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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg October 12, 2011

Zeitgeschichte in der Welt der Sozialwissenschaften. Legitimität und Originalität einer Disziplin

  • Rüdiger Graf and Kim Christian Priemel

Vorspann

Seit die Zeitgeschichte die zweite Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts als Forschungsfeld erschlossen hat, steht sie mehr denn je vor der Herausforderung, wie sie mit den Deutungsangeboten der Sozialwissenschaften umgehen soll. Bloße Adaption oder selbstbewusste Behauptung und damit Beharrung auf den spezifischen Regeln, die der Zeitgeschichte eigen sind? Rüdiger Graf und Kim Priemel, Protagonisten einer gegenwartsnahen Zeitgeschichte, stellen sich diesen Fragen. Sie kritisieren (und illustrieren) die unbekümmerte Entlehnung sozialwissenschaftlicher Theorien und Methoden, plädieren aber gleichzeitig dafür, das eigene Methodenarsenal zu erweitern – durch die reflektierte behutsame Nutzung der Nachbardisziplinen, deren Begriffe und Methoden historisiert, kontextualisiert und mit der genuinen Herangehensweise der Zeitgeschichte verbunden werden müssen.

Abstract

Unlike other historiographic disciplines contemporary history has to define itself in a both intra- and interdisciplinary arena. While the debate on when exactly contemporary history begins has accompanied its practitioners from the very beginning, the question as to what sets it apart from other social sciences has long been suspended. With the fields of research moving rapidly into the last decades of the twentieth century this problem becomes increasingly urgent. Not only does contemporary history investigate the same empirical phenomena that have already been analysed by sociologists, economists, and political scientists, it also appropriates the theories constructed by these neighbouring disciplines. The present article exemplarily outlines this borrowing practice looking at the careers of theoretical models such as value change, international interdependence and economic structural change first in their own fields, then among historians. Beyond the easily identifiable hazards of using the data compiled by contemporary social scientists and reproducing their findings, the more fundamental problem lies in the all-too-easy adoption of the theories by which these have been produced. The heuristic and explanatory appeal of these theories results from their epistemic proximity to the hermeneutic horizon of contemporary historians and leads to the adoption rather than critical reflection of such models. This danger, however, also leads to the great potential of contemporary history which should historicise and look beyond the perspectives of contemporary social scientists.

Published Online: 2011-10-12
Published in Print: 2011-10-15

© by Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Berlin, Germany

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