Gregory Jones-Katz on Lynn Hunt, “Writing History in the Global Era”

Over at the blog for the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH), Gregory Jones-Katz, a PhD Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chimes in with a helpful review of Lynn Hunt’s recent book Writing History in the Global Era.

In the review – the first of two parts – Jones-Katz registers Hunt’s skepticism towards the spread of globalization as a major interpretative paradigm and its replacement of cultural theories since the 1990s. “According to Hunt,” writes Jones-Katz,

According to Hunt, cultural theories, by assuming the self and society to exclusively be the effects of language, desert causal arguments, leaving an opening for the history of globalization. Hunt recounts how, beginning in the 1990s and just after the triumph of cultural theories, historians’ discovery of “globalization” as a category of analysis permitted them to reconsider how individuals and the world became more interconnected and more interdependent. Yet once again, a new trend in historical writing carried assumptions. Although the “globalization paradigm,” Hunt argues, productively “shifts attention to macro-historical (worldwide) and especially macroeconomic trends,” “it ensconces the assumption that economics shapes all other aspects of life.” “[T]he globalization paradigm reinstates the very suppositions that cultural theories had criticized, and thus potentially threatens to wash away the gains of the last decades of cultural history.”
According to Hunt, “globalization”—the word and concept as it is currently and commonly used—is ideological, a “Trojan horse,” that resurrects old paradigms—above all modernization theory. And for Hunt, historians who unreflectively talk globalization talk do not simply reinforce the idea that economics lies at the heart of all cultural and political expressions. Their writings sanction the Western model of the self and society, using it as the yardstick with which to understand how the entire world became and will become interdependent.

Check out the review here – we look forward to posting Part II over the Easter Weekend!

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