by James Livingston
[Editor's note: this guest post by James Livingston is a response to the conversation initiated by Ben Alpers's post from yesterday, "An Unusable Past." --LDB]
Ben, Tim, and Kurt are right, I have been unconsciously questioning the assumptions that drive our discipline, at least as it’s presently constituted in the universities of the USA.
My unkind “review” of Paul Murphy’s book was a symptom of my frustration with what I see as historians’ unwarranted complacence in view of epistemic revolutions all around. American historians tend to focus on the “good guys”—the exceptions to the rule of capital—and thus reduce the past to the heroic moments of “resistance.” This usable past becomes the exception to the exception, a miracle that can’t be reproduced. So it becomes an icon rather than a text, something to be worshipped rather than parsed. The Pops, the Communists, SDS, those were the days. Enter, stage left, Howard Zinn. Continue reading