Volume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Social Demand and the Social Purpose of History: What is Missing from Alun Munslow’s Classification of Historiography?

László Vörös

Insitute of History, Slovak Academy of Sciences

Alun Munslow proposed a threefold classification of historians’ approaches to the writing of history. According to Munslow, every historian is either a reconstructionist, constructionist, or deconstructionist, depending on his/her fundamental epistemological/ontological beliefs concerning the possibilities of studying and representing the “past” in the form of narrative. I suggest that the category of constructionism as defined by Munslow is based on a priori presumptions about historians’ alleged beliefs in the ontic nature of the “before now” and its knowability. The actual practice of scholarly history writing allows for a more nuanced typology. I argue for a looser association of formal and methodological criteria with the basic ontological/epistemological positions of historians. I also argue that Munslow’s category of constructionism should be split into two ideal-typical categories: constructionism-proper and constructionism-improper. His deep insight into the formal aspects of history representation notwithstanding, Munslow’s theory fails to explain why there are such diverse and completely contradictory epistemologies within a single discipline. Neither does it explain the seemingly paradoxical continued domination of (in Munslow’s view) two fallacious epistemologies: the reconstructionist and the constructionist. Why has reconstructionism, the most obsolete of the three epistemological positions, not vanished after many decades of intense criticism? I suggest that we should look for answers in the extra-disciplinary domain of the social functions of history. I argue that the social purpose of the knowledge produced by historians and the interaction between historians and the public have a decisive formative influence on both the theory and the practice of the discipline. Historians who fit into the epistemological categories of reconstructionism and constructionism-improper are able to provide accounts that legitimize social institutions, political regimes, economical systems, social orders, etc. Even more importantly, the histories constructed by this kind of historian often serve to anchor narratives (of self-identification) connected to referential social groups and categories. I suggest that reconstructionist and constructionist-improper historians can serve these societal functions because their accounts are based on realist-empiricist epistemologies congruent with naïve perceptions of the “past.” Furthermore, the constructionist-proper and deconstructionist historians not only do not offer legitimizing or identification narratives, their narratives of history are based on counterintuitive epistemology informed by constructivist social scientific theory. Their analyses often deconstruct the very notions upon which legitimizing and anchoring discourses are based. I suggest that the social functions of historical knowledge are thus an aspect that must be incorporated into epistemological studies of history and historiography.

Keywords: Social functions of history, Alun Munslow, epistemology, reconstructionism, constructionism, deconstructionism, self-identification, anchoring

Volume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTSVolume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS

A Gaze Focused on Itself: On the Perception of Time in the Writing of the History of the Present

Zsombor Bódy

Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Institute of Sociology

“Since the past has ceased to throw its light upon the future, the mind of man wanders in obscurity.”

Alexis de Tocqueville: On Democracy in America

Following in the wake of Reinhart Koselleck’s analyses of historical time, the study examines the contemporary history’s perception of time. Comparing it with the perception of time in earlier classical periods of historiography and looking at problems of historical memory, the analysis comes to the conclusion that, in the recent development of historiography and particularly in the writing of the history of the present, a new presentist perception of time has become dominant which differs radically from the structure of the perception of time based on a horizon determined by experience and expectation, on which history as an academic discipline was established. Therefore, the writing of the history of the present is no longer a continuation of the roughly 200-year-old story of history as an academic discipline, but a new practice, whose internal characteristics and position among other disciplines which study the society of the present from different perspectives (such as sociology, political science, etc.) cannot yet be regarded as fully clarified.

Keywords: history of the present, contemporary history, perception of historical time, memory, Koselleck

Volume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Present Times Concerning Things Past: On Recent Conceptions of Memory

Zoltán Hidas

Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Institute of Sociology

„Wer nicht von dreitausend Jahren
Sich weiß Rechenschaft zu geben,
Bleib im Dunkeln unerfahren,
Mag von Tag zu Tage leben.”

J. W. v. Goethe

After sketching modern experiences and visions of historicity, the present study outlines two fundamental modes of our relationship to present time and memory. In an ideal typical way, two theoretical conceptions are contrasted for this purpose. A radical system theory of time presumes that there has been a rupture in the human temperament, which has opened our understanding of time functionally by focusing in an accelerating manner on the future. The cultural memory paradigm asserts the existence of the individual as a genuine part of remembering communities, who draws orientations from the past. In the terms of the Hegelian philosophy of history, we have here the pragmatic representation of the past for the sake of efficiency on the one hand and the search for an internal order of the most heterogeneous events for the sake of discovering continuity in human activity on the other.

Keywords: philosophy of history, system theory, cultural memory, relation to the past, presentism

Volume 4 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Zsombor Bódy

Enthralled by Size Business History or the History of Technocracy in the Study of a Hungarian Socialist Factory*

 

In this essay, I examine the extent to which the terms and concepts of business history are useful in furthering an understanding of the development of a socialist enterprise, the Hungarian Ikarus bus factory. I come to the conclusion that the factory, which manufactured buses for all of the member states of COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, 1949–1991), was not really able to take advantage of and turn a profit off of the economies of scale that the enormous market offered. The reason for this was that the socialist enterprise was not able to bring technological advancement in line with the need to make profit. The large investment in the bus factory rested on a technocratic vision which mechanically linked technical development with the solution to economic problems. This technocratic vision, which was found both in the West and in the countries of the Eastern Bloc, fit particularly well into the system of state socialism.

Volume 4 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Judit Klement

How to Adapt to a Changing Market?

The Budapest Flour Mill Companies at the Turn of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

 

The focus of this article is the steam mill enterprises in Budapest at the end of the nineteenth century, a time when these companies were no longer enjoying their most profitable years. While earlier their high-quality flour had been sold for good profits on the markets of Western Europe, they found themselves slowly pushed from the marketplace by increasingly intense price competition, which was in part a consequence of the crisis in agriculture and, quite simply, the globalization of agriculture. While they were still able to produce for the undeniably important markets within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and ever higher customs duties on agricultural products helped strengthen their production for these markets, the demand for expensive flour on the domestic market was significantly smaller than in Western Europe. Confronted with the changes that had occurred in the marketplace, the mills in Budapest tried to adapt in a variety of different ways. In this article, I examine these strategies, focusing in particular on the very distinctive expansion of one of the mill companies.

Volume 4 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Ágnes Pogány

Crisis Management Strategies after World War I

The Case of the Budapest Flour Mills*

 

The history of the big Budapest flour mills reached its finale in the second half of the 1920s. By then, it had been clear to all players that the Hungarian flour mill industry could not return to the prosperity of the nineteenth century and indeed had become one of the many crisis branches of the Trianon economy. The grave problems of the branch were not without antecedents. The big mills in Hungary had begun to lose ground in the global market in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Their declining competitiveness manifested itself in reduced exports, drops in price, and increasing domestic rivalry. The big Hungarian commercial mills sought solutions to overcome their problems that were similar to the solutions adopted by other foreign companies at the time. They strove to cut production costs and increase profits by establishing economies of scale and scope with horizontal and vertical integrations. Companies used basically two means to limit competition between firms: they organized cartels or they merged with their rivals to control their economic environment. In this article, I analyze how these crisis management practices were applied to meet corporate needs in the interwar period. I investigate these questions mainly as a case study of the biggest Hungarian flour milling company, the Első Budapesti Gőzmalom Rt. (First Budapest Steam Mill Co. later: FBSM), based on its archival documents and articles that were printed in the contemporary economic press.

Volume 4 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Petr Popelka

Business Strategies and Adaptation Mechanisms in Family Businesses during the Era of the Industrial Revolution The Example of the Klein Family from Moravia

 

Family businesses are a central topic in the history of business, especially in the early phases of the industrialization process. This case study attempts to identify the business strategies and the adaptation mechanisms used by a family business during the era of the Industrial Revolution. The main aim of the study is to explore which adaptation mechanisms and strategies were used during the Industrial Revolution by large family firms in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. The study focuses on a model example, the Klein family, which ranked among the foremost entrepreneurial families in the Bohemian Crown Lands. The Kleins initially rose to prominence through their road construction business. They later built private and state railways and also diversified into heavy industry. I delineate the main stages in the development of the family firm, discuss a number of key microeconomic factors which influenced the Kleins’ business activities, and describe the factors which ultimately led to the downfall of this once-successful firm.

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