Are historians losing their craft by focusing on "identity politics", or is the concern misplaced?
No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 by T.J. Jackson Lears, 1981. Gave me some insight into the development of consumer capitalism and the drive for therapeutic activities of all sorts.
Thanks for this discussion. I recommend your perusal of a newly published history by Steven L. Dundas. MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY: RELIGION AND THE POLITICS OF RACE IN THE CIVIL WAR ERA AND BEYOND.
man, I'm sorry I have just been to busy to follow this, but I'm also sure that I *couldn't* follow it. I'm not a professional historian, even though I know it's a sinecure to a well-paid position with many benefits. Or so they told me in college when I was thinking of graduating with a history degree.
The thing that gets me here is that if presentism is a true thing (which it likely is in some ways), we can't get away from it in our criticisms of presentism. That is, *we are not neutral*. We are *always* speaking from our biases. The idea that we *can't* evaluate the past based upon our current moral understandings (or whatever) is a bias where we think that somehow people could not be expected to have our present understanding of why something like enslavement was wrong. "Look how many people were not as morally indignant as we are!"
But those who were enslaved *were never of the opinion that their condition was a moral good*. It was not a matter of presentism for them. It was the reality of being a human being with the Imago Dei that cried out against the injustice and violence of a man claiming to be an owner of another man having the freedom to torture, abuse, and kill his property, Imago Dei or no.
I'd expect that the contemporary victims of enslavement had a very clear moral vision that we can agree with today, not because they were modern, but because our moral sense *seems* to be consistently prevalent in society. We might not agree on aspects how it's expressed, but the victim seldom has been fooled into believing that they must not complain because their moral outrage is false in its time.
Perhaps presentism is always a thing where we think that we are advanced. Maybe that's what the error is.
But if we can't say that something is wrong *then*, how do we say it is wrong *now*? How is this just not saying we simply believe that up is down now, so that's what we have to accept? If we can't say that there are moral absolutes that humanity *in general* has understood to be true, then why do we think that we have a moral absolute? This seems to make the idea of right and wrong mere idiosyncrasies of a people or culture that can never be transmitted or understood--and that make it *impossible* to believe that we can understand our ancestors, let alone our neighbors.
Anyway - sorry I did not follow the kerfluffle. Sometimes I'm too busy to rush in where the angels fear to tread.