This brief look at the perplexing presence of crisis highlights the importance of the reflections presented below. From a theoretical point of view, one could contribute with cautious remarks and reflections about the interpenetration of social change and persisting visions of order, the coexistence of democratic hopes for the future and emerging crises. Such remarks should also address the problems of historical and political identity.
The goal of the reflections cannot be to formulate a convincing concept but only to point to problems and dissonances of the historical and political construction of meaning. As a modern observer will soon realize, the categories of time and space play a fundamental role in the context of historical perceptions of crisis.
While discussing historical events, precise time and space indications should be provided. For the learning process in historical research, it is crucial and indispensable to situate the events in time and space, but we have to bear in mind that our current understanding of reality and everyday phenomena has been shaped by patterns characteristic of a given time and space.
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In the premodern age, most people had limited possibilities to acquire universal and comprehensive categories of space and time. It is not until the 18th century that we can speak of an all-embracing spatiotemporal perspective in the modern European world. The invention of chronological and geographical instruments was an external factor. The internal aspects of the developments may have been more complex, as they included the relationship of our consciousness to things, as well as spatial and temporal relationships between events and the material world.
Ascribing cultural meanings to spatial and temporal distances played a special role here.
The modern construction of the world cannot be complete without defining empty times and empty spaces. The way medieval people thought and felt about space and time will always remain to some extent foreign.
Time and space were not homogenous categories. They did not reach into infinity. The process of dismissing premodern ideas of time and space brings autonomy.
However, this results in other problems and uncertainties. These include, most importantly, the perception of time, which in a modern sense is no longer seen as the simple postponing of a predefined end of the world. Therefore, it is worth asking here what the typical modern conceptions of the future are and on what unspoken assumptions are they based. Some conceptions of the future are generally considered as determining factors in political decision-making processes. They range from ideas typical of particular social groups to scientific prognostic models and concrete political visions: a broad spectrum, which can only be mentioned here.
These predictions rarely come true. However, this does not mean they have no historical relevance.
On the contrary, their historiographic value manifests itself in the tensions between conceivable alternatives, expected or probable consequences and mere factuality. This has been exemplified in Marxist visions of the future, which predicted that a social model would come to an end. It can also be seen in various literary future scenarios and bizarre utopias, created in the late 19th century. However, the development of homogenous spatiotemporal dimensions, which was a decisive turning point, draws attention to the crucial relationship between the available knowledge of the future and the possible actions to be taken in it.
The modern consciousness of crisis, which is the topic of the article at hand, is directly linked to the realization that the need for reliable social prognoses in society has dramatically increased since the 18th century. Technological, social and political breakthroughs have led in the modern age to an enormous need for action, a need that stimulates political programs.
Its historical relevance results from the specific approach taken today to a supposedly manageable future.http://lastsurestart.co.uk/libraries/jailbreaking/2370-how-to.php
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In a virtual conversation with an educated Central European from the 17th century, the idea of disregarding divine plans of salvation would be, for instance, just as strange as the thought of a humanly possible, manageable future. The political scope of action that opens up in the modern age points in this respect to a religious and, to some extent, cosmological dimension.
Crisis scenarios in all social domains of human life reflect historical periods, with different ways of coping and forms of consciousness. How did people in the premodern world deal with precarious living conditions, limited food and supplies, existential insecurity and threats? In this context we often refer to words such as process, development and progress. However, we can also find various religious and salvation-historical frameworks that cannot be reduced merely to those historical concepts of movement.
Various examples from various temporal layers Zeitschichten convey diverse concepts of the future, which can hardly be reduced to the dualism of modernity and premodernity. A case of the Frankish state ruled by Charlemagne can be cited as the first example.
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The Saxons penetrated to the Rhine. They plundered, devastated and burned estates and settlements, moving southwards to the Moselle. The whole country had to deal with fragility and a threat to security, as we would call it today. Here one may ask the question whether in such a situation some kind of need for political action that would alleviate human misery had already been identified. As a result, two seminal texts were written, which are pivotal to our understanding of future horizons at that time.
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The first text was devoted to fundamental structural changes and the organization of the state, including the relations between metropolitans and suffragans and the prohibition of guilds. The second text referred more directly to the impending famine. However, the analogy supposed here is disputable. We should namely ask what measures were in fact taken in the early Middle Ages. These included ordaining the number of Masses to be celebrated and the number of psalms to be sung, ordering how long the high and mighty should fast and how much alms they should give.
The text mentions the clergy and counts, divided into a number of classes. They must however provide money or pay in kind. The laypeople should, just as the clergy, provide for four poor people, as long as they are able to do that, or for fewer people, depending on their capabilities. Within the scope of possibilities, they were reasonable, e. However, one thing should not be overlooked here: the structure of the text is actually different from what we would expect today.
The text does not start with a description of deficiencies or material needs that indicate a humanitarian catastrophe. It aims neither at assessing demand-related regional differences nor at providing rational estimates of the extent to which people would need food supplies.
This means that the regulations were not meant to organize a distribution of vital resources according to modern principles. For a medievalist, this assessment will come as no surprise. On the contrary, it put spiritual well-being above anything else. Let us have a look at another example of the semantic development of a premodern consciousness of crisis. In the early modern age in the 17th century, the perception of crisis was, as we well know, also imbued with religious and cosmological ways of coping.
If we think of the economic and cultural developments of the early modern period, we will see that the 16th century was first a time of cultural prosperity in Central Europe, which was then affected by various crises of the last third of the century. We must bear in mind that the early modern world was — also before acute crises arose — a world of scarcity. In one decade as many as three harvest failures could happen. If a bad harvest came two years in a row, the rise in prices and food shortage became life-threatening.
People knew that bitter reality; it was not anything unusual. Existential threats were, as we well know, presented in expressive semantic forms.
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They were coming alone but often in an ominous alliance. The crisis phenomena of those times included spreading diseases and dramatic shortages, but also climatic peculiarities such as the noticeable and scientifically proven cooling in the Little Ice Age. The fundamental subsistence crisis that affected people over longer periods of time led to well-known religious and cultural patterns of interpretation.