Volume 6 Issue 4 2017

Volume 5 Issue 4

Boundaries of Contemporary History

Zsombor Bódy, András Keszei
Special Editors of the Thematic Issue

Contents

Zsombor Bódy and András Keszei   
Introduction    723

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Articles

Zoltán Hidas     
Present Times Concerning Things Past: On Recent Conceptions of Memory    725

Abstract

Abstract

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.
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Zsombor Bódy    
A Gaze Focused on Itself: On the Perception of Time in the Writing of the History of the Present     750

Abstract

Abstract

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.
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László Vörös    
Social Demand and the Social Purpose of History: What is Missing from Alun Munslow’s Classification of Historiography?     776

Abstract

Abstract

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.
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András Keszei    
Memory and the Contemporary Relevance of the Past    804

Abstract

Abstract

As products that can be sold and bought, elements of the recent and more distant past become more and more important from the point of view of consumption, a process which adheres to the logic of commercial culture. At the same time, academic history is becoming less relevant as a source of authentic images of the past. As a result of the arbitrary selection of sources for different purposes and needs, the past has moved into our neighborhood (i.e. it has become an omnipresent part of the jumbled image repertoire of our everyday lives), and as a consequence, we find ourselves surrounded by a rather eclectic type of history. The past has become a commodity, and it has acquired a new valence as a source of collective and personal identity. Societies relate to their own pasts through the mechanisms of memory. Collective memory, as a source of social and personal identity, is partly a kind of history appropriated by the different groups of contemporary society. The manner in which this appropriation is effected highlights the potential role of academic history as a critical observer of relevant social processes in the past (and present).
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Oliver Kühschelm    
Contemporary History as Pre-history of the Present: Analysing the Austrian Media Discourse about Investment Opportunities in the East    825

Abstract

Abstract

In its first part the essay reflects about the concept and practice of contemporary history. Taking the transformation of Europe since 1989 as a starting point it finally advocates a genealogical reconstruction of the past as pre-history of the present. In its second, empirical part the essay discusses examples from print media that belong to a discourse about Austrian companies ‘going East’. The analysis focuses on images that without providing numbers nor technical arguments suggested investments in the former socialist countries as a huge opportunity. It discerns two narratives built on these images: the return of the Habsburg Monarchy and Western (Austrian) companies as conquerors of the East. The essay thus contributes to a critical media history of the transformation of Central Europe.
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Ádám Takács    
The Heads and the Walls. From Professional Commitment to Oppositional Attitude in Hungarian Sociology in the 1960–1970s: The Cases of András Hegedüs, István Kemény, and Iván Szelényi    856

Abstract

Abstract

In most of the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe, sociology remained a perpetual source of ideological quarrels from the beginning of the 1960s to the mid-1980s. With this context in mind, this paper offers an analysis of some of the decisive aspects of the development of Hungarian sociology from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. In particular, the discussion focuses on three central figures, András Hegedüs (1922–99), István Kemény (1925–2008), and Iván Szelényi (1939), and their intellectual developments from committed and professional sociological work to the adoption of a deeply critical attitude towards socialist social development. An examination of the similarities in their intellectual development, especially as far as their political confrontation with the regime is concerned, offers a context for a discussion of some of the topical issues of the professional, institutional, and ideological aspects of academic work in state socialist Hungary and the ways in which genuine scholarly achievements could give rise to oppositional attitudes and social dissidence.
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Featured review

Genocide in the Carpathians: War, Social Breakdown, and Mass Violence, 1914–1945. By Raz Segal. Reviewed by Linda Margittai    883

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Book reviews    

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Az első 300 év Magyarországon és Európában: A Domonkos-rend a középkorban [The first 300 years in Hungary and Europe: The Dominican Order in the Middle Ages]. Edited by József Csurgai Horváth. Reviewed by András Ribi    891
Hatalom, adó, jog: Gazdaságtörténeti tanulmányok a magyar középkorról [Power, tax, law: Studies on the economic history of medieval Hungary].
Edited by István Kádas and Boglárka Weisz. Reviewed by Bence Péterfi    895
The Noble Elite in the County of Körös (Križevci) 1400–1526. By Tamás Pálosfalvi. Reviewed by Szabolcs Varga    900
Keresztesekből lázadók: Tanulmányok 1514 Magyarországáról [From crusaders to rebels: Studies on Hungary in 1514]. Edited by Norbert C. Tóth and Tibor Neumann. Reviewed by Tamás Pálosfalvi    904
The Teutonic Order in Prussia and Livonia: The Political and Ecclesiastical Structures 13th–16th C. Edited by Roman Czaja and Andrzej Radzimiński. Reviewed by Benjámin Borbás    909
Alchemy and Rudolf II: Exploring the Secrets of Nature in Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Edited by Ivo Purš and Vladimír Karpenko. Reviewed by Dóra Bobory    912
‘Das Fluidum der Stadt…’ Urbane Lebenswelten in Kassa/Košice/Kaschau zwischen Sprachenvielfalt und Magyarisierung 1867–1918. By Frank Henschel. Reviewed by Elena Mannová    915
A Modern History of the Balkans: Nationalism and Identity in Southeast Europe. By Thanos Veremis. Reviewed by Mark Biondich    919
Staatskunst oder Kulturstaat? Staatliche Kunstpolitik in Österreich 1848–1914. By Andreas Gottsmann. Reviewed by Matthew Rampley    921
Dealing with Dictators: The United States, Hungary, and East Central Europe, 1942–1989. By László Borhi. Reviewed by Igor Lukes    924
A magyar sajtó és újságírás története a kezdetektől a rendszerváltásig [The history of the Hungarian press and journalism from the early years to the political transition]. By Géza Buzinkay. Reviewed by Balázs Sipos    928
Gendered Wars, Gendered Memories: Feminist Conversations on War, Genocide and Political Violence. Edited by Ayşe Gül Altınay and Andrea Pető. Reviewed by Petra Bakos Jarrett    931
Jeanssozialismus: Konsum und Mode im staatssozialistischen Ungarn By Fruzsina Müller. Reviewed by Annina Gagyiova    934

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