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CFR - CORR spring-summer 1999

CFR - CORR spring-summer 1999

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Correspondence
 An International Review of Culture and Society
In This Issue
History Revised
The Querelle Over Cultural History2Gulag Denial3History for Sale4The War That Will Not Thaw5Post-Zionism & the Myths of Memory6The Two Italies 7Historians Under National Socialism9The Greek Civil War in Retrospect10Revising Roger Garaudy12America the Radical?13
History and Historians
History Goes Pop: Two Views15Hungarian Womens History16A New Kind of History17
Frontiers of Science
Icelandic Genes18Left Darwinism19Peter Singer19Justice for Neanderthals!20Out of Africa?20
Essays
Fractures of Modern Civilization21The Resumption of History39
(continued on next page)
History Revised
N
othing stimulates the writing of history more than the end of history.This is one conclusion that might be drawn from the geyser of freshhistorical work that has burst forth over the past decade. The booksthat have received the most attention in recent years are devoted to revivifying“public memory,” as it is now called. Among these the most famous have beencommitted to returning all that has been “repressed” to the official record of ourbloody century. Such works are useful and can be morally admirable, especiallywhen they challenge the many new forms of historical revisionism that wouldlike to shape historical memory for some questionable contemporary purpose.Yet there are other, more productive and interesting revisions also taking placein the field of history today, and it is these which we have chosen to highlight inthis issue of 
Correspondence.
The first such revision is the active reexamination of the national myths that grew up in the decades following World War II and haveshaped our political experience since. These myths have come under increasingscholarly scrutiny in many countries recently. In Greece and Italy, for example,the standard historical accounts of the internal political conflicts that raged overCommunism, Fascism, and liberal democracy are all being rewritten, as politicalscientists Stathis Kalyvas and Nadia Urbinati report. In Israel, by contrast, a con-tentious debate has broken out over what journalist Gadi Taub here calls the“founding myths of Zionism,” whether in relation to the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the wars that followed, ethnic tensions between Sephardic andAshkenazi Jews, and misunderstandings between the Orthodox and secular pop-ulations. In all three cases the fact that national history is finally open to such pub-lic controversy is a hopeful sign of political maturity and confidence in the future.Quite different sorts of revision are taking place within the history professionitself. As Michael Becker reports, German historians are currently disputing thepurposes to which certain founders of the most important postwar schools of research put their work during the war years. Elsewhere the debates are lesspolitically charged and more concerned with the aims and methods of the histo-rian writing today. As Daniel Gordon writes in our pages, the controversy overhistorical method has long been centered in France, where for years the domi-nant approaches focused on language, culture, and social transformations whiledownplaying the importance of purely political phenomena. Now political his-tory may be staging a comeback there. Another discussion has taken placeamong Anglo-American historians over the current vogue of “popular history,”some of which is simply standard work aimed at reaching a broader audience,while the rest uses different narrative techniques to escape the limits of tradi-tional scholarship. We here consider several views of these developments andpublish an original contribution to the question by historian Anthony Grafton.The most important contemporary myth in need of revision may be that of the“end of history” itself. As Daniel Bell writes in his essay for this issue, recentevents in the Balkans demonstrate that history is resuming, fueled by all thehatreds and passions—especially religious passions—that have always driven it.If he is correct, we can probably expect history as a form of intellectual inquiryto become more difficult yet all the more necessary.
x
 —Mark Lilla
Issue No. 4 Spring/Summer 1999
An International Project sponsored by the Suntory Foundation (Japan),the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
 
2
(continued from previous page)
Japanese Economy
Japan & the Global Financial System23The Philosophy of Money24
Japanese Melting Pot
Multiethnic Japan25Buraku Liberation Movement26
Views of Japan
Japan, Made in U.S.A.27Korean-Japanese Reconciliation?27Responsibility of Intellectuals28
Word & Image in Japan
In the Beginning Was the Word…29The Kanji Cultural Sphere29Plea for the New Japonisme30
Reports from Europe
The ForgottenGermans31The New Right in Jacket and Tie33Rhetoric of Social Cohesion34Tintinitis35First Lady of Feminism36Iran Between Tradition & Modernity36Swedish Brain Drain37Régis Debray’s Excellent Adventure38The Faceless Euro38
Necrology
Buñuels Regret41Louis Dumont41Jean Malaquais41Giulio Einaudi42
Miscellany
Noblesse in Distress14Arendt and Heidegger22Sentimental Education in Senegal34The Mother Tongue40Dewy Decimas42Letras Libres43
List of Contributors
43
A Report to Our Readers
44
The Querelle Over Cultural History
F
rom 1945 to the late 1970s, European and North American scholars deba-ted passionately the relative merits of social and political history. Sincethe 1980s, the old dualism has been subsumed under the social and politi-cal rubric of “culture.” A long historical deadlock has been broken by a thirdparty: cultural history.Or has it? The new cultural history has created a confusing set of choices of what to study. Intellectual history or popular practices? National history ormicrohistory? Conscious actions or behavior-inducing institutions? Rapidchange or immobile structures? So many choices abound that the impulse torestore a happy and orderly dilemma is already evident. The old dualism is re-emerging, as a recent exchange between philosopher Marcel Gauchet and histo-rian Roger Chartier superbly illustrates.Chartier is a leading scholar of early-modern Europe and a prolific essayist onmethodology. In his latest meditations,
On The Edge of the Cliff: History, Language,and Practices
(Johns Hopkins, 1997), he has tried to synthesize the cultural turnand social history, rejecting economic determinism and emphasizing the “negoti-ated” character of all relations. He insists that ideas are not the byproducts of classinterests, but the very stuff of individual and group identities. Yet, paradoxically,he repeatedly uses the term “social” to posit a layer of reality that explains cultureand politics: “discourse,” he declares, “is itself socially determined;” historiansshould focus on “the social configurations that make...political forms possi-ble.”The word “social” crops up everywhere—“social science,“social world,”“social actors,“social differences”—a mantra freed from linguistic analysis as if it were an assured reality, not a rhetorical item with its own intellectual history.In a long examination of Chartier’s book in
 Le Débat (
Jan.-Feb. 1999)
 ,
Gauchetfaults him for this contradiction. Gauchet is a political philosopher and historianof modern democracy and the major heir to François Furet’s revisionist interpreta-tion of history, which stresses the autonomous play of rhetoric in the politicalsphere. While questioning Chartier’s notion of the social, Gauchet advocates apolitical mode of cultural history he calls “reflexive history,” one that includesthe traditional terms of political analysis in its subject matter. A historian of partyconflict in modern France, for example, would not casually invoke “Left” and“Right” but make the emergence of those very concepts a key part of the story.Gauchet, unlike Chartier, deftly illustrates his methodological claims, espe-cially his most provocative one that reflexive political history envelops socialhistory. Class conflict, he argues, is political, not socio-economic. During the1789 revolution it was the idea of the rights of man that created intergrouphatreds. In the nineteenth century, the working class in England could not havearisen without the preexisting idea of shared nationality.Chartier responds to Gauchet’s criticism, but the social methodologist appearsno match for the political theorist. They end in a stalemate. While Gauchet’sexamples of the primacy of the political are fascinating, the notion of “the polit-ical” is imprecise. What makes both the rights of man and the nation-state exam-ples of a “political” rather than a “social” configuration? What is the global def-inition of “political?” At one point Gauchet defines “political history” as thestudy of “the political dimension” of history. Chartier notes this tautology andGauchet’s yoking everything into his concept of “reflexive political history”—everything, that is, except the concept of politics itself.Thus, each criticizes the other for being insufficiently self-conscious of hiscategories and for exempting his methodological terms from the history of ide-ologies. The impasse suggests that while history is enriched by self-consciousstudy of language, it cannot easily relinquish its traditional scientific aims. Evenas theorists of language, historians cannot stop searching for a nonsubjectivemethod and causal forces independent of the imagination.
x
 —
 Daniel Gordon 
History Revised
 
3
History Revised
ground heaved and rippled in distinctive patterns. In thewake of the failed coup attempt in 1991, euphoric crowdsdescended on Lubyanka Square, the most notorious addressof Russia’s secret police, and dismantled the statute of FeliksDzerzhinsky, the confederate of Lenin who created the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-revolution and Sabotage in December1917. They did not destroy the statuebut moved it a few miles to a sculpturepark by the banks of the Moscow River.Nowadays, it seems Russia has comefull circle. Last December 2, the StateDuma, the lower house of parliament,voted overwhelmingly to restore Dzer-zhinsky’s statue to its former site. That isunlikely to happen, for several reasons—some of which demonstrate the extent of Russia’s rejection of its totalitarian past.But the vote genuinely reflected a funda-mental shift in recent Russian politics.Eight years ago the apologists for the So-viet system’s crimes were on the defen-sive. Defying firm evidence of millions of murders, they could only duck and dodge. Today denial is infashion, as readers of Zyuganov’s
Veryu V Rossiyu [I Believe in Russia]
and the newspaper
Sovietskaya Rossiya
can attest.The ranks of the deniers include people like SergeiFeliksovich, a forty-one-year-old professor who lives sur-rounded by photos of Castro and Stalin in a dingy room in acommunal apartment. He claims, interestingly, to despise manyof the gray-faced members of the modern-day CommunistParty of the Russian Federation (CPRF). When it comes tosocialism, he is a self-acknowledged snob whose preferredmodel is a dictatorial “republic of scholars.” Yet he is no dilet-tante. Colleagues credit him with keeping the youth organiza-tion of the old Soviet CP alive in the underground during theban on communist activity after 1991. Like most deniers, hedoesn’t claim that everything was sweetness and light; he con-cedes that “repressions” took place under Stalin. But hebelieves, first, that they were justified (by the greater good of the revolutionary masses who weren’t repressed) and, second,that they weren’t as bad as all that. “According to the InteriorMinistry, there were 643,000 deaths between 1921 and 1953,”says Sergei Feliksovich. “Perestroika scholars agreed with thatestimate.” It is hard to know which scholars he is talking about.Most self-respecting historians assume Soviet-era death tolls(collectivization, purges, Gulag) run into double-digit millions.The late-1990s techniques here can be encountered frompark bench to parliamentary record. Unlike Holocaustdeniers, most Gulag revisionists concede that there were vic-tims; but very much like their German counterparts, the apol-ogists of Soviet terror use a variety of strategies to reduce thedeath toll to an “acceptable” minimum.And the justifications are extremelydiverse, from the open rationalization of revolutionary terror, as in the case of Sergei Feliksovich to the blurring of the juridical definition of “criminal.” In aninterview with national radio last fall,Communist Duma deputy Vassily Shan-dybin remarked, “Yes, truly, a certainnumber of people suffered. They in-formed on each other: stool pigeons didtheir best, they informed, these peoplewere arrested. They confessed, and theywere sent away to certain places. For thisreason I don’t agree when people say thatwe had political prisoners in the SovietUnion.” Shandybin was merely repeatingarguments he had made in a Duma debate a week earlier, tellingabout a minor amendment to a law on “the rehabilitation of thevictims of political repressions.” The ambitious original law hadpassed without a peep in the post-putsch euphoria of fall 1991.But when it came around to voting on a miniscule, essentiallysymbolic improvement in pension benefits for a small class of victims, it was roundly rejected by the Duma.Russian society still remains deeply divided over the coun-try’s past, and the resulting calculations of realpolitik haveintensified the climate of denial. The anniversary of the GreatOctober Revolution of 1917 is still celebrated as a holiday inRussia by its opponents as well as its enthusiasts—but it’s nowknown as the “Day of Harmony and Reconciliation,” a compro-mise formula ironically demonstrating how far from those idealsRussia remains. The most recent Russian secondary-school his-tory textbooks fudge the issue of Soviet terror: a 1998 officialtext for eleventh-grade students gives no total figures for those“repressed” under Stalin; on the Great Terror of the 1930s itcounts only the army officers shot in 1937-38 (“more than40,000”) and victims of “conflicts within the repressiveorgans”(“several tens of thousands”). Otherwise, the text bendsover backward to stress the “constructive” aspects of what onechapter heading calls “Stalinist modernization.” Meanwhile,
Gulag “Denial”
A
tthe beginning of this decade, it looked as though Russians were finally facing up to thenightmares of seventy years of totalitarian rule. Not a day went by, it seemed, without somenew revelation about the past. Every newspaper, every magazine, every serious televisionshow probed the wound. Official commissions rehabilitated survivors as well as the dead; unofficialcuriosity-seekers quite literally stumbled upon the skeletons of the past in fields where the abandoned

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