Chapter

Postmodernism's Emergence in an Unlikely Setting

in On the Future of History

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2003 | ISBN: 9780226072791
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226072814 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226072814.003.0007
Postmodernism's Emergence in an Unlikely Setting

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A search for postmodernist traces in Western historiography between 1850 and 1914 seemed to be an unpromising endeavor. In these years, modernity, both in theory and the praxis of life, radiated an unprecedented confidence that stifled doubts about progress. European societies expanded their economic base by industrialization within the framework of capitalism, spread their political power across the globe, and enhanced the comfort and health of many of their citizens. The United States fulfilled its “manifest destiny” in becoming a truly continental nation—one prosperous and powerful. The theoreticians of progress could paint the expectations for the future only in bright colors. In the contemporary historical nexus, the future could still be seen as free of the past's vicissitudes. Even most prominent critics of the Enlightenment's rationalist version of progress—such as the Marxists—pitted against it yet another version of a radiant future.

Keywords: postmodernism; Western historiography; modernity; European societies; industrialization; Marxists

Chapter.  689 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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