21st Century

Are you used to writing of the twentieth century in the past tense yet? I mean, using was instead of has been? Are you used to the idea that we are now standing outside the twentieth century?


10 thoughts on “21st Century

  1. No. It’s weird, but I’m not. Maybe it has something to do with being a historian and spending a lot of time “in” the 20th century? Then again, maybe not.

  2. Me neither. Yet I found myself doing it almost automatically. The thing is, I was taught that the 20th century was a shift out of the 19th. But now I see things written in the 20th century and they sound old … as in, the 90s are really over, or something like that. And I find myself grouping those two centuries when formerly I would not have done so at all. And I seem to like this division better.

    I wonder what the survey courses of the future will do about periodization.

  3. That’s fascinating.

    I think it’s 1865-1929.

    1941-1964? (*electing* Johnson?)

    Is 1971 the end of the sixties generally or are you thinking of some specific event?

    I am fascinated.

    Just my impressionistic vote and I’m not a historian. This is extremely interesting.

  4. It’s fun, isn’t it?

    My thinking was, first, that the Depression gets set off on its own. But, now that I think a little more about it, that may not be right. If you view WW1 and WW2 as being episodes of the same war, and the Depression as related, then maybe you would want 1914-1945, and after that postwar rebuilding, rise of consumer culture, etc. from 1945-1960whatever. This also works better if you are keeping a more global perspective in mind, rather than just focusing on the US.*

    The Sixties get set off on their own no matter what, as a revolutionary period, and you’d have to date it from whenever you think that revolution began and ended. I am dimly aware of historical debate on this topic but I haven’t looked closely enough to have my own opinion, really. I just put 1971ish as a rough guess. 🙂 Anyway, this will be the shortest period probably because revolutions are short.

    After the Sixties you have the conservative backlash. When it ends, I guess depends on whether you consider 2008 a realigning election. Anyone who says it was or wasn’t is only guessing, but I think it was.

    * Related: I was 29 years old and had covered the Depression in multiple classes – history, economics, etc. – before someone FINALLY mentioned that it was a global event and not something that happened only in the US. I was quite angry about how deficient my education had been, when I found that out. I said to the history professor who had mentioned this in his lecture, how is it that I am only finding out about this NOW? I think he appreciated my anger.

  5. This is fascinating. Maybe there have to be overlapping periods.

    I was thinking 1865-1929 because these were the glory days of expansion and industry that modern American culture, and everyone got so used to it that the crash, was *particularly* depressing.

    I like 1914-1945 for the reasons you stated and also because it’s sort of good for avant-garde to post avant garde poetry. Actually quite good, enough so that since the period also works for another discipline, well … there must be something to it.

    Sixties. I remember them from 1964 to 1973 … at least in 1964 I started noticing them and in 1973 I realized they were over … but I probably had delayed reactions. I wonder how to define beginning and ending points of that period, anyway. I like this: sixties start when Joao Goulart is elected in Brazil, and end with Pinochet’s coup in Chile. But that’s just one theory.

    I am sure 2008 is transitional. I want to know more about the plans for voodoo economics started in the 70s, because they were *not* invented by Reagan. That characterizes the post 60s period worldwide and I think that period ended in Fall 2008.

  6. Just a note that many world historians would say the 19th c. ends in 1914. I think there is an argument for 1914-1989 or 1914-2001. I do talk about “the general pattern of the 20th c. was…” in my large introductory lectures.

  7. I could be wrong about this, but I think you will find that Reagan style economics had their source in the ideas of Milton Friedman and Freidrich Hayek. Both of these men influenced Reagan’s economic policy. Though Hayek had more influence on the Thatcher government….

  8. O good, more on this! Yes to all the latest. So what I don’t know is, was Reagan the first implementer of these policies here or had parts already been put in place? These ideas were definitely being implemented in Lat. Am. before then … it was what the Pinochet coup was about, so far as I can tell (although there was more to it).

    What I remember was coming back to the U.S. from being in Lat. Am. back when I was a pre-stela, e.g. a student. Reagan had been inaugurated in my absence and as I rode in on the bus from the airport I saw that everyone was gathering on the streets outside TV stores, watching TV, and I knew it had to be because Reagan was shot, and he just had been.

    Every day for months I had been reading the Lat. Am. papers back to back and I had learned a lot about colonial and neoliberal economics and what they were causing. Looking around as I reentered the U.S. over the next few days I noticed how much had already changed. “They have started underdeveloping it just as they did Latin America,” I exclaimed. “Time is moving backwards!”

    It was a naive insight but I wish I had had enough of the right background to have explored it correctly, written it up, and published it.

    1989, 2001. The change set in in 1989 but the sense of extreme unreality started in 2001.

    I am fascinated. 1914. _The Magic Mountain._

  9. Only in this last year have I finally started thinking of the 20th century as a thing of the past. Perhaps it helps that this year’s first-year students were born in the year I finished high school. They remember so very little of the 20th century that it finally seems…old.

    (I love your blog, by the way.)

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