Debates


Grandes hombres 


 
Gentlemen
 
I am not sure that I understand the issue here: 
 
Are we going to discuss the theory that history is in some way defined or driven by "great men"? 
 
Or are we going to discuss how "great men" are constituted and the kind of history that is written which focuses on the acts, recorded thoughts, etc. of those people deemed "great"?
 
Or perhaps we want to discuss the persistence of "great men" images in historical narrative today, whereby I think we can fairly agree that attempts to stage "great men" today are comic or absurd?
 
For example the last bastion of "great men" and occasionally women is the system of prizes starting with the Nobel prizes and working one's way down to the various literary and national prizes and awards. The attempt to nominate and designate "great men" each year has resulted in ever more obscure forms of activity being raised to quasi-historical magnitude for the few moments (perhaps longer than Warhol's proverbial "fame") until some other news event claims the attention of the information marketing machine.
 
Whereas someone like Bertha von Suttner or Martin Luther King could be clearly identified with the movements in which they were involved and there is no doubt that these two people genuinely were committed to the ideals for which they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. We can say today that the contribution of Dr Kissinger or Mr Gore to peace has been such an insignificant part of their lives that a Nobel Prize in Physics could be awarded to the scientist that discovers the subautomic particle containing the commitment to peace attributed to these men. There is no hope that the biologists will discover a gene for it.
 
I think there are only two ways to examine "great men" in respect to history: 1) to what extent the persons considered "great" are essentially "great criminals"-- this applies to nearly all statesmen and rulers-- or the extent to which the acts attributed to these persons shape what we call history? 2) the construction of historical personality: do "great men" simply exemplify one of the possible processes by which historical events acquire historicity: this leads to the question about whether there are real historical persons and in what kind of history they (we) are situated.
 
Before this discussion continues any further, it would be nice to have some views about what the questions really are.
 
Dr. Patrick Wilkinson
Cognitive Consulting and Language Logistics
Kirchstrasse 32
D-40227 Düsseldorf