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Engaging Macrohistory through the Present Moment


Engaging Macrohistory through the Present Moment
Identifying longer-term rhythms
Experience of longer-term rhythms
Pathology of memory -- collective and individual
Engaging with longer-term rhythms
Manipulation of collective memory

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Published in Journal of Futures Studies: epistemology, methods, applied and alternative futures, 9, 1, August 2004, pp. 3-12


It is distinctly presumptuous for a non-historian to comment on issues of macrohistory that are the focus of extensive studies (Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah (Eds). Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social and Civilizational Change, 1997) -- or is it? Is it appropriate to frame macrohistory as only being a matter for historians? As with war and other matters, is macrohistory too important to be left to historians (see Issues too Important to be Left to Specialists: Selected web resources, 2004)?

The following is therefore a reflection on the significance of the rhythms of macrohistory for lived experience in the present moment -- an experience that is a feature of the lived reality of all. The question is how do, or could, people engage with macrohistory -- without being historians? Responding to the details of macrohistory over centuries is naturally disempowering to many. It might well be expected to engender a sense of apathy -- despite the sense of perspective some claim it offers.

A possibly more intriguing framing of the challenge lies in the question of how a person might detect the longer-term rhythms that are of concern to macrohistory -- especially in the daily life of a "blip culture" (following Alvin Toffler. The Third Wave, 1981) that seemingly treats such sensibilities as irrelevant. When the key focus for many is on the beat of music as pacemaker for the heart and its affairs, the larger rhythms are beyond our ken. And yet we each have to write such a larger perspective into the internal decoration of our psyches -- as the fabric across which we move, even if only a stitch at a time. Whether understood within a pattern of generations or not, "personal macrohistory" extends from birth to death -- and becomes a preoccupation at various stages.

The question explored here is how the text of macrohistory -- and its larger dynamic -- gets written into the individual psychic fabric. Can it exist otherwise?

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