Imprimir

Published in

 

The history ahead*

 

 

Carlos Barros

University of Santiago de Compostela

 

 

The way historians have been writing history  since the Second World War -  history understood as  a science - is a practice which has given rise to a socio-economic, structural and objectivist history, advocating the ideal ambition of an all-embrassing history and the need to study the past in order to understand the present and to construct a better future. This practice has been seriously challenged over the past decade just as the common philosophical project which upheld it - the enlightened idea of progress - also began to enter into crisis.

 

So far all of this would seem rather obvious. However, as many aspects of the way it has evolved remain unclear, the intention of this article is to explore how the community of historians has been formulating alongside the criticism new concensuses concerning the way the profession is to be practiced. More often than not, this rapprochement has come about quite unknowingly as a result of practice rather than through open debate.  It is often said, and quite rightly so, that the crisis that history finds itself faced with at the end of the century - and here we might like to bear in mind the decreasing role played by historians and history in society -  is accompanied by a massive increase in the production of historiographic material. This increase led to an enormous renewal of both the subjects and the method, albeit in a rather haphazard fashion. However, the absence of  sufficient reflexion and the ensuing lack of order or harmony1 have seriously limited it and can still put pay to the possible end results. So then, our first proposal involves the way the scientific communities in general reconstruct their common heritage via the processes of criticism.

 

Here we are more interested in finding out which history is being made and, above all, which history should be written - hereby both knowingly and critically overstepping the mark of the function of observer - than the crtiques levied against  the "new histories" which have been quite generalized on certain fronts and have been a constant running through 20th Century historiographies.  Putting  any spirit of numantism to one side, we do however still accept still a large part of their validity, whenever we find it to be acceptable, everything which has been superceeded by scientific practice in general and by the practice of the historians in particular, together wih the new social, cultural and generational needs to which both history and science are bound to respond in this rapidly approaching end of the century. This process  began in 1989 and was initially given a great boost by Post-modernist criticism - and even more so by Pre-modernist criticism - which meant that it was able to breathe life into a renewed rationality within a very short space of time. This involved  a new enlightenment, a rethinking of the idea of progress which takes into consideration errors and failures and we feel that we can identify ourselves with this is an intellectual effort.


We shall now go on to present 16 theses and argued propositions in order to state those criteria which we feel to be of fundamental importance in achieving a burgeoning historiographic concensus. Whilst never loosing sight  of the fact that we still have some way to go inasmuch as the historiographic paradigm common to the 20th Century has not as yet finished its transition, nor indeed is this an inevitability, this new concensus should aim to spur on the debate by helping to recentre it and foster dissidence.

 

1

Historiography advances by leaps and bounds and not by simple accumulation, according to the decisions agreed upon by concensus at any one time by the community of historians

 

Any book on historiography worth its salt explains how the advances of historical knowledge are punctuated by breaks in the way history is written2. The following breaks have been of particular importance: the traumatic swing away from metaphysical history, be it sacred or literary, towards 19th Century Positivist history  and the 20th Century historiographic revolution led by the Annales school and Historic Materialism, flying in the face of the Positivist concept of history. This very concept of the history of history seen through disciplinary revolutions is itself a hang-over of the Materialist conception of history.

 

So then, from the 60's onwards a physicists turned historian, Thomas S. Kuhn3, revolutionized the philosophy of science by applying in his own way the method of history to the future of scientific knowledge, and more particularly to the natural sciences. Those Neopositivist conceptions dominant at the time led by Popper thus found themselves in a grave predicament which stunted the development of the early historiographic programme to a greater extent than one might think. This early programme was the forerunner to both Historic Materialism and the Annales.

 


Unlike both the early and later Positivists, Kuhn established the origin of scientific certainties more in successively decisions arrived at by concensus arising in the aftermath periods of crisis and rivalry between different theories. These concensual decisions were arrived at by  the scientific community of any given discipline rather than via the empirical verification (or indeed, falsification) that the former held to be indispensable. The application of Kuhn´s discoveries to the social sciences and human sciences  can be deduced from his own open doubts concerning history - and also with sociology, social psychology and epistemology4 - by the study of the history of the physical sciences, and even more so the study of the very experience of historiography. Today, rather unsurprisingly, this is arousing growing interest on the part of the historians. It has, then, gone as far as Kuhn himself by setting down to theoretically systematize the historical evolution of science or  in our case, the science of history.

 

In decades gone by, the interest in history  shown by Kuhn and other scientists did not meet with a reciprocal interest in the history of science and the philosophy of science on the part of the historians. The underlying reason for this is the division, often tainted with hostility, which exists between the arts and the sciences5, between the "hard" sciences and the social and human sciences. And this division meant that the later "softening" undergone by the physical sciences went unnoticed. Any  quite exceptional  relationship that has at some time existed linking history and science per se has arisen out of Neopositivists science, eg. by importing quantitative methods, and inspite of Karl Popper's open hostitility towards historicism. For the rest, however, the lack of spontaneous interest on the part of the professional historian regarding theory serves to round off  this décalage between historical and historiographic research and the philosophy of science which is ultimately the most productive branch of philosophy.

 

2

There does exist a paradigm common to historians but today it finds itself plunged into a deep crisis which can only be completely surmounted by replacing the old paradigm with a new one.

 

We understand a common paradigm to be the ensemble of commitments shared by any one scientific community, ie. those theoretical, methodological and normative elements, beliefs and values which enjoy the concensus of the specialists at any one time. In turn, a global paradigm is  made up of a series of partial paradigms. The way a common paradigm works is inherent to the existence of a unified discipline. They mutually justify each other whilst not excluding the plurality of  approaches, even the plurality of different schools. Quite the contrary indeed; we are never to find any completely homogeneous theory and methodology shared by the members of any established community, nor is this desirable in the name of  the healthy functioning of a scientific discipline. The historiographic concept of the paradigm was created by the self-same Kuhn in order to explain the real mechanisms of learning and concensus at work within any of the mature scientific communities, being necessarily more flexible and open than those of a particular school with its own theory, leaders and hierarchy. Going way beyond the different historiographic schools and the national historiographies, scientific history would never have been able to take root without a common paradigm.

 



From the very outset, the subjective recognition of the paradigm shared by 20th Century historians runs into two problems: one the one hand, the relative rivalry existing between the two great historiographic schools, Annales and Marxist historiography6. For the very first time, this gave structure to the common historiographic paradigm towards the mid 20th Century, thereby successfully fighting off traditional history, ie. history geared to events, politics, narrative and biography;  and on the other hand, the persistance of a third Positivist element. Although this element is all but rarely admitted  by the new historians, it is nevertheless reflected in the manifestly empirical character which has continued to imbue the work of the historian. This has both positive effects (its critical nature and use of sources) and its negative effects (disregard for reflexion  and theory).

 

The paradigm shared by historians exists and functions independently of the level of awareness of any given historian and also independently of the level of acceptation of the said concensus on the part of  any particular school or national historiography. We must include the following among the shared partial paradigms which make up the already old general paradigm of the 20th Century we know as scientific history: total history, past/present/future, history-social sciences, explicative history, socio-economic history, non-narrative sources, quantitativism, regional monographies and the multiplicity of times.

 

Be that as it may, the putting into practice of the Annales-Marxism paradigm towards the mid 20th Century suffered from a series of limitations and deviations due to its own defects as well as owing to the survival of Positivism in its method and theory. This brought with it an objectivism which was very swiftly bolstered by Marxist economism and Structuralism (the Structuralist paradigm held sway to a great extent in the social sciences until at least as late as 1968).

 

The current crisis was awakened and fed by three successive and inter-related failures within the 20th Century common paradigm combined with the way the historians occasionally reacted to the crisis:

 

1) Objectivist, economicist, quantitativist and structural history. In the Seventies this made way for a gradual return of the subject; firstly with a social subject (Anglo-american Marxist historiography), later a mental one (the French history of Mentalities) and finally  returning to the traditional subject (biography, political history).

 

2) Total history, disgarded as an approach for research, is stated  be something quite out of reach yet something which should be maintained as the historians'  "utopian horizon".Whilst total history was ignored in the theoretical field, at the same time - by then already in the Eighties - history was developing in exactly the opposite direction by splitting itself up a myriad of themes, genres and methods.

 


3) Being reduced  by the new history, geography and economy to the study of the control of nature through work, or by the prevailing geographic conditions of the society in question, the past/present/future relationship led to the break down, for instance, of the sensitivity of the historian towards feminism or the relationship of Man to the environment. Above all at the outset, women's history which flourishes today (and the same could also be said of ecological history) developed then on the fringes of the Annales and Historical Materialism, going against the pre-theoretical habits of the persisting Positivist influence. However, the defeat of history, as a part of the social sciences, has been most flagrant in its incapacity to comprehend, and even less foresee, the revolutions of 1989-1991 and the transition from socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe which upset the progressive meaning of 20th Century history. Whilst scientific history was able to take on board historiographic Marxism, it was nonetheless completely incapable of analyzing and explaining the historical realisations of  political Marxism.

 

Combined with other anomolies, these factors challenged the paradigm common to history as a social science and give rise to a variety of internal and external reactions. From the Seventies onwards these reactions both directly and indirectly contributed to the shaping of a new historiographic concensus. This involved a process of gestation and dispersion and uncertainty which offered no guarantee of a happy final outcome. There is also the alternative of marginality, ie. a history which is ever more distanced not only from the social sciences but also from the natural sciences and closer to fiction and the erudite interest of a select few. This marginal history finds it increasingly difficult to demonstrate its social usefuleness as well as its capital role in the education of the citizenry and for research.

 

In the chapter dealing with the internal reactions to the crisis of the common paradigm, we will take the following to be the most significative reactions: a) a return to the traditional genres (political history, historical biography, history as a tale). This "historicising history" which was thought to have been overcome by Bloch, Febve and Bruadel had been considered alien to scientific history as from the period between the Wars; b) various kinds of academic conservativism which acts as if nothing had happened and seeks to maintain the 20th Century historiographic paradigm. In its defence this conservatism argues that its is better to repeat accumulated knowledge ad infinitum rather than to fall prey to fragmentation and nothingness; c) historiographic revisionism. This revisionism took advantage of the ideological climate of the Eighties and sought to reverse the historiography of the social revolutions of Modernity (mainly the French and English social revolutions) and that of the dictatorships which sprang up in Germany, Italy and Spain in the period between the Wars.

 

Turning now to the external factors, we can see how the Post-modernist ideology had an overwhelming bearing on latterday historiography. The savage criticism of the idea of progress - the philosophical basis common to the paradigm of contemporary historians - and the "anything goes" methodology encouraged a significant number of historians to settle down comfortably into the current fragmentation of history, considering the current freedom of subject matter, genres and theories to be incompatible with the validity of any "unifying paradigm". Post-modernism has a destructive character rather than a postive one and this leads to the slowing down of its effects and renders it useless as a historiographic alternative7.

 


Intially , the events of 1989-1991 seemed to have proved right those who preached the end of the modern attempts to transform the World in order, in some way, finding themselves left with  the paradoxal return to power of the ex-communists in practically all of the former Eastern Bloc countries via the ballot box. This swift and contradictory process was reproduced with the announcement made by Francis Fukuyama in 1989 of the "end of history" with the fall of the Berlin Wall, when he assured us that Modernity had fulfilled its destiny,  leaving the generalization of liberal democracy as the only alternative possible. The rightly irate reply of the professional historians to a proposal which is at odds with that which we know of history and therefore questions the very continuity of our profession should not prevent us from learning the most important lesson contained in the debate revolving around the "end of history" (and which is also deducible from Post-modernist criticism), namely,  the fact that the progressive theory of history, a fatalistic concept of history, advancing towards a set and happy ending has run dry.

 

3

To say that the fact that history cannot be an "objective" and "exact" science means that it cannot therefore be a science at all is an unacceptable alternative.

 

Over the last twenty years, the slow discovery among the ashes of the old objectivist, economicist and structuralist history the role of the subject matter in history and the free will of the historian in his work, once more sowed the seeds of doubt in the profession regarding the scientific nature of history as a discipline capable of reproducing the past "as it actually happened". According to Ranke, this emminently Positivist concept of science and history held by those historians with a Annalist and/or Marxist background is rendering the extraordinary retreat of history all the more easy . And this is true whether  history retreats towards literature, thereby heightening the subjectivity of the historian, or towards a new Presentism lacking in any scientific claims, which means pitting the historian's social committment against his work as a researcher.

 

The historians' practical doubts regarding the old objectivism combined with their certainties regarding the relative nature of historical knowledge, in reality approaching the ultimate philosophy of science, are paradoxically perceived by the community of historians - brimming with Positivism - as a drift away  from the natural sciences, and as a return to the classical humanities, thereby sweeping away the fundamental steps forwards made by 20th Century historiography. Because trying to work guided by relative concepts is always far from easy, at least in theory this contradiction can easily  be overcome by reformulating historical science in line with the latest epistemological advances made by the social sciences and, more importantly, by the natural sciences.

 

4

Redefining history as a science and the new physics

 


Should the concept of history change along with  changes in the scientific concept of reality ? We believe that it should. Although the onset of quantum physics and the theory of relativity in the 20th Century put pay to Newtonian mechanics, the objectivism and absolutism of the old mechanics have nonetheless continued to condition the fledgling historical science to a great extent. The principle of indetermination (Heisenberg), the principle of complementarity (Born) and  the complexity of chaos all serve to bring the subject back into the process and into the result of the research in such a way as to relativize scientific truth  and thereby clearly showing up all of the prejudices of the historians and of the other social sciences towards the weight of subjectivity in their works. For the time being, the genuine coming together of the natural sciences and the social sciences (and also between the physical sciences and the humanities) which are much more compatible with one another now than they were at the turn of the century, has  been more openly recognized by the "hard" sciences (the success of Kuhn's relative objectivism can also be explained in the same way) than by the Humanists. From the times of Positivism (Compte) the humanities had searched for and indeed found a safe scientific epistemological and methodological reference point in the natural sciences.

 

Towards the end of the century, a concept of science took hold which put an end to the separation between the Positivist subject/object8. Can history remain a stranger to this scientific revolution when its own practice has led it to conclude that there exists no absolute truth beyond the current observer and the historical subject? History is, or could be, as objective as the new physics is. The new science with its subject is not less scientific than the old (objectivist) science of Positivism but rather all the more so. The historiographic consesus concerning an objectivist definition and practice of our discipline has been split apart for some time and can only be recomposed if the historians taking on board the new scientific Rationalism. And the new Rationalism which is set to characterize the 21st Century is characteristically both relativist and transdisciplinary.  For history to be able to overcome the current crumbling in order to take up once more its role in society the historians' common paradigm must be reconstructed. This  calls for the paradigmatic changes in the ensemble of the social sciences to be heeded as well as the changes in the conception of science in general. Then as now, this is  dictated by the natural sciences, thus also proving that science has not abandoned its basis of a material and realist  starting point. The paradigmatic concensuses  become ever more inclusive as the epistemology and methodology of the "hard" and "soft" sciences move closer and closer together.

 

5

The history of humanity does not advance towards a previously set goal, nor does it turn back on itself.

 

The study of the past in the light of  the problems of the present is a criterion shared by the historians and serves to justify the social usefulness of history in the struggle of Humanity for a better future. This naïve and optimistic enlightened idea of undefined progress which states that scientific and technological development give rise to a series of continually improving social forms initially came up against the two World Wars and the political atrocities of Auschwitz and the Gulag.  More recently it came up against a generalized awareness of the irrevesible deterioration of the environment and the obvious fact that social well-being only favours a minority of industrialized countries whilst condemning the rest of humanity to misery. The countries which practiced so-called Real Socialism put the last nail in the coffin of the secular religion of undefined progress. And here we are refering to those countries which claimed to be an ultimate communist society and which are, albeit rather unsuccessfully,  currently searching  a  social pre-revolutionary régime within capitalism to put an end to their economic and social problems.

 


Just as there exists not set and permanent scientific truth, the history of humanity has no preestablished goal as was believed for centuries (the final judgement of providentialist history, the liberal democracy of Hegel-Fukuyama, Marx's classless society). Nor is there any guarantee that social evolution goes from bad to better as economy, science and technology develop. The subject of history is freer and the future is more open-ended that one would ever imagine. However, this does not imply that progress has come to an end, that Humanity should not set itself ambitious aims - motivations. Nor does it mean that the project which came about about with Modernity has reached its end, either because it has been fully fullfilled (Fukuyama) or because it can never be achieved (Postmodernism) or because we are walking in the shadow of the "New Middle Ages"9.

 

History has taught us that feelings of confusion and uncertainty go hand in hand with periods of transition and that sooner or later these periods end up with the implantation of new realities and new paradigms. On the other hand, the only historical progress that there has been has been a relative one and it is neither absolute, nor  linear nor inexorable.  This progress takes the present and not the future as its yardstick (barring the exception of time-travellers) thus  offering a future which remains open to a variety of alternatives and a past which never comes again. This is a new, non-theleological, rational idea of progress which will continue to include political, social, cultural and scientific interuptions and revolutions; an idea which places the subject at the core of history and recognizes the role of utopias as a driving force, whilst never mistaking them for science.

 

6

Objective history is impossible without the subject,  both of the past and of the present

 

The redefinition of scientific truth which includes the observing subject enhances the function of the historian in the process of historical research. It serves to demonstrate the correctness behind determined historiographic paradigms of the 20th Century, such as the history-problem of the Annales or the key function of theory in Historical Materialism which have never been applied due to their remained blocked by the Positivist belief which has continued to linger on amongst the historians. In epistemological terms, by  fusing together the object and the subject, the individual and the collective, by working with data to explain and to interpret, to search for the cause and the meaning of historical facts, in order to theoretically construct its object and to practice empirical research as the "hard" scientists and many of the social scientists have been doing, the new concept of relative objectivism goes beyond even the old explicative history by resinstating the strong subject as a  source of objectivity (Kuhn's scientific community as a defining factor of that which is not objective). The bad habits of Positivism linger on and result in the illusion that the subject-observer fades away, contradicting the most audacious and unprecedented  contributions made by the founders of the 20th Century historiographic paradigm, the prevailing scientific practice which involves fully winning back the scientificness of history.

 


From the Seventies onwards, written history has tended towards making a history of the mental, anthroplogical and cultural subject and, more recently,  towards a history of the individual subject. What this has meant is that the collective, social subject, the subject of Anglo-american social historiography has been forgotten, relegating it to historical investigation10. Primarily, this can be laid at the door of the ideological depression which set in after 1968, and later due to the "conservative wave" of the Eighties, until it was rescued by the revisionists' historiographical debate and also by recent history from the opposite point of view. Once again, the key date is 1989, the year marking the 200th Anniversary of the French Revolution as well as the democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe.

 

The return of revolution and the leading political role played by the masses in Eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, seen live by the entire world on their televison screens, marked a return to the strong subject of history. This strong subject had been  finally swept to one side by the old historiographic paradigm, be it Annalistic or Marxist, to the beat of the intellectual climate, remaining faithful to a structural socio-economic history or to a history of Mentalities (and its successors) quite alien to social history11.

 

The emergence of the strong subject of the new scientific epistemology combined with the strong subject of recent history is by no means accidental.  It warns us that we are entering upon the era of Post-postmodernism, heralding in the prior conditions for a new Enlightenment. What is it that links the collective revaluation of the researcher on the one hand and the historical agent on the other? The answer to this question lies in another point of the Annalist-Marxist agenda which went unfulfilled, namely the "human history" of Bloch and Gramsci whereby  Man makes and decides on his own history, be it scientific history or the history of facts.

 

Whilst it is easy enough to state the principle of  considering the subject and the object as one and the same reality, the legacy of the methodological and ontological schemas means that it remains difficult to put into practice. And this constitutes a whole challenge for the historians of the future.

 

7

From the simple economic determination to the complex and global, concrete and revisable,  determination of historic facts

 

When it comes to explaining historical facts, the active objectivist and stuctural paradigm  - according to Kuhn no paradigm ceases to be valid until its has been completely replaced by another - has dominated the determinism of economy, and even of geography, to the  detriment of the subjective causality of the social  struggle. It skirts around dimensions which condition both the reality of the past as well as mentality and culture, politics and power, individuals and institutions. And these are factors which the historian encounters every day in the course of his research.

 


 Although not necessarily always12, following the law of the pendulum, the subjectivist reaction against the priority given to economic - infrastructural - history has generally  led to the undelining  of the indetermination of historical events, to the point where history would be the realm of absolute contingency: a subject with no object. So then, historiography started out with no interest in investigating causes and explanations and  later went on to deny the fact that they are knowable, whilst at the same time returning to a more traditional approach to history and a renewal of another idea of Neopositivist origin  involving  the impossibility to comprehend reality  beyond discourse (the linguistic turn in its most radical version).

 

Our aim is to overcome the argument between determination versus indetermination by undertaking a "concrete anaysis of each concrete historical situation" in order to discover, with no rigid  a priori positions, the possible degree of determination of a historical fact.  As we are all aware, this depends upon the preserved sources, the research methods, knowledge not deriving from any sources, and the hypotheses and theories employed by the historian. Of course, the result is open to revision depending upon the variability of the subjective factors of the research.

 

Giving priority to the search for the causes of history in its material basis has shown itself to be clearly wanting and even at times a mistaken approach. Any non-reductionist methodology must then pursue the global determination of the historical facts, going above and beyond the simplifying and divisive schemas (object/subject, basis/superstructure, economy/politics/culture) which belong to the objectivist, economicist and structuralist paradigm.  Specific research will tell the level of complexity of the combination of the determinations for any given  case.

 

Historical reality tends to be more complex than our mechanical metaphores. Thus, by applying the latter we are distancing ourselves  from the object to be studied. True as this may be, things are not always like that inasmuch as simple schemas can, in certain cases, render plausible a description, or even an explanation, because complexity includes simplicity13. This, then, is how the economic determination of social, political and cultural reality manages to maintain some level of validity, as demonstated all but infrequently by history and other social sciences in the course of concrete research. In each case, the problem posed involves a global coordination of ecomony as regards the remaining dimensions which not only interact with it but also live within it. Politics and mentality also make up a part of economic and material life, and vice versa, and this explains the invariable inability of the rigid three-tiered metaphore of economy/culture/culture14 when trying to fully come to grips with, and most of time even in order to properly describe, the World of the past. Economic determination also usually involves a global and a complex determination.

 

8

It is the contribution of the historian which determines what  is and what  is not a valid subject for research or a valid histriographic genre: problems arising, methods applied and results  obtained

 


The objectivist paradigm endowed the object, the subject of research, with an overbearing function, even a "magic" function, concerning  the legitimization of the scientificity  or the social usefulness of a work of history. Above all else, the great innovations made by  20th Century  historiography were thematic ones. Every  historiographic era favoured a particular kind of history: political history was followed by economic and social history, which was in turn followed by history taken from the subject (Mentalities, historical anthropology, new cultural history), rounding the circle and the century with a return to political history (in many cases with new approaches). Generally speaking, each of these thematic genres of history has yielded good results, under the influence brought to bear by the corresponding social sciences: political science, psychology, anthropology, sociology, economy, etc. It would be wrong then to give priority to  a historiographic theme or genre or to disgard it a priori or without first analyzing the problems to be dealt with, the methods applied and the results obtained15. By way of a résumé and a recapitulation, we can say that the majority of the historiographic fields on the historian's desk at the turn of this century gained their credentials in the world of professional history.

 

This unprecedented scope of objects constitutes an irreversible victory for contemporary historiography. The opening up of the sources used (from written documents to "all documents" in the words of Febvre) was followed up by such a broadening of the historian's thematic territory that today it becomes difficult to discover new historiographic spots. And, whilst the present - and the future - will continue to yield new study material, we can only conclude that the centre of gravity of the historiographic revolution will shift towards more methodological and theoretical approaches.

 

The first problem to be overcome with the innovative spirit is the question of the fragmentation of history into a myriad of unrelated objects16. The incapacity of 20th Century historiography to offer an explanation of the unified ensemble of the past of mankind has become manifest in the very area of thematic diversification where the advances are most visible. It is a paradox that below the surface of the growing variety of specialities and subspecialities, there somehow lies a search for a total history (taken as a utopian horizon);  the idea that  "everything" must be studied.  The price we have had to pay for this has been the fact that we have been left without the one crucial thing, ie. a global investigation of the history of facts, periods of time and bygone civilisations.


 

9

On the necessary plurality of methodological innovation

 

The historiographic paradigm of the 21st Century must be more global and more transnational than was the historiographic paradigm of the 20th Century. A greater inter-relationship between those cultivating distinct types of history and also a tighter bond between national historiographies will do away with that academic prejudice that brushes to one side those paths which lead to different kinds of historiographic renovation. It is not merely a question of preaching tolerance, although this  is  an intellectual virtue which should set off all the alarm bells when absent. Rather, the question is that the innovative plurality of the method is at this moment wholly necessary for the recomposition of a paradigm common to all historians in order to leave behind the multiple varieties of historiography and go forth once more towards a common terrain. This is the only way to ensure that the discipline finally manages to reconstruct its features of  unitary  identity.

 

At the time of objectivist hegemony, quantitativist methodology was considered to be the paradigm of exactness17 and scientificness. Now, however, the return of the qualitative methods means that we risk drifting to the other extreme. Without a doubt, the most advanced thing would involve  a combination of both the quantitative and qualitative methods, should this be demanded and/or allowed by the theme, the questions posed and the sources.

 

 Narrative is the historians' qualitative method par excellence. Reviled  - and to some extent justifiably  so - as the paradigm of  traditional history, it was accused of  being superficial, descriptive and geared to events. But for the new Annalist-Marxist history,  the return of narrative history in the mid-Seventies was taken as an indication of the crisis of scientific history (Stone), going on to be swallowed up in the latter at full speed. Some time ago, such representative authors as Georgers Lefebvre and Jerzy Topolsky defended an explicative history cum tale18which goes beyond the vulgarizing infra-history. Philosophers such as Paul Cœur have also argued in that same line, saying that history is nothing but a tale, including Fernand Braudel's long-winded paradigmatic work on structural macro-history, Méditerranée.

 

Setting prejudices to one side, if the truth be told, all historians employ the tale or the narrative connexion in one way or another to give shape to their research. How often have the conclusions had to wait until the drafting of a report for them to take shape? Whether history is good or bad, either from the point of view of the quality or the bent, depends more upon the deep down contents than on the form: a global and socially useful, non-positivist, narrative history is all but impossible. A narrative form need not necessarily imply a background of conservative history.


One of the last paths leading to the historiographic renovation of the objectivist, economicist and structural paradigm which denies neither explicative history nor the historical account involves a reduction in the scale of observation, ie. microhistory (not to be confused with the very different old local history). However, running parallel to this, via comparative history - that longstanding critical project spurred on by Bloch but which never managed to incorporate itself into the common paradigm of the post-war period - one is able to approach macrohistory from a different angle. Just as, in general terms, truly global historical research going beyond the mechanical charicature of the three levels has not yet to come about, the same can also be said of the connexion between microhistory and a renewed macrohistory. The shift in scale, micro/macro and the structured organization of spaces (and of times) could be excellent ways of achieving the methodological and theoretical globalization of history, thereby setting to rights  one of the most negative aspects of the rich -  because it is complementary - evolution of history at the turn of the Century which lies ahead, namely the fragmentation of both the objects and the methods.

 

10

The successfulness of the new paradigm will depend upon its ability to generate and apply global research strategies.

 

 

The biggest anomaly that the concensus of 20th Century historiography has come up against is the impossibility to put into practice the principle of total history. Chanted like a ritual by the historians, it has become the most abstact shared paradigm: the more it has drifted away from historiographic practice, the more total history has become absolute and unattainable, in other words, more idealistic. It is of prime importance to break this vicious circle in order  to get out of the current crisis involving the growth and disintegration of history.

 

As time goes by we know increasingly more about fewer things.Together with the failure on the part of total history, this general trend of scientific knowledge has chanelled the creativity of the historians into a heightened specialization. In the end, however, the opposite trend emerges, tending towards a global and disciplinary convergence. A good example of this would be the research undertaken by philopsophers and physicists alike regarding a unified theory of physical forces, and this trend is also makes itself felt in professional history. After careful examination, many of the most  recent, novel  contributions can be seen to be the result of cross-breeding between genres and methodologies19. The current context of the paradigmatic transition provides us with both the problem and the solution.

 


It is a question of turning total history around, setting it squarely back on its feet and transforming its contents (and possibly also its name). It is necessary to bring about that old paradigmatic concept of the absolute to the relative, from the ideal to the practical, from theory to methodology, from certainty to experimentation, from the point of arrival of research to its starting point. For this to happen, the synthesis of he historiographical genres, convergences in the lines of work, global approaches, views of ensembles must be encouraged. In other words, global research strategies are called for. Barring a few notable exceptions, everything which the failed shared paradigm of total history has neither boosted nor allowed to be boosted throughout the 20th Century and which never managed to become anything other than global approaches.

 

20th Century history has become a huge archipelago, but one without are bridges, paths of communication and other inter-historical connexions which would allow for the islands to be brought together in order to create historiographic continents, thus allowing us to forget our passive waiting for the advent of a completely sacrosanct total history. Following an initial process off secularization and relativization, the putting into practice of a new notion of global history would require a continual effort of historiographic renewal which would have to cross academic superspecialization. Taking as a basis the collective experience of the global approaches  regarding the past of Humankind, one must undertake to theoretically reconstruct a concept of historical "totality" free of any remains of the Kantian shell. Free too of the positivist and mechanical dividing lines of the type object/subject or infrastructure/suprastructure, this would involve a new concept better suited to the new general scientific paradigm: it would be more relative and therefore all the more true.

 

History as a scientific discipline cannot allow itself the luxury of giving up the global understanding of the past. The role of history in society, in education and in research is inversely proportional to is disciplinary crumbling. We can conclude then that one of the touchstones of this new historiographic paradigm will be its ability to create and apply global strategies for investigating and divulging the facts of history.

 

11

In order to strengthen the cooperation between history and the other sciences, it is necessary to  advance along the path of its internal unification as a science of Mankind through time.

 

One can all but ingore the need for interdisciplinariness in order to grasp the innovative potential of the 20th Century historiographic paradigm. Many themes and methods have emerged  out of geography, economy, demography, sociology, anthropology, pyschology,  and political science and they have been successfully applied by the new historians of the Annales and of western Marxism whilst at the same time continuing to move within a common historiographic paradigm, where its interdisciplinary nature is one of its most relevant components. A similar thing could also be said of the abovementioned disciplines which have turned to history in order to come to grips with their temporal dimension, thus giving rise to hybrid subdisciplines, often with researchers with double origins, eg. historical geography, economic history, historical demography, historical sociology, historical anthropology, historical psychology20, new political history. The need we highlighted at the beginning of this essay on historiography for historians to go out and find the history/philosophy of science serves to demonstrate that history cannot afford to turn its back on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary dialogue, be it in the field of historical epistemology or vis à vis its relationship  with the physical sciences21. On the contrary, it should seek instead to boost it, as a sign of the times, on a par with the other natural and social sciences.

 


 It follows then that the cooperation between history and the social sciences, even with the natural sciences, must be both maintained and strengthened in order to avoid history as an academic and social discipline becoming marginalized. The rapid changes in label from interdisciplinary (cooperation) to pluridisciplinary (convergence), from pluridisciplinary to transdisciplinary (crossing over and transcending) clearly reveal a scientific attitude geared to ridding itself of the classical academic pigeon holes, whilst at the same time steering clear of the old Positivist dream of a "unified science".

 

History is not impervious to the transdisciplinary climate which came about as  the direct consequence of the peak of both pure and applied scientific knowledge at the turn of the century. This explains why  the Annales chose 1989 as its tournant critique (critical turning point) with the renewed alliance of history and the social sciences and a reshuffle of its steering committee and by incorporating a group of young people who were not historians it regained the interdisciplinary and pluridisciplinary cut it had at its outset. In the field of university education, the new Humanities degree in Spain stands to illustrate this general trend towards the coming together of disciplines, offsetting the centrifugal tendencies of the Eighties and which continue to linger on within each of the different disciplines.

 

In the Eighties, agreement and dispersion and the downfall of the 20th Century historiographic paradigm together with an increased collaboration with the neighbouring sciences caused a reaction on the part of several historians against the risk of history being swallowed up in the other social sciences. The most radical of these historians  rejected interdisciplinarity and even went so far as to refuse to define history as a science at all. However, the inequitable exchange between history and the social sciences cannot be overcome by the involution of history, retreating into a pre-pragmatic history of a more traditional cut. What is really needed, on the contrary, is to get to the root of the problem. History is weak vis à vis the other disciplines because it has been, and still is, much more worried about theory (sociology, anthropology or literary criticism). This concern with theory has meant that it has been able to act in an "imperialistic" fashion within the system of the social and human sciences, exporting methods and concepts, problems and theories with the intention of assimilation. There is only one way out of this problem which is as old as the discipline of history itself: we historians must keep our sights firmly  set on the ensemble of problems faced by latterday sciences and societies and develop the theoretical and methodological consequences of historical research. This task is involves nothing more difficult than ceasing to lay criticism at the door of the others (their theories) and being more self-critical (developing our own reflexions) instead. Things have reached such a point that the interdisciplinariness we have been practicing can be taken no further22 if professional history does not regain a minimum of internal unity and globality in its working practice.

 


Within the ensemble of the sciences, the one thing that renders history most vulnerable is its internal fragmentation. A well thought out interdisciplinariness should begin, then, with ourselves. The historical subdisciplines (of academic, thematic and/or methodological origins) would have to come together in a common terrain in order for history to make a greater contribution to the social and human sciences with which it usually works together - particularly in the field of avant-garde research. In other words, what is needed is a recomposition of the paradigm shared by historians. This shared paradigm would not oppose the indispensible cooperation and convergence between the social sciences to the, perhaps more pressing, cooperation and convergence between the branches of the historical trunk itself which are falling apart one after the other. The kind of interhistory that we are proposing here, within the framework of interdisciplinary collaboration between history and the social sciences, would bring about a greater concern on the part of the historians of all persuasions for historical methodology, for historiography, for the theory of history and, ultimately, for the common heritage of history. The growing demands for interdisciplinariness can only be satisfied by a historical discipline which is conscious of its unity and its inalienable particularity.

 

12

The future of history is conditioned by that which is of concern to history as regards the future.

 

Following on from the Enlightenment which placed its trust in reason to change the World and therby achieve the well-being of Mankind, the predominant historiography of the 20th Century declared itself to be objective. It studied the past in order to understand the present and to construct a brighter future. Historical Materialism placed greater emphasis on the contribution  history could make to a project of social transformation, towards a society which was bound to be socialist whilst the Annales school placed the accent more on the epistemological relationship between past and present (understanding the present through the past, understanding the past through the present, as Bloch once wrote). Be that as it may, all of them shared in the wide-held belief in the social usefulness of the new historical science.

 

The line of progress used by the members of the historiographic community, and by social scientists in general, to link the past with the present and to the future was broken by the events of 1989 which marked the onset of the Eastern European transitions from real socialism to capitalism. This threw into crisis all of the roads to historico-social progress deriving from the Englightenment as a whole and which had already been undermined by the harmful effects which these gave rise to throughout the 20th Century in the survival of the species and nature. Worse still, scientific history had not warned of this.

 

The loss of  in history on the part of the public increases as the progressive evolution towards human happiness is no longer guaranteed. This phenomenon leads to the historian being pushed to the fringes of society. The criticisms levied 50 years ago against the underpinnings of the 20th Century historiographic revolution to the historian cum antiquarian, far removed from life and out of touch with reality (Bloch) may soon take on a renewed meaning. Disenchantment with the present leads one to seek refuge in the past in two different ways: as fiction, from the point of view of the public (this reached its apex with the historical novel) and academically, from the point of view of the researchers (erudition). Both paths call for history to be "freed" of the weight implied by a science concerned with the present and the future of mankind - and the same could also be said of the other social and natural sciences.

 


However, while the Postmodernist ambiance led historians into subordination, the intellectual debates which seek to draw conclusions from the traumatic events of 1989-199123 make wide use of historical dates and of the philosophy of history in order to shed light on and create debate around the uncertain future of humanity. This is the case of the worldwide controversies set in motion by Francis Fukuyama in his The End of History? (Summer, 1989) and by Samuel P. Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations (1993). The latter brilliantly refuted the finalistic "capitalist and liberal peace" of the former, heralding an imminent world war provoked by of religious fundamentalisms. However, it is not always essayists - in the two cases mentioned above, political philosophers- who turn to history in order to have an influence on the immediate future. Historians such as Paul Kennedy have also done the same thing. In his The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (1987), Kennedy gives over seven chapters to analysing the rise and fall of the national powers of each period over five hundred years. He then goes on to conclude with a chapter entitled "Towards the 21st Century" where he suggests the "most probable outcomes" regarding the evolution of each government and of the system of the great powers as a whole.

 

We are faced with references to the past and historical analyses which aim to have a bearing on the present... via the future. This is not, however, what most worries people today. As a result, there is a tendency to replace the old paradigm of past/present/future with a different formula of past/future/present whereby that which is yet to come is brought to the fore. In the face of the new Presentism which wants  to have nothing to do with the future and which freezes that which we already have and in the face of the uncertainty about the world which lies in wait us at the turn of the millenium, the diligent intellectuals - the optimistm of the intellectuals- dredge around for alternative prospects by dipping their hands into the past, into that which we already know about the historical evolution - or involution - of societies and mentalities.

 

We have already stated that history must help us to live better, to transform society; to make us free. In a word, free of an ominous future. But today the terms that the problem is couched in have altered dramatically, especially as far as the new generations are concerned. The present is no longer the worst thing, but rather the lack of a future, of any future. We know that scientific and technological development will continue to grow until they have dominated the entire planet, but we also know that the avantages that this brings with it to the West are not available to the so called Fourth World. And there are growing masses of young people - many of them with a university education, and ever more so - who will never have access to a job. In the South the excluded ones are entire countries doomed to hunger and over-population. Everywhere nature is rebelling against the galloping productivism, questioning the meaning of a scientific and technical development which shows itself to be in contradiction with human interests time and time again.

 

Today, history is faced with the task of demonstrating that there have always been multiplefutures; that nothing is certain beforehand, that everything changes, and sometimes quite surprisingly so; that in several millenia humanity has managed to overcome so many problems and of a much greater difficulty - and with less means at its disposal - than those we are faced with today. The future exists, then, because there is history. And furthermore, they are alternative futures. There is hope because there is history. Indeed, in order for us to be able to make the others understand this, we must first of all convince ourselves of it in order for us to be able to go on towards a freer, and therefore all the stronger, historical subject (which should not forget its conditioning) in the past as in the present.

 


To think historically of the future is, then, to transform the present, and beginning by  preventing the great mistakes of the 20th Century from ever being repeated: fascism which is sprouting up again in Italy and racism which is on the increase everywhere; socialism without freedom, which died a catastrophic death in 1989; tribalism, aggressive nationalism and religious fundamentalism whose myths and irrationalities it is the duty of the historian to stay off and which are at the root of so many of the wars which are threatening world peace today. A new rationalism is in order, a new Enlightenment, which would allow us to continue progressing and history and we the historians cannot stand on the fringes of this intellectual and social demand.

 

When, following the Second World War, the scientific paradigm of history was set down, it was not as necessary as it is today to defend it in the face of the scientific and technical disciplines which, at different paces and to a different extent depending on each country, displacing the historical and humanistic knowledge of teaching and research; we are at the dawning of an alaming process involving the deprofessionalization of history. In the same way as  the foremost commitment of any historian concerned about the future is to be concerned about his own discipline, it is essential to go back to demonstrating the critical and social usefulness of history. In order to be able to stand up to technocratic and out of synch philosophical, albeit politically active, thinking one must distinguish between history-science and history-fiction and fight to win back the place of history within the education system, in the priority research projects and in the social means of communication. Without history and the social science, the global village that lies ahead will be the future of things, but never that of men.

 

13

The historian of the future with reflect upon methodology, historiography and the theory of history if he is to exist at all

 

Whether it be epistemology (Piaget, Habermas), sociology (Durkheim) or structuralism, it was very widely held belief that history was not a theoretical discipline, but rather the simple provider of empirical data for the social sciences and philosophy. And although it hurts to admit as much, this is a division of work which the historian tends to except quite happily,  spurred on by a long-standing empirical tradition which began in the 19th Century.

 

Inspite of the efforts made by historical materialism and the Annales school, contemporary historiography continues to be Positivist in one essential point: its sincere disdain for theory and also, albeit to a lesser extent, for historiography and methodology. These scientific activities  were held to be of a secondary nature and it would be right to say that these qualities are practically completely absent from the works of many of the historians whom we hold to be sacred. Comparison never managed to be put into practice (until it was picked up anew by historical sociology); the history-problem was left to one side in favour of thematic innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration: theoretical work was all but wholly absent. Only a few philosophers have been concerned about the theory of history and, generally speaking, they failed to take into consideration the contributions made by the historians, ie. without relating the theory of history to the practice of history, thus further aggravating the dead-end dialogue between philosophy and history whereby neither listens to the other.

 

We have already seen how inductism and pragmatism on the part of the historians, their lack of reflexion on the history that is made, the lack of debate concerning their methods, their hypotheses and interpretations have led to a series of consequences, ie. the fragmentation of the themes, methods and specialities. They have lagged behind the other social sciences and been dependent upon them. they have cut themselves off  from the society which those of us involved in history should be supplying with ideas, proposals and perspectives regarding its problems.

 


However, this international Congress, History under Debate, stands as living evidence that something is in fact changing. There is growing interest on the part of the historians for methodology, historiography and the theory of history as we stand on the brink of the complicated new century. Perhaps because "as science grows, so then does the hold of empirical proof decrease"24 a growing number of questions arise which no other discipline, no matter how advanced it may be, can anwser for us, because these problems are peculiar to history. A professional history which is able to approach a reflexion concerning the method or the history of history with greater ease than fabrication and the use of hypothesis, synthesis and generalizations in the course of the research. And this is no doubt due to the inherited background and the partial failure of the Marxist-Annales paradigm, as both questions are tightly inter-linked.  The only way to bring history to a level on a par with the other sciences is to introduce the subjects of methodology, historiography and the theory of history into the curriculum25 as early on as the first years of the history degree in order to get the historians of the future used to thinking about their subject.

 

The historian of the future finds himself faced with a quandry: he will succumb completely to marginalization within science and within society should he fail to give over part of his working time26 to knowing and producing works on methodology, historiography and the theory of history27, competing (and working together) with the neighbouring disciplines.

 

It may well be far from easy for the historian to switch between his empirical work and theoretical work, but this does not mean that it is quite beyond his reach because most of the social and human sciences28 have aleady been practicing this combination between theory and practice for some time. Given that to a great extent thematic innovation has run dry, all that remains for history is methodology and, above all, theory - that continually ignored continent - if it is to continue to progress and in order for it to be able to fulfill its scientific and social responsibilities.

 


More thinking about what it is the historian actually does would have the effect of raising the level of historical investigation, in a deeper global understanding of the past, in a better relationship with the other sciences (an equitable exchange), in an increase in the direct contribution made by historians to the theory of history (and therefore also to society) which are called for by the events of the 20th Century and the question marks hanging over the impending  21st Century. It used to be said that a historian who engaged in theory ceased be a historian. If history is unable to refute this common premise,  then it with never manage to break free of its subordination vis à vis the other sciences and will be unable to go on existing beyond the  20th Century as a scientific discipline as we have known it and, moreover, as we have loved it.

 

14

For a history continually under debate.

 

From the very outset, debate is not an academic habit. The new historians, be they Annalists or Marxists, have reproduced the vertical system of the university tradition which hands down knowledge in a hierarchical fashion. The way doctoral theses are read out stands as a perfect example to illustrate what we mean here. However, in its revolutionary beginnings, the Annales taught that debate and heterodoxy were inherent to a scientific definition of history: "non-conformism is always present at the beginning of any scientific acquisition. The progresses made by science have been born out of discord, in the same was as religions strengthen themselves thanks to the heresies which they feed off"29.  We must reclaim this non-conformist, critical spirit and to breathe new life into the history-debate if we are to overcome the crisis facing history at the turn of the century and, once this has been achieved, in order to nourish the new common paradigm by learning from the historiography of days gone by.

 

The time has come for the community of historians to take a decision concerning the historiographic problems that we are faced with and possible ways of resolving them. But, how can this be done when the difficulties and the alternatives are not freely  presented and argued out? New concensuses30 cannot be arrived at if debate is not fostered and - as history has taught us - the critical situations may rot way.

 


Kuhn once stated that a change in the paradigms of any science - crisis, scientific revolutions -  is always goes hand in hand with debate31. But, as it is impossible to be continually rethinking the bases of a particular discipline. In those periods which he refers to as periods of normal science, the rivalry between theories dies down, rules and premises cease to be stated explicitly, interest in theory dwindles and only those questions which do not directly affect the investigators' practice are actually discussed32. Kuhn also excludes out of hand  the human and social sciences from these periods of "normal" science lacking in debate because he recognizes the creative function of confrontation and permanent criticism in philosophy and history33 for instance, and this is a point that he agrees upon even with his old rival, Popper34. Thirty years on after the main works by Kuhn first came out, even the natural sciences still have serious doubts as to whether it would be possible to draw such a sharp diving line between normal science and extraordinary science35 when dealing with controversy. What is more, the internal criticism which every discipline ought to make its own has become a genuine must today when we consider the speed with which scientific discoveries follow on one after the other (or this is true of certain sciences at least.)

 

In the case of the science called history, the actual experience of the historians themselves over the last twenty years together with the urgency of a constant debate, the history-debate as part of the paradigm to be set up, going beyond the pressing urgency of the current crisis, give rise to the expansion of history as a discipline. This has the peculiarity of being a science of a human past, which is questioned and interpreted from shifting present and future - thus rendering the investigated past equally shifting. The lack of an frank and properly centred debate has meant that this deplorable situation of unstable equilibrium has dragged on far too long. The new never manages to impose itself and the old never quite fades away, positions become polarized or split up but no-one ever actually performs and divulges successive syntheses capable of reformulating the concensus. This disjointed situation is even  more markedly  clear-cut when it comes to the historians' wide-ranging scope of practice (fragmented yet fertile, innovative yet claiming back old genres) versus a theory which continues to refer back to the 20th Century Marxist-Annalist paradigm. What is needed to set this to rights is wholehearted debate. such a debate would invovle admitting the crisis - without trying to fool ourselves with moanings and large doses of good intentions - in order to go on to draw conclusions which would resituate us within new paradigmatic parameters. This would call for the reinstatement of the habit of tolerance regarding positions contrary to our own which means being able to accept that these other positions also have something to contribute to recomposing the common paradigm36. The dynamics of rivalry and cooperation between the Annales school and Historical Materialism is what rendered the victory of the 20th Century historiographic paradigm viable and stands as the best evidence of what we are defending here, ie. that fertile divergences are a basic requirement for a healthy historiography.

 

15

The maturity of any paradigm is in the hands of the schools which foster it.

 


The crisis of growth, together with that of the pradadigmatic crisis, that world historiography went through in the Eighties led to the disintegration of its common paradigm. This gave rise to the centrifugal tendencies which ripped apart its component parts, causing a rift between the different national historiographies and the various main schools of the 20th Century.

 

Not only were the shared paradigms which endowed the Annales school and the Marxist school of social history with their functionality, mutual bonds and a joint authority challenged and debiliated, both schools also underwent internal spilts over the last decade, in line with the prevailing climate - and indeed encouraging it. They came under fierce criticism from both outside and in37, and grew further apart from one another to the point where very few people today still uphold or even accept that they continue to be historiographic schools as such with leading figures, unified investigation programmes, discipline and organs of expression.

 

Today, there reigns a  rich diversity of historiographic approaches within the collegial steering body of the Annales review whose members are bound together by their ties to the outside, ie. through interdisciplinariness. This lack of an internal bond becomes even more obvious when we widen the circle to include the Centre de Recherches Historiques of the École des Hautes Études Sociales and finally extending it to cover the French universities. The split up of the Annales school in 1929 was merely the result - and the cause - of the general dispersion of history over the last third of this century and this also had a great influence on historians with Marxist leanings. The birth of the History Workshop in 1976, the debates between E.P. Thompson and Perry Anderson  amonst other concerning structuralism (1978-1980) and between Lawrence Stone and Eric J. Hobsbawm concerning the return of the narrative (1979-1980) set the scene for a diversification which  very quickly  turn into a critique of the social history represented by the Past and Present38 review and which never really had the characteristics of such a well-defined school as the Annales. In both cases the results were the same: an initial big bang followed by an expansion and ending up with fragmentation and the confrontation of the parts.

 


So then, the historians' belief in the great schools of the 20th Century is generally held to be thing of the pas. They are traditions for reference39, but no longer active schools40. Positivism is the best reference we have of a historiographic tradition not organized as a school. At the present time, in the Nineties, both Marxism and the Annales resemble the old Pre-pragmatic traditions: some kind of hazy tendencies, more than real schools of historiographic thought and action. It is interesting to note how, as rivalry takes over from cooperation between these two schools, very few people are actually  aware  - and here we come to realise the importance of the first two theses contained in our proposal - that the crises suffered by Marxist historiography and the Annales are very closely bound up with one another. They ran parallel to one another in their final phases and both refer back to a general crisis within the common paradigm which is in turn influenced by the changes in the overall scientific paradigm and by the sociocultural and political transformations which came about at the turn of the century.

 

Within a context of the development of world historiography, the downfall of the common paradigm and the great schools which upheld it have given rise to a variety of phenomena which contradict one another to a certain extent: 1) historiographic individualism. Spurred on by the need and/or taste for an academic curriculum and for individualism as a collective mentalitiy  this individualism came to a climax in the Eighties; 2) stressing the "natural" historiographic traditions which place the investigators above any prior paradigmatic point of reference or school; a) the field of knowledge, in keeping with the conventional schemas of classification practiced by the university (in Western Europe namely: ancient history, medieval history and modern and contemporary history); and b) the national historiographies and 3) the trend towards a worldwide view of historiography based upon an increase in international contacts. This latter point is  being a process of inter-relationships which affects only a minority although it tends to work in favour of hurtling the World as we know it today towards the "global village" in all areas of life.

 

Breathing new life into history as a science wins back the active role played by the historians around a historiographic programme, reclaiming collective projects which go beyond both the academic and national frameworks. Both are obviously unavoidable. It reclaims battles for history in keeping with the style of the historiographic shools which weare heirs to. Inspite of the fact that reality is by and large endeavouring to surpass the old schools, today the "school spirit" of historiography so peculiar to the 20th Century is more necessary than ever.

 

We have written "schools" in the plural rather than "school" in the singular because we do not believe that the "common paradigm" will be synonymous with  any "one particular school" of historiographic theory and practice, neither in the past nor in the future. In a word, the critical and self-critical tone, the history-debate and the vitality of the paradigm are more surely guaranteed by a variety of different schools, both great and small, international and national, interdisciplinary and disciplinary, etc. So then, academic, national, ideological, and generational diversity as well as the diversity within the community of historians all mean that it is essential to effectively combine plurality with concensus.

 

The foremost task of 21st Century historiography is to reformulate and to breathe new life into the valid aspects of the great schools of the 20th Century and whilst some of these aspects have already been applied others remain yet to be fulfilled. This task requires new focal points for historiographic intervention, both inside and/or outside of these aforementioned traditions, which not only seeks divergence but also aspires to convergence: those successive syntheses which open the way to go forth,  finally leaving behind the mire of the paradigmatic transition. But we should never forget that the common paradigm will not be, and is not yet, a repetition of the 20th Century common paradigm born out of Annalist-Marxist thought.

 


In order "for it to be able to assimilate the new, the old must be reassesed and reorganized"41.  At the turn of the century, the time has come to take stock of Annalist and Marxist historiography, taken both separately and together, whilst not forgetting Positivist historiography.  This assessment should chart both the successes and the failures as well as the internal and external limitations of the goals attained and those points which remained unfulfilled.  Urged on by the new scientific and social needs,  self-criticism would be the greatest contribution that the 20th Century schools could make to the new historiographic concensus. But getting down to the task of renewal and cutting away its dead branches, this would not preclude a defence of its most up-to-date and indispensable parts. We must be radical in both innovation and in validity. We should make a stand against simplifying thinking which stops us from undetaking of both operations at the same time as well as standing upto Post-modernism which provides the criticism yet denies the synthesis: that essential tension which exists between tradition and change, between divergent thinking and convergent thinking42 and which is, after all,  at the very basis of scientific and social progress.

 

The Annales review set a good example with its tounant critique43 of 1989 which only  yielded a limited number of results  four years later. And this stands to illustrate the great difficulties involved when trying to promote change from within the great traditions themselves, ie. a change involving a significant generational renewal but with very few programmatic proposals. The scarcity of debate to be found in the pages of the review together with the fact that the French cut themselves off from the recent evolution of mainly Anglo-American Marxism, meant that historiography served to contribute to the limited impact of the Annale's tournant critique, which, all in all, marked a new phase for the current founded by Bloch and Febvre, the shape of which remains yet to be decided.

 


To date, Marxist historiography has taken no steps in a similar direction. There do exist attitudes of revindication and defence jostling with realistic attitudes and harsh self-criticism but whilst both kinds of attitude are useful and irremediable, they are tainted with pessimism and are lacking in alternatives for the future. The greatest obstacle comes from "outside" the historians, namely the paralysis which has gripped criticical Marxist thought since 1989. We are convinced that the response is not far off because without the contribution of Historical Materialism it is impossible to settle the accounts. And this does not only apply to 20th Century historiography as we stand on the brink of the 21st Century beacuse we will continue to come up against social realities which in many ways will be worse than those which gave rise to Marxism in the 19th Century and which served as the context for the current social and human sciences. Nor should we forget, of course, the dramatic refutations which the 20th Century is serving up against the forecasts made by Marxism concerning the inevitability of the historical transition from capitalism to socialism.

 

Whilst the general, economicistic and structuralist paradigms which overwhelmingly determined the paradigm common to 20th Century historians, killing the subject, have on the whole been disgarded by the historians, the same thing is not true of  the Neo-positivist paradigm, with its more pernicious yet equally effective influence. In order to enter the historiographic 20th Century and be able to develop - in a different context - those paradigmatical elements of the Annales and Historical Materialism which enjoying the concensus of the historiographic community but still ended up being submerged by the scientic objectivism with its Positivist, economicistic and structuralist basis, it is our belief that we must take the plunge and break away from "bad", anti-theoretical and anti-historical Positivism whilst at the same time not dismissing out of hand the "good" Positivism with its rigourous documentary criticism). What all of this means is that it is advisable to go back to the origins of the great 20th Century historiographic schools in order to gain a better overall view. With our eyes firmly set on the future we will be better able to judge what is and what is not useful, that which should be recuperated - and reformulated - and that which should be disgarded.

 

When we say that there are no set destined goals but rather continually revisable objectives, what we mean is that it is impossible to know with all certainty what the final shape of the historiographic paradigm which is taking shape will be. Nor can we tell what role  the 20th Century traditions and the new schools which may well arise over the years to come may play in this paradigm. In the final outcome, it is the community of historians which decides which path to follow. The chosen path could lead us to a new common paradigm with several schools (as happened in the latter half of the 20th Century), to several contradictory paradigms with several schools (the 19th century case of Romanticism versus Positivism) or to a different set up specific to the 21st Century. Here, our opinion is quite clear: a common paradigm with schools - possibly greater in number but of smaller in size - promoting a historical science with a subject. These should be tolerant and with debate, innovative yet traditional, empirical and theoretical, unified, interdisciplinary and global and they should wage war against the inhumane future which is said to lie ahead.

 

16

The socio-cultural changes of the Nineties favour the history and the sciences of Mankind.

 


What we are calling for is a new common paradigm which delivers history and the humanities from the dark depths whre they have sunk. In this sense, the mental context of the Nineties is more favourable than was the context of the Eighties because the context of the Eighties was characterized by "yuppyism", the adoration of wealth and power and the conservative wave of Thatcherism and Reaganism which seemed to come to a brilliant climax towards 1989 with the return Eastern Europe to capitalism. However, no sooner did this actually happen than it showed itself up to be speculative, corrupt and run by maffias. The Nineties' response to the savage and inhuman capitalism of Eastern Europe and to the political and financial corruption of Southern Europe took the form of the politically correct mouvement in the United States, the general strikes by workers and students alike around Europe protesting against unemployment and social cuts in the Welfare State, the uprising in Chiapas, the boom of Non Governmental Organizations and solidarity with the Third World, the search for a new ethical commitment in the physical sciences, biological sciences and health and the opposition to Post-modernism. And the criticism levelled against Post-modenism must be taken seriously into consideration. All of these phenomena arose out of a new rationalism and are creating a very different, less individualistic and more humanistic intellectual and moral climate as we near the year 2000.  The final  ecological, demographical, ethical and social disaster  brought about by the third technological revolution and the First World will be a foregone conclusion if  humanity does not put Man and his environment back at the centre of interest of political and economic activity. History and the social sciences have their word to say, and they are going to say it  as long as the historiographic paradigm satisfactorily manages to conclude the change currently underway and which has no previously set goal but depends instead upon ourselves.

 



*Paper presented to the International Congress "History under Debate", held in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) between 7 - 11 July 1993, coordinated by the author.

1The International Congresses  on Historical Sciences no longer play the central and guiding role in the historic discipline that they did in the Postwar period.

2Unlike physical science textbooks, the books on the history of history tend to hide the elements of continuity in favour of the various different historiographic schools and theories.

3Thomas S. KUHN, La estructura de las revoluciones científicas, Mexico, 1975 (Chicago, 1962); La función del dogma en la investigación científica, Valencia, 1979 (New York, 1963); Segundos pensamientos sobre paradigmas, Madrid, 1978 (Illinois, 1973); La tensión esencial. Estudios selectos sobre la tradición y el cambio en el ámbito de la ciencia, Mexico, 1983 (Chicago, 1977)

4La estructura de las revoluciones científicas, p. 3; Kuhn's remarks concerning the specificity of the social sciences have been loosing force over the last thirty years, consisting in a greater relationship with society when choosing themes for research, idem. p. 254; for example, Today, certain branches of biology, physics, and chemistry related to health and the environment are as tightly bound up with social needs as are the social sciences, if not more so.

5C.P. SNOW, Las dos culturas y un segundo enfoque, Madrid, 1977 (Cambridge, 1959)

6The first of the two, of French origin, developed early on (Annales was founded in 1929) and is mainly made up of medieval and modern historians; the second, with Anglo-american  beginnings, matured much later (Past and Present was born in 1952) and holds greater sway with contemporary historians.

7 To label all of new history as Postmodernist is quite mistaken, as it forgets the the final philosophical implications of Postmodernism and ignores the modernity of new history, be it Annalist or Marxist.

8 For some people, this was the most important paradigmatic revolution of the 17th Century, Edgar MORIN, Introducción al pensamiento complejo, Barcelona, 1994 (Paris, 1990), p. 156.

9 Alain MINC, La nueva Edad Media. El gran vacio ideológico, Madrid, 1994 (Paris, 1993); the use of the perjorative image that the  Renaissancists, Humanists and Enlightened people had of the Middle Ages just serves to show up to what extent we are still thinking within the schemas of Modernity, inspite of everything.

10 The lack of interest in conflicts, revolts and revolutions has been more wide-spread among medieval historians and modern historians than among contemporary historians.

11 Carlos BARROS, "Historia de las mentalidades, historia social", Historia Contemporánea, Bilbao nº 9, 1993, pp. 111-139; "Historia de las mentalidades: Posibilidades actuales", Problemas actuales de la Historia, Salamanca, 1993, pp. 49-67; "La contribución de los terceros Annales y la historia de las mentalidades. 19609-1989", La otra historia: sociedad, cultura y mentalidades, Bilbao, 1993, pp. 87-118.

12 Other colleagues, still endebted to the old simplifying schema, would propose replacing economic history with political history or with cultural history, taken to be the main driving factors behind history.

13 Newtonian mechanics stands as one good example to illustrate this point  and is still of use between microphysics and macrophysics.

14 This three-tiered system which arose out of the doubling up of the two-way superstructure system base / superstructure has various different forms: economy / society / culture, economy / society / politics, etc.

15 Raphael SAMUEL, Historia popular y teoría socialista, Barcelona, 1984 (London, 1981), p. 64.

16 The great historical genres cited above (economic history, social history, mental history and political history) are in turn divisible and one should also further add others such as the history of the genders, of the environment and of sexuality. The historiographical transition we are immersed in and the decline of the old common paradigm and its related schools, has boosted this trend of dispersion even further.

17 There is, however, some slight misunderstanding: quantitative history incorporates uncertainty, working as it does with series which, dealt with statistically, can only be used to deduce probable outcomes.

18 It is by no means an accident that the concept of history used by Kuhn to revolutionize the philosophy of science is narrative-explicative, vid. "Las relaciones enre la historia y la filosofía de la ciencia", La tensión esencial. Estudios selectos sobre la tradición y el cambio en el ámbito de la ciencia, Mexico, 1983 (Chicago, 1977), pp. 32-33 & 39.

19 For example, the fusioning of social history with "superstructural" disciplines such as the history of mentalities, cultural history and political history.

20 The history of mentalities in France and  psychohistory in the United States.

21 For instance, ecological history which requires the knowledge about the environment provided by physics and biology.

22 On the contrary, it may well recoil were it to lose the principle of interdisciplinary concensus as an integral part of the historians' common paradigm.

23  More focused in the United States than in Europe where we have perhaps as yet not left behind the "destructive" nihilist phase which began in the Seventies and which was boosted over the following decade.

24 Imre LAKATOS, La metodología de los programas de investigación científica, Madrid, 1983 (Cambridge, 1978), p. 33

25 This has begun to occur with the setting up of the new syllabuses in Spain, although not for the theory of history which continues to be regarded more as a philosophical task than a historical one.

26

 Of course, as with any other scientific discipline, the greater part of the researcher's time is given over to and linked with sources and data. We historians are in no danger whatever of forgetting this.

27 The fact that they, ie. method, historiography and theory appear together is the best guarantee against slipping back into Empiricism and running into the arms of abstract theorizing.

28 This might call to mind the example of de Saussure's linguistics, the pillar of structuralist theory.

29 Lucien FEBVRE, Combates por la historia, Barcelona, 1975 (Paris, 1953), p. 34.

30 Controversies and concensuses are already springing up, although their historiographic effects are slowed down by the very limitations of the debate itself, being as it is implicit and fragmented, and  which has as yet been unable to stir the interest of the profession as a whole.

31 Thomas S. KUHN, La estructura de las revoluciones científicas, Mexico, 1975 (Chicago, 1962), p. 87;  La función del dogma en la investigación científica, Valencia, 1979 (New York, 1963), p. 22; La tension esencial. Estudios selectos sobre la tradición y el cambio en el ámbito de la ciencia, Mexico, 1983 (Chicago, 1977); p. 297.

32 Thomas S. KUHN, La estructura de las revoluciones científicas, pp. 143, 276-277; La función del dogma en la investigación científica, pp. 9, 19, 21.

33 La tensión esencial, p.

34 Idem., p. 296.

35 In any case, this distinction is vital if we are to understand the progress of science, ie. the debate during the periods of paradigmatic crises is distinct from the debate during the periods of stability. However, one should neither underestimate nor eliminate the latter, because, amonst other things, it serves to guarantee the former.

36 Reading - or indeed rereading - what Hegel and Marx had to say about dialectical logic (which has resurfaced again today in the theory of complexity and the repeated failures of the strict determinisms) should allay any fears of falling prey to eclecticism.

37 Carlos BARROS, "La Nouvelle Histoire y sus críticos", Revista d'Història Moderna. Manuscrits, nº 9, 1991, Barcelona, pp. 83 - 111.

38 Since the late Seventies it has been criticised, even by Marxism, for loosing its innovative spirit and for showing itself up to be conservative with regards tthe history of the family, women's history and oral history; for giving up political history, its qualitative approaches and the history-problem; and for being weak in the face of the moralistic, liberal and positivist British whig tradition of historiography.

39  "Conversaciones con Roger Chartier", Manuscrits, 1993, p. 39.

40 In the new phase when the Annales threw back the criticisms levelled against it, it didn't even define itself as a school , but rather as an experimentation ground: "Histoire et sciences sociales: un tournant critique", Annales, 6, 1989, p. 1317.

41 Thomas S. KUHN, La tensión esencial, p. 249.

42 Ibidem.

43 Carlos BARROS, "El tournant critique de Annales", Revista de Història Medieval, Valencia, nº 2, 1991, pp. 193-197.