History and Theory, Theme Issue 34 (May 1995), 86-98
This essay examines the experience of rewriting historical narratives from a world-system perspective, drawing on the author's attempt to construct an integrated image of the world economy in the thirteenth century. Searching for an intermediate epistemological path between unanchored postmodern hermeneutics and overconfident positivism, the author argues that three apparent deviations from the "ideals of positivist social science," which she ironically labels eccentricity, ideology, and idiosyncrasy, can yield significant "remakings" of world history. Eccentricity, namely, recognizing perspectives other than those that conventionally view the world through the eyes of the West, can help historians to escape from ethnocentrism or Eurocentrism. Ideology, more conventionally called theory, is essential if historians are to select and integrate new material. And idiosyncrasy in the interests and backgrounds of historians can often be the source of the re-vision so essential for challenging earlier historical narratives. The author alludes to parallels with ethnographic research methods and cautions against substituting these three aids to research for rigorous attention to empirical sources and "the real world."
History and Theory, Beiheft 32 (December 1993), 12-31
This article tries to assess the component of French anthropology influenced by the Marxist paradigm, while also showing the links of Marxism to functionalism. With the collapse of the Marxist problematic one must establish a new anthropology that gives greater attention to history in "primitive" societies. It is also necessary to rethink some of the central problems confronting anthropology: in particular, to reevaluate the links between anthropology and development; to locate constructivism in the discipline; to measure the extent of phenomena of reappropriation in exotic societies; and to examine the aptness of binary oppositions such as "state" versus "stateless societies," and "individual" versus "community." By thus questioning some of the central images of anthropology, one is led to pose the problem of "primordial syncretism," that is, the diffusion of institutions spreading from a common cultural ground or background, as well as the problem of the links between universalism and culturalism. At the end of this itinerary, and by taking the example of the pair "people of power" versus "people of the earth," it is argued that the prevalence of the phenomena of reappropriation in exotic societies is explained by the universality of certain values.
F. R. ANKERSMIT
History and Theory 34 (October 1995), 143-161
According to German theorists historicism was the result of a dynamization of the static world-view of the Enlightenment. According to contemporary Anglo-Saxon theorists historicism resulted from a de-rhetoricization of Enlightenment historical writing. It is argued that, contrary to appearances, these two views do not exclude but support each other. This can be explained if the account of (historical) change implicit in Enlightenment historical writing is compared to that suggested by historicism and, more specifically, by the historicist notion of the "historical idea." Aspects of the contemporary debate about the nature and the task of historical writing can be clarified from the perspective of the differences between Enlightenment and historicist historical writing.
F. R. ANKERSMIT
History and Theory 34 (October 1995), 168-173
Professor Iggers's main target in his critique of my essay is my preference for the historicist over the Enlightenment conception of the past. I agree with Iggers that in contemporary historical theory and contemporary philosophy of language many effective arguments against historicism can be found. I argue, however, that these arguments lose much of their cogency if we recognize that the historicist notion of "the historical idea" can be redefined to satisfy both the requirements of actual historical practice and contemporary philosophy of language. The main task of the contempo- rary theoretician is not to reject historicism but to recognize and to discover its intellectual riches, and to repair it whenever and wherever necessary.
History and Theory 32 (May 1993), 101-118
In one of his last essays, "Clio--Dialogue de l'histoire et de l'âme païenne," Charles Péguy (1873-1914) meditates at length on the human being's position in time, what he sometimes calls the secret of the man of forty. It is an inescapable secret to which all people are privy, provided they live to the requisite age. Once one knows the secret, it reshapes one's relationship to others and, as a result, what one notices about them, the evidence itself. Péguy provides several examples of what historiography might look like if the historian proceeded from the secret of the man of forty. It amounts to embodying a certain solidarity with those one is investigating, based not on party affiliation, religion, nationality, race or gender, but on a common defeat in time and yet a sort of triumph within that defeat. Péguy accuses the positivists of pretending they don't know the secret of the man of forty. That is, he accuses them of willfully ignoring their own frailty. As a result, they fail to establish a common bond with the people they are studying. For Péguy, the elaboration of that common bond is prerequisite to all historical investigation. There can be no sound epistemology without it.
History and Theory 35 (February 1996), 29-55
Collingwood has often been depicted as a neglected and isolated thinker whose original ideas on the contextual nature of truth (in both history and philosophy) anticipated important trends in postwar thought. The spiritual aspects of his thought, however, have often been problematic, precisely because they seem to conflict with his more influential ideas. Although Collingwood's overtly theological and metaphysical writing can be safely confined to an early, perhaps even juvenile phase of his career, the spiritual dimension of some of his later work, including, for example, the famous doctrine of reenactment, has often been marginalized, repressed, or domesticated in order to preserve Collingwood's historical place in twentieth-century philosophy of history. This radical conflict continues to disrupt both the reception of Collingwood's ideas and attempts to contextualize them historically. However, if the spiritual and theological nature of Collingwood's thought is taken seriously, and not marginalized, it is hard to see his career as discrete stages of development. The problem of transcendent identity was a central concern for Collingwood throughout his career, and it unifies much of his thinking on divergent topics. The problematic idea of reenactment actually opens up a complex connection in Collingwood's thought between ethical action, historical time, and our relationship with divine reality. It is this rediscovery of Collingwood's spiritual ideas on history that leads to a reevaluation of his own historical context, for it becomes clear that these ideas were neither eccentric nor old-fashioned. The problems Collingwood was addressing link him with a much broader movement of European thought in the interwar period, one that was trying to mediate transcendent reality and concrete historicity in a situation of crisis and fragmentation.
History and Theory 33 (May 1994), 198-219
The widespread influence of skeptical and relativist philosophies has led to an abandonment of empiricist accounts of objectivity in historical investigation. Can one do justice to the historical conditionedness of the historian without totally denying objectivity in historical judgments? This article introduces Bernard Lonergan's answer to this question. Lonergan contends that one can avoid both the Scylla of naive empiricism, fostering the myth of some simple backward gaze at the facts of the past, and the Charybdis of total relativism. He proposes a form of perspectivism which, he believes, does justice both to the belief of the majority of working historians that they are gradually increasing our knowledge of the past, and to the points brought out by writers on historiography, such as the "metahistorians," concerning the impossibility of ascending to some god's-eye view of the historical process.
Lonergan's perspectivist position is built upon a prior philosophical account of cognition and epistemology, which I outline here. I will then move on to some immediate concerns of working historians, such as value judgments in history, the relationship of historical data to the facts the historian claims to know, and the criteria of selection used by the community of historians. In treating these issues I will highlight some of the areas of convergence and divergence between Lonergan's work and that of other philosophers and historians who have written on historiography.
JOSÉ C. BERMEJO-BARRERA
History and Theory 32 (February 1993), 14-24
Since the very beginnings of Philosophy, the multifaceted problem of time has constituted one of the central concerns of philosophers and other thinkers. From pre-Socratic speculation to Platonic metaphysics, from St. Augustine to the medieval theologians, meditation upon time was unceasing, and the issue became yet more acute with the development of modern philosophy following Descartes (and the subsequent emphasis on the subject.) One might summarize the slow evolution of Western thought in this area as follows: time began in Greek philosophy as a property of the world, was later referred basically to human beings, and in the twentieth century has recovered its cosmic nature thanks to contemporary physics (notably the theory of relativity and its astrophysical and cosmological consequences).
It is of course beyond the reach of a single article to tackle the problem of time in its entirety. Here, I shall concentrate on a single very specific aspect: the definition of the past and the question of whether the past has any explicative value. It is largely on the answer to this question that the possibility of maintaining the coherent identity of history as a branch of knowledge depends.
History and Theory 31 (October 1992), 276-298
This article argues against both hard linguistic-contextualists who believe that paradigms give meaning to a text and soft linguistic-contextualists who believe that we can grasp authorial intentions only by locating them in a contemporaneous conventional context. Instead it is proposed that meanings come from intentions and that there can be no fixed way of recovering intentions. On these grounds the article concludes first that we can declare some understandings of texts to be unhistorical though not illegitimate, and second that good history depends solely on accurate and reasonable evidence, not on adopting a particular method.
History and Theory 33 (October 1994), 328-344
Many philosophers have rejected the possibility of objective historical knowledge on the grounds that there is no given past against which to judge rival interpretations. Their reasons for doing so are valid. But this does not demonstrate that we must give up the concept of historical objectivity as such. The purpose of this paper is to define a concept of objectivity based on criteria of comparison, not on a given past. Objective interpretations are those which best meet rational criteria of accuracy, comprehensiveness, consistency, progressiveness, fruitfulness, and openness. Finally, the nature of our being in the world is shown to give us a good reason to regard such objective interpretations as moving towards truth understood as a regulative ideal.
JOSINE H. BLOK
History and Theory, Theme Issue 33 (December 1994), 26-52
Classical scholarship played a vital role in the intellectual concerns of early nineteenth-century Germany. Situated at the crossroads of religion, history, and explorations of the development of the human mind, Greek mythology in particular was expected to shed light on the origins of civilization. In the search for the true nature of myth, the hermeneutic problems involved in historical understanding were intensified. As myth was held to be of a different nature than rationality, to read the sources was to look for a completely different referent of the texts than was the case in historical reconstruction. In the quests for a scientific mythology, K. O. Müller (1797-1840) was often regarded as an opponent of F. Creuzer (1771-1858). Yet an analysis of their published work and of their private documents shows that they had much in common, a fact they both appreciated. In particular they held similar, deeply Romantic views on the religious origin of culture, in Müller's case inspired by Pietism, in Creuzer's by neo-Platonism. Creuzer's influence is revealed in Müller's Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie (1825) and more specifically in his interpretation of the Amazons as worshippers of sexuality in Die Dorier (1824). Nevertheless, Müller differed from Creuzer in his views on the relationship of myth to history. Myth was not the reflection of a universal religion, sustained by a priestly class (as Creuzer had claimed), but the outcome of the encounter between the mental endowment of a people and local, historical circumstances. In the case of the Amazons, however, Müller assessed the connection of myth to history in defiance of his own theory, guided by his views on gender difference and on sexual morality.
History and Theory 33 (May 1994), 172-198
This essay examines different viewpoints taken by historians and theorists in three important debates about the Holocaust and the Nazi past in Germany. Analysis shows that the content and form of historical judgment, the limits of historical narratives, and the referential connections between "facts," "representation," and "truth" are more problematic than historians and social theorists taking part in these debates would like to believe. Examples show that attempts to represent past "reality" are closely related to the politically and socially significant interplay between individual and communal search for legitimation, and the legitimation of the past by the authority of the present. A hidden similarity--the fundamental belief in the ability of representation to capture past "reality" and thus its universal validity--appears amid the seemingly antithetical opinions and theoretical assumptions in these debates. Even in cases of historical phenomena as morally, politically, and intellectually challenging as the Holocaust, understanding historical representation in the framework of the self-referentiality of historical texts, and accepting the propositional nature of historical writing, is crucial.
History and Theory, Beiheft 32 (December 1993), 80-104
For some time, historians and anthropologists have been collaborating on the excavation of Africa's history through the analysis of transcriptions of unwritten sources. A major obstacle has been the forms, the generic structures of African historical discourse, which constitute a style of historiography culturally contrasting with our own. This paper examines two central vehicles of this historiography: the temporal, situational, and generic elaboration of historical "master metaphors," and the performative contexts and processes in which they are necessarily expressed. Here, the formal and semantic resources and procedures of African historical narrative are analyzed in certain performance genres of the Basotho of southern Africa (Lesotho). In revealing how Africans' experience of events is rhetorically encoded and interpreted, the discussion emphasizes the importance of performance as the constitutive context of African historical discourse, militating against the separation of history from the aesthetic of its representation. More important, it demonstrates how historians working in an empirical, positivist narrative framework can go beyond attempts to glean isolated "facts" and referential content from African texts, and use what I have termed "auriture"--performative realizations--to draw out the ideological and structural context that informs African constructions of history.
History and Theory, Beiheft 32 (December 1993), 57-79
Collective memory is not always synonymous with tradition on the one hand or with the recollection of collective history on the other. The example of a South Tunisian oasis, located in a region with a strong tradition of literacy, shows a process of rupture with autochthonous (non-Arab and pre-Islamic) history, a rupture based on the reappropriation of scholarly works of colonial administrators. Local memory is essentially based on the history of family and lineage origins, ideally founded on Shereefian ancestry, a genealogy going back to the prophet Mohammed. This lineage memory, which a long sociological tradition has described as scheduled to merge into the nation, has in fact been constantly built up, activated largely by colonial and contemporary ethnography. The forgetting that affects other dimensions of the past, and in particular the integration into the nation, should not be interpreted as a mere vanishing but as a form of mute claim.
History and Theory 35 (February 1996), 1-28
This article surveys the history since the Enlightenment of the controversy over the origins and functions of warfare, focusing on the question of whether war is caused by nature or nurture. In the earlier literature (before 1950) five positions are distinguished. (1) The Hobbesian thesis: war is part of human nature and serves both the internal function of solidarity and the external function of maintaining the balance of power. (2) The Rousseauean thesis: war is not in human nature but was invented by states for the functions mentioned above. (3) The Malthusian thesis: war serves the grand function of reducing population, quite apart from its conscious proximate functions. (4) The Spencerian thesis: a combination of Hobbes and Malthus--war serves the grand function of human evolution. (5) The cultural anthropologists' thesis: an extreme version of Rousseau--war is a dysfunctional historical accident.
Most of the article is devoted to the recent controversy, distinguishing three major theories: (1) sociobiology, an updated version of the Spencerian thesis; (2) cultural ecology, an updated version of the cultural-anthropological thesis, combining Rousseau and Malthus; (3) cultural Darwinism, which holds that the process of cultural evolution mimics natural selection. The last theory is favored here. It implies that warfare has no grand functions, either sociobiological or ecological. War is neither nature nor nurture, but nurture imitating nature. Hobbes was right in thinking war has always been around; Rousseau was right to think primitive warfare was not the same thing as the wars of states.
History and Theory 33 (October 1994), 271-296
This article addresses Michel Foucault's challenge to historians by historicizing his work on the history of sexuality. First, it summarizes recent scholarly literature about sexuality by historians and literary critics in order to clarify the theoretical and historical groundwork that has thus far been laid. It also places interdisciplinary scholarship in a framework historians will find meaningful. Second, the author argues that Foucault's work is the product of crises in male subjectivity originating after the Great War. In so doing, she seeks to explain the absence of gender as a category of analysis in his own work, as well as his inability to account for the historical processes through which sexuality is produced.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 35 (December 1996), 95-117
The discussion develops Edward Said's thesis of orientialism. Said approached "orientalism" as a construction of Asia by Europeans, and a problem in Euro-American modernity. This essay argues that, from the beginning, Asians participated in the construction of the orient, and that orientalism therefore should be viewed as a problem in Asian modernities as well. The essay utilizes Mary Louise Pratt's idea of "contact zones" to argue that orientalism was a product of the circulation of Euro-American and Asian intellectuals in these contact zones, or borderlands. While orientalism has been very much implicated in power relations between Euro-America and Asia, the question of power nevertheless should be separated analytically from the construction of orientalism. In support of this argument, the essay points to the contemporary "self-orientalization" of Asian intellectuals, which is a manifestation not of powerlessness but newly-acquired power.
History and Theory 32 (October 1993), 227-247
Certain artworks appear to have multiple meanings that are also contradictory. In some instances they have attracted so much attention that they are effectively out of the reach of individual monographs. These artworks are monstrous.
One reason paintings may become monstrous is that they make unexpected use of ambiguation. Modern and postmodern works of all sorts are understood to be potentially ambiguous ab ovo, but earlier--Renaissance and Baroque--works were constrained to declare relatively stable primary meanings. An older work may have many "layers" of meaning, but it is normally expected to declare its principal message or subject matter, together with its allegiance to one idea or theme. Contemporary historical interpretation expects those stable starting meanings, even as it relishes the exfoliating ambiguities that may come afterward. So when the interpretive apparatus of art history runs up against premodern paintings that intentionally work against unambiguous primary meanings, it can generate a potentially incoherent literature.
Some of the most monstrous pictures are Leonardo's Last Supper, Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling, Watteau's fête galante paintings, Botticelli's Primavera, and Giorgione's Tempesta. The interpretive trichotomy of "Subject," "Not-Subject," and "Anti-Subject" is employed to talk about the (intentional) ambiguity and polysemy of these monstrous works.
This interpretive trichotomy helps order unruly accounts of the most complex artworks. In so doing it illuminates not only some monstrous pictures but a general area of historical interpretation: how to speak of the meaning(s) of a created work in a way that does justice to its complexity and internal tensions.
MUSTAFA EMIRBAYER and JEFF GOODWIN
(a review article of Debating Revolutions, ed. Nikki R. Keddie)
History and Theory 35 (October 1996), 358-374
Many scholars now agree that the study of revolutions and other types of collective action ought to focus more attention on culture, while not losing sight of the importance of social structures. Recent scholarship, however, suggests that while culture has begun to receive much more sustained attention, no generally accepted theoretical synthesis has yet emerged in this field. The very title of the recent collection of essays on revolution edited by Nikki Keddie reflects this impasse. In this essay, we sketch a synthetic theoretical perspective on revolutions and collective action that encompasses not only culture and social structure, but also social psychology and agency, a concept that we analytically disaggregate. Moreover, we integrate the various elements of this perspective through a consistently relational focus, one that views ties and transactions as the appropriate unit of analysis. We begin by outlining three structural or relational contexts of action: the cultural, ocial-structural, and ocial-psychological. Social action is shaped and guided at one and the same time by all three of these transpersonal environments, which intersect and overlap with one another and yet are mutually autonomous. We also suggest, however, that action is never completely determined by the relational contexts in which it is embedded. Our framework also points to the importance of agency, which we define as the engagement by actors of their different contexts of action, an engagement that reproduces but also potentially transforms those contexts in interactive response to the problems posed by changing historical situations. This synthetic theoretical framework helps both to sharpen the causal statements that analysts of revolutions and collective action generate and to broaden the range of causal mechanisms that their research identifies.
LAURA L. FRADER
History and Theory 34 (October 1995), 213-230
Historians influenced by post-structuralism and the linguistic turn and feminist historians concerned to incorporate the category of gender into historical analysis have recently challenged the categories, methodologies, and questions of labor history as it has been practiced in the United States for the past thirty years. Those operating under the influence of the linguistic turn have challenged labor history's foundational assumption of class as both a category of analysis and as a social formation constituted primarily by material and productive relations. They have argued that class and class interest are constituted culturally and discursively rather than materially. Feminist critics have called attention to the importance of gender both as a subject of analysis and as an analytical lens through which to examine the ways in which class and class relations have been constituted on the basis of sexual difference. Their goal is to interrogate the ways in which notions of masculinity and femininity shaped relations of subjugation and domination and governed mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in work and in the labor movement. These challenges to the field have led some to charge that labor history is undergoing an epistemological crisis. Recent work by labor historians of France in Lenard Berlanstein's collection, Rethinking Labor History: Essays on Discourse and Class Analysis and by feminist American labor historians in Ava Baron's Work Engendered: Towards a New History of American Labor has taken up these challenges and demonstrates the potential of these new analytical frameworks to awaken new debates and produce new knowledge in the field. Essays in both collections suggest that labor history is less in crisis than it is in the process of an epistemological and methodological rebirth.
History and Theory 31 (October 1992), 241-275
Although The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most influential books of this century, its author, Thomas Kuhn, is notorious for disavowing most of the consequences wrought by his text. Insofar as these consequences have appeared "radical" or "antipositivist," this article argues that they are very misleading, and that Kuhn's complaints are therefore well placed. Indeed, Kuhn unwittingly succeeded where Daniel Bell's The End of Ideology tried and failed, namely, to alleviate the anxieties of alienated academics and defensive policy-makers by teaching them that they could all profit from solving their own paradigmatic puzzles. The influence of tructure is traced from the philosophy of science into the social sciences and science policy. Special attention is paid to the import of the General Education in Science curriculum at Harvard, in which Kuhn taught for most of the period prior to writing tructure. Harvard President James Conant had designed this curriculum in order to keep "pure science" in the good favor of the American public, in whose eyes it suffered after the use of the atomic bomb. While Conant was keen to stress the distinctiveness of science from other social practices, Kuhn's model seemed to provide a blueprint for reconstituting any practice as a science. This enabled potentially antiscientific academics to become scientists themselves, thereby neutralizing any radical challenges to the ends of scientific inquiry. The article concludes by reconstructing some of the inchoate possibilities for radical critique that Kuhn's success preempted, and by making some suggestions for how they may be recovered in the present academic environment.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 34 (May 1995), 27-43
The argument contained in The End of History and the Last Man consists of an empirical part and a normative part: critics have confused the two and their proper relationship. The assertion that we have reached the "end of history" is not a statement about the empirical condition of the world, but a normative argument concerning the justice or adequacy of liberal democratic political institutions. The normative judgment is critically dependent on empirical evidence concerning, for example, the workability of capitalist and socialist economic systems, but ultimately rests on supra-empirical grounds. The empirical part concerns whether there is something like the Hegelian-Marxist concept of History as a coherent, directional evolution of human societies taken as a whole. The answer to this is yes, and lies in the phenomenon of economic modernization based on the directional unfolding of modern natural science. The latter has unified mankind to an unprecedented degree, and gives us a basis for believing that there will be a gradual spread of democratic capitalist institutions over time. This empirical conclusion, however, does no more than give us hope that there is a progressive character to world history, and does not prove the normative case. The normative grounding of modern liberal democracy has indeed been put in jeopardy by the philosophical "crisis of modernity" inaugurated by Nietzsche and Heidegger. Contemporary postmodernist critiques of the possibility of such a grounding have not, however, adequately come to terms with the destructive consequences of their views for liberal democratic societies. This aporia, discussed most seriously in the Strauss-Kojève debate, is the central intellectual issue of our age.JSTOR || top || Return to Volumes 31-35 Contents listing
History and Theory 35 (May 1996), 151-164
I distinguish three strands in the discussion of "culture" in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Germany. One is centered around the analysis of the diverse folkways of various human groups. A second focuses on the cultivation of individual talents and capacities. The third treats aesthetic experience and judgment and its relation to forms of sociability. I discuss some of the various ways in which these three strands of discussion interacted historically and suggest some ways in which the study of this historical episode might be relevant to contemporary discussions of "culture."
History and Theory 31 (May 1992), 182-199
Influenced by methodological trends in contemporary cultural history, recent writings in music history now share a common and very basic concern: to reconcile the desire to treat musical works as purely musical entities with value and significance of their own with the desire to account for the fact that such works are conditioned by the historical, social, and psychological contexts in which they are produced. This essay places these modern reconciliations within a broader discussion of the uneasy relations that hold between the domains of the musical and the extra-musical. It shows how both the logic and the history of this relationship has reflected the need to establish borders of the musical domain, and, following upon that, criteria of relevance for determining what is and what is not to be included in the writing of music history.
History and Theory 31 (February 1992), 1-20
This article challenges the false opposition between public and private spheres that is often imposed upon our historical understanding in the Old Regime in France. An analysis of the work of Jürgen Habermas, Reinhart Koselleck, Philippe Ariès, and Roger Chartier shows that the "authentic public sphere" articulated by Habermas was constructed in the private realm, and the "new culture" of private life identified by Ariès was constitutive of Habermas's new public sphere. Institutions of sociability were the common ground upon which public and private met in the unstable world of eighteenth-century France. Having superimposed the "maps" of public and private spheres drawn by Habermas and Ariès upon one another, the article then goes on to examine recent studies by Joan Landes and Roger Chartier to show the implications of drawing or avoiding the false opposition between public and private spheres for our understanding of the political culture of the Old Regime and Revolution.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 33 (December 1994), 53-76
Footnotes seem to rank among the most colorless and uninteresting features of historical practice. In fact, however, footnoting practices have varied widely, over time and across space, between individuals and among national disciplinary communities. Little clarity has prevailed in the discussion of the purpose footnotes serve; even less attention has been devoted to the development they have undergone. This essay sketches the history of the footnote in the Western historical tradition. Drawing on classic work by A. D. Momigliano, H. Butterfield, and others, it shows that critical research into and argument about sources have long formed part of the historical tradition. Classical political historians could not insert much explicit reflection about the use of sources into their work without violating the rhetorical rules they accepted. But their histories, as the case of de Thou shows, often rested on careful critical work. And the many historians who did not provide instructive narratives of war and high politics, but rather, accounts of local history or religious institutions, discussed their sources, and sometimes quoted them extensively. These varied traditions were only integrated, however, by the invention of the footnote in its modern form, which made it possible to combine a high literary narrative with erudite investigations. The footnote in its modern form seems to have been devised in the seventeenth century, as part of an effort to counter skepticism about the possiblity of attaining knowledge about the past. It was used to great intellectual and literary effect in the eighteenth century, when individuals as different as Gibbon and Möser made the foundations of their texts into elaborate mosaics of erudite research and ironic reflection. Ranke did not invent, but dramatized, the historical footnote. He made the research that produced it as vital to the historian's culture and as central to the historian's achievement as the high style that had distinguished pragmatic exemplar history of the traditional kind. The historical footnote emerges not as a simple trademark guaranteeing quality nor as a uniform piece of scholarly technology, but rather as the product of long collective struggles and individual efforts to devise a visibly critical form of historical writing.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 34 (May 1995), 99-111
Periodization is rooted in historical theory. It reflects our priorities, our values, and our understanding of the forces of continuity and change. Yet periodization is also subject to practical constraints. For pedagogical reasons, world historians must seek reasonable symmetry between major historical eras despite huge discrepancies in the availability of historical data for separate time periods and for different areas of the world.
Political issues arise in periodization. Should world history provide integrated treatment of the evolution of civilization, focusing upon the most developed societies (chiefly Eurasian)? Or should it provide equal time to cultures outside the evolutionary mainstream (sub-Saharan Africa and pre-Columbian America)? If integration is to be preferred--as this article advocates--it is incumbent upon integrationists to provide some overarching theory (or theories) of change to demonstrate how the destinies of the world's peoples have been linked through the millennia.
Although the article attempts to demonstrate how comprehensive theories of change can facilitate the formulation of world history periodization, it does not minimize the difficulty of developing a universally operative organic theory of change. It examines several theoretical orientations, but principal attention is given to world-systems analysis, the most fully refined and well articulated body of theory currently commended as a vehicle for structuring world history.
Acknowledging that no body of theory currently achieves a satisfactory universal integration of world history and that this situation may prevail in the future, the author recommends, for the present, an eclectic periodization of four epochs divided at roughly 1000 B.C.E., 400-600 C.E., and circa. 1492.
(a Review Essay of Leonard Krieger, Ideas and Events: Professing History and Time's Reasons: Philosophies of History Old and New)
MALACHI HAIM HACOHEN
History and Theory 35 (February 1996), 80-130
This essay explores the methodological and historiographical legacy of Leonard Krieger (1918-1990), one of the most sophisticated and influential intellectual historians of his generation. The author argues that Krieger's mode of historicization exemplifies essential methodological practices neglected by contemporary historians and provides a model for scholarly political engagement. The essay is divided into four sections. The first provides an overview of Krieger's last two works: Time's Reasons, a methodological and historiographical study, and Ideas and Events, a posthumously published collection of essays written throughout Krieger's life. The second section, focusing on the essays on Sartre, Kant, and Pufendorf in Ideas and Events, defines Krieger's mode of historicization as the pursuit of theoretical tensions in conceptual structures and their explanation through the dilemmas of thinkers. Krieger's historicization of tensions and dilemmas was constrained, however, by his privileging of internal theoretical explanations over external contextual ones. The author argues that opening theories to broader historical contexts may provide more satisfactory historical explanations. Seeking to explain Krieger's apprehension about radical historicization, the third section traces Krieger's problem with coherence--the construction of historical patterns--from Ideas and Events to Time's Reasons. Krieger's conflicting commitments to the historicist conception of history and to universal values resulted in fear that historicization would lead to a complete dissolution of historical coherence and meaning. The fear, suggests the fourth section, was rooted in Krieger's political experience. Like many in his generation, Krieger believed that German Historismus was implicated in National Socialism. He sought to liberalize Historismus through a synthesis with natural law. This impossible project failed, but Krieger's engagement of the past to address contemporary problems remains exemplary. By constructing histories of current problems and historicizing his own position and concerns, he rendered history useful to the present. Such political engagement can provide a model for those seeking to re-engage history for radical political reform.
History and Theory 33 (February 1994), 20-38
Ssu-ma Ch'ien's (145?-86? B.C.) hih chi (Historical Records) is one of the most influential of Chinese histories, but its organization reflects a historiography quite different from that of traditional Western history. Ssu-ma divided his account of the past into five overlapping sections: basic annals (of dynasties and emperors), chronological tables, treatises, hereditary houses (on the feudal lords), and biographies. One result of this fragmented arrangement is that stories may be told more than once, from different perspectives, and these accounts may not be entirely consistent. From a Western perspective this would seem to indicate a certain disregard for the truth, but in many hih chi passages Ssu-ma Ch'ien demonstrates a passionate concern for accuracy.
In this article I examine in detail one typical set of multiple narrations--the five versions of Wei Pao's defection in c. 205 B.C.--and argue that in some ways Ssu-ma's conflicting accounts reflect the past more accurately than the unified narrative we expect from Western histories. Although Ssu-ma's methods might seem amenable to the constructivist theories of Louis Mink and Hayden White, in the end this type of analysis is inadequate to explain a work which is rooted in a non-Western tradition of historiography. Ssu-ma Ch'ien's own conception of history recognized the limitations of historians and evidence, held out the possibility of multiple interpretations, and focused on moral insight. It is a mix unfamiliar to Westerners, but it does provide a coherent picture of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's historical methodology, and it may serve as an interesting example for modern historians who seek to escape traditional modes of historical writing.
History and Theory, Beiheft 32 (December 1993), 105-125
During the precolonial period Zulu identity was based on a set of cultural markers defined by the royal family. But European linguists extended the borders of Zulu, as a written language, to include the peoples living to the south of the Tugela river in the colony of Natal. Folklorists, anthropologists, historians, and other social scientists, as well as European employers, adopted this view of the Zulu as a people or Volk. Following the defeat of the Zulu kingdom in 1879, and the decline of the royal family, migrant workers increasingly returned home with this new notion of what it meant to be Zulu. This essentially European interpretation of the word was embraced and spread by Christian converts who, in the twentieth century, sought to mobilize an ethnic political following.
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi has continued with this tradition. In his speeches he represents the Zulu in primordial terms as a bounded group that historically has occupied both Natal and the old precolonial kingdom. The bantustan of KwaZulu, delineated and defined by the policy of apartheid, is presented as the natural heir to the Zulu kingdom and the Inkatha Freedom Party is portrayed as the guardian of the essence of Zuluness. An attractive historical self-imagery encourages people to define themselves in an exclusive manner as Zulu. Firm values and standards provide an ontological security and a network of assistance for sons abroad. Through a martial imagery, Buthelezi has represented the seven million Zulu as historically the most powerful obstacle to white supremacy. But since the resurgence of nationalist politics in the mid-1980s, and especially since the democratization started in 1990, Inkatha has attempted to attract the Zulu as a people in opposition to the ANC and their allies. This has most visibly resulted in a violent struggle for power; but it has also led to a virulent struggle over what it means to be Zulu.
History and Theory 33 (February 1994), 1-19
Myth and history are generally considered antithetical modes of explanation. Writers of each tend to distrust the data of the other. Many historians of the modern period see their task as one of removing all trace of myth from the historical record. Many students of myth consider history to have less explanatory power than traditional narratives. Since the Greeks, logos (word as demonstrable truth) has been opposed to mythos (word as authoritative pronouncement). In more general terms myth may be defined as any set of unexamined assumptions. Some modern historians have become aware that much so-called factual history is interfused with such assumptions. What we call history is at best mythistory. Some even suggest that there can be no real distinction between the discourses of myth and history, between fact and fiction. The Agastya-Aurobindo narrative is an example of a account based on factual materials that gradually became transformed into fiction. It is accepted by some as historical truth; however when its development is studied critically, one can see that successive narrators "euphemistically" transformed its constituent propositions. The Ramjanmabhumi narrative (at the center of sectarian conflict in India) took form in much the same way. It is not possible to accept these legends as historical truth, though there is no reason why they could not be used as the basis of artistic creations. To avoid conflict by attempting to keep myth and history entirely separate may not be possible because the two interpenetrate. The most fruitful approach to the problem might be to work towards a dialectical resolution.
GEORG G. IGGERS
History and Theory 34 (October 1995), 162-167
My differences with F. R. Ankersmit's essay are historiographical and theoretical. On the historiographical plane I disagree with the sharp distinction he draws between the "ontological realism" of Enlightenment historiography and the historical outlook of classical historicism. An examination of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire shows that Gibbon indeed takes into account internal changes in the Roman Empire. Ranke and Droysen on the other hand assume that the rubjects of their study, whether the Papacy or the Prussian state, preserve their identity through time. And in their attempt to "raise history to the rank of a science" (Droysen), historicists in seeking to show wie es eigentlich gewesen (Ranke), go farther in the direction of realism than do Enlightenment historians who are keenly aware of the role of perspective and of the literary and aesthetic aspects of historical writing. On the theoretical plane, although I agree with Ankersmit that metaphor occupies a central role in historical discourse, I disagree when he writes that "coherence has its source either in reality or in the language we use about it. There is no third possibility." I argue that while reality can be approached only through the mediation of language and metaphor, these presuppose a reality which can be known, no matter how complex and mediated the process of cognitive approximation may be. Rejecting historical realism, Ankersmit nevertheless wants to "encounter the past with the same directness with which the anthropologist encounters the alien culture," and thus to escape "all the ideological and emancipatory pretensions of its historiographical predecessors." Yet the very "new cultural history" he takes as an example shows that this cannot be done.JSTOR || top || Return to Volumes 31-35 Contents listing
(a Review Essay of Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts Forever; Yann Moulier Boutang, Louis Althusser: une biographie; Gregory Elliot, ed., Althusser: A Critical Reader; E. Ann Kaplan and Michael Sprinker, eds., The Althusserian Legacy; Robert Paul Resch, Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory)
History and Theory 35 (February 1996), 131-146
In 1980, the late French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, a long-time sufferer of manic-depressive illness, murdered his wife and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Never allowed to stand trial, he was eventually released and spent the years until his 1990 death in fitful obscurity. The posthumous publication of his autobiography, especially when taken in tandem with the first volume of the biography by his friend Yann Moulier Boutang, allows his readers hitherto unavailable insights into the man, and even into the possible interpenetration of the man and his philosophy.
Contrary to the claims of his editors, however, Althusser's autobiography is far from a portrait of madness from the inside. The author's attempt at an "objective" self-portrait, even with its objective mistakes and ellipses, is at a very far remove from the depiction of madness as experienced by the madman. The entire thrust of Althusser's self-interpretation, moreover, with its psychoanalytic excavation of neurotic determinants, appears to aim at the reduction of psychosis to more readily comprehensible mental turbulence. A similar reduction is at work in the author's seeming inability, or unwillingness, to trace the links between the institutional and political contexts of his life and the more intimate, personal sphere--and that remains the case even when he seems to be tracing those very connections.
The question remains--and it is the overriding question of this article--whether any relationship can be traced between Althusser's interpretation of Marxist philosophy and his selfinterpretation. The answer lies in Althusser's ultimately fissured and fragmented account of the social "whole" as a "structure of structures," in which psychic factors are irrelevant to historical understanding and vice-versa.
The limitations of Althusser's self-understanding are thus seen to parallel the limitations of his conception of Marxism.
ELLIOT L. JURIST
History and Theory 31 (May 1992), 163-181
The philosophical past, once a thing of the past, is with us again. I examine three recent positions about how to understand the philosophical past: the presentism of Richard Rorty, the traditionalism of Alasdair MacIntyre, and the interpretism of Charles Taylor. Rorty, MacIntyre, and Taylor all acknowledge a Hegelian influence upon their views; thus, I also explore Hegel's own view of the history of philosophy. Finally, I offer my own view that our relation to the past ought to be guided by "recognizing" it. Although the concept of recognition is found in Hegel, I argue that Hegel as well as Rorty and MacIntyre end up conceiving of our relation to the past as one of appropriation. Recognition as I define it eschews such appropriation; rather, it consists in a "working through" of the past in a sense the paper specifies.
History and Theory 32 (October 1993), 273-295
This essay analyzes the development of Hayden White's work from Metahistory to the present. It compares his approach to Roland Barthes's study of narrative and historical discourse in order to illustrate the differences between White's structuralist methods and poststructuralist forms of textual analysis. The author puts particular emphasis on the interdependence between the development of White's work and the criticism it has received during the last twenty years. Whereas historians have dismissed White's relativism, literary theorists and intellectual historians have criticized his formalist methods. White's attempts to counter these critiques have gone mostly unnoticed and have been unsuccessful in that they destabilized his original position without proposing a coherent alternative. The question about adequate representations of Nazism, which White has recently addressed, highlights the theoretical problems which have not received enough attention by White or his critics.
History and Theory 33 (May 1994), 145-171
The former consensus stipulating the singularity and incomprehensibility of Nazism and the "Final Solution" has been challenged in recent years from two perspectives. Microhistorical works and studies of poststructuralist orientation have emphasized the normal and ordinary aspects that link Nazism and the Holocaust to the postwar period. Both approaches differ in their understanding of the concept of historical truth, but together they stress the need for close-range, contextualist methods for studying the emergence of the "Final Solution" and the development of its representation and memorialization since 1945. This paradigmatic change in the perception of Nazism from an exceptional to an exemplary event apparent in recent scholarship in the United States follows similar developments in Germany. In both countries the rejection of the concept of singularity and the use of contextualist methods developed as a result of a more general generational transformation. Younger scholars born after World War II seek to integrate Nazism within its wider historical context and use knowledge about Nazism and the "Final Solution" as a key to better understanding of the modern era and contemporary societies, a project hitherto discouraged by the notion of Nazism's exceptionality.
History and Theory, Beiheft 31 (December 1992), 70-97
This essay investigates the constitution of the principal research question on women in ancient Greece, namely, the status of women in ancient Athens, and attempts to formulate a historiography for it under three headings. "Patriarchy and Misogyny" reviews the history of the question, from the time of its canonical formulation by A. W. Gomme in 1925, back to its initial constitution as a scholarly question by K. A. Böttiger in 1775, and up to its conceptualization in contemporary and feminist scholarship. This section concludes with a statement on the historiographical inadequacy of this research question, and suggests that a historiographically appropriate formulation must be based on a reconsideration of the ideology which informed the initial constitution of the research issue.
"Women in Civil Society" investigates the ideological underpinnings of the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholarly orthodoxy, concluding that it was founded on a historiographical tautology--with the example of women in ancient Athens providing the basis for eighteenth-century views on women's exclusion from civil society, and with the latter serving as the foundation for the investigation of women in ancient Greece. This section concludes with a discussion of some recent work in which the areas of investigation have been reformulated, but notes the overall exclusion from this work of issues having to do with race and sexuality.
"Race, Culture, and Sexuality" takes up the treatment of women in ancient Greece by Christoph Meiners who, in 1778, was one of the earliest to bring together considerations of cultural (later equivalent to racial) particularity with that of women's status. This section goes on to show how the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reformulations of ancient medical theory generated the notions of race and sex as biological essences, and invented also, and also with reference to ancient Greece, a theory of sexual degeneracy. This section concludes with a discussion of the current debate in the scholarly literature of the nature of sexuality, and in particular, of homosexuality, in Greek antiquity, and notes that this discussion has inadequately integrated questions having to do with female sexuality in antiquity and modernity.
"Never Again" Is Now
History and Theory 33 (May 1994), 127-144
The Holocaust puts ethical constraints upon representation because the elements of the representation are inadequate to what is represented. Yet, because we are a historical society, the Holocaust must become historical for its memory to survive. Berel Lang and Hayden White have separately suggested that a special kind of representation may suit the special nature of this event. They see the key to preserving the "responsible," "proper" representations of the Holocaust in maintaining a restricted discourse before it. Something must be silenced, and each of them conceives of that something as a form of language use.
Martin Jay and others believe that the methods of critical history will protect the memory of the Holocaust. The critical dynamism of the profession, however, is driven by professionalism itself. Proximate truth results from constant historical revision. Rewards exist to keep the structure moving. It is the dynamism of the structure, its strength, however, that should undermine any confidence one might place in it of maintaining the memory of any event whatever.
It is not that the system of modern research and institutional verification does not work. It works all too well, producing an endless supply of competing, verifiable accounts, the significance of which is always in question. If the modern historical profession cannot well serve any memorializing function, nor sustain a stable referent, and if there is no particular form of writing that naturally suits the sort of event exemplified by the Holocaust, then we must conclude that there is no escape from the risks of representation, no limit that will guarantee any witness. The work must be recommenced within a changing discourse, always differently. And so, with all its paradoxes, "'Never Again' is Now."
KERWIN LEE KLEIN
History and Theory 34 (December 1995), 275-298
This article traces the competing meanings of "master narrative" in current theoretical debates over history and culture. The phrase "master or meta narrative" has grown popular for describing stories which seem to assimilate different cultures into a single course of history dominated by the West. Master narrative, like its predecessors Universal History and speculative philosophy of history, has become something to avoid. But our increasingly global situations demand stories that can describe and explain the worldwide interactions of diverse cultures and communities. From this convergence--a growing wariness of global stories coupled with situations which seem to demand them--has emerged a popular new double plot of world history in which cultural differentiation and cultural homogenization go hand in hand. The development has led to some surprising homologies and contrasts among the new histories created by thinkers from Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jean-François Lyotard to James Clifford and Francis Fukuyama. But our new "postmodern" distinctions between master and local narratives have carried over the venerable antinomy of people with and without history, and the search for timeless formal principles differentiating "historical" and "nonhistorical" modes of discourse and ways of being threatens to create new varieties of essentialism.
History and Theory 31 (February 1992), 21-36
A careful analysis of the role of observation in the natural sciences, with particular attention to the epistemic evaluation and evidential contribution of observations, is used as the basis for an argument that the opportunities for meaningful observations in studies of the human past (history and archaeology) are no fewer and no less important that in the natural sciences. Observation is described in terms of the acquisition of information through interaction with the world, a description which brings out the significant epistemic features of observation in science while avoiding the controversial and misleading issue of distinguishing the observable from the unobservable. This description applies as effectively and with equal epistemological sensitivity to empirical studies of the human past and it shows that they are not disadvantaged with respect to the sciences in terms of their ability to observe, directly or indirectly, the objects of study.
History and Theory 32 (February 1993), 1-13
Through both a conceptual analysis of historical evidence in general, and a specific study of Thucydides' evidence on the Peloponnesian war, the structure of justification of historical knowledge is described and evaluated. The justification is internal in the sense of being done entirely within a network of evidential and descriptive claims about the past. This forces a coherence form of justification in which the telling epistemic standards are eliminative, indicators of what is not likely to be true rather than what is. The epistemological contrast is between justification by coherence among historical claims, or by appeal to epistemic foundations. Any evidential claim in history that is informative and credible must itself be justified in the context of other things known about the past. Thus, the evidence used to support historical claims is neither foundational nor a direct report on the facts of the past, and an appeal to evidence is itself an appeal to coherence.
History and Theory 34 (February 1995), 84-89
The essays by Hans Kellner, Wulf Kansteiner, and Robert Braun in the Forum, "Representing the Holocaust" (History and Theory, May l994) attack historical realism as a legitimate form of such representation. Like any other part of narrative, "facts" do not speak for themselves in respect to the Holocaust or any other historical "event"; they are context-dependent and thus speak only in the voice of their interpreters. The symposiasts adopt this view on the assumption that an alternative to historical realism will yet reaffirm the primary data of the Holocaust: the number of deaths, identities, places, dates. But I argue to the contrary: that ontologically there is but one alternative to historical realism, and that this alternative offers no ground even in principle for acknowledging a contradiction between an assertion and a denial that, for example, "On January 20th, l942, Nazi officials at Wannsee formulated a protocol for the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question.'" Thus, at least in respect to items of chronicle, historical realism (and the principle of contradiction) must be granted--unless one is ready to affirm, as the symposiasts apparently are not, a radical epistemic and moral (and of course historical) skepticism.
History and Theory 33 (October 1994), 297-327
In this article I argue that it is the task of philosophy of history to elucidate the practice of history. Therefore philosophy of history must stick to the analysis of the debates of historians and neither literary theory nor aesthetics can function as "models: for philosophy of history. This is so because historians present reconstructions of a past reality on the basis of factual research and discuss these reconstructions primarily in terms of factual adequacy. The fact that these discussions seldom lead to a consensus constitutes a basic feature of "doing history" to be analyzed by its philosophy.
An analysis of the "Historikerstreit" leads, first, to the observation that traditional objectivism and relativism can not account for the fact that historians do debate at all. Second, it leads to the observation that according to most historians judgements of value are supposed to fall outside the scope of rational debate. This conviction is traced back to deeprooted but outdated conceptions of rationality. To get beyond objectivism and relativism "internal realism" is proposed and connected to the notion of practical identity. The fact-value distinction is re-analyzed in this framework of "internal realism" and put to work in the "Historikerstreit." Third, it is argued that the theory of "speechacts" and the notion of "horizon of expectation" can be connected to "internal realism" in order to give a more adequate elucidation of the normative aspects of historiography. Fourth, and along the way, I maintain that historians can profit from "internal realism" because the scope of their discussion would be widened so as to include the traditionally implicit normative issues involved.
History and Theory 35 (May 1996), 165-195
A new approach to the historiography of the history of philosophy was first proposed near the end of the eighteenth century. It is useful to regard it as an alternative to two others, sometimes conceived of as exhausting the possibilities: a purely philosophical approach, and a purely historical one, both of which I consider in section I. The bulk of the paper is devoted to what I call "the modern historiography of the history of philosophy" (briefly characterized in section II). Its origins are closely tied to the renewal of philology. Section III recounts the methodological innovations of the New Philology and their relevance for approaching texts--including philosophical ones--from the past. In section IV, I consider some moves made by early proponents of "modern historiography"--in particular their implicit demand for an internal rather than an external history of philosophy, that is, an account that allows us to understand how and why philosophy has changed through time, in terms of philosophical factors: how, for example, one set of philosophical considerations led to a certain view; how reflecting on that view led philosophers to perceive various difficulties, and to perceive philosophical responses to those difficulties, and so on. The goal is to exclude, to as great an extent as possible, external factors, that is, factors which are not themselves philosophical views or arguments. In section V, I turn to Christian A. Brandis (1790-1867) whose methodological reflections and historiographical practice mark an enormous advance over his predecessors and even over some of his successors, like W. Jaeger. I conclude (section VI) by arguing that some "philosophical" objections brought against the way of proceeding advocated by Brandis fail. In the course of describing this new approach and its origins, I hope also to make clear why it is more attractive than the two other possibilities briefly considered in section I.
SUZANNE L. MARCHAND
History and Theory, Theme Issue 33 (December 1994), 106-130
This essay argues that in overlooking the assault on the autonomy, unity, and tenacity of the classical world (and especially Rome) underway in Europe after 1880, historians have failed to appreciate an important element of historiographical reorientation at the fin de siècle. This second "revolution" in humanistic scholarship challenged the conviction of the educated elite that European culture was rooted exclusively in classical antiquity in part by introducing as evidence non-textual forms of evidence; the testimony of artifacts allowed writers to reach beyond romantic-nationalist histories toward the identification of cultural areas, defined by morphological similarities, and to disrupt the traditional categories of the civilized and the barbaric. The essay focuses on a relatively obscure Austrian art historian, Josef Strzygowski, whose insistence upon Europe's dependence on Oriental forms and upon the superior historical value of material, over textual, evidence provided critics of philologically-based humanism with two important argumentative avenues. Strzygowski also represents a para-academic type, whose rise to power and prestige contributed to the so-called "decline of the German mandarins." In sketching his career, the essay attempts to show how this "decline" is bound up with the waning institutional and popular status of Renaissance humanism--and a corresponding rise of biologistic Germanophilia--in the two intellectual milieux Strzygowski inhabited (Germany and Austria). A final section suggests that this antihumanist crusade contributed not only to the articulation of racist historiography, but also to the eventual transference of politico-moral legitimacy to a non-elitist, anthropological definition of culture.
(A Review Essay of Objectivity, Method and Point of View: Essays in the Philosophy of History, ed. W. J. van der Dussen and Lionel Rubinoff)
History and Theory 32 (February 1993), 25-50
Many contemporary historians and philosophers are dissatisfied both with the accounts traditional analytic philosophers have given of the epistemological dimensions of historical studies and also with the ways many continental philosophers more recently have brushed aside the need for any such accounts. Yet no one has yet proposed a unified research program that could serve as the central focus for a better epistemologically-oriented approach. Such a research program would not only address epistemological problems from a perspective that would be of methodological interest to historians but would also be directly responsive to fundamental motivations people have for caring about historical studies in the first place. The main purpose of this review essay is to sketch and then illustrate the main outlines of such a research program.
Basic to this research program is the recognition that the overwhelmingly central epistemological complication that arises in the attempt to say what happened in the past and what it means that it happened is that there are always competing ways to interpret evidence. The problem is to discover which among these competing interpretations is best, which involves, among other things, discovering which among them is most likely to be true. Strategies are suggested for solving this problem, which, at the limit, would result in the articulation of generally applicable criteria for assessing competing historical interpretations.
History and Theory 31 (May 1992), 143-152
The article examines Jonathan Spence's book The Question of Hu, asking the central question as to what difference it makes if the book is viewed as history or fiction. (Spence's own question is whether Hu, the Chinese, is mad.) In addition to raising specific questions as to Spence's treatment of his materials, the article addresses the question of the historical novel, following on the work of Georg Lukács and Sir Walter Scott, and concludes that Spence's work is not of this genre. Neither is it a history à la Herodotus or Thucydides, where analysis--the raising of historical questions and sharing the evidence and inference with the reader--and narrative must go together. The article concludes that, wonderful as is The Question of Hu as literature, it is not a true piece of historical narrative. In coming to this judgment, the article has used Spence's book as a way of reflecting on fundamental questions concerning the nature of history, fiction, analysis, and narrative.
WILLIAM H. MCNEILL
History and Theory, Theme Issue 34 (May 1995), 8-26
After surveying the development of world-historical views from Herodotus and Ssu-ma Chen to Spengler and Toynbee, the author sketches his own current understanding of the best approach to the subject. The organizing concept is hard to name, being the geographically largest circle of effective interaction among peoples of diverse cultures and circumstances. In recent times interaction has become literally world-wide; but before 1500 several different communications nets co-existed, each with a dynamic of its own, though the largest was always situated in Eurasia and now embraces the globe.
Competing terms exist: "interactive zone," "world system," and "ecumene," but none is completely satisfactory or generally accepted by world historians. Nonetheless, the author asserts that a perceptible drift towards recognizing the reality and centrality of this large structure in the human past has begun to show up among practicing world historians; and the balance of the essay sketches how key alterations in patterns of Eurasian communication mark the principal stages in the expansion and intensification of interaction within the Eurasian ecumene.JSTOR || top || Return to Volumes 31-35 Contents listing
History and Theory 33 (February 1994), 39-60
Jörn Rüsen is the preeminent German practitioner of "historics," or theory of historiography. Unlike his closest American counterpart, Hayden White, Rüsen places particular emphasis on the historical discipline. The emphasis is embodied in Rüsen's notion of the "disciplinary matrix" of historiography, which embraces five "factors": the cognitive interest of human beings in having an orientation in time; theories or "leading views" concerning the experiences of the past; empirical research methods; forms of representation; and the function of offering orientation to society. Rüsen's account of the disciplinary matrix will remind some readers of the "hermeneutic circle." But Rüsen is far closer to Jürgen Habermas than to Martin Heidegger or Hans-Georg Gadamer, for, like Habermas, he emphasizes the authoritative role of universal rational science.
The essay argues that Rüsen's notion of the disciplinary matrix is an important contribution to the understanding of historiography. Combined with his parallel conception of differing "paradigms" of historiography, it helps us to make sense of the history of (German) historiography, and is useful for analyzing and commenting on present-day historiography. The essay also argues for a greater degree of pluralism than seems assumed in Rüsen's view. It suggests that in an age of diversity the rhetorical conception of "topic"--which provides questions to be asked rather than answers--is of special use, and it reinterprets Rüsen's disciplinary matrix in a topical direction. Rüsen rightly suggests that historics has a unifying function. The essay suggests that, given social diversity, only such reflective theory can unite the varied body of historiography. This is one of the reasons why historiographical theory is important now.
History and Theory, Beiheft 31 (December 1992), 51-69
This essay assesses the value of social constructivist theories of science to the history of medicine. It highlights particularly the ways in which feminist theorists have turned their attention to gender as a category of analysis in scientific thinking, producing an approach to modern science that asks how it became identified with "male" objectivity, reason, and mind, set in opposition to "female" subjectivity, feeling, and nature.
In the history of medicine this new work has allowed a group of scholars to better explain not only how women were marginalized in the profession but also the manner in which politics, male anxiety about shifts in power relations between the sexes, social and political upheaval, professional concerns, and changes in the family all had an impact on the production of knowledge regarding the female body, including the "discovery," definition, and treatment of a wide range of female ailments, from anorexia nervosa to fibroid tumors.
Building on the work in the history of medicine already accomplished, the essay offers a critical rereading of the writings of Elizabeth Blackwell, a pioneer nineteenth-century woman physician and leader of the woman's medical movement. It contends that Blackwell, who lived through a revolutionary change in medical thinking brought on by discoveries in immunology and bacteriology, remained critical of "objectivity" as the "best" form of knowing and suspicious of the laboratory medicine that promoted it so enthusiastically. Moreover, her critiques of radical objectivity and scientific reductionism deserve to be recognized as foreshadowing the maternalist strain of thinking among contemporary feminist philosophers and thinkers such as Sara Ruddick and others.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 34 (May 1995),44-66
The historical mode may be the dominant mode of constructing the past in most parts of the globe but it is certainly not the most popular mode of doing so. The dominance is derived from the links the idea of history has established with the modern nation-state, the secular worldview, the Baconian concept of scientific rationality, nineteenth-century theories of progress and, in recent decades, development. This dominance has also been strengthened by the absence of any radical critique of the idea of history within the modern world and for that matter, within the discipline of history itself. As a result, once exported to the nonmodern world, the historical consciousness has not only tended to absolutize the past in cultures that have lived with open-ended concepts of the past or depended on myths, legends, and epics to define their cultural selves, it has also made the historical worldview complicit with many new forms of violence, exploitation and satanism in our times and helped rigidify civilizational, cultural, and national boundaries.
History and Theory 34 (February 1995), 1-29
Historians of historiography have paid more attention to differences and innovations than to similarities and constants. This article investigates the importance of "longue durée structures" in nineteenth- and twentieth-century historiography.
The first part shows the extent of the common philosophical ideas shared by the "new histories" on the rise from the 1920s to the 1970s: the Annales school, Marxist historiography, the American social science historians, the Past and Present group, and the "Bielefeld school." It suggests continuity between German Historismus and these "new histories."
From the postmodern point of view, all "new histories" are also "modern histories"; since the 1970s various types of history have come to be regarded as postmodern and, therefore, radically different. The second part of the article brings to light major continuities running from modern to postmodern thought, from the "new histories" to the "new new histories."
The article ends with some ideas on how to "reconstruct" a plural historiographical community.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 33 (December 1994), 5-25
Since William Jones announced the kinship of Sanskrit and the European languages, a massive body of scholarship has illuminated the development of the so-called "Indo-European" language group. This new historical philology has enormous technical achievements to its credit. But almost from the start, it became entangled with prejudices and myths--with efforts to recreate not only the lost language, but also the lost--and superior--civilization of the Indo-European ancestors. This drive to determine the identity and nature of the first language of humanity was deeply rooted in both near eastern and western traditions. The Bible described the perfect, transparent language of Adam and followed its degeneration, caused by human sin, into the multiple, opaque languages of later nations. The three sons of Noah became, for Jewish and early Christian writers, the founders of three distinct human groups. By the sixth and seventh centuries, historians began to magnify the deeds of certain later peoples, such as the Scythians and Goths, and to connect them with the biblical genealogy of languages and races. And in the Renaissance, speculative historical etymology took root and flourished, as national pride led European intellectuals to assert that their own modern languages--for example, Flemish--either could be identified with the original one or offered the closest surviving approximation to it. Japheth, Noah's favorite son and the forefather of the Europeans, emerged as the hero who had preserved the original language in its purity. A new history of the European languages developed, one which traced them back to the language of the barbarian Scythians and emphasized the connections between Persian and European languages. It came to seem implausible that the European languages derived from Hebrew. By the eighteenth century, in short, all the preconditions were present for a discovery that the ancestors of the Europeans, like the common ancestor of their languages, had been independent of Semitic influence. A modern scholarly thesis whose political and intellectual consequences are still working themselves out reveals the continuing impact of a millennial tradition of speculation about language and history.
(a Review Essay of Barbara Maria Stafford, Body Criticism: Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine)
History and Theory 33 (February 1994), 61-78
Barbara Maria Stafford's Body Criticism (1992) is analyzed for its reliance upon monstrous bodies as the source of an alternative to the art history of the Enlightenment. A counterculture of the flesh caught in its own vision of skin diseases, bumps, and medical pathologies is painstakingly reproduced as the official opposition to reason's body. The art establishment is required to admit engravers, cartoonists, kaleidoscopists, and phrenologists. Critical questions are raised regarding Stafford's use of iconology and genealogy, as well as a critical difference over the question of the revolutionary status of the postmodern aesthetic traced from the camera obscura to virtual reality perception.
History and Theory 35 (February 1996), 56-79
À partir du moment où le chasseur-cueilleur préhistorique devenait agriculteur, une nouvelle société et une culture originale créées par et créatrices de l'organisation sociale de la production marquaient le début d'un monde inédit, le début de l'histoire.
À partir du dix-neuvième siècle le déterminant historique du comportement et de l'évolution de l'homme, l'organisation sociale de la production, devenait, dans un intervalle extrêmement court, le subalterne d'un facteur décisif inhabituel, de l'organisation sociale de l'invention. Le monde généré par et générateur de toujours autres inventions qui bouleversent à un rythme soutenu l'humanité et la nature est essentiellement différent du monde historique. C'est un monde posthistorique.
Tout en se transformant sans cesse, la société et la culture posthistoriques ont poussé si loin la transformation de leur univers qu'on assiste déjà à l'implantation dans la nature terrestre de deux macro-créations artificielles: d'un nouveau règne, le règne technique, dû à l'invention physique, et d'une nouvelle forme de vie, la paravie, produite par l'invention biologique. Les menaces inquiétantes à l'adresse de l'homme et de la nature multipliées par ces deux systèmes insolites ont leur origine dans le caractère sauvage de l'actuelle organisation sociale de l'invention.
History and Theory 32 (February 1993), 51-73
This article is a "review of reviews," a study of the critical response to Simone de Beauvoir's book, The Second Sex (Le Deuxième Sexe), published in 1949; it also reports the publishing history and provides some statistical information on the criticism and citations of the book. The claim here is that Beauvoir's work is a "classic" appreciated for its theoretical notion of "woman as absolute Other" and its accompanying description of patriarchal culture as a reflection of that notion. But it is a classic with a mercurial past. Though the book and its author were severely attacked following its French publication, the work received positive reviews four years later upon its translation into English. Yet until the onset of the feminist movement, Beauvoir's ideas were largely ignored. However, upon the development of feminist activism followed by feminist scholarship and feminist theory, the book's analysis quickly took on a foundational status. A survey of the criticism of the book provides insight into the history of contemporary feminist theory, for nearly all of the serious debates of contemporary feminism are reflected in the critical discussion of The Second Sex.
ROBERT B. PIPPIN
History and Theory 32 (May 1993), 138-161
The 1963 publication in English of Leo Strauss's study of Xenophon's dialogue, Hiero, or Tyrannicus, also contained a critical review of Strauss's interpretation by the French philosopher and civil servant, Alexandre Kojève, and a "Restatement" of his position by Strauss. This odd triptych, with a complex statement of the classical position on tyranny in the middle, Strauss's defense of classical philosophy on one side, and Kojève's defense of a radically historicist, revolutionary Hegel on the other, has now been re-edited and re-published. Victor Gourevitch and Michael Roth have added all the extant letters between Strauss and Kojève written between 1932 and 1965, many of which continue and deepen the exchanges on Xenophon first published in French in 1954. The editors have also reviewed and corrected the translation of Xenophon, and re-translated Kojève's review.
The Strauss-Kojève exchange raises several fundamental questions: the relationship between political philosophy and underlying assumptions about time and history (especially the extent to which collective human time--history--is subject to human will and thought); the nature of our independence from, and dependence on, others in any satisfaction of desire; and the right way to understand the distinctive character of modern, as opposed to classical, political life and thought. I attempt to asses their respective positions on these and other issues, and argue that the nature of the debate between them is seriously and problematically constrained by the way Kojève's reading of Hegel frames much of the discussion.
History and Theory 35 (October 1996), 281-308
Historical works on Hitler and Stalin or on specific aspects of their regimes reveal how historians differ in their treatment of individual agency. Historians' practices are examined in the light of W. H. Dray's findings about historians' concepts of causation and A. Giddens's structuration theory. Marxist and revisionist historians rejected approaches that endowed Hitler and Stalin with immense power and personal control over events. Works by Isaac Deutscher, A. J. P. Taylor, and J. Arch Getty exhibit historians' methods for reducing or nullifying agential power. Robert C. Tucker's work on Stalin offers a different approach to the problem of the interaction of structure and individual agency. Allan Bullock may be correct in his view that historians are now less likely to exaggerate or underestimate either individual agency or structure when dealing with Hitler and Stalin; and Christopher Lloyd may be correct to say that historians' practices suggest a tacit acceptance of structuration theory in some form, but it does not follow that historians are now more likely to agree about the agential power of individuals. The assessment of agential power still requires interpretation, and it is doubtful that consensus about structuration theory would affect the range of interpretation very much. However, theories of cultural evolution and comparative investigation of the "selection" of political-cultural "genes" at certain historical junctures might provide a useful framework for studying how individuals like Hitler and Stalin acquire an unusual degree of power and authority.
(a Review of Reviews of Edward Said, Orientalism)
History and Theory 34 (October 1995), 199-212
Notwithstanding its own authoritative status now, Edward Said's Orientalism has lived a seditious life and thrived on it. If its characterization of Orientalism as a political doctrine has infuriated critics into denouncing it as an ideologically-motivated work, this has also incited further assaults on the authority of Orientalist knowledge.
More than anything else, what accounts for Orientalism's insurgent existence is its relentless transgression of boundaries drawn by disciplines of knowledge and imperial governance. Unsettling received oppositions between the Orient and the Occident, reading literary texts as historical and theoretical events, and cross-hatching scholarly monographs with political tracts, it forced open the authoritative modes of knowing the Other. An indeterminacy emerged in the authority of Western knowledge as it was brought down from its Olympian heights to expose its involvement in Western power. It is this indeterminacy that has served as a provocation to rethink the modern West from the position of the Other, to go beyond Orientalism itself in exploring the implications of its demonstration that the East/West opposition is an externalization of an internal division in the modern West. Even if Orientalism performs this task inadequately, the proliferation of the postcolonial "writing back" would be unimaginable without it.JSTOR || top || Return to Volumes 31-35 Contents listing
History and Theory, Theme Issue 35 (December 1996), 34-53
The first part considers a possible indigenous line of descent for modern Chinese historical scholarship. It argues that further research on late imperial kaozheng-studies is needed that should concentrate on the question of the relationship between scholarship and Confucian values in kaozheng-discourse. The second part uses the case of the late traditional scholar Cui Shu (1740-1816) to exemplify the hypothesis that in kaozheng-studies scholarship and value were still highly integrated and that this falls into line with the general position of history in the Confucian context. This hypothesis is further elaborated in the third part of the article which contrasts Cui Shu's heuristic approach with some of the basic ideas on method as they were developed within the historicist tradition. The author comes to the conclusion that the dissimilarities prevail. In the fourth part analogies between the heuristic discourse in kaozheng and in the European hermeneutic tradition are briefly discussed. It argues that analogies indeed exist but that these analogies are to be sought in the premodern or early modern stages of the development of European hermeneutics rather than in contemporary philosophical hermeneutics.
History and Theory 32 (May 1993), 119-137
Documentary cinema is intimately tied to historical memory. Not only does it seek to reconstruct historical narrative, but it often functions as an historical document itself. Moreover, the connection between the rhetoric of documentary film and historical truth pushes the documentary into overtly political alignments which influence its audience.
This essay describes and dissects the history and rhetoric of documentary cinema, tracing its various modes of address from the earliest moments of cinematic representation through its uses for ethnographers, artists, governments, and marginal political organizations in the present. The different uses of documentary result in a wide variety of formal strategies to persuade the audience of a film's truth. These strategies are based on a desire to enlist the audience in the process of historical reconstruction. The documentary film differentiates itself from narrative cinema by claiming its status as a truth-telling mode. However, as a filmic construction, it relies on cinematic semiosis to convince its audience of its validity and truth. By looking at the history of documentary address, this essay outlines the rhetoric of persuasion and evaluates its effectiveness.
The documentary calls upon its audience to participate in historical remembering by presenting an intimate view of reality. Through cinematic devices such as montage, voice-over, intertitles, and long takes, documentary provokes its audience to new understandings about social, economic, political, and cultural differences and struggles. The films actively engage with their world; however, often viewers respond to the same devices motivating classic Hollywood narratives. Thus the genre reinforces dominant patterns of vision.
Recent challenges to the emotional manipulations of documentary deconstruct its forms and conventions so that the films interrogate not only historical memory but their own investment in its recreation. Imaginative documentaries, such as Claude Lanzmann's hoah, foreground their partial and contingent qualities, pushing viewers to question cinematic representation and its place in historical memory. Moreover, they ask audiences to think about their place in the films' meanings as well as their responsibility to the past and its interpretations.
PETER HANNS REILL
History and Theory 33 (October 1994), 345-366
One of the master narratives in the history of the cultural sciences recounts how the modern Geisteswissenschaften were constructed in opposition to Enlightenment "scientism." It is assumed that a radical split between natural science and the descriptive historical sciences occurred, enabling the cultural sciences to develop their own unique methods, epistemology, and explanatory procedures. In this article I analyze Wilhelm von Humboldt's concepts of history and linguistics as a test case to question this master narrative, arguing that Humboldt consciously constructed his version of historical and linguistic science upon a model of science formulated in and by Enlightenment thinkers.
This model, which I call Enlightenment vitalism, was designed to mediate between early eighteenth-century mechanism and animism. Its central features included; 1) the transformation of method founded upon "controlled empiricism"; 2) a redefinition of matter in which reciprocal interaction replaced simple aggregation; 3) the reintroduction of the concept of active forces in nature along with the concept of purposeful direction; 4) the development of an epistemology emphasizing the centrality of Anschauung and "divination"; 5) the formulation of a harmonic vision of reality and explanation that questioned the basic assumptions underpinning binary systems of logic and explanation.
In order to show how Humboldt employed this model, I concentrate upon two interrelated issues: his conception of the relationship between nature and human culture and the epistemology and content of his explanatory procedures. I attempt to demonstrate that Humboldt assumed a basic analogy between living matter (organization) and human culture. This analogy served as the foundation upon which he constructed his definitions of history and linguistics. I interpret Humboldt's epistemological principles as expressions of those evolved by Enlightened vitalism and argue that his Ideenlehre must be understood within the context of Enlightenment vitalism's definition of active vital forces. In short, I argue that Humboldt, rather than leading an attack against Enlightenment scientism, developed the Enlightenment project of creating a science of humanity ( cience de l'homme) to its highest degree.
History and Theory 34 (February 1995), 45-58
In response to Roth and Ryckman, I explain in more detail why narratives fashioned with ideal, quantitative covering laws cannot be combined into large-scale covering-law explanations and specify further reasons for supposing that history can be conceived as dynamically nonlinear. I also appeal to an episode in the history of science to examine the idea that dynamical complexity is local in historical space and time and to suggest that such complexity does not pose a unique problem for historical narration. Finally, I suggest that Roth and Ryckman's critique of the use of nonlinear dynamical concepts in historical explanation must extend to explanations employing concepts from linear science. I conclude that their warning against the incoherence of scientism is not convincing.
History and Theory 35 (October 1996), 338-357
This article argues that to the extent that a representation is historical it is necessarily selective or incomplete with respect to the real world: not everything is known and not everything known can be included in discourse. (In contrast, fictional representations are by definition complete in themselves.) It follows from the incompleteness of historical representations that historians and readers may more or less thematize what has been left out of a historical text: what it ignores or fails to understand. Through an analysis of the manner in which Thomas Carlyle thematized his own ignorance in the face of the past, it is argued that the very limitedness of historical writing may be the source of a distinct aesthetic effect, the historical sublime. This effect is particular to historical writing and rooted in its cognitive function, although it may also be simulated for rhetorical purposes.
PAUL A. ROTH and THOMAS A. RYCKMAN
History and Theory 34 (February 1995), 30-44
A number of authors have recently argued that the mathematical insights of "chaos theory" offer a promising formal model or significant analogy for understanding at least some historical events. We examine a representative claim of each kind regarding the application of chaos theory to problems of historical explanation. We identify two lines of argument. One we term the Causal Thesis, which states that chaos theory may be used to plausibly model, and so explain, historical events. The other we term the Convergence Thesis, which holds that, once the analogy between history and chaos theory is properly appreciated, any temptation to divide history from the rest of science should be greatly lessened. We argue that the proffered analogy between chaos theory and history falls apart upon closer analysis. The promised benefits of chaos theory vis-à-vis history are either fantastic or, at best, an extremely loose heuristic which, while retaining nothing of the considerable intrinsic interest of nonlinear dynamics, easily seduces the unwary into taking at face value terms and concepts that have a specifically precise meaning only within the confines of mathematical theory.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 35 (December 1996), 5-22
Intercultural comparative historiography raises fundamental methodological problems: Is there any ground for comparison beyond the peculiarities and differences of cultures to be compared? One must avoid taking the Western cultural tradition of historical thinking as the basis for the comparison. Therefore one has to conceptualize the theoretical grounds for comparison and explicate elements of historical thinking which operate in every culture. Then cultural differences in historiography can be analyzed as peculiar constellations of these elements. In order to develop this comparative groundwork, one has to start with some fundamental considerations about historical memory as the universal cultural means of orienting human practical life in its temporal dimensions. On this foundation one has to erect a theory of historical consciousness and its constitutive factors, procedures, and functions. In a systematized form the relationship of these elements can be used to identify the varieties of historical thinking in different contexts over time. This approach has as one objective an intercultural exchange of knowledge about history as a medium for identity-forming. It should enable the participants in this exchange to overcome the widespread logic of exclusion in favor of a more inclusive manner of historical self-understanding.
History and Theory, Beiheft 31 (December 1992), 98-115
This article examines the place of gender and gendered identities both in representations of "the state" and the substance of social policy under the early Third Republic in France. In conceiving programs of assistance for abandoned or endangered children at the end of the nineteenth century, representatives of the state drew upon broad representation of the state and its relationship to the populace at large which universalized male identities and suppressed feminine specificity. The use of familial metaphors and the gendering of the valid (male) subject of the future was intrinsic to a process of interpreting collective and individual experience as the foundation for new institutions and new social policies. The case of the Ecole d'Yzeure, a state vocational school founded in 1887 exclusively for the training of female state wards, illustrates the manner in which the French Third Republic was forced to confront the ideological and practical contradictions imposed by its attribution--and suppression--of gendered identities. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Ecole d'Yzeure virtually disappeared from both the institutional infrastructure and the historical memory of Public Assistance in France, the victim of paradox and the state's fear of its own moral culpability; in producing female workers unable to support themselves on their "honest" wages or to resist the material and moral seductions of urban life, authorities came to admit that they had implicated the state itself in the "corruption" of women workers in nineteenth-century France. At a deeper level, the category of the state-produced "woman worker" proved irreconcilable with the larger historical and ideological frame within which Third Republic officials constructed the paradigms and institutions of state assistance to children.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 35 (December 1996), 54-73
Since the beginning of the twentieth century Chinese historians have struggled to reform Chinese historiography and to establish a new identity for the Chinese nation. In this article I analyze the historiography of Chen Yinke and Fu Sinian as a case study for this ongoing process of reform.
Although both were bound into the dichotomy of dao and history as established by Benjamin Schwartz, they represent quite different solutions to the question of how the relationship between norm and fact has to be conceptualized. Chen Yinke's historiography is one of the first examples of the emerging pluralization of the relationship between dao and history, since he is aware of the subjective influences that affect a historian's research and seems to recognize that these influences can be positive. Fu Sinian's historiography on the other hand is an example of the reintegration of dao and history. He explicitly refutes the claims of theory and interpretation, but actually reintroduces theoretical explanations without identifying them as such. Thus his methodology can be described as a hidden reintegration of dao and history, of norm and fact.
These different methodological views imply two divergent approaches to the nature of Sino-Western cultural relations, and to the role of the historian in modern Chinese society. Chen recognizes the fundamental differences between China and the West and assumes the equality of the unequal, that is, the principle that there are no absolute values that could function as norms for comparing different cultures. Because of the pluralization of the relationship between dao and history, the historian is no longer in a position to guide society ideologically and philosophically. He is freed from the constraints of political engagement and assumes the role of a kind of cultural guardian. By contrast Fu assumes a single world civilization based on a universal methodology for accumulating knowledge. He is unable to establish continuity between the particular Chinese past and its present and therefore cannot establish an identity that is both new and at the same time Chinese. Fu also takes a position different from Chen on the role of the historian. He postulates a complete separation from politics, but in historiographical as well as in political practice, he adopts the role of ideological leader and moral critic of those in power.
History and Theory, Beiheft 32 (December 1993), 32-56
The essay examines precolonial, colonial, academic, and post-independence African voices that describe and promote special versions of the past in one part of eastern Africa. By studying the connections among African intellectuals, local discursive and political constraints, and overseas discursive and political constraints which emerged between 1890 and the present, the article outlines many of the themes that constitute academic African history.
With this critical historiography at hand, we may see how struggles for control of discourse on the African past are breaking free of an essentially European-derived conceptual framework by attending to local and regional forms of historical action. Both male and female competent speakers participate, often in radically different ways. Studying them, and those who listen to them and support them, will historians of Africa a sense of African actors' historical creativity as well as their arts of resistance.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 35 (December 1996), 23-33
This article explores the differences and similarities between China and the West in terms of history.
While the term itself is of ancient Greek origin, the "semantic field" of history resonates in many ways with the semantic field covered by the word hi in China. The original Greek usage, derived from Herodotus, means an inquiry into human affairs. The inquiry involved narrative (as well as what we might call anthropological observation) over large stretches of time and space, but many of its main concerns were metahistorical in terms of nineteenth-century western historicism. This is true of Thucydides and later even of Machiavelli. History was a casebook and a "mirror" of metahistorical experiences which could be used in an entirely unhistorical way to shed light on many areas of human ethical, political, and other modes of thought and behavior.
The nineteenth-century western "historicist" view of history as a "master narrative" reflecting an irreversible, inexorable process of development shaping the entire destiny of the human race may have some of its roots in the Heilsgeschichte of the Hebrew Bible, particularly in its "progressivist" version. Historicism also implied that human beings were basically formed by their loci within their historical epoch and raised serious questions concerning the role of human agency in human affairs.
In China--in contrast to the West--we find particularly in the Confucian stream of thought the early emergence of the idea of a metahistorical ideal order which had been realized within the human sphere in the past. Here the historical problem was the fatal human capacity to fall away from the principles of this normative order (the dao). The problem became: why does humanity depart from the good order and to what extent can it be restored?
Despite the vastly different framework, we can find in China (particularly in the "Spring and Autumn" tradition, and elsewhere) both the kind of "unhistorical" history which regards history as a reservoir of metahistorical experience in ethical, political, and other aspects of life, and a view which projects something like the image of an inexorable and impersonal historical process involving both the flourishing and decline of the normative order. Within the latter framework we find some dilemmas concerning the role of human agency that we find in post-Enlightenment, western "master narratives."
History and Theory 34 (February 1995), 59-83
The analysis of physical and biological systems through models and mathematics of chaotic behavior and nonlinear dynamics rose to prominence in the 1980s. Many authors, most notably Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, made glancing references to applications of this new paradigm to the social and historical sciences, but little fruit was harvested until this decade. Physiologists studying irregular heart rhythms, psychologists examining brain activity, biologists graphing population trends, economists tracking stock price movements, military strategists assessing the outbreak of wars, and sociologists modeling the rise of cities, found nonlinear dynamics refreshingly stimulating in reevaluating (and often restructuring) old theories and creating new ones. Modeling the past was an inevitable extension of this trend, and theorizing on the new historiography soon followed, with the terms of the debate outlined from 1990 to 1993 by Alan Beyerchen, Katherine Hayles, Stephen Kellert, Charles Dyke, myself, and, in the pages of History and Theory, by George Reisch and Donald McCloskey. The subject of "the chaos of history" is now enjoying a healthy exchange of ideas from all sides. This essay: (I) reviews the precedence for integrating chaos and history; (II) gives a brief history of this integration including an evaluation of a critique of Reisch and McCloskey by Roth and Ryckman, and presents a metahistory of how chaos theory explains its own development; (III) defends a chaotic model of historical sequences; (IV) gives a specific historical example of nonlinear history; (V) explores the latest trends in the field of self-organization, antichaos, simplexity, and feedback mechanisms, providing data to show that modern and historical social movements change in a parallel fashion; and (VI) exorcises Laplace's demon by showing it was always a chimera.
BRIAN C. J. SINGER
History and Theory 35 (October 1996), 309-337
This paper begins with the opposition common to almost all discussions of the nation and nationalism: that between the cultural and the civic (or contractual) nation. Behind this opposition, however, one can detect a certain "complicity" between the two conceptions. And in order to understand the nature of this complicity, the paper proposes to re-examine the origins of the modern nation during the French Revolution. The first nation, it is argued, was conceived in strictly contractual terms; and yet within only a few years the revolutionaries began stumbling towards a more cultural understanding of the nation, which served to complement its contractual definition. This turn to a more cultural discourse must be understood as responding to three rather pressing problems faced by an exclusively contractual conception. First there is the need to find a stable anchorage for the nation in space and time. Second are the difficulties posed by a purely voluntarist conception of national citizenship. Third, and above all, there are the seemingly uncontrollable conflicts borne by the identification of the nation with its political "constitution," and with the revolutionary regime said to embody that constitution. In this perspective, the emergence of a more cultural discourse must be seen as an attempt to stabilize the post-revolutionary regime by depoliticizing the "idea" of the nation. As such, this discourse's emergence is inseparable from "the discovery" of (a national) society separate from the instance of democratic, political institutions. The nation, then, has two discourses because it has a dual nature, both political and social. The paper concludes with a reflection on the hyphen in the term "nation-state," as indicating the need to bring society and polity together, but also to keep them apart.
History and Theory, Beiheft 31 (December 1992),15-32
For the past century French intellectuals have increasingly censured Athénaïs Michelet as an "abusive widow" who mutilated the work of her husband. This article explores the role such censure, often vituperative and emotionally charged, has played in the development of French historiography and argues that it has been crucial in constructing the revered figure of Michelet. Further, the figure of Michelet is itself central to the more important trajectory of historiography that depends on the establishment of "authors" as focal points of disciplinary power. Because the authorship of Michelet is so reliant on the scientific scholarship deployed to prove that Athénaïs Michelet was no author herself, the historiographic enterprise of establishing authorship is more than a little tainted with gender--not immune to it, as the profession claims to be. To the contrary, Michelet scholarship, like other historiographical debates, has taken great pains to establish the priority of the male over the female in writing history. If, as Howard Bloch as noted, this pointing to a male "original" and a female "copy" is the archetype of misogyny, then, the paper asks, is not scientific history so grounded?
History and Theory, Beiheft 31 (December 1992), 33-50
This article considers the practice of women's history in Britain over the last quarter century in relation to general historical practice in the society, to the teaching and learning of history at all educational levels, and to recent theoretical developments within feminism, particularly those developments framed by postmodernist thought. It makes suggestions about the common processes of imagining--or figuring--the past, and advances the view that because of shared cultural assumptions and shared educational experience, women's history in Britain has constituted a politics rather than a theoretical construct. The use of historical information by literary critics and theorists is discussed as forming a series of historical stereotypes of women that then, in their turn, shape historical investigation. The written history (specifically, women's history) is discussed as genre, and the author uses her recently published work on Margaret McMillan and late nineteenth-century British socialism to explore the narrative conventions governing the writing of autobiography, biography, and history, the differences among them, and the cognitive effects of employing them, as writer or as reader. A consideration of the sources used for the writing of McMillan's life highlights the particular constraints presented by women's history and the biography of women on the historian who wishes to discuss a woman who lived a public and political (rather than an interior or private) life.
History and Theory 31 (May 1992), 153-162
Simon Schama's Dead Certainties is assessed in the light of the complex relationship between history and fiction, which share some limited common territory. Examples are cited from Mary Chesnut, Oscar Handlin, Georg Lukács, Herman Melville, Robert Penn Warren, P. D. James, and Wallace Stegner.
Schama's book has some kinship to the skepticism found in "the new historicism" and "deconstruction," but also has its own differences from the fashionable "inverted positivism" which concludes that since evidence is not an open window on reality, it must be a wall precluding access to it. Only two of Schama's three narratives cohere, and while uncertainty may be a common theme, his historian's judgment tends to dissipate much of the mystery his fictionalizing technique creates. His idea of historical uncertainty arises from a fallacy that a "communion with the dead" (as in Henry James's The Sense of the Past), possible only for a time-traveler, represents authentic knowledge.
Affirming that asking questions and relating narratives are not mutually exclusive, Schama joins the company of philosophers (Collingwood, Dray, Mink, Ricoeur) and historians (Hexter, John Lukacs, Veyne, and Strout) who have also made this case.
MARTYN P. THOMPSON
History and Theory 32 (October 1993), 248-272
The paper examines the very different insights of theorists into the interpretation of historical meaning of literary reception (especially recent German theorists of Rezeptionsgeschichte) and Anglo-American theorists of the "new" history of political thought (especially Quentin Skinner and J. G. A. Pocock). Among the former, readers create meaning; among the latter, authorial intended meanings are fundamental. Both perspectives are valuable, but one-sided. The differences between them arise from different perspectives on the character of a text. But those perspectives are not as incompatible as has been supposed, especially by reception theorists. By examining the incoherences of literary reception theory when viewed from the perspective of the intentionalists, and by examining the one-sidedness of intentionalist theory in the light of a modified version of the reception perspective, it is shown that an understanding of historical meaning requires both insights. The argument is illustrated by reference to the history of political thought, a history which might more usefully be conceived as the history of political literature.
History and Theory 35 (May 1996),196-216
Czech history defies dominant Western progressive historical narratives and moral evolutionism. Czech free-market democracy was defeated and betrayed three times in 1938, 1948, and 1968. The Czech Protestants were defeated in the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Consequently, Czechs have a different perspective on the traditional questions of speculative philosophy of history: Where are we coming from? Where are we going? What does it mean? They ask further: where and why did history go wrong?
Jan Patocka (1907-1977), the leading Czech philosopher and the author of Charter 77 of human rights, traced the repeated historical tragedies of the Czechs to the origins of their national movement in the imperial liberation of the serfs in the eighteenth century, debating the dominant nationalistic belief in national historical continuity, leading to linguistic nationalism. Patocka accused his nation of being "petty," of low social origins and interests, unlike their elitist neighbors. Despite his obsession with aristocracies bent on any transcendence, Patocka thought that the Czechs should have fought the Nazis in 1938 for the transcendental ideal of democracy. Linguistic nationalism led the Czechs and their leaders to choose life in slavery in their Hegelian conflict with the German masters.
The Czech reception of Patocka's philosophy of Czech history has been mixed. I criticize the philosophical, political, and historical shortcomings of Patocka's discussion. Contemporary Czech attitudes to their history are forgetfulness; new Czech historicism tracing a continuity from Jan Hus to Václav Havel; and a search for historical truth and philosphical understanding of history that has political implications.
JAN R. VEENSTRA
History and Theory 34 (October 1995), 174-198
This essay on the much acclaimed critic Stephen Greenblatt deals extensively with the New Historicism he developed and for which he coined the name "Poetics of Culture." Contrary to many older interpretive methods and schools that tend to see historical and literary texts as autonomous entities, Poetics of Culture seeks to reveal the relationship between texts and their sociohistorical contexts. Cultural Poetics assumes that texts not only document the social forces that inform and constitute history and society but also feature prominently in the social processes themselves that fashion both individual identity and the sociohistorical situation. By means of an economic metaphor, Greenblatt explains how texts and other symbolic goods, by circulating in a society via channels of negotiation and exchange, contribute to the distribution of social energy, by which he means the intensities of experience that give value and meaning to life and that are also indispensable to the construction of self-awareness and identity. The beating heart, as it were, of this whole process of circulation is identified as a dialectics of totalization and differentiation, as a powerful social force that oscillates between the extremes of sameness and otherness. In several books Greenblatt has elaborated the various aspects of this Poetics of Culture, such as the circulation of social energy, the dialectics of totalization and differentiation, and the process of self-fashioning. This essay discusses some problems of this interpretive method and argues, in comparing it to a more traditional hermeneutics, that social energy, self-fashioning, and the earlier mentioned dialectic are only phenomena in Greenblatt's interpretation of texts and are not actual parts of sociohistorical contexts. Poetics of Culture, in spite of its radical claims, is a genuine hermeneutics operating in a more or less traditional vein.
History and Theory, Beiheft 31 (December 1992),116-137
This essay arises out of a concern to understand how categories of racial, ethnic, and cultural difference--particularly between women--have been constructed in the past, in order to explore how these categories continue to be reproduced in more recent political and ideological conflicts. Until very recently, feminist theory relating to the writing of history has tended to emphasize questions of gender and their articulation with class, with the result that issues of "race" have been overlooked.
Focusing on ideas about whiteness and the various constructions of white racial identity can offer new avenues of thought and action to those working to understand and dismantle systems of racial domination. The recognition that the lives of women of color are inescapably prescribed by definitions of race as well as gender can also be applied to women who fall into the category "white."
This essay argues for a feminist theory of history that inquires into the construction and reproduction of racialized femininities. Focusing on images and ideas about white womanhood produced at particular points in the past, examples from the author's book Beyond the Pale illustrate a range of questions that flow from having a perspective of race, class, and gender. The essay looks briefly at the idea of historical memory, using a discussion of oral history to consider ways in which social memory of Empire is continually affected and transformed by cultural forms in the present.
Finally, by taking apart various constructions of white femininity in two narratives of cultural conflict, the essay demonstrates how a historically informed and "antiracist" feminism might intervene differently in debates about contemporary politics.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 35 (December 1996), 74-94.
The discussion of shi and lun is the discussion of the relationship between historical data on the one side and theories of history on the other. It is the only methodological discussion historians in the PRC have been going through since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in October 1949. The question of how to relate data to theory gained a new dimension as not only the quality of historical research but also historians' loyalty to the Communist regime was evaluated according to the methodological approach they preferred.
In this article the political aspect of discussions of historiography in the PRC is left aside; here the discussion of the relationship between data and theory is used to develop a typology of Marxist historiography in the PRC. This discourse is characterized by three "slogans": theory has to take the lead over data (yi lun dai shi); data and theory have to be combined (shi lun jiehe); and interpretation has to emerge from data (lun cong shi chu). The theory-oriented first slogan coincides with a way of writing history in which data are used to show the plausibility of Marxist theory. In contrast to this, the slogan demanding the combination of data and theory is aimed at finding the specific laws governing the historical process in China by applying Marxism as a kind of methodology to Chinese history, whereas the third idea of having interpretations emerge from the data is based on the idea of probing the quality of Marxism by having interpretations come out of historical research which might or might not prove to be compatible with Marxism.
The typology suggested in this article results from discussions with both the "European" and the Chinese. By borrowing from both Hayden D. White and Jörn Rüsen on the one side, and by introducing on the other side the debate Chinese historians have been carrying on, a solution is found that is specific with regard to answers concerning Marxist historiography in China, but which might be of further interest insofar as the method of establishing this typology might be of broader use when trying to understand historiography organized around philosophical concepts rather than plot structures borrowed from literature.
History and Theory 34 (December 1995), 299-319
Psychohistory is affected by problems similar to those affecting the broader discipline of history, psychoanalysis, and the social sciences generally: the heterogeneous composition of social movements, the phenomenon of discontinuity, and the capacity of people actively to construct versions of the world from their own idiosyncratic conflicts and in the context of the many different social locations they occupy. In particular, answers to the key question, how the social world is related to mind or events to cognitive and affective responses, seem as remote as ever. At the same time, ironically, a number of prominent social theorists, compelled to acknowledge the failure of rational choice and resource mobilization theories, have expressed a renewed interest in issues of collective identities, norms, values, moral obligations and transgressions, that is, in issues that have been central to psychohistory from the beginning. Historians no doubt will try to follow the paths taken by theorists, as they have in the past, but it is uncertain what paths they, in turn, will take.
Universal Pragmatics and the Formation of Western Civilization: A Critique of Habermas's Theory of Human Moral Evolution
BRIAN J. WHITTON
History and Theory 31 (October 1992),299-313
The theory of human moral evolution elaborated in the later work of Jürgen Habermas represents one of the most challenging and provocative of recent, linguistically inspired attempts to reinterpret our understanding of Western history. In critically examining this theory, the present article identifies some major problems with Habermas's reinterpretation of the history of the formation of Western civilization as the universal pragmatic process of the evolution of human moral communicative competences. Drawing on the works of Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault, the article seeks to show how the formal grounding of Habermas's evolutionary theory in the categories of his universal pragmatic conception of communicative action ultimately prevents him from grasping the radically embodied nature of human discursive practice and its implications for the historical process of the formation of human moral will.
History and Theory, Theme Issue 33 (December 1994), 77-105
This article is divided into three sections. The first argues that the significance of David Hume's History of England as an inspiration for Gibbon's Decline and Fall has been underestimated, and that Momigliano's famous account of Gibbon's originality needs to be adapted to take account of the fact that Gibbon was, in effect, a disciple of Hume. Hume and Gibbon, I argue, shaped our modern understanding of "history" by producing narratives rather than annals, encyclopedias, or commentaries. Moreover, they made history primarily the study of the remote past, not the recent past. In order to test my claim that "histories" had generally been quite different in character from those written by Hume and Gibbon, I survey the histories of the early church available to Gibbon. Of Gibbon's critics, East Apthorp, I suggest, is most alert to the novelty of his enterprise.
The second section analyzes the argument of chapter fifteen of the Decline and Fall, the first chapter on Christianity. I argue that Gibbon deliberately assembles all the arguments against belief in Christianity that were current (or that one may presume were current) in the first century. But I also argue that Gibbon intends the alert reader to notice that ancient arguments against Christianity and modern ones largely overlap, so that he is at the same time offering a conspectus of eighteenth-century arguments against religious faith. At one point only do the modern arguments differ from the ancient ones, and that is in the attitude to miracles expressed in Conyers Middleton's Free Enquiry and Hume's essay "Of Miracles."
The last section criticizes David Womersley's claim that the attitude to religion expressed in the later books of the Decline and Fall is significantly different from that in the first. I argue that Gibbon is throughout a more subtle historian of faith than is generally recognized (more subtle, certainly, than Hume), and that this is because Gibbon himself had once been a Catholic convert.
DALE S. WRIGHT
History and Theory 31 (February 1992), 7-46
This paper analyzes the kind of historical understanding presupposed in the writing of classical Chinese Ch'an Buddhist "transmission" narratives and places this historical understanding into comparative juxtaposition with modern Western historiographic practice. It finds that fundamental to Chinese Ch'an historical awareness are genealogical metaphors structuring historical time and meaning in terms of generations of family relations and the practices of inheritance. These metaphors link the Ch'an historian to the texts of historical study in ways that contrast with the posture of modern historians. The essay outlines four basic differences between the self-understanding presupposed in Ch'an Buddhist historical writing and that assumed in modern historical research and concludes by suggesting how contemporary historical thinking might benefit from reflection on these differences.JSTOR || top || Return to Volumes 31-35 Contents listing
History and Theory, Theme Issue 34 (May 1995), 67-85
Since Erik Erikson's clinical and psychohistorical writings of the 1950s and 1960s, the notion of identity has served as a bridge between formulations of personality development and the psychosocial aspects of cultural cohesiveness. More recently, under the influence of a postmodern perspective, clinical writers have questioned the notion of a stable, integrative identity or self as an organizing agent in human behavior. In the area of gender identity, particularly, feminist theorists have criticized the construction of polarized gender identities both for their psychological inadequacy and their cultural bias.
A parallel line of criticism has developed at the cultural or historical level. Writers such as Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner have effectively contrasted the shallow ideological and historical roots of nationalism with the effort to base national identity on the appeal to tradition and continuity. Other writers have emphasized the heterogeneous condition of the contemporary nation in a postcolonial world. They contrast a static concept of cultural or national identity to a more fluid notion which incorporates the ongoing process of displacement that, they argue, characterizes national discourse. The identity structures that emerge from this critique, both within a clinical and a historical setting, are more ambiguous and unstable, and reflect the heterogeneous experience of contemporary culture.
World historians such as William McNeill and Theodore von Laue have cited the boundedness of historians within their own cultural identities as a significant obstacle to the development of an intercultural approach to world history. These postmodern reformulations of identity theory challenge the notion of cultural boundedness by emphasizing the discontinuities endemic to modern life and the inescapably plural character of contemporary identity.