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