Historical memory

George Snedeker snedeker at concentric.net
Sat May 12 07:31:32 MDT 2001

    this is a question I have also been perplexed by. popular consciousness
is highly mediated. this is the objective condition underlying the lack of
historical memory. I suspect that there is also a subjective factor. people
seem to have little investment in such memories. why trouble yourself with
such ideas? there is after all plenty of other things to be interested in.
let no one disrupt the "good life." why there is such a lack of interest in
critical thinking is a very good question. this is a question of
information, but it is more than that. if I were a Freudian, I would say
that there is a lack of libidinal investment in history. there are just too
many shopping malls. all that consumer capitalism distracts clear thinking.
----- Original Message -----
From: Gary MacLennan <g.maclennan at qut.edu.au>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2001 3:44 AM
Subject: Historical memory

> The recent comments on exposures of corruption which seem to have no
> whatsoever have set me thinking of a problem which has always puzzled
> me.  I have never been able to understand how something vital emerges in
> the newspapers and then vanishes from popular memory.  When I refer to
> events in my lectures students regularly look amazed at how I could say
> such things.
> A genuinely obscure but should be famous example concerns the release of
> War Cabinet documents in the late 70s.  From these we learned that Douglas
> McArthur who had his headquarters here in Brisbane was deeply dissatisfied
> with the Australian war effort and contemplating replacing the Australian
> Government.  This was commented on at the time of its release but then
> completely vanished and now when WW2 is being commemorated no reference is
> ever made to how an Australian government was almost overthrown by its
> - the USA.
> How does this happen?  Well of course it is the ruling class that by and
> large determine popular thought and as part of this they construct
> historical memory along lines which by and large naturalise their rule.  I
> think of it as a process of highlighting.  Certain events become as if
> marked with a highlight pen and these are remembered. The rest slide into
> obscurity and ultimate oblivion unless a popular effort is made to recall
> Of course scholars could always play a role in opposing the collective
> memory of the bourgeoisie but as Phil Ferguson's recent post on history
> teaching in New Zealand show the academy seldom of ever opposes the
> official version of things.
> So corruption and often shocking events do make it onto the tv and into
> papers, but whether they are highlighted and recalled or not depends
> largely on the will of the powerful.
> regards
> Gary

More information about the Marxism mailing list