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Grand narratives then and now: can we still conceptualise history?

Sheehan, Helena (1998) Grand narratives then and now: can we still conceptualise history? Socialism and Democracy, 12 (1). pp. 75-87. ISSN 0885-4300

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Reading the Communist Manifesto today, it is impossible not to be struck by the confidence with which it conceptualises history. The positive energy of this bold grand narrative stands in such stark contrast to the negative and jaded mentality of our times, which conceives of grand narratives only to tell us that there can be none. Such talk as there is of history today is more likely to be of "the end of history". There are three senses in which references to the end of history feature in contemporary debates: apocalyptic prediction, postmodernist pronouncement and capitalist triumphalism. This paper addresses the crisis of historicity in our time in relation to these positions and asks what is it about our age that produces them. It explores the widespread rejection of grand narratives, as well as grand narratives, which nevertheless persist, implicit and explicit, right and left. It looks at the position of marxism in the 1990s, counterposing it to postmarxism and postmodernism in particular on the question of grand narratives. It calls for resistance to the detotalising pressures of the age and revival of a totalising (as opposed to totalised) philosophy of history.

Item Type:Article (Published)
Additional Information:This is a paper written for a conference in Paris marking the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto. It was subsequently published in the journal Socialism and Democracy.
Uncontrolled Keywords:philosophy of history; grand narrative; political philosophy; historicism; ideology; marxism; postmodernism; end of history;
Subjects:Social Sciences > Globalization
Humanities > Philosophy
Humanities > History
Social Sciences > Political science
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Communications
Official URL:
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:4684
Deposited On:07 Jul 2009 13:32 by Helena Sheehan. Last Modified 14 Jul 2009 12:41

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