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Deltaker og medløper: Venstresiden, Sovjetunionen og objektivismens fall

Født. 1959, dr.philos 1991, professor ved Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie, Universitetet i Oslo (UiO).

t.e.forland@iakh.uio.no

  • Side: 521-546
  • Publisert på Idunn: 2010-12-23
  • Publisert: 2010-12-23

Positivismekritikken fordrev idealet om objektiv historieskriving. Venstre-sidens nær hegemoniske posisjon i historiefaget har gjort at den politiseringen av historiefaget som objektivismens fall innebærer, ikke har blitt ansett som noe problem. Utviklingen i Danmark viser imidlertid hva følgene kan bli når objektivitetsidealet forsvinner. Det borgerlige folketingsflertallet har gjort den antikommunistiske kaldkrigshistorikeren Bent Jensen til en del av sin kulturkamp mot totalitære ideologier og deres danske medløpere. Under presset fra høyresiden søker danske sentrum–venstrehistorikere å holde fast ved idealet om en historievitenskap utenfor politikken. Men uten objektivismen er det vanskelig å finne et forsvar mot eksistensfilosofenes og høyrepolitikernes krav om at historikerne må ta stilling til rett og galt.

Participant and Fellow Traveller: The Left, the Soviet Union, and the Fall of Objectivism

Around 1970, antipositivism rendered obsolete the ideal of objective historiography in Norway. The defeat of positivism was driven largely by Kuhn’s attack on the notion of science as an ever closer approximation to truth, and by the insistence of German hermeneuticists that every interpretation has a subjective vantage point. In Norway, the antipositivist critique was spearheaded by Hans Skjervheim’s existentialist contention that social scientists could not be spectators: involvement was part of the human condition. The upshot was an acknowledgment, appreciated by the leftists dominating the profession, that historiography had an indelible moral or political element. Since 2001, the Liberal–Conservative government in Denmark, commanding a parliamentary majority with the aid of the right-populist People’s Party, employed cold war history in its so-called culture war against totalitarian ideologies – Nazism, Communism, and Islamism – and their domestic allies or fellow travellers. An important government ally in this fight has been anticommunist cold war historian Bent Jensen, whose uncovering of fellow travellers and criticism of the purported appeasement policy of center–left politicians – and of historians who have ignored or condoned fellow-travelling and appeasement – have earned him a government-sponsored Center for Cold War Research. Jensen’s colleagues have criticized his moralizing attitude and have claimed that the values of the historical actors themselves are the only basis for judgment. Neither Jensen nor leading politicians accept this limitation, insisting that the value of history is its present-day application. Thus Jensen and the rightists use – knowingly or not – the insights of the existentialists and the hermeneuticists, whereas the mainstream (center–left) cold war historians refer to objectivist ideals reminiscent of Ranke. The debate shows the perils of leaving objectivism, since without recourse to objectivist ideals the door is open to allow moral-political sympathies to determine which history to trust and which historians to finance.

Keywords: Antipositivism, Bent Jensen, Culture War, Objectivism
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