What are applications of boundaries and continuity

Subjecting the conceptual and conceptual prerequisites of cultural and historical scientific work to a closer examination is a meritorious endeavor, even if in the end the actual yield for reflecting on one's own research practice may be low. It seems most promising to incorporate the results of the doxographic and systematic investigation into the analysis of meaningful narratives. [1] Thomas Schwietring chooses a different approach in his dissertation, which he accepted at the University of Kassel in 2003. As a preliminary study (!) For a work on the transformation processes in East Central Europe after 1990, the book forms something like the self-assurance of a social scientist for whom the purely empirical, structural and action-theoretical approaches of his discipline are not sufficient and who discovers the validity of historical explanatory approaches. All of the facts to be examined by him in social science are products of historical change, just like the investigation itself, its methods and forms of knowledge "are subject to this change, and therefore cannot claim timeless validity" (518). The question of "the possibilities of an inner-worldly explanation of reality purely from the historical components of human thought and human culture" is described as genuinely sociological (568), because "all components of human reality, human thought and action, the Everyday way of life and the social order, knowledge and hope can be understood from this historicity "(ibid.). Spitz one could say: No social science is lost if it is possible in the 21st century to discover for itself the basic axiom of historicism that has been common since the early 19th century and is familiar to every historian, the "withdrawal of sociology from history" (48 ) as a heavy loss and to develop a "program of radical historicity" (573). Following the author on his way, through numerous digressions, interim retrospectives, on sometimes swampy, sometimes dusty paths, is quite arduous, although it should be admitted that some beautiful views and handy stones to pick up can be found along the way.

Schwietring would like to examine the concept of continuity systematically in order to let it emerge as a fruitful basic concept of social and cultural research if used correctly. He is not interested in the polarity or complementarity of continuity and change that is often sought after. Rather, continuity is directly related to the historical maturity of all phenomena and every cognition, which is why the study also devotes itself in detail to the terms time, history and historicity. Even a constructivist view that clearly leans towards Schwietring cannot do without the assumption of continuity. Because "the social reality as a whole consists of a variety of patterns of action, expectations, symbolic orders and institutions, which only through their permanence become a reality that can be experienced" (51). Every socialization and individuation takes place in a man-made environment and through a historically grown continuity that decisively determines future possibilities and thus establishes coherence. Its counter-concept is not discontinuity, but the denial of any historical context. Without a partial and temporary stabilization there would be neither individual thinking nor social action, neither scientific concept formation nor any form of knowledge.

The introduction (21-64) already contains the most important results of the work, of course mainly obtained through deduction. Then, however, the author goes far and presents a conceptual and idea history of the continuity problem, pervaded again and again by systematic reflections and self-assurances. This deprives the author of the opportunity to present a thorough historical-doxographic preparation of the concept of continuity for the first time. The march through from the pre-Socratics and Aristotle to Vico, Leibniz and Droysen to Heidegger and Habermas probably also overwhelms a beginner’s work, and so, in addition to good observations and sources, there are always misunderstandings and bad abbreviations in these parts. Schwietring rightly emphasizes the importance of Kant, who in the logic of his epistemology defined continuity as something that is neither an immanent or even substantial property of an event nor an arbitrary imagination of an observer, but rather the fundamental requirement for the perception of events in general, which "Condition of the possibility of experience and knowledge in general" (129). Although this was not Kant's topic at all, continuity could find its way into the methodology of historical studies as a problem.

However, the author embarks on a (often trodden) astray, even if he also couples the insight into the 'madeness' and changeability of the world, which is fundamental for historical questions and 'history', to the Kantian constructivist epistemology and only with this insight starting around 1800. More precise knowledge would have saved him from the mistake that the Greek historians did not achieve or even attempt to interpret the present from knowledge of the past, and that their conception was therefore static. As is well known, Herodotus' work is based on the experience of change, and both he and Thucydides base their ideas on the power process and the increasing dynamics of conflict between great powers on a change that is based on sophisticated models but is not determined in detail. Herodotus was of course fully aware of the temporality and maturity of cultures as well, as shown not only by his references to the higher age of the Egyptian religion and its influence on the Greek. [2] All in all, the older period, especially Greek antiquity, unfortunately appears to be largely recorded in the study, and Schwietring criticizes some history of ideas that he himself committed: that it takes a developed term - here history - and then uses it in earlier epochs searches, in which then, of course, "flaws" are to be noted (265f.). The rejection of any material statement about historical continuity may also be milder once the author has worked on a specific subject for a longer period of time.

Although Schwietring aptly emphasizes the pathos of self-assurance through historical thinking instead of myth, pure reason or theology in the 19th century, his thick book simply lacks a substantial chapter on historicism. But the achievement of historical theory of history - and even more so of its practice, which the author completely ignores - namely continuity as "inner-worldly becoming" (485) and not in a "seamless, quasi-automatic and natural context of the (causal) sequence of events but rather to recognize in the infinite density and interweaving of consequences and side effects, amalgamations with other causes and mutual reinforcements or limitations "(258), is aptly characterized. In general, the remarks on history and historicity (269ff.) Are also worth reading for historians, even if nothing new is offered. This applies to the sections on Johann Gustav Droysen (277ff.) And Giambattista Vico (373ff.) As well as to the presentations on the linguistic and rhetorical models of the story by Arthur C. Danto and Hayden White. In contrast, the sweeping argument with Hans Michael Baumgartner does not lead as much further as the author would have liked. At the end of the book, on the other hand, it is profitable to read the summarizing and systematic considerations on how continuity and historicity as factors of conditionality and as conditions can be meaningfully related to other basic concepts of social and cultural research (structure, action, evolution, etc.).

Hardly anyone will read the book through from beginning to end in order to understand Schwietring's self-assurances, especially since the presentation often gets out of hand, leads to excesses [3] and the factual return in relation to the effort is rather low. In the end, even the author seems to have had no desire to look at the artwork again, otherwise he would have noticed the numerous incorrect spellings, misplaced, duplicated or missing words, ungrammatical sentences and technical defects.


[1] So most recently Arnd Hoffmann: Chance and Contingency in the Theory of History. Frankfurt / M. 2005; see my review, in: sehepunkte 5 (2005) No. 11 (http://www.sehepunkte.de/2005/11/8402.html)

[2] This is half admitted on page 196, but has no consequences for the doctrine that history is a concept that is only modern and largely generated by the experience of radical discontinuity in 1789. But even earlier worlds suddenly collapsed and this triggered substantial reflections (also admitted that, by the way: 214).

[3] Cf. for example page 373: "Perhaps it could be said that although reason does not ensure progress in history, it prevents regression in the sense that it excludes an exact repetition by reflecting on the past." See also 445.

Uwe Walter