Images of Historical and Political Time
Within the framework of the project The Modernity of Europe, A Comparative Historical and Political-Philosophical Assessment
Professors Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner
Florence 9 April 2001, 9.30-13.00
in sala Triaria, villa Schifanoia
Reinhart Koselleck argues that in a period flanking the French Revolution by 50 years, the Sattelzeit, the relationship between past, present and future was fundamentally changed. The organising point of departure for action in the present, the “basis of experiences” was supplanted by “horizons of expectations”. In an age of accelerating time, characterised by an unceasing accumulation of new problems, experience became a category of limited use. Ultimately, the acceleration of time made modernity incomprehensible upon a basis of experience. Horizons of expectation, then, became the guide with which humans attempted to confront modernity. These horizons were constructed of politically pregnant concepts. History took the form of direction, changing from a cyclical category to one of linear progress. Progress permitted the management of history and time by politics.
This seminar aims to explore transformations of the images of the past, present and future based on papers by Professor Reinhart Koselleck (Bielefeld) and Professor Kari Paalonen (Jyväskylä).
09.30 Reinhart Koselleck, Images of Historical Time
11.30 Kari Paalonen, Images of Political Time
Identity and Temporality Constructions of Continuity and Discontinuity
Within the framework of the project:
The Modernity of Europe, A Comparative Historical and Political-Philosophical Assessment (2001-2004)
Professors Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner
2-3 April 2001
Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 20, San Domenico di Fiesole
Workshop organised by: Péter Apor, Renate Huber and Carsten Humlebæk
This workshop will address the temporal dimensions of (collective) identity, with particular reference to constructions of continuity and discontinuity. It assumes that neither continuity nor discontinuity are natural, pre-given orders of history. Both are constructed or developed under certain circumstances as a legitimization of ideological and ethical decisions, visions or values. The purpose of this workshop is to identify and explore the mechanisms that are used to create continuity/discontinuity. In addition to this central question, the workshop inherently queries the character of the academically constructed relationships between past and present phenomena and how these are related to continuity or discontinuity discourses.
Conference in the Teatro, Badia 17-19 December, 2001, in Cooperation with the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences and CCK Foundation
Organisers: Johann Arnason, Shmuel Eisenstadt, Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner
Europe (and, more broadly, the West) has long been regarded as the birthplace of both modernity and of modern social theory and political philosophy. The parallel advent of successful ‚modernization‘ of non-Western countries such as Japan; of a kind of postcolonialism that sees itself as a radical alternative to, rather than merely a liberation from, Western dominance; and of postmodernism as a cultural-intellectual challenge within the West has, however, cast doubts at any simple versions of the story of the rise of Western modernity. The new start of European integration has simultaneously accentuated the differences between Western versions of modernity, for example, between Europe and the US, which were much debated during the inter-war period, placed them at the centre of attention, not least in the discourse of ‚European identity. In this context, the concept of ‚European modernity‘, not as a principally superior mode of social organization, but as one among a variety of institutional interpretations of a broader programme of modernity emerged. A number of attempts have recently been made in the historical and social sciences to develop perspectives in theory and research that live up to the new situation.
Against this background, the aim of the interdisciplinary research project Modernity of Europe at the European University Institute (Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner) is twofold: First, it aims at deepening the understanding of the specificity of the European variety of modernity both in terms of its historical development and in terms of its institutional form and interpretative self-understanding. Second, to explore the broader background to the first question, it aims at bringing together some of the attempts, which are often still being separately developed, for a long-term and comparative historical and theoretical reassessment of modernity in its variety, in which European modernity is seen in its global context.
Rather than confining the analysis of the variety of modernities in a Euro-Americo-centric way to post-revolutionary societies, it can be broadened to include different political cosmologies across the world, provided that they exhibit certain features, those which we are today inclined to call ‚modern‘. This is precisely the thesis of the axial age, a reassessment of which this conference is devoted.
The so-called axial age during the centuries around the middle of the first millennium BC marked, in Karl Jaspers‘ classical formulation in ‚The origin and goal of history, the transition from mythos to logos, a breakthrough in critical reflexivity and, indeed, the emergence of history in the sense of the epoch in human existence characterised by a reflexive, historical consciousness. This breakthrough was manifest in different ways in the different civilizations of the Afroeurasian landmass. However, in all its manifestations, it involved dramatic shifts in the direction of
– firstly, increasing human reflexivity and reflective consciousness; this is what Jaspers saw as the most basic feature. It involved the ability to use reason to transcend the immediately given;
– Secondly, increasing historical consciousness and an awareness of the temporal location and boundedness of human existence and thereby also a sense of relative contingency;
– Thirdly, an increasing awareness of the malleability of human existence, of the potentials of human action and human agency within the bounds of human mundane temporality;
– Fourthly, an increasing reflection also on cosmology in terms of a either a more reflective cosmology of the immanence of human existence or a shift in the direction of the positing of a fundamental separation between a mundane and a transcendental sphere;
– fifthly, an articulation and interpretation of such cosmologies in terms not only of their oral mediation but of their linguistic textual inscription and the emergence of a set of rules for the authoritative interpretation of such text.
These deep-seated intellectual and cosmological shifts occurred in different forms but with striking relative simultaneity across the Eastern hemisphere. They were manifest in such different forms as the thought of Confucius and Mencius in China, Buddha in India, the Hebrew prophetical movement and the classical age in Greek philosophy. Clearly, they are related to the existence of hemispheric-wide trading networks and the complex interaction between urban but geographically distant high-cultures in Afroeurasia and between urban civilizations and nomadic peoples, a perpetual feature in Afroeurasian history for more than two millennia.
The concept of the axial age in a limited sense of the word, denotes this set of parallel intellectual and cosmological breakthroughs. However, these shifts later ushered in two other momentous transformations, namely first the formation of the great world religions and, secondly, the emergence of a number of imperial political orders across the Afroeurasian hemisphere. The concept of the axial age in a wider sense also encompasses these macro-institutional transformations.
It is striking to note that such a conceptualization of the axial age entails that the dimensions of change are the same as those emphasised by recent work on the formation of modernity. Thus scholars such as Michel Foucault, Reinhart Koselleck and the German conceptual historians Johan Heilbron and other new historical sociologists have contributed to a rethinking of the formation of modernity in terms not only of an industrial and political revolution but also a revolution in intellectual and cosmological terms. These authors highlight momentous shifts along precisely the same dimensions of reflexivity, temporality, agency, and a redefinition of the relationship between immanence and transcendence, as well as modes of articulation and linguistic interpretation. In the recent emergence of such similar observations from different areas of scholarship, it is high time to reassess the axial age thesis. For our purposes, this should not only occur to reconsider the thesis itself but rather and predominantly to discern how it contributes to our contemporary understanding of modernity, particularly of contemporary European modernity.
The conference is organized in cooperation between Johann Arnason, Shmuel Eisenstadt, Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner and in co-sponsorship between the European University Institute and the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Informal get-together for those who are already in Florence
The Problematic of Axial Transformations
Chair and Convener: Wagner
Eisenstadt: Some new perspectives on the Axial Age problématique
Arnason: Axial transformations in comparative perspective
Wittrock: The Axial Age in Global History
Towards the Axial Age
Michalowski: Scribes, bards, sages and the wisdom of the crowd: The individual and literary creativity in ancient Mesopotamia
Assman: „Mosaic distinction“ as an Axial Age transformation
Shaked: The Zoroastrian revolution and its significance
Reception at the European University Institute
Return to Hotel
Early Axial Civilizations: Ancient Greece and Israel
Knohl: The Edition and Publication of the Torah as an Axial Transformation
Raaflaub: Polis, the ‚political‘, and political thought: radical new departures in ancient Greece, 800-500 BCE.
The Emergence of Later Monotheistic Religions (part 1)
Stroumsa: Early Christianity and the transformation of cultural memory
Session IV, cont.
The Emergence of Later Monotheistic Religions (part 2)
Retsoe: The emergence of people called Arabs
Lassner: Jews, Judaism and the origins of Islam: Western perspectives, Muslim perceptions
Rubin: The role of Arabian self-consciousness in the literary formation of the Islamic self-history
Return to Hotel
Kulke: Axial aspects of Hindu civilization
Pollock: Avatars of Axial Imperialism
Shulman: Kalinga 1794-1897: The Invention of Modern Myth in an Axial Domain
Wakeman: The Ming-Qing transition: seventeenth century crisis or axial breakthrough
Strath: The axial problématique: new insights
Eisenstadt: Future directions in the study of axiality
Return to Hotel
From 1968 to the Millennium 2000. Continuities and Discontinuities in Historical Processes
sala Europa, villa Schifanoia 5-7 June 2000
Workshop organised by: Paul Ginsborg, Luisa Passerini, Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner
Halfway through the fourth volume of his monumental tetralogy on the past two centuries of world history, historian Eric Hobsbawm (1994, p. 288) unexpectedly uses an extra-ordinary phrase when he characterizes the period of 1945 to 1990 as ‚the greatest and most dramatic, rapid and universal social transformation in human history. Historians are usually quite reluctant to come out with such grand propositions. That is one reason why the assertion may come as a surprise at first sight. The second reason for surprise is more sociological. Even though no extended period of world history is without some important changes, the second half of the twentieth century could be considered unusual institutional stability. In global terms, the most significant institutional transformation was certainly de-colonization. But if the focus is on Western societies, all that seemed to happen was gradual change without major ruptures or unpredicted events. In striking contrast to the first half of the century, in which there were wars and revolutions of global dimensions and the establishment of novel socio-political configurations, notably socialism and fascism, the second half appears to describe the institutional consolidation of liberal-democratic market societies.
Assertions of Hobsbawm’s kind are always contestable. How do we measure the magnitude of social change? Neither historians nor sociologists have an overall convincing answer to that question. But indications accumulate that it is justifiable to identify a major societal transformation in Western societies in the middle of the second postwar period. To give just one example of many, we point to the change in vocabulary in the diagnosis of the present and in the sociology of entire contemporary societal configurations (sometimes called ‚macro-sociology‘ or also ‚political sociology‘). Around the end of the 1960s, this discourse availed itself of a rather coherent set of concepts, centered around terms like ‚industrial society‘ or ‚modern society‘. In this framework ‚modernization‘ and ‚development‘ were the terms for social change, which was thought to be as predictable as the structure of society was analyzable. From the 1970s onwards, however, in the light of observed changes that had not been foreseen, sociologists became inclined to add prefixes like ‚post-‚ or qualifying attributes like ‚late‘ to their key concepts, thus implicitly giving up on all theoretical coherence. For a certain time during the 1980s, the diffusion of the term ‚post-modernity‘, even more radically, signalled a momentous transformation by suggesting that the very core of Western self-understanding, namely being ‚modern‘ – which, etymologically speaking, means nothing but being up to the exigencies of one’s time -, was in question. And the term even implied that the very intelligibility of the social world was cast into doubt.
In recent years, historical and sociological research has increasingly focused on the question of such a major societal transformation. For historians of the contemporary period, the 1960s are just about to become an era of legitimate concern in their field. Oral history has started to devote itself to analysing the postwar period until the late 1960s. After initial rejection of the possibility that allegedly thoroughly modernised societies could undergo further transformation, sociologists have started to examine this hypothesis explicitly. Some among them have even shown a readiness to entertain the possibility that the basic concepts of sociology – mostly coined during the classical era of the discipline, which coincided with the emergence of industrial society – may no longer be applicable to the newly emerging societal configuration.
Our project is situated in this broad area of debate. However, it takes a very particular perspective, which two assumptions can characterise. First, there has been a period during the post-war history that stands out for the radical and explicit development of new views about social life, namely the period known by the name of the year 1968. ‚1968‘ became and remained a symbol for the possibility of major unrest to emerge almost without any warning. The protest movements of the 1960s certainly did not achieve the major political revolution some of their protagonists were hoping for. But the significant cultural transformations of the ensuing decades – most prominently a new understanding of selfhood, sometimes called ’new individualism‘ – are often traced to this period. And second, we assume that there is a relation of reflexivity between the views people in a society hold about the nature of the social bond and of social order and those bonds and orders themselves. Discourses that provide meaning in the present and orientation for future-oriented action relate back to the societies which they are about. Periods of major social transformation are often times in which such reflexivity becomes explicit. It is in this sense as well that a new look at ‚1968‘ can enlighten attempts to understand the current societal situation.
Our project draws on the history and sociology of ‚1968‘ as they have started to develop in recent years, but it takes a particular angle on the phenomenon. We do not aim to pursue a historiography of the political and cultural movements for which the abbreviation ‚1968‘ is often used. Nor do we strive to explain sociologically the context of emergence, the social forms or the consequences of those movements. In both of these forms – a history and a sociology of ‚1968‘ – the leading persons and organisations would be identified, their activities mapped and interpreted and eventually a causal relation of those activities to later societal developments be demonstrated or denied. In contrast, although dealing with the same period and events, we rather aim at identifying a discourse of ‚1968‘ and to confront such discourse with the forms of societal change that can be observed three decades later.
The – more or less concise – contours of the discourse of ‚1968‘ can be identified in documents of the time and subsequent analyses of those documents. There may not be a coherent politico-cultural project, but guiding ideas for desired politico-cultural changes are identifiable. Those guiding ideas can then, at least in principle, be related to later societal developments in terms of their ‚realisation‘ or ineffectiveness. In this latter sense, we are interested in the much-debated consequences of ‚1968‘, but again in a rather specific way, not focusing on strict causality but rather on broad orientations for action and behaviour.
In a number of preparatory conversations and meetings, four areas of social and intellectual life have come to the fore for which such an analysis appears both possible and fruitful. In two cases, central aspects of the prevailing politico-cultural self-understanding are at issue. In the other two, we focus specifically on realms, or ’sectors‘, of social life.
1. Utopias: conceptions of political temporality
2. Emancipation: an individual or collective project?
3. Work: from co-determination to co-worker
4. Family, society and state: 1968 and after (long after)
With regard to all four aspects, our starting hypothesis is that the situation has dramatically and fundamentally changed between 1968 and the present. The discourse of ‚1968‘ is hardly upheld in the same form at all. Even former protagonists often reject it now or have modified it considerably based on experience‘. At the same time, however, the societal situation has also changed considerably, and there is reason to assume that such societal change is – at least in a broad sense – connected to the impact of the discourse of ‚1968‘. Depending on the interpretation of the present and the view of its connection to ‚1968‘, a spectrum of views emerges whose two poles characterise that. At the one end, the period from 1968 to the present is seen as a loss of possibilities, of at best only very limited realisation of a high potential. On the other end, the effectiveness of ‚1968‘ is considered to be high, although not in terms of original intentions, but in the form of unintended – and by implication sometimes, undesirable – consequences.
Monday, 5 June
14.30 Utopias: Conceptions of Political Temporality
Chair: Bo Strath
Introduction: Luisa Passerini
16.00 Coffee Break
Tuesday, 6 June
9.30 Emancipation: An Individual or Collective Project?
Chair: Paul Ginsborg
Introduction: Peter Wagner
11.00 Coffee Break
13.00 Lunch, sala delle Bandiere
14.30 Work: From Co-determination to Co-worker
Chair: Peter Wagner
Introduction: Bo Strath
16.00 Coffee Break
Wednesday , 7 June
9.30 Family, Society and State: 1968 and After (Long After)
Chair: Luisa Passerini
Introduction: Paul Ginsborg
11.00 Coffee Break
12.30 General discussion and conclusions
Perry Anderson, Johann P. Arnason, Luigi Bobbio, Paul Ginsborg, Wiebke Kolbe, Michael Löwy, Luisa Passerini, Andrea Saba,Verena Stolcke, Bo Stråth, Eleni Varikas and Peter Wagner
Pasts Proposed: (Contra-)Factual Histories and Futures Past
Workshop Professor Bo Stråth
Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia, 15-16 May 2000
Organisers: James Kaye and Katiana Orluc
Con i „se“ e i „ma“ non si fa la storia
Modality has long been a topic and tool of philosophical inquiry. For historians, what did not happen is rarely recognised as an acceptable path of investigation. The recognition of and confrontation with modality is, however relevant to academic historical discourses due to a wide acceptance of the temporal, spatial, contingent and speculative character of representations of the past. Ironically, practically all historians exploit modal arguments to support hypotheses or ascribe significance to events. Similarly, temporality should motivate a confrontation with the problematic of contingency and causality in historiography. How can historians translate the dialectic between experience and expectation? What is the significance of past conceptions of the future, and how can they be integrated into historical analysis?
Among the goals of the workshop are neither the argumentation for counterfactuals nor their production but the discussion of their function and the exploitation of modal reasoning in historiography, which may, in turn, catalyse a novel, more multifaceted understanding of the world we translate and its possible futures. Questions that demand our attention include: How do we define counterfactual argumentation? How do we address the problems and criticism of counterfactual reasoning, considering its trivialisation and devaluation as unscientific, cryptopolitical and absurd with little value beyond a certain „humorous effect“? What could counterfactuals say about interpreting historiography and historians‘ diverse perspectives today? Along this line of thought, a central contra-factual question is: What would history be without modal reasoning? Could it exist at all? How can the temporality and contingency of the past be addressed without the tools of experiment at the disposal of other disciplines where variables are „controllable?“
One beast that this workshop puts into question is the deterministic causal argumentation that excludes the possibility of alternative development. It claims that the future of the past harbours the same contingency as the many present visions of the future. It intends to argue against a clean and svelte historiography that is already out of vogue and attempts to offer historians tools to deal with the contingency, unforeseen consequences, improvisation and negotiation which are willingly recognised as components of the past.
This workshop is one in a series of researcher-organised projects within the framework of the seminar Rewriting History. This seminar aims to generate a critical discussion on the preconditions of history writing in light of what have been called postmodern challenges. These challenges are no longer novel. Concepts such as „reality“, „objectivity“, „truth“ etc. have been problematised and are today seen, to a large extent, as carriers of ideologies. The opinion that no reality exists beyond the limits set by language is well established. The role of professional historians as producers/constructors of history is at the heart of a widening discussion. Additional workshops within framework of the seminar have been: Beyond the Printed Word: New Media and the Practice of History, Homeland and Ideology and Historiography: The Making of Identity in Yugoslavian Historiography. This years ultimate seminar will be held by Reinhart Koselleck. It will simultaneously function as an introduction to the workshop Pasts Proposed.
Monday, 15 May
11.00 Bo Stråth, General Introduction: Rewriting History
Reinhart Koselleck, Reconciliation of Social and Cultural History?
14.30 James Kaye, Pasts Proposed
15.00 Todd Samuel Presner, Subjunctive History, The Use of Counterfactuals in the Writing of the Disaster
16.00 Lars M. Andersson About „About Recounting“, History, Fiction and Contrafactual Historiography
Tuesday, 16 May
10.00 Hans Erich Bödeker, Historicity and Koselleck Reconsidered
11.00 Niall Ferguson, „Virtual History“ in Theory and in Practice
12.00 Concluding Discussion
15.00 The Cultural Construction of Communities in Modernisation Processes in Comparison: Publication and Project Presentation
As this project has reached an organisational and functional close (although it has not yet reached an intellectual conclusion), we would like to take advantage of the presence of a central contributor and theoretical guide to the project The Cultural Construction of Communities in Modernisation Processes in Comparison, Reinhart Koselleck to present some of the project’s formal results. Among them, we would particularly like to call attention to the recently published volumes:
Lars M. Andersson, Hans Erich Bödeker, Niall Ferguson, Almut Höfert, James Kaye, Reinhart Koselleck, Katiana Orluc, Todd Samuel Presner, Bo Stråth and Charlotte Tacke.
Contemporary Approaches to History and Society in Human and Social Sciences
Research Project: The Cultural Construction of Community
Director Bo Stråth
International seminar 5-7 September 1996 at Snogeholm Castle, Sjöbo, Sweden
This seminar aims to critically review and discuss theoretical perspectives currently circulating in the social and human sciences. The session is primarily intended to provide a methodological and theoretical framework for the research programme of the project „The Cultural Construction of Communities in the Modernisation Process: The Cases of Sweden and Germany“, but it is also intended to function as a contact and exchange venue between the members of the programme and scholars with an interest in this field. The intention is to bring together the students involved in the programme network and external specialists in a dialogue that will serve as a starting point for further debate and extension of the network.
One of the first theoretical problems of the project is to problematise concepts like culture, construction and community and relate them to two other key concepts: modernity and postmodernity. The role of history and social sciences in this conceptual framework was particularly interesting.
This cooperative project, “The Cultural Construction of Communities in the Modernisation Process: The Cases of Sweden and Germany, “ sponsored by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, has its theoretical thrust in question concerning the conditions under which social cohesion is produced and the role of language and symbols in these processes. The original and primary focus of this project was on Germany and Sweden. This framework, however, may be extended to include additional parts of Europe as well as the Middle East. Particular attention could be devoted to the East-West divide. This development is reflected in a volume that can be seen as one of the fruits of this seminar, „The Postmodern Challenge: Perspectives East and West, “ where divergent views on postmodernity in Eastern and Western Europe form the main theme.
The list of contributors includes:
Bo Stråth (Lund) Contemporary Approaches to History and Society in Human and Social Sciences
Detlef Briesen (Siegen) The Methodological Turn of Historiography in the 18th and 19th Century
Peter Burke (Cambridge) Civilization, Disorder and Discipline: Historical Reflections on Elias, Bachtin and Foucault
Georg Iggers (Buffalo/Göttingen) Historiography and the Challenge of Postmodernity
Nina Witoszek (Lund) The Tartu School of Semiotics and the Memorialist Approach to History
Björn Wittrock (Stockholm/Uppsala) Social Sciences as Reflection and Construction of Society
Bénédicte Zimmermann (Paris) Community and Society in a Culturalist Perspective