History (Justin's) and "actualism"

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Sat Apr 8 18:30:35 MDT 1995

Is history progressive?  Is not this our debate?

Justin, it seems to me that you have backed down from your initial
assertion that history is progressive (there were no congentences in
your initial assertions), it can be regressive, but at the same time
you suggest such regression is for moments of history, the long-run
history can be viewed as progressive.  Am I even close to
understanding your idea here?

Regardless; even if you can say history is always progressive (which
seems not to be your premise); progressive in the long-run (which
does seem to me your premise): or contingently progressive, in a quasi-
progressive way (also at times seemingly your stance); the
provocation of historical change is due to a human propensity against
domination, a resistence against oppression.  Are we O.K. so far?

You have assumed what you should have proved, namely the propeller of
history being resistence against domination.  In other words there is
some sort of mechanism what seems to move history along
((micro-)directional or otherwise), hopefully toward emancipation
and self-determination, what allows you to assume this to be
resistence?  This here is your "ether" in my view.  And with it,
history remains contingent on everything else which you capture in
your term (un-)stability).

You have only "proved" or "demonstrated" what you assumed, namely
domination will find a resistence.  What does this tell us about
emancipation.  With all the contingences, seemly (to me) not much at

Bhaskar calls such accounts "actualism," whereby the *real* mechanism
is reduced to the *actual* manifestation.  In other words, as I see
our account you have "observed" the historical phenomena of
resistence against domination, wherefore you give it the status of
the *real* mechanism behind the phenomena.

But, you are worse still then an "actualist," for you claim that in
the long-run history is progressive (assuming the propensity), but
would not history always appear progressive, depending on one's point
of view and reference.  In other words, a genocide of ideology could
occur (seemingly your measurement of this would if a resistence were
to re-emerge, possibly re-establishing the old ideology); what of
genocide of culture? or a genocide of race?  This is what I call the
"Victor's Illision."  Whereby, history always appears progressive
from the point of view of the victor (for you as long as it is
stable).  Hans E. is quite correct to point out this to be quite

Am I correct to understand you that your account of history
*necessarily* does not want to take such issues into account when
measuring progress?  In other words, is emancipation or liberation,
or the over-coming of domination the measurement of your notion of
progress (I seriously doubt if stability captures such concepts).

You have assumed or "observed" a human propensity against domination.
 This for you is some sort of (historical) "objective standard."  If
this is so, why not truely make this our objective standard, not only
in your epistemological notion of history, but of your ethical
standard.  Something like, 'if their is resistence, there must be
domination, hence, lets re-constitute (the problem).'

We could also ask a Bhaskarian-like transcendental question.  If
world history is governed by resistence against domination, 'what
must human beings be like to resist domination?'  It seems attempts
to answer such a question my point us toward instituting a self-
consciousness into your less-than-conscious mechanism of --

Hans Despain
University of Utah
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu

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