Tag Archives: history

#50 On depth

Dear Jamie,

That was my favourite letter in some time. Thank you. I also love irony, at least when I’m aware of it.

The progression of agency in the history of literature was something I never really appreciated until you said it. It makes sense given your snapshots; a deus ex machina-heavy ancient Greek play through conscious fate-addled Shakespearean contemplator up to the unrelenting conscious agency of the agent James Bond. OK the last one’s a joke, and it’s because an invincible agency is as boring as a completely yielding one, which suggests to me this Continue reading #50 On depth

#41 On history

Dear Mat,

Can society be working for some but not others? Can it be objectively measured? This is a much more fascinating disagreement!

The left expect the perfect society; the right think there’s only the incumbent. But surely history demonstrates two things:

  1. the perfect society is impossible and thinking it possible ends in mass-murder;
  2. status quo supporters were consistently proved wrong by reforms that were just over the hill, but they enforced the status quo, generally through small scale murder.

There is the politics of eternity and the politics of inevitability. Both are ahistorical. Continue reading #41 On history

Grand narratives

In a well anthologised quotation, the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard defined the postmodern condition as “incredulity towards metanarratives”. We all need more  incredulity, especially towards the large, totalising explanations of the world and history that Lyotard had in mind. The narratives offered by religions,  national myths, and pre-packaged political ideologies obviously need to be met with virile scepticism. But what if there actually is a “grand narrative” or “metanarrative” that we can more or less empirically discern? Continue reading Grand narratives