Regimes of Historicity : Presentism and Experiences of Time
François Hartog explores crucial moments of change in society's "regimes of historicity" or its way of relating to the past, present, and future. Inspired by Arendt, Koselleck, and Ricoeur, Hartog analyzes a broad range of texts, positioning the The Odyssey as a work on the threshold of a historical consciousness and then contrasting it against an investigation of the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins's concept of "heroic history." He tracks changing perspectives on time in Châteaubriand's Historical Essay and Travels in America, and sets them alongside other writings from the French Revolution. He revisits the insight of the French Annals School and situates Pierre Nora's Realms of Memory within a history of heritage and our contemporary presentism.
Our presentist present is by no means uniform or clear-cut, and it is experienced very differently depending on one's position in society. There are flows and acceleration, but also what the sociologist Robert Castel calls the "status of casual workers," whose present is languishing before their very eyes and who have no past except in a complicated way (especially in the case of immigrants, exiles, and migrants) and no real future (since the temporality of plans and projects is denied them). Presentism is therefore experienced as either emancipation or enclosure, in some cases with ever greater speed and mobility and in others by living from hand to mouth in a stagnating present. Hartog also accounts for the fact that the future is perceived as a threat and not a promise. We live in a time of catastrophe, one he feels we have brought upon ourselves.