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On the Future of HistoryThe Postmodernist Challenge and Its Aftermath$
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Ernst Breisach

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780226072791

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226072814.001.0001

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Postmodernism's Emergence in an Unlikely Setting

Postmodernism's Emergence in an Unlikely Setting

Chapter:
(p.29) 7 Postmodernism's Emergence in an Unlikely Setting
Source:
On the Future of History
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226072814.003.0007

A search for postmodernist traces in Western historiography between 1850 and 1914 seemed to be an unpromising endeavor. In these years, modernity, both in theory and the praxis of life, radiated an unprecedented confidence that stifled doubts about progress. European societies expanded their economic base by industrialization within the framework of capitalism, spread their political power across the globe, and enhanced the comfort and health of many of their citizens. The United States fulfilled its “manifest destiny” in becoming a truly continental nation—one prosperous and powerful. The theoreticians of progress could paint the expectations for the future only in bright colors. In the contemporary historical nexus, the future could still be seen as free of the past's vicissitudes. Even most prominent critics of the Enlightenment's rationalist version of progress—such as the Marxists—pitted against it yet another version of a radiant future.

Keywords:   postmodernism, Western historiography, modernity, European societies, industrialization, Marxists

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