måndag 18 april 2022

Historiska orsaksförklaringar (eller: Historikers förklaringar)

Fernand Braudel (1902-1985), en av 1900-talets stora historiker men som att döma av diskussionen i 
American Historical Review 2015 verkar fungera som något av en bogeyman 
eller symbol för den gamla onda tiden bland historiker idag (tyvärr!)
Tidskriften American Historical Review har ett väldigt härligt format som är "Conversation": redaktören samlar en rad historiker som mejlväxlar över ett tema. Därefter samlas konversationen, lätt redigerad och med fotnoter, och ges ut i tidskriften. År 2015 -- efter teman som transnationell historia, miljöhistoria, historia om kunskaopscirkulation, och emotionshistoria -- var temat “Explaining Historical Change; or, The Lost History of Causes”. Redaktören konstaterar att orsaksförklaringar ofta uppfattas som centralt för historisk forskning, att "History is not just “one damn thing after another”; it is the meaningful connection between those damn things." Men:
"Of course, explaining change over time has never described the entire scope of what historians do. In the eighteenth century, Edward Gibbons’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1781–1789) assumed this goal with monumental thoroughness. But another canonical work of history from the same period, Voltaire’s The Age of Louis XIV (1751), while it did provide a chronological account of the reign, aimed, more memorably (in Voltaire’s own words), “to set before posterity not only the portrait of one man’s actions but that of the spirit of mankind in general, in the most enlightened of ages.” If not precisely in the manner of Voltaire, much very good history today is produced precisely as a kind of “portrait” of a past time and place, with little concern for the pace and trajectory of time’s arrow." (s. 1369-1370)

Konversationen i AHR utgår från "an assumption of a “problem”—that many of today’s historians have eschewed the rigorous explanation of historical change, once a hallmark of historical analysis in recent times" -- inte för att säga att andra approacher till historia brister i legitimitet, men... Konversationen initierades av redaktören Robert Schneider, som tillfrågade Emmanuel Akyeampong, historiker om moderna Afrika vid Harvard; Caroline Arni från universitetet i Basel som forskar om vetenskapshistoria och genushistoria; Pamela Kyle Crossley, forskare i kinesisk historia vid Dartmouth; Mark Hewison, modern-Europa-historiker vid UCL; och William Sewell, statsvetare och historiker vid University of Chicago.

Redaktören, Schneider, börjar sin intervention så här, med en väldigt intressant iakttagelse:

"In recent years, it has been observed by many who are interested in the nature of historical scholarship that a range of questions that once were central to our profession have lost their prominence. One way to characterize these questions is to recall that not long ago it was common for historians to think about “cause” as an element of historical analysis. Thus, books, articles, and well-known debates on the causes of the French Revolution or World War I, or on the decline of feudalism or the rise of capitalism, or on the factors contributing to the Protestant Reformation or the “New” Imperialism—all implied a confidence that focused analysis could yield answers that would explain large-scale historical transformations. It has been a long time since mainstream historians have thought in terms of “causes” or causality—perhaps for good reasons—but along with this there has been a move away from a more general attempt to analyze change, and to specify those factors and conditions responsible for significant transformations and developments. There are a whole host of explanations for this historiographical shift: the decline of Marxism and the discrediting of modernization theory or developmental models; the rise of cultural history and the so-called linguistic turn; the waning of treatments of the longue durée; a suspicion of master narratives, especially as originating in Western visions of history; a turn toward “thick” description and microhistory as fruitful modes of historical scholarship; and the emergence of transnational and global history, whose scope and scale seem to render a certain kind of analysis quite difficult. And there are surely others reasons as well." (s. 1371)
Att bara lista olika faktorer räcker inte, och Schneider ställer två frågor till deltagarna: (1) håller du med om att ambitionerna att förklara har gått ned bland historiker? (1b) I så fall, ser du det som ett problem? Och (2) I så fall, varför? -- "I would like each of you to indulge in something on the order of a mini historiographical survey with this question in mind, and from the perspective of your own position and field." (s. 1371)

Mark Hewitson är först ut bland deltagarna och håller med om att i böcker i historisk teori har frågan om kausalitet fått stå tillbaka. Hewitson publicerade 2004 boken History and Causality och han är alltså väl inläst när han säger att:

"The combination of criticism of the very notion of causality on the part of some poststructuralist scholars and indifference on the part of many others has arguably left practicing historians with relatively little guidance in their quest for and their ordering, linkage, and delimitation of individuals’ reasons, motives, assumptions and interests, communicative and other forms of interaction, discursive frameworks and aporias, institutional constraints and empowerments, and wider economic and environmental conditions. Even historians who discuss causes openly or seek to provide causal explanations of events often do so with little reference to a theoretical literature." (s. 1372)
Han nämner Simon Schama som ett exempel på "self-proclaimed narrative historians", som kritiserat resonemang om orsak och effekt och istället förespråkat en återgång till 1800-talets narrativa historia. Jo Guldi och David Armitage med deras History Manifesto (2014) tar han upp som talat för "big questions", men han menar att också Guldi och Armitage vacklar mellan  “mak[ing] sense of causal questions” och “tell[ing] persuasive stories over time.” Han verkar inte heller helt övertygad om att historiker har de förmågor som Guldi och Armitage hävdar och som krävs för den "big history" som de förespråkar.

Caroline Arni börjar sitt första inlägg på mesta möjliga historiker-sätt: "I would indeed like to begin by critically interrogating the premises of the question, that is, the diagnosis that “large-scale historical transformations” and the quest for “causality” have “lost prominence” in the discipline." (s. 1374) Och: "If I try to come into the discussion at this point, it is in an attempt to get a more nuanced historiographical picture and to question the disciplinary bookkeeping that goes with it: I am not convinced that said “turns” have lost sight of change and explanation tout court." När EP Thompson, säger hon, introducerade "kulturalistisk" socialhistoria med The Making of the English Working Class så hade han ingen avsikt att överge förklaringsambitioner -- tvärtom så ville han förklara klassens utveckling över tid. Och:

"When Joan Scott in “Women in The Making of the English Working Class,” setting an example for what was taking shape as the linguistic turn, criticized Thompson for not going far enough when he replaced determined class consciousness with determined experience, she was abandoning neither the emergence of “class” as a topic of historical inquiry nor the attempt to explain what went on in societies of the nineteenth century. Rather, she explained not only the continuing problem of women in socialism, which was to haunt the New Left a hundred years later, but also why this problem could not have been historiographically apparent. She did so by excavating a mechanism of exclusion that would be repeated whenever universalist definitions (of the rights-holding subject, of the worker, etc.) were conceived in gendered terms or whenever the abstract was conceived by concretization—as in the paradoxical constitution of modern republicanism.19 To be sure, while Thompson remained dedicated to reconstructing a continuous historical process driven by a social logic, Scott delved into historical moments that produced discursive logics, which then were repeated in different settings. This approach owes much to Michel Foucault’s project of history as genealogy. While such history-writing went against any teleological drift, it can hardly be accused of neglecting large-scale transformation (just think of Foucault’s history of sexuality or his work on governmentality). Hence, I would like to argue that the rejection of models and determination should not be equated with abandoning change as an explanandum, and that a turn to social or linguistic logics is not the same as abandoning explanation." (s. 1375)
Hon menar alltså att: "It is not change, but a specific way of conceiving change, namely as a continuous movement through time. And it is not explanation, but a specific way of explaining, namely by abstraction."

Pamela Kyle Crossley börjar med att konstatera att Kina-historiker inte har någon egen teori, utan plägar att använda samma (västerländska) teoretiker som övriga historiker. Hon har en intressant utläggning om Braudel:

"On the question of the longue durée, Braudel’s early concept was that longue durée studies would reveal causations that had previously not been appreciated, whether it was the role of Kondratiev waves in Europe’s modern political history or the interplay of patterns of trade with demographic trends. Right away one sees an implied reference to Bergson, who had suggested that the durée was the moment of free-play consciousness, in which causality had no particular meaning. The longue durée is the durée that is long enough to recapture a sense of sequence and causation—long enough to transcend the individual and mark the experience of communities, regions, continents. This was accompanied by a hope that the rapid aggregation of both data and computational techniques in the later twentieth century would reveal patterns that were not only long but also massive; indeed, the axiom that more data necessarily led to more accurate discernment of relationships (including causal) was everywhere in twentieth-century thinking. Yet for Braudel, “social reality” remained the scale of everything. The cumulative effect of material forces on social interactions was and would remain for him the engine of change, and the measure of “reality.” In that sense, Braudel seems to me to be the consummate modernist." (s. 1377)
Idag tror intellektuella, säger Crossley, mindre på en verklighet utanför observatören. Men viktiga europeiska forskare i kinesisk historia har ofta fostrats i Pirennska eller Braudelska miljöer: "They fostered a search for the longue durée and were grandfathers to later searches—led by scholars such as Pierre-Etienne Will and R. Bin Wong, editors of the seminal Nourish the People—for wide-ranging archival research that could transform the unstructured particular into the structured general, including big-data demographic studies led by James Lee." Efter Edward Said har dock den europeiska blicken på Kina problematiserats.

Bill Sewell (han introduceras så) börjar sitt svar på ett intressant sätt.

"I do think that this first question has signaled a significant problem in contemporary historical scholarship. However, the problem as I see it is not that historians have lost interest in “explaining historical change.” It is true that the terms “cause” and “causation” have fallen out of style over the past three decades, largely, I think, because of the “billiard ball” model of causality that these terms tend to evoke. During the vogue for quantitative social history in the late 1960s and 1970s, some historians adopted the positivist language that dominated sociology, political science, and economics in those years, a language in which “causation” was a kind of sacred touchstone. Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, when many historians turned from social to cultural history and from positivistic to interpretive modes of thought, uttering the words “cause” or “causation” tended to mark one as hopelessly backward. But “explanation,” unlike “causation,” has not become a tabooed term, largely because of its rather vaguer implications. (When, in ordinary conversation, we ask, “How do you explain that?” we might get a billiard-ball causal account, but we would be at least as likely to get a narrative or an explication.) When historians gave up “cause,” they did not necessarily give up explanation, or even explanation of large-scale historical transformations. In my own field of French history, explaining the French Revolution continued to be the holy grail—but the explanations changed from class struggle or economic fluctuations to changes in political culture. The key question became not what social forces constrained or empowered actors, but how actors understood what they were doing—and how their construal of affairs guided their actions.
What certainly has shifted is the form of explanations favored by leading historical scholars. Here the crucial development, as I see it, is the cultural or linguistic turn—a complex movement with many different theoretical strands (e.g., structuralist, hermeneutic, anthropological, Foucauldian, and Derridean). Derridean post-structuralism or deconstruction, which was the most epistemologically radical form of the linguistic turn, has inveighed against the very concept of cause, which according to it erroneously claims to arrest the free play of the signifier. Poststructuralists’ aggressive denunciations of what they regard as naïve notions of cause or explanation in historical texts, let alone grand narratives, have had an intimidating effect on the general run of historians, whose grasp of philosophical and theoretical issues of any kind tends to be weak, and who understandably wish to avoid being denounced. Foucault, whom many categorize as a poststructuralist, seems to me an utterly different case. Far from abandoning “grand narratives,” Foucault proposes grand narratives of his own, such as the historical shift of epistemes or the rise of the disciplines or the rise of biopower—but grand narratives established by searching out patterns of thought that have structured the conduct of historical actors in different eras. Historians, by wrapping themselves in the cloak of Foucauldianism, often embrace what are in fact sweeping causal narratives while claiming (falsely, in my opinion) a post-structuralist epistemological high ground." (s. 1381)
Han har också en för mig hjälpsam uppdelning mellan olika kulturalismer inom historieforskningen. "The hermeneutic or anthropological forms of the cultural turn lack the supposed epistemological radicalism of poststructuralism, but they share the poststructuralists’ focus on the sphere of signs as the key to understanding social life." I denna tradition använder man sig av teoretiker som Geertz, Goffman, Sahlins, Elias, Ricoeur och Bourdieu, och Sewell menar att "This tradition, I would say, has become dominant in the historical profession." (Ett påstående som rimmar sant för oss som jobbar i Lund!) Inom forskning om fransk historia ser han följande forskare som framstående exempel på denna inriktning: Natalie Zemon Davis, Roger Chartier, Fran¸cois Furet, Bonnie Smith, Keith Baker, William Reddy, Mona Ozouf, Lynn Hunt, Robert Darnton, och, ibland, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Också det mesta av Sewells egen forskning sorterar han in i denna tradition. Och det är väldigt kul när han diskuterar denna skolas aversion mot historiska förklaringar som kan låta gammeldags:

"Historians who work in this style (or cluster of styles) generally embrace historical explanation as a goal, either explicitly or implicitly. But the emphasis on the sphere of signs, however conceptualized, makes most of them leery of invoking the sorts of causal arguments that were common during the high point of social history in the late 1960s or the 1970s—all the more so because they prefer to steer clear of denunciation by post-structuralists or would-be poststructuralists. References to, for example, social structures, class, market dynamics, demographic patterns, exploitation, or business cycles all have an odor of mechanical causation that nearly all cultural historians eschew." (s. 1382)
Som ekonomisk-historiker känner jag igen en av rötterna till min egen frustration med historiker här... Sewell säger att:

"There has, in short, been a “loss” as a consequence of the cultural turn, but a loss that most historians would probably regard as a gain—a gain in subtlety and sophistication that has preserved them from the crude errors of economic and social determinism."

Och då vill jag gentemot den tänkta historikern (inte mot Sewell per se) förstås invända att grundandet av förklaringar i ekonomiska och sociala förhållanden inte är samma sak som determinism! Utan det är väl just den förväxlingen av ekonomiska och sociala förklaringar med determinism som frustrerar mig. Det är förstås inte en förväxling som Sewell själv gör, och trots att han är kulturhistoriker så gör han också en appell för ekonomiska och sociala förklaringar (också):

"I personally took the cultural turn (in an essentially hermeneutic mode) in the mid-1970s and remain a convinced cultural historian. I believe that the primary task of history—indeed, of the human sciences in general—must be to seek out the frameworks of meaning within which human action unfolds. In this sense I agree with Pamela on an essentially Diltheyan vision of the historian’s task. Nevertheless, I am convinced that cultural historians’ lack of interest in economic and social-structural explanation has been a very serious loss. It has been particularly serious because it has taken place during a period—since the mid-1970s—that has been marked by a profound transformation of the world economy from state-guided forms of capitalism to an aggressive financialized neoliberal capitalism. Especially in the United States, but not only there, economic inequality has risen precipitously, economic security of the middle and working class has been undermined, and democracy has increasingly mutated into plutocracy.30 Meanwhile the world’s political institutions have utterly failed to respond to the steady advance of global climate change, which threatens to make our earthly home uninhabitable within a century or two—unquestionably a consequence of the world’s current economic system. That the great bulk of the history profession turned its back on economic and social-structural causation during a period when the dynamics of capitalism weighed ever more forcefully on the course of the human endeavor is, in retrospect, an astounding fact and not something we should be proud of." (s. 1382, här reffar Sewell också en egen tidigare artikel, från 2010)
Sewell ser den nutida "History of Capitalism", en förening av kulturhistoria med ekonomiska ämnen, som något positivt, och menar att denna visat att "it has been a mistake to leave economic history to the economic historians."

Emmanuel Akyeampong följer och beskriver det som att:

"In African history, big questions and longue durée studies have returned, spurred by the comparative regional approach of the “new economic history” and the availability of new databases, and the rise of world and global history that have positioned Africa in ways that historians of Africa have considered unsatisfactory. Works such as Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence (2000), and the much-cited article “Reversal of Fortune” (2002) by Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson inspired the need to place Africa more centrally in these global conversations and to interrogate the place of institutions, natural resources and geography, infrastructure, culture, and global trade.36 Quantitative approaches and the relevance of datasets have shed new light on Africa’s political economy, such as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database created by David Eltis, David Richardson, and their colleagues (www.slavevoyages.org), which provides data on about 35,000 slave voyages across the Atlantic from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. This dataset has informed important recent studies by economists such as Nathan Nunn and numerous historians.37 Scholars interested in the relationship between good governance and economic growth turn to the research network Afrobarometer (www.afrobarometer.org), which measures the social, political, and economic atmosphere in Africa, examining key issues such as the impact of corruption on institutional trust and economic performance. A variety of datasets compiled by international development organizations such as the World Bank Group’s World Development Indicators, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn World Tables, or that compiled by Angus Maddison at the University of Groningen and continuously updated by a group of researchers as “The Madison Project” (www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/orihome.htm) provide scholars with data that have driven big questions about African economic growth in global contexts." (s. 1384)
Det finns en del skepsis mot kvaliteten på statistiken i flerlands-dataseten, säger Akyeampong, men det finns också en mindre kvantitativ/nationalekonomisk big questions-forskning om longue durée i Afrikas äldre historia:

"Christopher Ehret’s hugely significant An African Classical Age, which spanned the period from 1000 B.C. to 400 A.D., was in part a response to his colleague Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize–winning and widely read Guns, Germs, and Steel. Ehret establishes how Africa was contemporaneous with other areas in the world in the earliest revolutions in agriculture, iron technology, and commerce in the last millennium B.C. Jan Vansina’s How Societies Are Born traces the early histories of societies in West Central Africa before 1600 and their development of governance institutions through linguistics, ethnography, and history."
Han diskuterar två saker som är specifika för afrikansk historia: dels subdisciplinens relativa ungdom -- en professur i afrikansk historia inrättades 1948 för första gången, dels den svåra arkiv-situationen, där man är starkt beroende av arkiv upprättade av koloniala stater. Oral history, life history och biografiska metoder har varit viktiga, vilket ytterligare gjort det förenligt med postmoderna teoretiska tendenser. Den postindiska subalterna skolan hade också av uppenbara skäl tilltalande kvaliteter i det postkoloniala Afrika.

Redaktör Schneider har efter dessa fem öppnande, matiga, intelligenta kommentarer en hel del att göra när han ska bemöta dem alla och ta diskussionen vidare! Han startar i Arni och Hewitsons mer filosofiska/ontologiska kommentarer och  tar också upp Arnis pekande (som jag inte riktigt förstår)  på att en del saker är nya i historien (diskontinuiteter) och Crossleys Diltheyanska historie-argument. Arni är först ut i runda två:

"Think of Max Weber’s concept of verstehendes Erklären and how it displaced the notion of the “causal” in order to establish a genuine social-scientific research logic that reckons with the contingent while aiming at explanation (through generalization). Much of the work done in the vein of the interpretive turn, or, more accurately put, work done in the attempt to challenge the impact of structural functionalism on social history, dealt with these issues when mediating structure and action through meaning (historians reading Geertz reading Weber)." (s. 1389)

Hon tar upp Kriedte, Medick och Schlümbohms (1980) klassiker om protoindustrialisering som exempel på en kombination av antropologisk Verstehen och socialhistoria. Hon uttrycker också stark skepsis mot att "go back" till strukturella förklaringar. Jag har svårt att förstå en hel del av vad hon talar om, och det är därför uppmuntrande att även Sewell, i början av sin replik, är ifrågasättande mot vad Arni argumenterar:

"Caroline speaks of “combining social-structural analysis (which deals with continuities) with epistemological reflexiveness (which reckons with discontinuity in the historicity of the object).” While I agree that we should combine social-structural analysis with epistemological reflexiveness, neither of the statements enclosed by parentheses makes sense to me. Historical analyses of social structures, for example of class structures or of capitalism, necessarily deal with both continuities and discontinuities." (s. 1391)
Jag håller verkligen med Sewell här: Arnis distinktion mellan en ekonomisk historia som handlar om kontinuitet, och kulturhistoria som handlar om diskontinuitet, verkar obegriplig. Sewell argumenterar istället för att man ska använda samma metoder både för "ekonomiska" och "kulturella" fenomen. I grund och botten menar han att all historisk forskning ska vara tolkande (a la Verstehen) och inkännande, men i praktiken, menar han, så behöver hitoriker ofta abstrahera från de historiska personernas egna uppfattningar:

"Much of what it means to be a good historian is to effectively recontextualize the actions and thoughts of the people we study, which means that we have to develop our own conceptualizations and evaluations of the relevant contexts. Thus, for example, we might place the struggles of peasants against their landlords within contexts that neither the peasants nor the landlords are likely to fully grasp: new forms of speculation on crop futures in distant financial capitals, changes in taste in urban markets, fluctuations in international exchange rates, competition by producers halfway around the world, etc. We might be able to engage in properly close and interpretive study of certain of these relatively distant contexts—perhaps looking in detail at both the struggles of Mexican campesinos and the operations of futures markets in Chicago. But for many of the larger contexts, we need means of summarizing, abbreviating, aggregating, or simplifying the buzzing complexity. Here some of the formal methods of the social sciences could be extremely useful—techniques like quantification, systematic comparison, even rational-choice mathematical modeling, all of which were essentially banished from historical methods by the cultural turn. I think a reappropriation of such techniques, but without the positivistic assumptions by which they are usually accompanied in the social sciences, would be an important step forward for historical research." (s. 1393)
Väldigt sympatiskt! Crossley i sin replik talar däremot om att det är väldigt svårt att isolera en enda orsak till historiska fenomen, och argumenterar på så sätt till synes mot alla kausala förklaringar. (Ett slags motte and bailey-argument?) Hon diskuterar utbrottet av Opiumkriget 1842 som ett exempel: olika historiker har anfört olika förklaringar, och "there is no final determination of the cause of the war."

"The facts relating to the outbreak of the Opium War have not changed, but their relationships and meanings change constantly in train with the changing mental landscape of the historian. This is a commonplace for us, but not so much for dialectical materialists, for empiricists, or for Braudel’s “estranged” social scientist. In some ways we are more akin today to historians of classical and medieval times than to our predecessors of a hundred years ago. Explaining relationships betweencphenomena—and explaining the explanations—is probably better than speaking strictly of causes." (s. 1395)
Däremot så appellerar Crossley för att historiker ska forska om makt. Hewitson börjar sin replik med att, liksom Sewell, inte hålla med Arni, och även ifrågasätta hennes märkliga ontologisk-epistemologiska argument om "diskontinuitet" och "objekts historicitet". Medan Sewell menade att forskare om kapitalismens historia diskuterar förändring lika mycket som kontinuitet, så pekar Hewitson på att: "Even functionalist sociologists such as Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils claimed to be “concerned equally with the conditions of stability and the conditions of change,” arguing that “it is impossible to study one without the other.”" (s. 1396) Frågan är, säger Hewitson, hur vi definierar begrepp som “structure,” “change,” “continuity,” “narrative,” and “explanation”. Mycket annat av hans inlägg förstår jag inte. 

Efter en replik av Akyeampong om hans förhållandevis ateoretiska undervisning i brittisk stil på universitetet i Ghana, går ordet tillbaka till redaktör Schneider. Han tar upp frågan om kontinuitet och diskontinuitet och frågar om historiker efter den kulturhistoriska vändningen börjat fokusera mer på kontinuitet över tid, och därför blivit dåliga på att förklara förändring.

Crossley relaterar den frågan till den västerländska Kinaforskningens historia, med traditionen från Wittfogel, Marx med flera att se kinesisk äldre historia som i princip oföränderlig, fram till att Västerlandet och det Moderna bryter in och introducerar en diskontinuitet. Från det går hon till en diskussion om idén om en disinkontinuitet mellan imperiernas tid och nationalstaternas tid i början av 1900-talet; denna idé ifrågasätter hon. I en utveckling av detta resonemang riktar hon också rätt stark kritik mot de som beskriver USA idag som ett "imperium"; om jag förstår det rätt så menar hon att man då åberopar en falsk kontinuitet tillbaka i tiden och legitimerar att USA invaderar andra stater och byter ut deras regeringar (!?).

Hewitson plockar upp en metafor för historisk förändring som Crossley kastar ut -- metaforen är obegriplig för mig, både hos Crossley och hos Hewitson. Det blir mer begripligt när det blir mer konkret: hur gillar samhällsvetare att förklara saker, kontra hur gör historiker det?

"I associate parsimony in the specification of causes with a certain type of modeling in economics and political science, where a reduction in the number of variables is necessary for prediction. Whereas some social scientists “consider an ‘overdetermined’ event—that is, one with multiple causes—to be an inadequately explained event . . . because their goal is not just to explain the past but to forecast the future,” making the “oversimplification of causes” a “necessity to them,” in John Gaddis’s words, historians continue to view multiple causation as “the only feasible basis for explanation.”" (s. 1404)
Historiska förklaringar, säger Hewitson, kräver inte prediktion, men däremot klassificering och generalisering. Han har också ett rätt intressant men tätt resonemang om möjliga utvecklingslinjer och vad som faktiskt hände: "“‘Think,’ Gallie urges, ‘of the convergence of the different kinds of causal lines that met at Sarajevo in 1914 . . . Can anyone seriously maintain, as he traces even a few of these lines backwards, that they evidently belong to . . . a single, comprehensive causal system?’”" (s. 1406)

Arnis replik börjar med att göra en distinktion mellan förändring och diskontinuitet. "While change, as Mark noted by quoting Danto, implies the “continuous identity in the subject of change,” discontinuity is about a transformation so radical that such continuous identity gets lost and something categorically novel emerges. In other words, discontinuity is about historical difference. This is how I understood the poststructuralist or the Foucauldian take on the historical..." (s. 1406-7) Hon tar som exempel på hur hon själv skrivit om mänskliga foster på 1600-1700-talet, innan den moderna begreppsapparaten kring begreppet foster formades.

Sewell följer med en rätt historiografisk och diplomatisk utläggning om kontinuitet och diskontinuitet. Sedan tar han upp frågan från Hewitson om "parsimony" och slår ändå ett slag för detta:

"If I think of my long experience of reviewing article submissions as a peer reviewer for historical journals, I’d have to say that historians’ most common weakness is that they are insufficiently parsimonious—that they wander through forests of archival quotations and try to get out of tough explanatory spots by narrating more and more apparently relevant but often superfluous and confusing detail. The articles I recommend for publication tend to be relatively crisp, one might even say “parsimonious.” They set clear explanatory or explicative criteria and provide their arguments and evidence in an economical fashion." (s. 1410)

Akyeampong följer Crossley och Arni i diskussionen av diskontinuitet. Efter detta följer redaktören, som säger att han är sliten mellan två slutsatser. Den ena handlar om hur äldre forskare som Braudel, Dilthey och Weber fortfarande spelar en roll, trots de många "vändningar" som historievetenskapen gått igenom. Den andra är att historievetenskapen är en annan idag, sedan 1970-talet.

Crossley och Hewitson följer med epistemologiska resonemang som inte intresserar mig något särskilt. Sewell plockar upp och formulerar Crossleys argument att vi alla, vare sig vi vill eller inte, är hermeneutiker så här: "As I would put it, we can’t help but be hermeneutical in our relationship to the past. Those pasts really did exist, but our making of histories about them requires us to examine the debris the pasts left behind, whether textual, archaeological, or visual, and to construct a human world of thought, action, and experience that we judge compatible with evidence gleaned from the debris. The past world we construct is inevitably our construction, based, to be sure, on our sincere efforts at a fusion of horizons with those who lived, strived, and died in these pasts. We try to understand what their experiences must have been like, but also to understand how the world they lived in inevitably surpassed and thereby shaped their own understandings and experience." (s. 1420) Akyeampong tillägger: "We have come quite a distance from the nineteenth-century founders of our discipline who believed objectivity in history was possible. The “turns” in history since the 1970s have contributed to this modesty in expectations." (s. 1420)

Redaktören avslutar med att konstatera att diskussionen täckt mycket mark och inte kommit fram till en enda, enkel slutsats -- det hade varit omöjligt. Istället konstaterar han att fotnoterna till de fem deltagarnas resonemang kan fungera som grunden för en vidare inläsning och diskussion.

EMMANUEL AKYEAMPONG, CAROLINE ARNI, PAMELA KYLE CROSSLEY, MARK HEWITSON, AND WILLIAM H. SEWELL, JR. (2015) "AHR Conversation: Explaining Historical Change; or, The Lost History of Causes", American Historical Review.

Inga kommentarer: