Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The rising sun

I have been trying to learn, this past year, how to write history that looks to the future, taking seriously Walter Benjamin's position that history should 'look to the rising sun' - it should be about how we want the world to be. 

I walked on the beach this morning, watching the actual rising sun, pondering the ways the radical historicists of the postmodern 'cultural turn' rejected this idea, claiming the historical materialism Benjamin advocated was unacceptable 'metanarrative'. All history happened uniquely in its moment - a belief in which, intellectually speaking, I was 'raised'. 

I've been exploring both Marx and the future, while still hanging on to that insistence on the historicity of the moment. It makes writing a trickier task, I find. 

But looking to the rising sun - how we want universities, workplaces and opportunity in society to be - seems to me to be just as important as writing 'against the grain' - a phrase of Benjamin's the cultural historians were happy to embrace in the same moment as they rejected the historical materialism that is the whole subject of his wondrous 'theses on the philosophy of history'. 

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