The phrase “masters and possessors of Nature” belongs to Rene Descartes. There is a strange ambiguity to the meaning of this phrase, but it did nonetheless serve as the marching orders for the European Enlightenment. The ambiguity of the phrase lies in whether you hold that Nature is living, or merely a soulless machinery. And it’s this ambiguity about the meaning of “Nature” that is represented in the Flammarion woodcut entitled Urbi et Orbi (which I’ve discussed in earlier posts in The Chrysalis). It could be said that the woodcut illustrates the ambiguity about the phrase “masters and possessors of Nature”.
The social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy spent much of his life working towards what he described as “universal history”, which he believed was quite necessary as a basis for a new planetary civilisation. Quite obviously, this project comes up against the problem of what Lewis Mumford and Roderick Seidenberg both refer to as “post-historic man”, who is, in effect, Nietzsche’s “Last Man” too.
Rosenstock-Huessy conceived of his universal history as a way to get over or beyond the implications of Nietzsche’s philosophy (he once described his own social philosophy as “post-Nietzsche”). It must be said, though, that Nietzsche’s maxim “Be true to the Earth!” already implies something of a universal history in vitro anyway — the potential of a meta-history, as it were, of the full human experience of the Earth.
Liberal democracy will not survive the current crisis, so it’s best if we start thinking about what will outrun and outlast the present crisis.
Nietzsche knew that. It’s implicated in his forecast for “two centuries of nihilism”. The triumph of liberal institutions would be simultaneously their downfall, hoist by liberalism’s own inherent self-contradictions. That triumphalism, along with its inherent self-contradictions, came with neo-liberalism and with Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Francis Fukuyama. Neo-liberalism is liberal democracy’s self-contradiction, although few really understand that or why it is so.