A short note. I’ve written this comment somewhat more consciously in line with my considerations and work of the period, 1989-1996. It’s not that those considerations and that work aren’t in the background of everything that I’ve written in the allegedly new century, since I began writing, again. But I haven’t always been as explicit as I would like; it seems, though, that those writings and ideas, like those of Sol Yurick’s, are proving to be a more effective instrument for dealing with past, present or contemporary, and future, problematics.
The prevailing forms of cultural understanding, including the reactions to them, are pretty much antiquated fragments of habitual, cultural obsession, that were obsolescent long before I was born. But it is this atavistic, cultural content, which is being incessantly reproduced, by a fundamentally uninventive and backward cultural motivation, inspired only by its characteristic insularity.
It’s an unhealthy, self-destructive context, that has received enough attention, to no avail. Accounting for its insatiable needs and broken understandings is not the most interesting activity, probably requiring some form of sociopsychological counselling.
This text is a response to a Facebook post concerning the quantitative decline of US students taking up history, with only a few, so-called ‘Ivy League’ colleges, experiencing greater demand for courses in history. The first paragraph is in reference to that topic. The rest of the text explores what might be called a theory of conditions of historical conceptions and discourse.
The same point, about disciplinary control by a well-advantaged, social group, was made in an academic paper over 25 years ago, on the art world. How high-level degrees in fine art were only available to those who could afford to spend over a decade accruing them; how they were extremely specific in terms of their possible career utility, that is to say, of not much general use in employment scenarios.
That this specificity, affordable only to the few and privileged, served to channel that group onto editorial boards of influential art publications; art museums and institutions; the art world, generally. This allowed a specific, socio-economic group, to control all discourses on art and to be the arbiters of cultural taste in art.
The western notion of history is finished, has finished, according to John Baudrillard.
That’s not because of student disinterest; it is due to deeper problems with the way that history is done, and how the past is configured and viewed. I’ve written recently, a comment about the ‘fascism of the present’. If fascist orders play with inclusions and exclusions, in terms of what they consider permissible to present, admissible to their version of ‘the present’; then, the mechanism of modernist rupture can be seen as the inaugurating ideology enabling not only neo-rationalist polity, but fascist rationalisations, too.
Even if neo-rationalist polity, or modernist society, portrays itself as all-inclusive and progressive; this necessarily implies an exclusion of regression. Like nations, the culture of the present is susceptible to producing self-celebratory propaganda, skewing, distorting, or otherwise misrepresenting, the past, always in its own favour. This is ideological chronology; it’s an epistemological mechanism by which various social phenomena, can be ordered or regimented.
Because of the genealogy of military hostility accompanying so much of historical discourse over the last 4000 years, all history, including modernist history, has become deeply problematic. Those problems aren’t going to go away merely through hasty retreats into imagined, factual realms, of alleged scientific objectivity. Because the nature of scientific objectivity is itself at stake as a historical or chronological production.
There is of course the global conflict of geo-historical interpretations; the various centrisms that have arisen, such as Eurocentrism, Afrocentrism, et cetera. This is species-specific, internal to the public relations propaganda of internal orders of anthrosocial power, primarily emergent from the humanist ideology of anthropic supremacy, whose conceptual roots go all the way back to Aristotle and Protagoras.
Although this global conflict is a symptom of chronological disruption, it is not an explanation for it. History is a certain form of chronological culture; a certain experiential ordering and distribution. But the experiential root of that ordering and distribution is no longer quite so central, as it once was, or seemed to be. Common forms of anthropic experience have been brought to the limits of their traditional epistemological configurations. Those habitual configurations are no longer sufficient to account for newly emerging chronological conditions, conditions that were always there, but which could be safely ignored. Such ignorance is no longer possible. But the understanding which ought to be replacing that ignorance, doesn’t seem to be emerging, at least not in ‘human’ form. This indicates the nature of common, anthropic experience, as an effect. An effect of conditions of a chronology it is unable to understand.