Debates


¿Seguimos en la época contemporánea?

 

Yes I agree that the terminology used to periodise history is artificial. However, it is also possible to note that history is not uniform. Just as the waters of the Earth might be seen as somehow linked, e.g. rivers to lakes or seas, oceans joined at edges of continents, etc., there can be no denying that the waters move with very different currents and temperatures even in the same geographical areas.

The sea of humanity does not move uniformly through what we call time or history. There are currents and waves and winds.

The periods that were defined as Moyen Ages/ Middle Ages indeed were constructions used to explain what the thinkers and writers of the 18th Christian century were trying to distinguish as past, present and future. Those who were trying to find a basis for authority and knowledge once they had abandoned (or felt forced to abandon) the doctrines of divine law found it useful to posit divine law as a principle of the past. Some-- the natural law school-- tried to substitute divine law with some superior foundation freed from Roman Catholic doctrine. Some grasped at the ancient Greeks and sought to give them a pre-Christian authority which would transcend the divine authority of monarchs which was becoming increasingly unstable. This school lives with us today in the neo-conservatives. The neo-conservatives comprise a clerical and what I would call a "military" faction. The clerical faction tries to recover divine law in a kind of authoritarian republicanism. The military faction-- the neo-Hobbesians-- want to create a permanent state of war in which their Leviathan may be justified. In the end however, the natural law school is a reactionary movement trying to repackage divine right by adopting other clothes-- clothes it would have us believe are modern.

The other movement, I would call it the neo-Albigensian school, abandoned divine right without trying to reconstitute it by deistic or martial methods. The Albigensians were annihilated at the beginning of what is classically called the Middle Ages. The only records we have of what these people believed or practiced was left to us by that great scourge of mankind the Roman Catholic Church. What we do know is that the crusades against the Albigensian heresy were launched-- like the Réconquistá-- in order that the papacy and any princes willing to align with it could rape, pillage and steal the lands and wealth of the people whom it became carte blanche to destroy. Spanish Aragon and the French nobility enriched themselves first in these wars of brigandry and what we know call "genocide".

The continuity of the Middle Ages as described above lies in the fact that neo-conservatism or neo-liberalism, if you will, is a reactionary and annihilating movement bent on restoring the divine right of the rulers to rule and the absolute duty of the rest of us to submit to that rule. It could also be called neo-feudalism since its claims to decentralised rule are nothing more than a demand to reinstitute the Estates of the old feudal order. Instead of the Roman Catholic Church-- what was once decried as knaves dancing on the coffin of the Roman Empire-- the natural law, neo-feudalists have adopted the corpse of the American republic and trappings of that dying empire-- foisting a hierarchy on the world which is a parody of that country's constitutional principles just as the Roman Church modelled its pontiff and curia on the style of the elected emperor-dictator with SPQR.

That "old" Moyen Age was dreadful for the majority of mankind and yet described admiringly as "an age of faith". It was an age of plague, war, and the destruction of public space and human liberty. That is what today's Middle Age means.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen/ Cordialement/ Cordiali saluti/ Yours sincerely/

Dr. Patrick Wilkinson
Cognitive Consulting and Language Logistics
Kirchstrasse 32
D-40227 Düsseldorf

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Gentlemen and Ladies

If I did not miss something in the course of these pages, then I still think that the questions surrounding contemporary or immediate history are more substantive than honorifics and periodic classifications.

My recollection from Santiago was that the twentieth century, despite seeming advances in communication and recording media, had become more problematic for historians. The sheer speed of events (and pseudo-events) together with the digital manipulation of events has made it more important to consider what methodologies and models of facticity are useful and valid for reaching historical conclusions.

When I referred to the Albigensians in my last message, I had this problem in mind. We know nothing about the Albigensians except what its greatest enemies have left behind. They are "disappeared" to use a contemporary term. At least since the 1920s and 1930s we have had to recognise that history is distorted by the ongoing "disappearance" of people-- usually from among the poor or the political opposition-- and the destruction of their documentary existence. If that history is to be in some way recovered then it is through survivors and inference, through analysis of the gaps created by this violence. If such history is not to result in hagiography or fantasies, then it must be performed scrupulously. Yet historians must deal with the danger to survivors and the daily manipulation of information, increasingly stored in digital media. Historians have to deal with a yawning gap in power and literacy (in the sense of capacity to produce documents, let alone read them).

New or more careful ways of analysing economic behaviour are necessary. So much of what was previously a matter of statecraft performed by princes working through ambassadors has now been assumed by private enterprises whose entire archives and decision-making processes are guarded from public view. This means that economic history can no longer be confined to the study of industrial growth, labour movement and technology-- it must assume an importance previously reserved to the history of the political. That means it is necessary to abandon such concepts as the influence of business on the State and examine business decisions as quasi-State if not de jure state action.

Such a study of business would be in clear opposition to the pseudo-rationalist, crypto-scientific examination of business based on archaic decision-making models: rational decision theory, "lobbying", market influence, etc. The imposition of the business corporation model of "governance" on the State has led to the absurdity that "codes of governance" are mandated from private business corporations. The corporation-- when democratically legitimated at all-- has always been a class voting system where property is the basis of the franchise. The success in imposing the corporation's standards of "accountability" on the State has led to its non-accountability to the property-less citizens. In fact the long-sought "one man, one vote" is being undermined each day by weighted voting which disenfranchises the citizen per se and only grants her or him a say if she/ he is a property-owner.

This process cannot be explained if one ignores the history of business as a political institution.

I could go on but I will not. Although there is enormous benefit is a network such as HuD, it is easy to get lost. I for one would like to return to such issues (and others like these raised in Santiago) and am naturally interested in the work of those who are engaged in addressing them.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen/ Cordialement/ Cordiali saluti/ Yours sincerely/

Dr. Patrick Wilkinson
Institute for Advanced Cultural Studies - Europe
Kirchstrasse 32
D-40227 Düsseldorf
+49 211 495 3010 /
+49 211 68784746
Mobile +49 171 645 9153
Fax +49 89 1488 162394