Chapter

Poststructuralist Postmodernists on the Individual and the Utility of History

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/9780226072814.003.0018
Poststructuralist Postmodernists on the Individual and the Utility of History

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The question of history's usefulness has all along been one about the degree to which the present could benefit from the past for illuminating human existence and its problems. The historical nexus suggested that history could yield useful answers. Ancient historians had tried to discern lessons in history that would stand the tests of life, especially those of political life. Medieval chroniclers had found guidance in history's events toward discerning Divine Providence. Much later and in a secular vein, Lord Bolingbrooke and many others saw history teaching the timeless lessons of philosophy through specific examples. Doubters have all along questioned such usefulness. Advocates of a “history for history's sake” stance, who tried to isolate the study of the past from the nexus, have denied that such utility should or could be of concern to historians. Now, poststructuralist postmodernists asked questions about the instructive role of the past and foresaw a world from which the guiding elements for the historical nexus had disappeared.

Keywords: poststructuralist postmodernists; historical nexus; human existence; political life; history teaching; past events

Chapter.  5620 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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