|Towards a Reflexive Historiography: a critical approach of the post-modern challenge|
|The linguistic turn and the so called post-modern challenge to the status of historiography signalled the beginning of a strong controversy that left no historian untouched. As a result of the growing polarity between advocates and opponents of post-modern approaches, the academic community seemed divided in two rather hostile and opposite camps. The advocates of postmodernism argue that historians should take sides and face the dilemma: either to join the camp of post-modern progressive, critical, reflective thinkers who maintain the similarities or in different terms, the homologies between historical and fictional truth or to regress to old-fashioned, formulaic positivistic notions of objectivity, evidence and historical truth.
This paper seeks to dismiss this false dilemma and attempts to go beyond the conflict between positivism and postmodernism. In the light of the methodological insights from the classic and modern thinkers of sociological and historical theory, this paper, on the one hand, values the significance of the problems post-moderns thinkers (H. White, K. Jenkins etc.) pose to the status of historiography but, on the other, rejects their logic when handling with these problems and, in particular, questions the conclusions they draw. In doing so, the paper seeks to transcend the Manichean dualisms between objectivism and subjectivism, value and fact, present-ness and past-ness, historical construction and reality which structure the recent debates and function as the background, explicit or implicit, assumptions of both parties of the dialogue.
Broadly stated, my aim is to employ the insights of the critical hermeneutic tradition in order to outline the methodological and theoretical premises that permit a) to distance ourselves from positivism b) to cope with the post-modern sensitivities c) while avoiding the blurring of differences between historiography, literature and practical, common sense knowledge. Taking as a starting point the methodological differences between social and natural sciences, I argue that postmodernism in historiography tends to miss the point Ė that is, while post-modern historians aver the difference in history and society, their theoretical approaches result in obscuring difference, namely, the categorical differences between historiography, literature and practical, common sense. This is the main point of this paper: to demonstrate that, while post-modern thinkers stress the empirical fact of cultural pluralism in modern society, they finally canít account for the different modes of historical experience and the cognitive pluralism of modernity.