By Mark Poster
Poster charts the circulation from social heritage to new practices of cultural heritage which are drawing power from poststructuralist interpretive suggestions and elevating concerns present in feminist and postcolonial discourse. He offers shut readings of Lawrence Stone; Fran?ois Furet, Michel de Certeau and Michel Foucault.
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He further "must assume" that exchange of property is the reason for parental interference in the marriage choices of their children. In attempting to interpret Stone's reading, I will first reject the hypothesis that he is a crude historical materialist, applying a theoretical principle by which all social acts are determined by the mode of production, so that the passing-on of property shapes family affairs. Instead Stone is doing something less and something more than this. If we return to Foucault's argument about "continuity" and the centered subject, we can say that Stone is filling in a gap in the historical texts (they do not say why poor parents left marriage choices to their children, or even if they did grant their children this right).
I hope that this chapter has provided at least an alternative if not a refutation of these views on poststructuralism by showing that its theory, far from denying that reality and truth exist, enables a more complex purchase upon them by promoting the historical analysis of the subject or modern individual. It provides the historian with procedures of self-reflection and categories of cultural analysis that help to preempt the blind projection of current figures of the subject into the past, that help to forestall the tendency of historians to erase the gap between the present and the past, and, above all, to foster a critical analysis of the naturalizing and universalizing propensities of current values and practices.
7 Although the question of individualism is surely one of the deepest and most difficult in Western culture, Stone's discussion of it, as often is the case when historians treat theoretical issues, is loose and imprecise. All too briefly he characterizes the term individualism as a combination of "introspection" and "a demand for personal autonomy" (p. 223). He provides no hint of the ideological implications of these politically charged traits, the way they may function to occlude the individual's imbrication with social relations, as Western Marxists would claim, or the way individualism may exalt certain ethnic, racial, and gender groupings over others.
Cultural History and Postmodernity by Mark Poster