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CCSU emeritus email@example.com > From: David Hertzel > Southwestern Oklahoma State University > firstname.lastname@example.org > > I agree with Yasir's proposal that we should evaluate civilizations on > something more than material success. I have argued for a long time > that when world historians research and teach the nature of historical > "civilizations" our students and the field of "world history" might be > best served if we include a moral component to our definition. While the recommendation is welcome, I suspect it underestimates the challenges involved in its implementation. The devil is in the details. What is a "moral component"? It seems it is a judgment of the worthiness of a historical trajectory or the decisions made by its agents. These are two quite different things. Both seem important, and perhaps the former more so (this in itself is an interesting issue). Such a judgment requires a standard of measurement. Arguably this standard is ideological if this word refers to the social function of a body of ideas. Judgments that are independent of their social function or effect seem chimeric or irresponsible. Today it should be obvious that in all historiography there is present an implicit ideology and moral judgment. Given this, the issue is really to make it explicit and subject to critical inspection. In pedagogy, would this not help counter the impression of students that their history courses are just one damn fact after another? To make moral judgments or ideology explicit would seem a condition for the material to be relevant to people's lives. I suggest two criteria by which to evaluate such moral judgments. First, not only do we live in an ever more globalized world, but Western nations are increasingly complex in social terms. So wouldn't one criterion be the degree of social universality of an ideology or moral stance? The problem with the post-WWII multicultural project of UNESCO (Geoffrey Barraclough being a major spokesman for it) is that it merely insisted that non-Western cultural traditions are important and interesting, but it failed to construct a really universal perspective. For example, it serves an imperialist well to be aware of and sensitive to the folk-ways of subject peoples. Second, it seems wrong to detach moral judgments from material circumstances. Most of the world's people suffer grievously from material want, and a universality for moral judgments must surely be related to their most pressing concerns. Arguably in advanced industrial nations, there is a deterioration in the quality of life. The litmus test would be whether a historical conception might appeal to jihadists, Tea Partyers, survivalists and drug addicts. That is, the moral dimension of historiography must be seen as liberating for most people. As Prof. Hertzel's quotation marks imply, there are problems with this notion of "civilization". These are the same as for transnational historiography that presumes the centrality of nation state because that is where power is concentrated. This is not the place to launch a critique of the modern Western ideology of hierarchical systems. Western entity foundationalism and social atomism generated a contradiction between being and becoming that is endemic in any project that presumes coherent units or factors, the causal interaction of which gives rise to emergent systemic effects at a reified higher level. The point here is simply that the units in terms of which a conception of history is constructed must be universal, and only then can moral judgments become universal (and scientific). Haines Brown