strained-analogies

“Moreover, the double tendency toward thematic and chronological glissando, and the welter of strained analogies it generated, did not encourage the participants in the French Historikerstreit to think critically about the question of comparability in the historical demarche.  The commemoration occasioned an orgy of comparison, most of it ill-considered, much of it misleading, some of it merely odious in its gratuity and mean-spiritedness.  Historians have a grave responsibility to think and justify before they compare because of the enormous influence that comparison can exercise and because of the inherently parlous nature of the enterprise.  Why compare?  To what end?  Compare what to what?  On what ground? ….

Obviously to control the terms of comparison is to control the parameters of the historical and perhaps also the political debate.  In ‘horizontal’ and 'vertical’ directions, across space and time, the French bicentennial historians compared feverishly, habitually without the necessary preparation and caution.  They compared in their discussions of violence, of totalitarianism, of democracy, of sovereignty and representation, of social conflict, of terror, of civil and foreign war, of ideology, of religion, of morality, of law, of means of production and technology.  They compared as much to impugn as to enlighten, to preclude discussion as to open it, to indulge prejudice as to combat it.”

–Steven Laurence Kaplan, Farwell, Revolution: The Historians’ Feud, France, 1789/1989 (p. 24)

Looking at you, Simon Schama. 

From Post to Neo and back: Habermas and Derrida

It seems to me that there is an interesting ‘reconversion’ of the prefix ‘post’ toward something that could more appropriately be called ‘neo’, an inversion that has slowly but irreversibly trickled down from the high end of the ivory, conservative, tower to its thriving base. ‘It is surprising to see how many of the dreams from the sixties … have become reality in present-day corporate culture…  The  nomad  became  realised  in  the  flex-worker…  This  calls  for  serious  deliberation about the expiration date of these ideals.’ Even though the writer of the newspaper article from which  this  quote  is  taken  has  to  turn  to  a  rather  strained  analogy,  there  is  an  urgency  to  his remark, which leads me to wonder how it is that a reactive and unsympathetic interpretation of the ‘post’ (as in postmodern and poststructuralism) has become so all pervasive that nowadays the majority of ‘leftist/liberal’ academics and thinkers potentially sympathetic to the ‘post’ (let alone the  general  public),  believe  that  these  ideals  have backfired  upon  themselves, turning  their ideals into the service of the ‘neo’ (as in neo-conservative), and feel that their stylistic complexity reflects the unproductive and ineffective ‘vanguardism’  in  which  modernism  stranded.

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