Comment : What Is History in the Age of Globalization?
Jap. Soc. Western History (Kyoto, 11th May 2013)
I am glad to welcome and to meet again Professor Lim here at Kyoto as a keynote speaker of the annual meeting of Japan Society for Western History. For I remember very well that, when I saw him for the first time at Seoul last December in the framework of Kaken-seminar at RICH, Hanyang University, in preparation for this symposium, he welcomed us with impressive and warm kindness and showed very sharp ideas about western history in East Asia.
My comment will (1) summarize his talk and look at its social and actual background, (2) analyze the characteristic of its main topic, i.e., Global History, and (3) evaluate its potential from my own viewpoint.
(1) What is happening now?
Professor Lim suggests that, in the age when history and memory are necessarily intermingled with each other (as is clear in the case of Takeshima/Dokdo, I think), if we would like to resist the fiction of State/Nation/nation-state, grasping history totally, i.e., globally, will be necessary and effective. This approach, which is normally called Global History, makes it possible to discuss on the larger scale than such and such State. Global History could function as an antipode to National History which would easily turn into Official History serving the State/Nation/nation-state.
However, Professor Lim points out at the same time that Global History has some possibility/risk to become “patriotic world history” in his expression, which is complicity with National History. For me, pointing out this possibility/risk very concretely, i.e., by following the historiography of Japan and Korea, is the most important contribution of his today’s talk. He concludes that Global History must turn into the “worlding and decentered history” in his words, in order to overcome National History in a complete manner.
Beyond Professor Lim’s proposition, we have to see the present situation of historical studies. You all know, I am sure, that, almost since the 1980s/1990s, many historians and others all over the world have talked about the Crisis of History. I will show you just some examples here.
In United States, the end of the Cold War brought about the declaration of “the end of History” in itself.(1) In Japan, the so-called “comfort women” controversy broke out, where specialists of political science or of education research or else, i.e., non-specialists of history, took part as main actors, criticizing and denying what historians had found and argued about.(2) In France, the Annales School who led the post-war historical research all over the world claimed at the end of 1980s that the tournant critique (critical turn) was necessary, but what we have seen since then could be called the dismantlement or the decline of that School.(3)
At the level of historical theory or methodology, we remember that the so-called post-modernism became fashionable, advocating the necessity of changing the course in the field of historical research toward now the famous “linguistic turn.” This turn was introduced in Japan as a kind of a little bit sarcastic criticism of the stubborn historians, who cling to the “Paradigms Lost” of positivistic history.(4) On the other hand post-colonialist trend has made clear critically and corroboratively that this positivistic history did and still does contribute to the birth of National History which strengthens the State and Nation, nation-state in particular.(5)
And, last but not least, if only we see (with anxiety of course) what is going on in the labor market of young historians, we easily find that the presence of historical studies in the society, at least in Japanese society, is on the acute decline.
Of course the age of Crisis is, at the same time, a chance for the New to come, the Innovation to happen. In the field of history too, many new approaches or trends have been born and advocated. Some examples : As for the response to the challenge from the linguistic turn, we could cite discourse analytical historical studies taking into consideration the theoretical implication of that turn, and (new) cultural history which are trying to overcome it.(6) We also see a new trend coming up in resonance with post-colonialism, claiming to stand against and to overcome the temptation of National History : Global /World History, about which Professor Lim talked today (we call it Global History hereinafter).
We have to take his argument and proposition very seriously, but many problems still rest there : How could and should we evaluate Global History? Is it possible to make this trend “worlding and decentered history” ? If the answer is “Yes,” then what should we do? If the answer is “No,” would there be any other strategies for finding a history opposite of Official National History? My comment hereinafter will focus on these questions.
(2) What is Global History?
It is difficult to define Global History correctly and strictly.(7) Here we roughly define it, for convenience’s sake, as a trend in historical research which adopts an approach of analyzing the history of a spatial unit larger than a State, that of the world as a whole if possible. With this definition in mind, we could find a characteristic, conscious or unconscious, of this trend. We will analyze it in three steps.
(a) Stance against the desire for classifying
This characteristic could be well understood when we compare it with that of National History.
The latter normally sets up the spatial research object by the classification, i.e., by reckoning it backward from the existing States. Important in this process is the problem of where the artificial border is, was, or should be drawn (by historians), i.e., that of classifying each space as intra-muros (territory, the inside) or extra-muros (non-territory, the outside). And the former is normally regarded as superior to the latter, by some mysterious reason. Maybe it reflects the fact that the research subject, i.e., the historian, is deeply prejudiced by her/his national identity, consciously or unconsciously. National History is possessed with the desire for classifying, and, beyond that, with the desire for hierarchizing.
Here we have to keep in mind that any kind of classifying is a subjective and arbitrary/intentional act. National History selects the State/Nation/national-state as its research object, with no objective and neutral ground.
On the contrary, Global History refuses to make much of artificial border. This will is clearly shown in the fact that it generally attaches importance to networks of all kinds, as Professor Lim emphasized today : Network of merchants and commodities, that of religious organizations, that of money, that of ideas, etc.(8) Global History intends to depict the development of these networks across artificial borders, internationally/globally in some cases.
Here we could find no will to classify spatial research objects by distinguishing between intra-muros and extra-muros. What is more, we feel an intentional refusal of such a classification there. Needless to say, this stance is a product of the criticism of subjective and arbitrary/intentional Official National History which, with the desire for classifying, serves the State/Nation/nation-state by classifying and hierarchizing. We should respect this critical stance of Global History.
(b) Desire for non-classifying
We have to pay attention, however, to the fact that criticism of one desire would easily lead to accepting another one. In our case, it is a desire for non-classifying. With this desire, Global History aims to be ultimately a histoire à part entière (total history), a famous phrase of Lucien Febvre, one of founders of Annales School.(9)
Then does Global History, contrary to National History, choose research objects objectively and neutrally? I think IT ISN’T.
Suggestive in thinking about this issue is an argument of a French geologist, Christian Grataloup, that the use of adjective “Global” is influenced by the zeitgeist.(10) Heavily influenced by Fernand Braudel, well known as a proponent of géo-historie (geo-history), estimating the will of Global History to grasp the object à part entière very highly, he is calling our attention to the fact that defining and describing the research object as something “Global” has a social (in his word “occidental”) background. According to him, today historical studies à part entière is usually called not as World History, International History, nor Transnational History, but Global History, because we are living in the age of globalization led by the Occident. Professor Lim used the terms “World History” and “Global History” interchangeably, but strictly speaking they have different implications from each other.
Global History is a component of the viewpoint peculiar to the age when persons, goods, money, or ideas…, Yes, everything is circulating from anywhere to anywhere with no obstacle (no border!), but in the framework mainly made by the Occident (American companies, European States, Japanese or Korean NPOs, etc.), i.e., that of globalization. That is why it could not be purely objective or neutral.
(c) Hidden desire for classifying
What is more, we should ask here another question : Is Global History truly oriented toward non-classifying? I think IT ISN’T.
As for the spatial level of the research object, we could find out the desire for non-classifying in Global History, for it sets up the whole world as a champs (field, in Bourdieuan sense) and depicts how various things move across and over artificial borders. However, see what we have today and we find Global Histories of certain goods (coffee, money, tea, cotton cloth, precious metals, etc.) or of such and such time/age/period.(11) Even though they (especially the latter) are really challenging acts, we have to say that these Global Histories just only shift the level of classification from the space to the object or to the time. Desire for classifying lies still there.
Saying that the desire for classifying lies in Global History, however, I do not mean that it is a meaningless act. This judgment of mine is based on two reasons.
First, what is important is not denying the classification but avoiding the hierarchization. For National History becomes Official History serving the State by hierarchizing rather than classifying.
Second, non-classifying desired by Global History has a serious theoretical problem. It will result in selecting, as its research object, the history of time-space as the unity. But what does it mean to analyze the time-space as the unity, in other words, the whole time-space? Do we have an approach, methodology, or the theory necessary and adequate for carrying it out?
Suggestive for thinking about these issues is the criticism of Sato, Toshiki, against the World System theory advocated by Emmanuel Wallerstein.(12) According to Sato, the main purpose of analyzing an object is to find out its characteristic by comparing it with some other objects, as was clearly shown by John Stewart Mill. We will call this act “science” hereinafter. Wallerstein, who regards all the space of the earth at a point of time as a unity of World System, could not do the spatial comparison. Then how could he clarify the characteristic of the World System? By comparing it with the world before its emergence, i.e., World Empire. He is doing here the shift of the level of comparison from space to time, without abandoning the comparison as a method of analysis.
As is shown in this case, analysis without comparison is impossible. If so, analyzing the time-space as the unity, an act driven by the desire for non-classifying, is no more than a vain dream for the history as a science. Global History could be a science because and when the desire for classifying does lie in it.
We estimate Global History as follows : First, its stance to say “No” to the desire for classifying leading to hierarchizing must be respected. Second, but it is no more objective or neutral than National History. Third, it still has the desire for classifying, but that is why it could regard itself as a science.
(3) What is History after all?
Of course the purpose of historical research does not have to be “to analyze.” Depicting certain period, space, or fact in order to show wie es eigentlich gewesen (“what actually happened,” famous phrase of Leopold Ranke) could be, if they belong to the past, an act of historical studies. We will call this act “art” hereinafter.
Here we come to final and fundamental questions : What is the act of historians? What is their task? What kind of approach, methodology, or theory is necessary and effective to do it? In a word, is history a science which asks “why?,” or an art which depict “how?” ?
Is history a science or an art? This is a question which many historians and philosophers have discussed since old times, finding no consensual answer today. I could just give my personal, i.e., subjective opinion here.
I think that history is a science as an act of asking “why?” and that it must abandon the desire for non-classifying. Doing history means making clear the characteristic of a fact (which belongs to the past) by putting it in an appropriate causal chain with the comparative method.
We are living, however, in an age when everyone (or many…) comes to know that classifying is not an objective and neutral but a subjective and arbitrary/intentional act, easy to take on a strong political character, and sometimes leading to hierarchizing. History, if it would like to be a science, must re-assert that it is objective and arbitrary/intentional in setting up a research object by classifying, but that it is trying to ameliorate its relative subjectivity and neutrality, with the aide of phylogenetics (science of genealogy) for example.(13) If we find a way to the classification-comparison without hierarchization after all these attempts, we could (re)conceptualize a history as a science.
But a problem rests : how could we classify and compare without hierarchization? Or could we find a concrete way to control the desire for hierarchizing? I think that bringing up and strengthening the sympathy in Smithian sense, i.e., a capacity of imaging the situation of the Other, will be an effective one.(14) Imaging the situation of the Other is nothing but what we could call compassion. When people from many States gather to compare National Histories with the sense of compassion, couldn’t we find a clue to the classification-comparison without hierarchization, though it must be a long and winding road? I would like to call this act “sympathy-based comparative national histories.”
In today’s talk, Professor Lim proposed to problematize the complicity between Global History and National History by introducing the concept of “worlding and decentered history.” I am still ambivalent about Global History as an approach, methodology, or theory, for it has many problems to solve.
But compare “worlding and decentered history” and “sympathy-based comparative national histories” and we find that they share the same purpose, i.e., controlling the desire for hierarchizing in the field of history. They constitute two sides of a way to the historical science which does not lead to hierarchization.
(1)See Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” (National Interest, summer, 1989).
(2)An example of the former case is Sakamoto, Takao, and that of the latter is Fujioka, Nobukatsu.
(3)See direction des Annales, « Histoire et science sociale : un tournant critique ? » (Annales. E.S.C., 43-2, 1988) and Id., « Histoire et science sociale : un tournant critique » (Annales. E.S.C., 44-6, 1989). These manifestos are said to be written by Bernard Lepetit, the journal’s then editorial secretary.
(4)As for the examples of criticism from the non-specialists of history, see Tomiyama, Takao, “Shiso no kotoba [preface]” (Shiso, 838, 1994) and Ueno, Chizuko, Nationalism and Gender (trans. by Beverley Yamamoto, Melbourne, 2004, original Japanese edition, 1998). Tomiyama is an English literary critic and Ueno a feminist sociologist. The word and concept of “Paradigms Lost” are from Carol Gluck, “Paradigms Lost” (Social Science Japan, 1, 1994).
(5)This trend in Japan could be represented by many scholars, Nishikawa, Nagao, and Narita, Ryuichi, among them.
(6)Many historians could be cited as having contributed to the introduction of discourse analysis in the field of history : Joan Scott, Gareth Stedman-Jones, Patrick Joyce, etc. As for the trend of (new) cultural history which emphasizes the importance of the concept of agency, see Hasegawa, Takahiko, “Monogatari no fukken/shutai no fukken [Narrative is back, so the Subject]” (Shiso, 1036, 2010).
(7)Partly because today we have a little too many outputs on Global History, I guess. A recently published book on its historiography, focusing mainly on the U.S.A., Germany, and China, cites almost 1400 books and articles (Sachsenmaier, D., Global Perspectives on Global History, Cambridge, 2011).
(8)See for example Fukasawa, Katsumi, Toilerie et commerce du Levant au XVIIIe Siecle (Paris, 1987) for analysis of network of merchants and commodities ; Id., et als., eds., Shinko to Tasha ([Faith and the Other], Tokyo, 2006) for that of religious organizations ; Kuroda Akinobu, Kahei System no Sekai Shi ([World History of Money System], Tokyo, 2003) for that of money ; Robert Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolution (Princeton, 1959/1964) for that of ideas (a little bit too old, I am sure).
(9)Lucien Febvre, Pour une histoire à part entière (Paris, 1962).
(10)See Christian Grataloup, Géohistoire de la mondialisation (Paris, 2010), chap.10.
(11)See, as an example of the latter case, Haneda, Tadashi, Atarashi Sekaishi E ([Toward a New World History], Tokyo, 2012) ; Id., ed., Umi kara Mita Rekishi ([History seen from the Sea], Tokyo, 2013).
(12)Sato, Toshiki, Shakaigaku no Hoho ([Method of Sociology], Kyoto, 2011), pp.168-175.
(13)As for the relation between the taxonomy (science of classification) and the phylogenetics (science of genealogy), see Minaka, Nobuhiro, Keitoju Shiko no Sekai ([The World of Tree Thinking], Tokyo, 2006) ; Id., Bunrui Shiko no Sekai ([The World of Group Thinking], Tokyo, 2009); Id., Shinka Shiko no Sekai ([The World of Evolutionary Thinking], Tokyo, 2010).
(14)As for the function and meaning of the sympathy in Smithian sense in the field of history, see Odanaka, Naoki, “From Responsibility to Compassion” (Zeitschrift für Japanisches Recht/Journal of Japanese Law, 31, 2011).