The editors introduce the core areas of current debate within historical theory, bringing the reader as up to date with continuing debates and current developments as is possible. The book is divided into three parts, covering: • Part I. Foundations: The Theoretical Grounds for Knowledge of the Past • Part II. Applications: Theory-Intensive Areas in History • Part III. Coda. Post-Postmodernism: Directions and Interrogations This important handbook brings together in one volume discussions of the role of modernity, empiricism, realism, post-modernity and deconstruction in the historian's craft. Chapters are written by leading writers from around the world and cover a wide spread of historical sub-disciplines, such as social history, intellectual history, narrative, gender, memory, psycho-analysis and cultural studies, taking in, along the way, the work of thinkers such as Paul Ricouer, Michel Foucault and Hayden White. The Sage Handbook of Historical Theory is an essential resource for practicing historians, and students of history, and will appeal to scholars in related disciplines in the social sciences and humanities who seek a closer understanding of the theoretical foundations of history.
Chapter 24: Post-Positivist Realism: Regrounding Representation
Post-Positivist Realism: Regrounding Representation
When historical theorists of the ‘postmodern’ school pronounce the utter irrelevance of ‘epistemology’ to the practices of history, and indeed insist that history not be regarded as a ‘science’ or even a ‘discipline’ but only as a ‘discourse,’ they are, in my view, invoking long-since abandoned notions of epistemology and science, hangovers of a positivism that has been discredited within the most advanced precincts of the philosophy of science and of epistemology generally.1 To take up a formidable exemplar, I detect in Frank Ankersmit's postmodern philosophy of history an acutely ambivalent reaction-formation vis-à-vis natural science: both an uncritical affirmation of some of its (‘scientistic’ or ‘positivist’) pretenses and an unbounded aversion to its ...