Publikace MSÚ – Časopis Dějiny – Teorie – Kritika
Časopis Dějiny – Teorie – Kritika
Časopis Dějiny – Teorie – Kritika, I/2004
V rubrice Studie a eseje přináší časopis články Bedřicha Loewensteina, Daniely Tinkové a Ondřeje Matějky zaměřené tentokrát na francouzský kulturní okruh. Do rubriky Diskuse a rozepře přispěli Miloš Havelka, Pavel Himl a Dušan Třeštík. V třetí části Recenze a reflexe jsou uveřejněny recenze závažných historických děl, které vyšly v nedávné době.
We often use the term “positivism” imprecisely, in the sense of scientific distaste for philosophical generalisation. Here I wish to attempt a reconstruction of the intellectual historical background to the origins and character of West European positivism. The experience of the French Revolution, denounced by its critics as the result of Enlightenment theories, played a major role in the emergence of the tradition. Scientific demonstration (i.e. proof free of metaphysical speculation) of the inevitability of progress was seen as a way of ensuring that society avoided blind alleys – the terror of military despotism but also aristocratic reaction. The idea was that historical events, only superficially a mass of accidents and caprice, were in fact governed by laws as inexorable as those of the natural non-human world. Early positivist thought was motivated by this basic impulse, as can be shown in the histories of the French Revolution that are characterised in the first part of the essay. The classic works of positivist historical philosophical and sociological thinkers that are the subject of the second part of the essay are also ideological in the sense that they arise from period needs and interest in overcoming social crisis and scientifically demonstrating that progress was not just meaningful but unstoppable. The weaknesses of the concepts and arguments employed, today very obvious, were to some extent already clear to John Stuart Mill, who applied a series of liberal corrections to the Comte’s version of the theory of inevitable social development. Both variants of positivism played a fundamental role in forming the historical thought of T. G. Masaryk, but the concepts of the French historians were also a discernible inspiration in Czech historiography.
The essay explores the interpretation of the French Revolution as symbolic break between “traditional” and “modern” society in 19th- and 20th-century historiography. The revolution, seen as a “crossroads of history” by its participants at the time, whether supporters or opponents, forced thinkers to look for answers to the question of the direction, progress, continuity or discontinuity of the historical “process”. I have tried to (re) construct several key interpretational schema that in turn were conditioned by political-ideological orientations. Basically there were four lines or “stories” - conservative, liberal, republican and socialist. The “conservative” version (from Burke to Gaxotti) rejected the revolution as a pathological phenomenon that deviated from the logic of the current of history. The liberal line more or less accepted the revolution, but only its first phase regarded as a revolution of freedom (1789-92), from which liberalism derived its own legitimacy; it rejected the “democratic” phase of the revolution – the Terror – as a deviation from the logic of the (beneficial) revolution itself. Republican historiography emphasised and praised the initial phase of the First Republic (1792-95), in this way providing support for the legitimising foundation of the Third Republic. Socialist historiography (especially in the 20th century) encouraged favourable re-evaluation of the period of Jacobin dictatorship and thus provided a logical link between the French Revolution and the Soviet Revolution. The final section of the article is devoted to Francois Furet, one of several contemporary historians who have tried to interpret the revolution in a different way that cuts right across the political spectrum (with a mention of the fact that in recent years yet more alternative ways of bridging the classic ideological-political views of the revolution have emerged).
The life and work of Marc Bloch, who was executed by the Nazis in June 1944, have attracted increased attention since the 1990s. Several schools in France have been named after him and in both Europe and the United States he has become the subject of historical study himself. There are several possible explanations for this growing interest. Media attention devoted to provocative interpretations of his conflict with Lucien Febvre over the publication of the Annales revue in German-occupied Paris reflects the Vichy syndrome in French collective memory. Bloch’s involvement in the resistance without party affiliation represents a fixed point in a period when the role of the French Resistance during the Second World is being painfully demythologised. Furthermore, as France today struggles with religious conflict his thorough-going commitment to the Republican tradition of assimilation has topical resonance as wells. Bloch’s historiographical legacy has been claimed by supporters of the pragmatic historiography close to Annales (G. Noiriel), who refer above all to his wartime fragment – Apologie de l´histoire, and by representatives of a school that is in some ways its competitor, i.e. the history of the present identified mainly with Henry Rousso, which emphasises Bloch’s testimony about the French defeat in 1940, L´étrange défaite. Also interesting are attempts by historians to interpret Bloch’s decision to join the resistance despite his advanced age.
With reference to the international discussion on the foundation of a Centre against Expulsion in Berlin, the essay considers the necessary asymmetry between the pursuit of understanding through interpretation as it is cultivated by academic history, and the recollection of historical events on the part of individuals and groups who participated in them. Using Czech-German relations and specifically the question of the “transfer” as background and example, the essay draws attention to the memories of participants not only in terms of the role they play in historical scholarship, but also in terms of their capacity to generate ideological political doctrines, maintain nationalist animosities and stereotypes in the perception of one’s own nation and the others and to sustain ethnic, social tension. Selective processes of social forgetting, in which individual and collective experience of life are formed and maintained, an inner community bond created and national identity consolidated, are shown to be a basic element of the existence of historical memory.
The traditional idea of a single unified History has an impact not only on its basic working concepts (progress in a definite direction important centre – unimportant peripheries, significance” perceived from the point of view of politically influential groups and formations) and the way is written. A single History is also often reflected in a single Historiography, i.e. in a relatively unified and centrally organised institutional mechanism that “produces” history. These mechanisms, most clearly to be seen in the higher educational system, basically continually reproduce the frontiers and models of “national historiography” as it emerged at the end of the 19th century. Discussion of alternative approaches to the writing of history and the forms of history teaching may on the one hand represent no more than “fights over territory” within the existing disposition of forces, but they may, on the other hand, help to loosening up of ideas o ... interpretations.
Against the background of the current debates in the Czech Republic on the “purity of history“ and the need to protect some notional “correct history”, practised by professionals, from the meddling and disinterpretation of journalists, politicians and the public in general, the author draws attention to the headway being made by contemporary research on the historical “memory” of nations and other groups. While obviously “Memory” is not “correct”, it is authentic and legitimate. It is not the enemy of the history produced by professionals, but its partner in dialogue. Historians must conduct such a dialogue with the public on the broadest possible basis, must open themselves up to it and not hide from it behind the dangerously cracked shield of their positivist scientism.