In chapter 6 of the book “What is history for?” by Beverley South gate it starts with a quote from one of the renowned scholars of history George Orwell. Orwell wrote the quote decades ago however, it has taken a lot of years for even the best scholars of history to understand the point that Orwell was actually trying to bring out in his quotation (Southgate 2005, 107). Nevertheless, it is now clear that any form of a talk on historical truth as suggesting some particular communication between historical storylines and past events that they mean to define is absolutely insignificant (Southgate 2005, 107). Related to this crucial note, from this chapter of the book we come across another vital contribution forwarded by another scholar Nikolas Rose (Southgate 2005, 121). Rose was of the opinion that we can basically experience our own selves as particular kinds of some creatures just because we will do so under a particular description, for instance, our identities or just the way we describe ourselves. This is in itself a historical phenomenon (Southgate 2005, 121).

In trying to summarize the reading from this chapter, Beverley Southgate basically tries to persuade the historians to try and embrace postmodernity. According to Southgate, though postmodernity may somehow come out as a chaotic disorder, postmodernity should be accepted as both unavoidable and an absolutely welcome phenomenon (Southgate 2005, 88-123). Perhaps the most interesting part of Southgate’s argument is the fact that he accepts that postmodernity is something with contradiction and a lot of insecurity but nevertheless, it should not be feared but actually celebrated (Southgate 2005, 88-123). To some point, it seems ludicrous but Southgate still argues that we should not abandon historical practices but otherwise seek to reconstruct history. In conclusion, Southgate further suggests that we actually need to have a therapeutic kind of history that assists us to think about the nature and restrictions of our current, about the circumstances under which we take as fact and reality (Southgate 2005, 88-123).

The main concern of Willie Thompson on this chapter was history mainly postmodernity which accurately forms a vital introduction to his book. An important fact to note is that the origins of postmodernity go back in history (Thompson 2004, 7). According to a scholar Anderson, the term postmodernity first appeared in 1934 in the historical works of a renowned Spanish writer Frederico de Onis who used the word to define a response to the artistic crusade of the early 20th century referred to as modernism (Thompson 2004, 7). Over twenty years later, postmodernism presently can be defined as a method aimed at a certain understanding hence the term postmodernity produces, amongst other things, uncertain beliefs, playfulness, style and fashion, neo-pragmatism in the broad field of philosophy, deconstructionism, the language turn, relativism, the realism-influence, in history and literature uncertainties about preferentiality, and the eventual disillusion of history as a sufficient tool of illustration.

Further reading of this chapter, one realizes that the theoretical roots of postmodernism are mainly set in the poststructuralist beliefs that developed in France during the late 60s and later thrived in the 1970s (Thompson 2004, 6). However, towards the end of that era the original distinct notions of postmodernism and poststructuralism combined, the vital writings of Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard’s La Condition Postmoderne: report sur le savoir, which appeared in the year 1979 (Thompson 2004, 6-27). In his writings, he described postmodernism as a disbelief towards metanarrative (Thompson 2004, 6-27). In summary, in the historiographical perspective of Willie Thompson, credit can be extended to renowned scholars who have contributed immensely in this particular chapter of the book for instance, Jacques Lacan who was a psychoanalyst, Hayden White a historian of thoughts and concepts, Jacques Derrida a philosopher and a critic and indisputably the major influence in the chapter was Michel Foucault.

In this chapter, Foucault completely denies being a postmodernist or poststructuralist. What is even interesting is the fact that Foucault scorned anybody who came out describing him as a postmodernist, however, further reading this comes out essentially as a postmodern joke. This is because not one person has done so much to establish postmodernism as a knowledgeable existence (Thompson 2004, 23). Michel Foucault is seen to operate within a verbal or language context and a notion of all-pervasive supremacy associations established thru discourse. In fact, it is Foucault who commercialized postmodernism. Many scholars have termed Foucault as the most persuasive philosopher of the 20th century (Thompson 2004, 23). Actually, Foucault has been the major source of motivation to many historians of postmodern feeling.

In conclusion, a critical analysis of the chapter suggests that postmodernism can basically be treated suitably as a product of great disappointment: disappointment as a science both physically and socially, disappointment with the notion of historic advancement and disappointment with the likelihood of extensive or wide social change. An important factor to note is that postmodernism attraction was actually boosted significantly by the histrionic fall of the Soviet-style systems that claimed however incorrectly to represent such notions and goals.


Southgate, Beverley, ch.6. What is History For? Routledge London 2005.

Thompson, Willie, Postmodernism and History, Palgrave Macmillan London 2004.


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