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Counterfactuals and futures histories : retrospective imagining as an auxiliary for the scenarios of expectance

Ungeschehene Geschichte und Zukunftsgeschichten: retrospektive Vision als Hilfskonstruktion für die Szenarios der Erwartung
[journal article]

Schmid, Georg

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Abstract 'So unanzweifelbar Geschichte scheinen mag, ergibt sie dennoch unterschiedliche Lesarten und unvereinbare Rückschlüsse trotz derselben Faktenserien. Auch professionelle Historiker können bisweilen von Betrachtungen über vergangene Möglichkeiten von Abzweigungen beschlichen werden. Was 'ungeschehene Geschichte' betrifft, muss in Erinnerung behalten werden, dass viele Alternativen unplausibel sind, jeglicher Glaube an ein vorherbestimmtes Universum der Notwendigkeiten jedoch deplaciert wäre. Manche Ereignisse sind klar genug, um Verstehen darüber zu ermöglichen, welche Komponenten getauscht werden müssten, um ein anderes Ergebnis zu erzielen. Andere sind so komplex, dass alle Versuche, sich alternative Abläufe und Resultate vorzustellen, illusorisch bleiben. Die Beispiele Midway (der erstgenannte Typ) und die Niederlage Frankreichs 1940 (extrem überdeterminiert) zeigen, dass es jedenfalls von Vorteil ist, allen Komplexitäten zum Trotz vergangene Potentiale auszuloten. Es ist die Voraussetzung für vernünftigere und effizientere Auswahl von künftigen Optionen.' (Autorenreferat)

'Unquestionable as history may seem, there are all the same quite different readings and disparate inferences despite the same series of facts. This goes to show that even professional historians can sometimes be overcome by meditations on past possibilities of bifurcations. As to 'alternatives to actual history', is serves well to bear in mind that few are plausible, but that belief in a predeterminative universe of necessities would certainly be misplaced. Whereas some occurrences are clear-cut enough to make us understand which components would have had to be changed in order to get a different outcome, others are of such a high degree of complexity that attempts to imagine an alternative course and divergent results remain rather illusory: the examples of Midway (the former type) and the defeat of France in 1940 (intricately overdetermined) clearly show that it pays in any case, in defiance to all complexities, to consider past potential. It is prerequisite for choosing between future options in more reasonable and efficient ways than hitherto.' (author's abstract)
Keywords alternative; North America; historical analysis; method; psychology; thinking; France; United States of America; science of history; conception of history; historiography; historian; historical social research; trauma; science; World War II
Classification Research Design; Peace and Conflict Research, International Conflicts, Security Policy; General Psychology; Social History, Historical Social Research
Method applied research; basic research; historical
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 74-87
Journal Historical Social Research, 34 (2009) 2
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
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