Monday, June 30, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #8: Mental Landscapes

"For blacks must read history with Indian eyes as well, and cannot fail to note that many of the New England 'fathers' participated not only in the forced migration and decimation of the original inhabitants but gave full strength to that trade in men which brought other dark men to these shores." -- Vincent Harding "Beyond Chaos: Black history and the search for the New Land" (1970) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 156.

"Our studies can turn into bomb factories. ... We have a responsibility to historical facts in general, and for criticising the politico-ideological abuse of history in particular." Eric Hobsbawm, "The New Threat to History" (1993), cited by Catherine Hall in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 160.

"Fanon has been crucial to our understanding of the internal traumas of identity which are associated with colonisation and enslavement. For colonisation is never only about the external processes and pressures of exploitation. It is always also about the ways in which colonised subjects internally collude with the objectification of the self produced by the coloniser." Catherine Hall, "Histories, Empires and the Post-Colonial Moment" (1996) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 163.

"Man spends his time devising techniques of which he afterwards remains a more or less willing prisoner." Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (1944) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 172.

"There must be a permanent foundation in human nature and in human society, or the very names of man and society become meaningless." Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (1944) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 174.

"Perhaps none of those who write so urgently about these problems have a very clear notion of the situation which they are trying to restore. But few of them can have realized how inappropriate it is to think of restoration at all, in the sense of returning to the historical past." -- Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1965), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 177.

"History is not inevitably useful. It can bind us or free us. It can destroy compassion by showing us the world through the eyes of the comfortable ('the slaves are happy, just listen to them' - leading to 'the poor are content, just look at them'). It can oppress any resolve to act by mountains of trivia, by diverting us.into intellectual games, by pretentious 'interpretations' which spur contemplation rather than action, by limiting our vision to an endless story of disaster and thus promoting cynical withdrawal, by befogging us with the encyclopedic eclecticism of the standard textbook." -- Howard Zinn, The Politics of History (1970), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 193.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Comment Elsewhere: Ballot-rigging warning shot

In response to “McCain Predicts ‘Underdog’ Win in Final 48 Hours” (warning: Fox News. via) I wrote:
So, he's basically saying that the election will be stolen: there'll be no polls showing him in the lead, because he'll be losing by all accounts, and the vote-rigging operation will do the rest. There's no other reason I can think of to start pushing this kind of narrative now, instead of actually campaigning on issues like a real leader.

Paper ballots, please!
Oddly, however, my comment doesn't seem to be actually going through..... (it could have something to do with currently being on dial-up, or with Firefox.... or it might not.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #7: People in History

"The right-wing version of people's history is characteristically a history with the politics left out -- as in Trevelyan's English Social History -- a history devoid of struggle, devoid of ideas, but with a very strong sense of religion and of values. It is apt to idealise the family -- 'a circle of loved, familiar faces' -- and to interpret social relationships as reciprocal rather than exploitative. Class antagonisms may be admitted, but they are contained within a larger whole, and softened by cross-cutting ties. The characteristic location of right-wing people's history is in the 'organic' community of the past .... The ideology is determinedly anti-modern, with urban life and capitalism seen as alien intrusions on the body politic, splintering the age-old solidarities of 'traditional' life." -- Raphael Samuel "People's History" (1981), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 112.

"The attempt to recover the texture of everyday life may be associated with a 'neo-Romantic intellectual enterprise' -- one of the charges levelled against it; but it is perfectly compatible -- if that is to be the test of scientificity -- with elaborate day-charts and passionless prose." -- Raphael Samuel "People's History" (1981), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 115.

"Indeed it is unlikely that we shall ever be able effectively to combat bourgeois ideology until we can see how it arises in ourselves, until we explore the needs and desires it satisfies, and the whole substratum of fears on which it draws. Our understanding of socialism too might be less abstract, if we were to explore it historically 'from the bottom up', looking at its secret languages, its unarticulated passions, its cognitive unconscious and dissonances. Above all, the questions posed by feminism leave no category of Marxist historical analysis unscathed, and it is one of the strengths of people's history that it is proving a far more hospitable terrain for asking them than more abstract analytic planes. People's history also has the merit of raising a crucial question for both theoretical and political work - that of the production of knowledge, both the sources on which it draws and its ultimate point of address. It questions the existing intellectual division of labour and implicitly challenges the professionalised monopolies of knowledge. It makes democratic practice one of the yardsticks by which socialist thought is judged, and thus might encourage us not only to interpret the world, but to see how our work could change it." -- Raphael Samuel "People's History" (1981), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 116.

"Second, the discrepancy between the high quality of recent work in women's history and its continuing marginal status in the field as a whole (as measured by textbooks, syllabi, and monographic work) points up the limits of descriptive approaches that do not address dominant disciplinary concepts, or at least that do not address these concepts in terms that can shake their power and perhaps transform them." -- Joan Scott, "Gender: a useful category of historical analysis," (1988) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 137.

"We must ask more often how things happened in order to find out why they happened; in anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo's formulation, we must pursue not universal, general causality but meaningful explanation." -- Joan Scott, "Gender: a useful category of historical analysis," (1988) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 139.

"It is not sexuality which haunts society, but society which haunts the body's sexuality. Sex-related differences between bodies are continually summoned as testimony to social relations and phenomena that have nothing to do with sexuality. Not only as testimony to, but also testimony for -- in other words, as legitimation." -- Maurice Godelier, "The Origins of Male Domination" (1981) cited by Joan Scott in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 141.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #6: Marx and History

"History is a tragedy, but not a meaningless tragedy. Nor are we mere spectators: we have our parts in the action." -- Christopher Hill, "Marxism and History" (1948), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 87.

"Marx's influence on historians, and not only Marxist historians, is nevertheless based both upon his general theory (the materialist conception of history), with its sketches of, or hints at, the general shape of human historical development from primitive communalism to capitalism, and upon his concrete observations relating to particular aspects, periods and problems of the past." -- E. J. Hobsbawm, "Marx and History" (1984), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 93.

"It is also perfectly clear from the beginning that, since human beings have consciousness, the materialist conception of history is the basis of historical explanation, but is not historical explanation itself. History is not like ecology: human beings decide and think about what happens." -- E. J. Hobsbawm, "Marx and History" (1984), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 95.

"American historians, especially the most harshly anti-Marxian, generally confuse the two [Marxism with economic determinism] and then, since economic determinism is easy to refute, dismiss Marxism as being of no value. This game would prove entertaining, were it not that these same historians so often retreat into banal economic explanations to suit their convenience." -- Eugene Genovese, "Marxian Interpretations of the Slave South" (1968), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 101.

"It would be wonderful fun to list the respected and influential historians who have protected their jobs and families by eschewing the Marxist label while writing from a Marxian viewpoint and even greater fun to recount the multitude of ways in which the profession has misunderstood what they are in fact doing and saying." -- Eugene Genovese, "Marxian Interpretations of the Slave South" (1968), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 102.

Comment elsewhere: Six of one....

In response to a critical look at Clinton's continuing campaign I argued:
I'm ambivalent about this (not so much ambivalent about Clinton at the moment, but that's another discussion). The mantra with regard to the MI/FL crew -- "can't change the rules in the middle of the game" -- seems to apply here as well. Clinton's arguments about her electability aren't really more specious than Obama's arguments about his: both are untested premises in an arena where experimentation is fundamentally impossible. The superdelegate structure means that the near-tie in pledged delegates can't really determine anything, nor is it supposed to, like the first 45 minutes of most basketball games, or most sacred scriptures; since neither candidate has successfully convinced the democratic voters, there is no such thing as inevitability.

I see Clinton's argument. And if she believes, as so many of her supporters do, that Obama's electability really is weak, that he's a truly untested, risky candidate, then what she's doing actually makes sense for the party.

I don't like the way she's campaigning (you're right about that, for sure), and I think she's a huge liability in a general election, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss her arguments without acknowledging the liminal state both sides (and the party) is really in.
Jeremy's smart, though; I doubt I'll go unanswered.

p.s. I hadn't read this [via, but it's similar.... well, more Clinton-friendly, but still good points.