The Conservative Seventies: Memoir of an Epistemological Moment

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht



"What I may contribute to this book and in which direction my answers to Pedro Dolabela's questions will go is quite easily explained. I was twenty-five years old back in 1973 and worked as [the German equivalent of] an Assistant Professor at the newly founded University of Konstanz. So I lived through, from a specific angle of course, the epistemology of that time. I was one of its countless embodiments. More specifically, my memories of the early Seventies refer to some of the positions, debates, and developments that were shaping the Humanities and Arts during those years [of course under the particular German conditions to which the name of “Geisteswissenschaften” alludes]. Altogether, the picture that I can see today, against the blurring effect of so many years passed, strikes me as heterogeneous and multi-vectorial -- but at least one type of observation, one peculiar complaint that was current in the present of forty years ago, came back over and again. It was the then so often reiterated impression that certain expectations, expectations based on an attitude that intellectuals, somehow pretentiously, used to call 'philosophy of history,' had not been fulfilled yet. History, after what had been hailed as a promising spurt of 'progress' during the late 1960s, now seemed to slow down within 'the conservative Seventies' -- and so it became the obvious obligation for whoever wanted to be 'progressive' to re-ignite the rhythm of History in order to ultimately reach what it had promised. To most of us the thought was still remote, if not unconceivable, that 'History,' in today's words: the construction of time that had emerged around 1800, could be historical itself. Rather, 'Time' and 'History' continued to look like one stable framework, valid for all times and cultures, and if any present did not seem to fulfill its pre-assigned function within these coordinates, we were tempted to react as if it made sense to accuse the present of a conspiracy against History."

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Qualis (CAPES): B1 (Quadriênio 2013-2016)



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