NB: Taken from a conversation with Michael.
Conflict and social evolution
Hegel observed history and pointed out the waves of social conflict that possessed civilization. If we were to use a modern example, we could cite the Critical Race Theory ideology (left) which fights the Trumpist ideology (right). We could cite the push for gun regulation (a consequence of school shootings) and its opposition by gun rights advocates (preserving the Second Amendment). We could cite the push for transgender rights (left) and its opposition by skeptics of alternate gender identities (right).
Hegel argued that society and consciousness gradually evolve as a result of these conflicts we observe playing out before us. Hegel argued the continual push-and-pull - the advance of one side followed by a counter-attack by the other side - eventually results in a reconciliation of the two beliefs. This reconciliation is the “synthesis,” the third principle, the social evolution that comes as a result of conflict.
If we invoke the memories of the abolition of slavery in America; the expansion of suffrage over the centuries; the expansion of women’s rights; the social acceptance and integration of homosexuals; and so forth, it is clear this is an accurate representation of how social change happens.
At the same time, the observation conflict is an essential part of social progress leads to a potentially dangerous conclusion: that one could speed up progress by the conscious embracing of violence, using violence as a tool to force or compel change immediately (rather than allow it to play out naturally). This was the conclusion of Marx (which he built out of Hegel’s thesis), and the cause of the bloodshed of the 20th century.
Fanon lived in the era of decolonization, and his thesis regarding violence is cogent. Implied in his argument is the idea of civilizational “consciousness.” We can attempt to summarize this as something like the following.
1. Civilizations exist at different levels of development (“consciousness”).
2. When we observe history, more conscious civilizations colonize the lands of the less conscious. Examples: Rome colonizing the tribal areas of Gaul and Hispania; Britain colonizing the Atlantic seaboard; the Spanish colonizing Mexico; or the Americans colonizing the west.
3. Once colonized, the subject civilization gradually develops and grows in consciousness, ultimately achieving parity with the colonizing power.
4. The colonizer proceeds to reject equality with the colonized. Late in the colonial cycle, the colonizer uses violence to enforce its control over the colonized.
5. The colonized develop a national consciousness and identity, and then grow militant as they suffer increasing injustices.
6. The colonized revolt (revolution) and achieve independence.
I believe this is a fair extrapolation of what Fanon is getting at.
I agree with the argument. It appears that a pattern recurs, whether we look at states breaking off from Rome, Britain, or Spain. The best outcome for an empire late in the colonial cycle appears to be nonviolent separation, such as occurred in India, Australia, or Canada. This is the best outcome because it appears the independence of the subordinate civilization is an inevitability. Thus recognizing this pattern is not an apologia for violence but a counsel to those in power not to oppose the flow of history.
Based on the data of Artois, it appears history passed through a series of “ages of violence.”
1. Dark Ages. Law enforcement was limited. Extended families (clans) were nexuses of law and industry. If a clan member was injured, the clan would be expected to go to war in defense of that individual. Clans enforced the “law,” but petty clan wars became prevalent.
2. Renaissance. Early law enforcement begins. Society is more orderly compared to the Dark Ages. “Clans” (now dynasties) are far more reined in. Conflict still emerges in events like the War of the Roses. In general society, homicide remains prevalent.
3. Enlightenment. States become centralized for the first time. Monarchs assume control over law enforcement and justice. Society stabilizes. This era was famous for its many codes of justice, such as those of Frederick the Great and Napoleon.
4. Victorian Period. Professional law enforcement develops for the first time. Society shifts to a culture of work (in pursuit of common prosperity), but the transition is difficult. Cities experience high crime. Law enforcement improves in quality. An example is Scotland Yard developing in excellence as a consequence of its investigation of Jack the Ripper.
5. Contemporary (WW2-present). Law enforcement raises to professional quality. Violence and homicide are rarely encountered by most westerners.
Thus Europe has a clear trajectory of “violence elimination” across its history. We could extrapolate and speculate that each civilization thus has an arc of “violence education” that is unfolding.