc.) and political (Napoleon) upheavals.

Though Kauffman does not shy away from exposing what he sees as Hegel’s weakness, for the most part he views him in a positive light. For one Hegel’s embrace of passion as a motivating factor in human behavior and history is lauded as a welcome inheritance from Goethe. Additionally he states that Hegel’s developmentally oriented metaphysics provides the meaning and content for the best philosophers today and acts as a significant corrective to the positivistic categorizing that goes on in various humanistic discourses. While he only makes passing reference to the fact that it is Hegel’s Logic that laid the foundation of subsequent discourses such as sociology, psychology, and ecology (as evidenced by Engels book Dialectics of Nature) the recognition is present and thankfully I’ll be able to read more about this in the next book in my Hegel studies series Gillian Rose’s Hegel Contra Sociology.