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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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The Metanarrative Controversy

The Metanarrative Controversy

17 The Metanarrative Controversy
On the Future of History
University of Chicago Press

Since the 1980s, the term metanarrative has replaced the formerly used phrase philosophy of history. The prefix meta (Greek for beyond) indicated a narrative that overarched other narratives. Like a philosophy of history, it linked smaller historical accounts together to a single narrative that stretched over long periods of time, if not all of history. Yet the use of the term metanarrative indicated more than a mere change in terminology. It signified the ascendancy of a way to make sense of history in accord with the postmodernist concept of truth. Philosophers of history had seen their task as the discovery of the overall meaning inherent in past events by discerning the permanent structures and forces at work in them. Metanarratives were seen, like all concepts and narratives, as linguistic constructs, which disclaimed any link to objective schemes of order and meaning. Such a link was blamed for all claims to a privileged position, illegitimate in terms of the poststructuralist postmodernist concept of truth.

Keywords:   metanarratives, linguistic constructs, philosophy of history, historical accounts, poststructuralist postmodernism, past events

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