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Started by mingmong on Oct 4, 2015 5:23:23 PM
Historicism - up or down with that sort of thing

Using the term fairly loosely to mean a scientific or pseudo-scientific approach to history: emphasising the role of environmental factors over that of individuals; prioritising qualitative analysis over a more narrative approach; taking a broadly Hegelian/Marxian view of historical inevitability. Feel free to dispute the term, or any these attributes, if you believe there are distinctions to be made

Are there really such things as 'historical forces'? Is culture really solely determined by the technological and economic base? Is history shaped by 'great men' or are these just symptoms of longer-term (environmental, economic, technological) changes?

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southwesterly - 04 Oct 2015 17:26:50 (#1 of 180)

Wo ist der Geist?

mingmong - 04 Oct 2015 17:27:49 (#2 of 180)

Good question, SW. I wondered if I was doing Hegel justice by describing his theory of the zeitgeist as 'historical inevitability'

lusmeri1 - 04 Oct 2015 17:28:48 (#3 of 180)

I've been cultivating my garden.

mingmong - 04 Oct 2015 17:29:31 (#4 of 180)

Good for you, lus.

I've been sitting in a room quietly, minding my own business.

southwesterly - 04 Oct 2015 17:31:16 (#5 of 180)

I think Hegel is important in that he argues for historical progress, but based on development of consciousness/spirit/freedom - as you will. I am sympathetic to that. Marx famously argued for historical progress - keeping Hegel's dialectic, but replacing the actor as material rather than individual/spiritual forces. I used to be a Marxist when it came to this kind of thing. Now, I am more sympathetic to Hegel. We are are looking for freedom/self actualisation - and history can be seen as an accumulation of the forces in this direction. Of course, this is a very WESTERN approach to history, and alternative approaches obstinately mean no end of history is in sight.

Lagopus - 04 Oct 2015 17:31:26 (#6 of 180)

From my tradition, that of literary criticism, historicism is just a way of saying that works of literature are marked by the social/economic/political etc conditions of the moment they were made. Which ought to have been bleeding obvious, but for a bafflingly long period of time apparently wasn't.

Hilary - 04 Oct 2015 17:32:30 (#7 of 180)

See also: holy scriptures.

Hilary - 04 Oct 2015 17:34:03 (#8 of 180)

Are we allowed to mention Francis Fukuyama?

lusmeri1 - 04 Oct 2015 17:34:22 (#9 of 180)

I suppose a slightly more serious answer would be ' bit of each' ming, but that's probably not the complex argument you had in mind.

I don't think history is predetermined, but the starting point of any historical trajectory determines what comes after, to some extent.

southwesterly - 04 Oct 2015 17:35:45 (#10 of 180)

Nowadays we do seem to historicise everything. But before the move to do this, people often were more interested in e.g. formal aspects - e.g. Soviet formalists but also Saussure and the structuralists. That also seems ilke an obvious thing to do in its own way, so maybe the historical turn with turn back.

mingmong - 04 Oct 2015 17:36:45 (#11 of 180)

Which ought to have been bleeding obvious, but for a bafflingly long period of time apparently wasn't.

Presumably the opposite approach being New Criticism, deliberately ignoring context etc. Doesn't some po-mo stuff still go in for that?

southwesterly - 04 Oct 2015 17:38:31 (#12 of 180)

Derrida seemingly ignored history in his own deconstructive way, although he came out as a Marxist eventually.

Hilary - 04 Oct 2015 17:39:58 (#13 of 180)

Might as well put this on the table right up-front:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire.

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.

brooklyn - 04 Oct 2015 18:03:01 (#14 of 180)

does this have to do with Hari Seldon and the Foundation?

Hilary - 04 Oct 2015 18:28:45 (#15 of 180)

Yes, the idea of psychohistory surely owes a lot to the self-image of dialectical materialism.

mingmong - 04 Oct 2015 19:05:04 (#16 of 180)

"no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit." - Georg Hegel

Discuss

Hilary - 04 Oct 2015 19:09:33 (#17 of 180)

“He who overcomes himself is divine. Most see their ruin before their eyes; but they go on into it.” ― Leopold Von Ranke

Jacob_Richter - 04 Oct 2015 21:27:26 (#18 of 180)

Using the term fairly loosely to mean a scientific or pseudo-scientific approach to history: emphasising the role of environmental factors over that of individuals; prioritising qualitative analysis over a more narrative approach; taking a broadly Hegelian/Marxian view of historical inevitability. Feel free to dispute the term, or any these attributes, if you believe there are distinctions to be made.

OK - I'll dispute that a Marxian approach to history involves "emphasising the role of environmental factors over that of individuals" and has a "view of historical inevitability". Not only is this contradicted by the famous quote from the 'Eighteenth Brumaire' given in #13 but also by this from the 'Theses of Feuerbach':

The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/t
heses/theses.htm


Which is not to say that a scientific approach to history or, rather, the adoption of a scientific method to the study and understanding of history isn't possible or valid.

TinyMcOtter - 05 Oct 2015 00:24:22 (#19 of 180)

EH Carr's 'What is History', ought to be thrown in here at some point.

mingmong - 05 Oct 2015 18:47:10 (#20 of 180)

To take a fairly well-known example: the French revolution

There had been jacqueries in France before 1789, yet none of them had the political scope or ambition of the events that took place in that year and the decade that followed

This was not a change in the infrastructure, it was surely a result of the new political language and thinking that was in the air in the late 18th century, which itself has traceable links with the ideas engineered by enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and American radicals like Benjamin Franklin

So, it was the superstructure wot dun it

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