HTLGI2013 About Time

May 28, 2013

After the quacking of the last session this was a delight.  Alexandra Paulin-Booth a PhD candidate at Oxford talking about the neglect of time in academic history.  Just a lovely idea and really well illustrated.   OK her presentation was driven by an obvious liking for anarchists but it was a refreshing presentation.   I asked her if she had read the anthropological literature on time and ended up giving her some references.  People get stuck in silos so easily when they do PhDs, but here we had someone prepared to explore them.  I did disagree with her on the role of the Church in change.  I made the point that a lot of Christian Socialism was not about messianic futures but restoring the need for justification by works, not by faith alone.  She listed but I don't think it fit the thesis!  However she listened.  One worth watching out for in the future.


PhD History looking at time in late 19thC time and how it impacted in ideology etc.  Past present and future were much contested during this period.  What does it mean to conceptualise time?  How did they understand difference between past present future and relationships?  DId humans have agency?  Should change be catastropic etc.  THe notions they had about time profoundly influenced their actions so provides a fresh way at looking at modernity, religion, culture etc.

So how have historians looked at time?

histories have neglected ideas of time which is odd as it provides setting and sustenance for history but its so fundamental that i may have escaped attention.  Sociology has not been as reticent as historians.   Analysis of time, experiences of acceleration and deceleration in time related to power, privilege etc.  Historians have something to learn from this.  Little literature in History

Rheinhart Koch (not sure of spelkling)   modernity is characterised by change i 1750 there was a change in the perception of time.  The previous model of predicting future based on past was breaking down.  Experienc and expectation had a gulf opening up, people demanded more from the future.  The Christian timeframe life and death started to receed.  In the 18th C people started to talk about the Middle Ages and called their own 'modern'.  Time became increasingly politicised.  French Revolution 1989 advent of modernity, appearance of irreversible rupture.  Revolutionary calender tried to strip all the old christian stuff, revolutionary clock as well.

The politicisation of time may be critical but few scholars look at who was fighting over it or why.  Work on memory and shared perception of the past.  Can be related to time.  Inherited memory of time and the terror influenved people for generations and gernerations to come.  Memory is relating to time but need to look at conceptualisation as well as content of time.  how do people grapple over the past and how they use it.

Since fall of Berlin Wall histories have suggested that modernity is at an end, the future is not chronologically different stripped of hope and feat of the future so we are locked into a permanent present with political malaise as a result.

Belle Epoch in France 1870 to WWI is one where everything was in flux, new interest in interior workings of mind sub-conscious privileged reaction against positivism,  religious frameworks had been in decline accelerated by Darwin and Spencer, Geology legitimising itself as a discipline.  major implications.   Bergsen became popular and had a strong influence, theorised 'duration' as true time not time portrayed by clocks and calenders.  Those created artifical separations.  Duration could only be accessed intuitively, no division between past, present and future.  Proust used a jet of water to illustrate this.   Individual perceptions now privileged.&nnbsp;  Anarchists, marxists, socialists also in touch with this.  

Argues that time was a contested domain around which power and influence could be won.  All attempts to bring about change are a fight about the future, but these french radicals had a particular tendency to express their ideas in terms of time.  1871 defeat of the commune meant that street fighting now useful.  From 1884 you could unionise so better ways to do it.  Different ideas about revolution and competition.   Very concept of the past was a matter of contention, some argued all revolution should be about the future.

Left wing propaganda referencing the future, ideas of immanent collapse and competing int4erpretation.   Left wing activists said no future until significant change.  Marxists placed society on a conveyor belt.  Other groups such as anarchists fought this.  Others argued that evolution ensured natural progression and needed to be slow and gradual not revolutionary.   Some groups tried to combine socialism and christianity.  Most radicals rejected religion with the eternal future argument

Its about time to start talking about time

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