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By Mark Poster

Poster charts the stream from social background to new practices of cultural heritage which are drawing power from poststructuralist interpretive ideas and elevating concerns present in feminist and postcolonial discourse. He offers shut readings of Lawrence Stone; Fran?ois Furet, Michel de Certeau and Michel Foucault.

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Both the historian and the historical topics he or she writes about are inscribed in such scenes, fields, or narratives, and these are taken for granted as basic conditions of life. Electronic communications systems drastically restructure this modern space-time matrix. "2 Virilio characterizes electronic communications such as television as introducing simultaneity and immediacy, qualities of experience that reorganize the individual's sense of position in time and space. When one receives impressions via broadcast technology from Kuwait, halfway around the globe, as they occur and when, using newer technologies such as video conferencing on the Internet, one responds with the same instantaneity, then Euclidean space and linear time lose their credibility and cultural force.

683). His confusions in this crucial "causal" statement are pronounced: (I) he presents the "cause of change" as that which it precisely is not, that is to say, a "fact," (2) he presents a "dialectic of competing interests and ideas" as "unending," whereas dialectics are actually full of resolutions and syntheses or ends, and (3) he surreptitiously elevates "interests and ideas" to the status of prime movers without the slightest effort at discursive justification. Stone also directly contradicts the explicit intention of the text: he introduces "straightforward linear evolution" in the liberal pluralist form of his "dialectic of eternal conflict of interests and values" while denying that he is doing so.

To the extent that Stone writes a narrative without gaps between himself and his subject, one that covers both the entire period and all the various groups within it, he has produced an ostensibly full knowledge, a complete account, a satisfying discourse, a putatively true representation that makes claims as knowledge but also intervenes as power. The topic of marriage choices among poor families, along with Stone's reasons and explanations for such behavior, then, is not a marginal issue but one that affects the epistemological status of his overall project.

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