The Ancient Greek writer Herodotus began a new craft that documented his own people. This craft was on a trajectory that shot between philosophy and poetry, which was eventually to become history. Dubbed, “The Father of History,” and, “The Father of Lies,” he chose to inquire beyond what normally was considered important in his day. Theucidydes later solidified the study of politics as the basis for historical writing, a tradition that was manipulated under polemics for christianity as well as royalty during the middle ages.
After The Enlightenment, Rankean History that was based “only on the truth” began to divide into different schools. Marxist History began evaluating the influence of economics on politics. Then, the Old Social History left politics out altogether. Historians shifted away from politics by the masses, filling their books instead with social histories, psychohistories, and everything in between. Politics, the everlasting rod that all events bound themselves to and were caused thereby, vanished. Leaders of governments, monarchs, kingdoms and fiefdoms weren’t even left on the periphery of historical consideration. Their importance was deemed irrelevant by a large body of historians, a practice that continues even today. Gertrude Himmelfarb is one of the historians that argues against this shift, insisting that politics is the driving force behind all of humanity. He argues that social history and all of its relatives are vital to our understanding of the past, but that they do not supersede the importance of politics. Were Historians to continue their disdain for Political History, the “rational,” “political” beings Aristotle defined us as would be forgotten. What a loss this would be.
I find myself more and more drawn to politics and world affairs over culture. As my understanding grows, so does my appreciation for the people who make important decisions, and my disdain for their mistakes. I have come to understand a world that is moved more by wars and governments, and not by best selling albums. This is as it should be, except in America where I must admit much of our ‘todo’ is only around sports and television. Even though the majority of people are more educated than the world has ever known, there is still only a small minority of people who care about the events that move and shape their lives. And by events I don’t mean National Championships.
Before I sound too pretentious, let me conclude with Himmelfarb that there is no need to shun culture and all of its fancy gifts. There only needs to be a reckoning of importance, and a shift in values to again what is most important. I have found my own path towards a greater understanding of the real world around me to be greatly rewarding and insightful.
Anyway, so has anyone seen the latest episode of Entourage?