The nineteenth century firmly believed that history will climax in a utopia. The world was automatically moving toward ever greater perfection. Although this optimism was shattered by the events of the twentieth century, Communists still echo it in their confident prediction that history will consummate in a worker’s paradise. Some noncommunists fear a nuclear holocaust will reduce the world to atomic ash.

All these views agree that some power other than man thrusts history toward its destiny. Each recognizes that history moves toward a goal that man has neither set nor chosen.

Each view also recognizes that man is a historical being caught up in, rather than in control of, the historical processes in which he lives. Were man the lord of history, he would be able to determine the goal of history, and that of his own life. He could then, for example, avoid death—except by choice. Were he lord of history, he could prevent his achievements from threatening his existence, as his scientific achievements today actually do. But man is not lord; he rides the moving arrow of history, but is unable to determine its direction and goal.

Further evidence that man is not lord of history is his inability to return on the past. He cannot backtrack on history and effect a new point of departure into the future. Even when he does not want to be at the place in time where he is, he cannot undo the past to make a new beginning. He can only go forward. This undemocratic, prescribed, no-choice-given rendezvous with a future conditioned by a past he cannot change, is a grim reminder that the disposition of history is in no sense his prerogative.

Marxism quite agrees and contends that an ironclad, economic determinism inexorably governs and propels ...

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