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Francois Hartog “Regimes of Historicity”

January 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Hartog, Francois 2015. Regimes of Historicity. Presentism and Experiences of Time. New York: Columbia University Press.

Presentism – stop gap or new state
[…] “presentism”: the sense that only the present exists, a present characterized at once by the tyranny of the instant and by the treadmill of an unending now.

As for why I have opted for (regimes of) “historicity” rather than of “temporality,” the latter has the disadvantage of referring to an external standard of time, such as can still be found in Braudel, where the different durées are all measured against an “exogenous,” mathematical, or astronomical time (which Braudel himself calls the “imperious time of the world”).

A regime of historicity is, rather, an artificial construct whose value lies in its heuristic potential. And it should be classed alongside Weber’s ideal type, as a formal category. Depending on whether the category of the past, the future, or the present is dominant, the order of time derived from it will obviously not be the same.

Today’s presentism can thus be experienced as emancipation or enclosure: ever greater speed and mobility or living from hand to mouth in a stagnating present. Not to forget a further aspect of our present: that the future is perceived as a threat not a promise. The future is a time of disasters, and ones we have, moreover, brought upon ourselves.

Introduction – orders of time and regimes of history
[…] in a lecture from 1935, Valéry drew an even sharper picture of this experience of broken continuity, where “each person” feels he belongs to “two eras.” “On the one hand,” he continued, “there is the past that can neither be abolished nor forgotten, but from which we can derive almost nothing that will orient us in the present or help us to imagine the future. On the other hand, there is the future without the least shape.”

In 1968 the Western and Westernized world was convulsed by a movement of contestation targeting, among other things, capitalist progress. It gave expression to a loss of faith in time itself as progress, that is, as an agent moving to overturn the present.

At the time, I defined “regime of historicity” in two ways: in a restricted sense, as the way in which a given society approaches its past and reflects upon it; and in a broader sense, as “the modalities of self-consciousness that each and every society adopts in its constructions of time and its perceptions.”

[…] how, depending on the way relations between the past, the present, and the future are configured, certain types of history are possible and others are not.

For Koselleck, the temporal structure of the modern period is characterized by an asymmetry between experience and expectation that is produced by the idea of progress and the opening of time onto a future. This asymmetry grew ever more extreme from the end of the eighteenth century, as time speeded up. The history of modernity could thus be summarized in the words “The lesser the experience, the greater the expectation.” In 1975, Koselleck tried to formulate what an “end” or “exit” from modern times might look like. Maybe, he suggested, it could be captured in a formula such as “The greater the experience, the more cautious one is, but also the more open is the future.”

Has a somewhat different configuration not taken over since then, in which the distance between the space of experience and the horizon of expectation has been stretched to its limit, to breaking point? With the result that the production of historical time seems to be suspended. Perhaps this is what generates today’s sense of a permanent, elusive, and almost immobile present, which nevertheless attempts to create its own historical time.

ORDERS OF TIME 1
2 – from odysseus’s tears to augustine’s meditations
„Suppose I am about to repeat a psalm which I know. Before I begin, my expectation is directed towards the whole. But when I have begun, the verses from it which I take into the past become the object of my memory. The life of this act of mine is stretched two ways, into my memory because of the words I have already said and into my expectation because of those which I am about to say. But my attention is on what is present: by that the future is transferred to become the past. As the action advances further and further, the shorter the expectation and the longer the memory, until all expectation is consumed, the entire action is finished, and it has passed into the memory. What occurs in the psalm as a whole occurs in its particular pieces and individual syllables. The same is true of a longer action in which perhaps that psalm is a part. It is also valid of the entire life of an individual person, where all actions are parts of a whole, and of the total history of “the sons of men” (Ps. 30:20) where all human lives are but parts.“ (augustine)

Now Odysseus is unable to organize the events of his life according to this model, shuttling between memory and expectation. One could say that he has distensio but not attentio. As Auerbach noted, the Homeric hero, unlike biblical figures, lives each day as though it were his first. I have already mentioned that Achilles can exist only in the present, and he knows no past or future. But even he is obliged to “let [these things] be as past and done,” to put behind him the outrage of Agamemnon’s insult, to get beyond it: in other words, to consign it to the past, without which he must cease in a certain way to be Achilles. His heroism must include overcoming his thumos, so that the action can start up again and he can be wholly himself, Achilles, the “bane of the Trojans,” living to the full his brief life in the present.

Odysseus has not read Augustine in yet another sense. Augustine’s phenomenology of human time is embedded within the structure of an eternal God who has created all times, such that “distension” must additionally be understood as integral to the human condition. Man’s lot is dispersion: “I am scattered [dissilui] in times whose order I do not understand [ordinem nescio]. The storms of incoherent events tear to pieces my thoughts.”

The Christian order of time to which the believer may aspire thus involves the passage from the mutability of the many to the immutability of God’s eternity. The path leads from dispersion to tension, reaching out by means of an effort of intention (and not simply of attention) toward those things that lie before (ante) (and not simply toward the future). Augustine is here simply following Saint Paul in his Letter to the Philippians: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The image is that of a runner in the stadium. A similar order is suggested at the beginning of The City of God, in which the Christian “in this fleeting course of time [in hoc temporum cursu]” walks “in the midst of the ungodly [inter impios peregrinatur]” and “waits for [expectat] the fixed stability of [the City of God’s] eternal seat.” And Saint Paul once again: “whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing…for our conversation is in heaven.”

It was not Christianity, however, that conceived and experienced time as an expectant tension or an opening of anticipation. This relation to time was already present in Yahweh’s promise to Abraham: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great.”

As regards relations to time, Christianity’s specific contribution was the decisive event of the Incarnation—the birth, death, and resurrection of the Son of God made man—which broke time in two. A new time started, which was to end with a second and last event, the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment. The in-between time was a time of anticipation: a present inhabited by the promise of the end. Jesus himself announced this: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.…But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.…Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.…Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Vigilance is, quite literally, what is required: “Banish slumber,” says Saint Luke’s gospel.

Besides this eschatological present, what is really new in the New Testament is “the tension between the decisive ‘already fulfilled’ and the ‘not yet completed,’ between present and future.”69 On this founding tension is constructed a properly Christian order of time, and history as the history of salvation. But the already does not balance out the not-yet like the two sides of a set of scales: the already carries more weight, since that “decisive point” has irreversibly changed the course of history.70 The world has already been saved. The present ushered in by this “already” is consequently a privileged time.

All in all, the Christian order of time retained a certain malleability, which allowed present, past, and future to be articulated against a backdrop of eternity. It was not a single regime of historicity, nor can it be reduced to one, not even to its predominant regime of historia magistra.

3 – chateaubriand, between old and new regimes of historicity
Western civilization’s relation to time was profoundly and lastingly structured by the couple “the ancients” and “the moderns.” The many quarrels punctuating its history each time expressed the tension inherent in the pair.9 The notion of “the savage,” which figured already in the first travel writings from the New World, introduced a new term. Arguments no longer hinged on two elements but on three and, most often, on one-plus-two, that is, the moderns versus the ancients/savages.

For Rousseau, the movement thus went from the past to the future, or rather toward a future yet to be brought into being, as a goal on which to set one’s sights. But even if, in the Social Contract, society had something of an ideal Greek polis about it, every society (including ancient society) was nonetheless a mutilation compared to the state of nature. Hence the figure of the savage, which the young Chateaubriand invoked and brought to life: “Oh man of nature, you alone make me proud to be a man! Your heart knows no dependence.”11 For Chateaubriand, far from unrest and revolution, the savage resembled an island on which the shipwrecked traveler could find refuge;12 Rousseau had been left far behind.

Koselleck’s by-now classic analyses have shown how the development in Germany of the modern concept of history (die Geschichte) around 1760–1780 gradually devitalized its understanding in terms of exemplarity and repetition.32 History in the singular (die Geschichte), understood as a process and conceived as history in itself, with its own proper temporality, abandoned the exemplum and redefined itself around the uniqueness of the event. A gap and a tension opened up between individuals’ space of experience and their horizon of expectation.33 The modern concept of history enabled the production of this gap to be understood and explained, and it could even illuminate historical progress in general. Although these theories from the German historical school were already in circulation earlier in the century, they were really put to the test by the French Revolution, which many experienced as a time of acceleration forcing apart, to breaking point, the space of experience from the horizon of expectation.

How do space and time interact here, or, more precisely, what effect does movement in space have upon Chateaubriand’s relation to time when, having returned from America and left the Army of the Princes, he begins writing the Historical Essay? Time is above all the time of getting older: “When I left France I was young; four years of misfortune have put years on me.”65 Time’s ravages are such that, as we have seen, this travel diary of a self in search of himself is presented, via Tacitus, as the writings of a dying man, or even as writings from beyond the grave.

Time flies, swifter than the pen, and the craft caught in the storm is swept past an unrecognizable or unknown coastline, which races along. These remarks, from the 1826 preface, are crucial. They demonstrate what contemporaries were most struck by, namely, time’s acceleration and their resultant loss of bearings (the boat is swept away and the coastline races past). The present is ungraspable, the future is unforeseeable, and the past itself has become incomprehensible.

Besides, who can take an interest in the “collapse of the old world” when one is living the “collapse of the new”? Be that as it may, whether Chateaubriand was writing a history of France’s present (as in the Historical Essay), or its past (as in the Historical Studies), he seemed always to miss the moment, to be out of step: always, ineluctably, too late. So what other option was there but to go on writing nonetheless, to exploit this gap as the mainspring or even the motive of his writing? When he began writing the Historical Essay he was not yet at that stage; he had simply experienced the impossibility of escaping the maelstrom of time. And, having crossed the Atlantic again, from West to East this time, the New World’s island-in-the-storm and its untouched forests reverted to nothing more than utopias, which could be visited only in memory or in writing.

So the America of Chateaubriand’s travels no longer exists, and the dreams of his youth have evaporated. He did not discover the Northwest Passage, French influence was eclipsed, and the savage is dying a slow death. Yet suddenly, at the end of this requiem for a dead America, the reader is presented with “a wonderful spectacle,” painted in the glowing colors of modern freedom.87 The Historical Essay ended on a hymn to the freedom (or independence) of the savage, as the only authentic freedom (in relation to which all others, including the freedom of the ancients, appear false). The Travels ends on the recognition and celebration of modern freedom: the United States’ discovery of a representative republic is “one of the greatest political events that ever occurred.” From this assertion Chateaubriand is led back to the familiar pair, ancient and modern freedom. The case of the United States has proved that there are
„two practicable types of liberty; the one belonging to the infancy of nations, the offspring of manners [fille des moeurs] and of virtue, the liberty of the first Greeks and the first Romans, and the liberty of the Savages of America; the other born in the old age of nations, the offspring of knowledge [fille des lumières] and reason, the liberty of the United States, which has superseded the liberty of the Savage. Happy country, which in less than three centuries has passed from one liberty to the other, almost without effort, and by means of a contest which lasted only eight years!“

Unlike in the Historical Essay, Chateaubriand here historicizes the freedom of the savages, and also that of the ancients, which is thereby rehabilitated. The native Americans, the first Greeks, and the first Romans all belong to the same moment of freedom. That is the deeper meaning—and the miracle—of American history (which is the product of an acceleration of time).

The principle of historicization he introduces (freedom as “offspring of manners” leading to freedom as “offspring of knowledge”) situates the United States not only as the birthplace of a new sort of freedom, but also as the place where “almost without effort,” and at great speed, the former gave way to the latter.91 The Scythians had embodied an “abridged, but complete” history of the three ages of humanity. Here, the United States achieve a similar synthesis, but of their own past with their own present: they embody a historical development.

Above all, the American discovery of modern freedom ruins the whole system of parallels on which the Historical Essay has been constructed. In the 1826 preface, Chateaubriand writes: “I have always based my reasoning in the Essay on the Ancients’ republican system of liberty, liberty the offspring of manners; I had not sufficiently reflected upon that other sort of liberty, liberty offspring of knowledge and a perfected civilization: my discovery of a representative republic has changed the whole matter.”

In short, Tocqueville preserves the model of historia magistra, but inverts it; the lesson to be learned comes from the future, not the past. He himself explicitly recognizes this, toward the end of his work: “Although the ongoing revolution in man’s social state, laws, ideas, and sentiments is still far from over, it is already clear that its works cannot be compared with anything the world has ever seen before. Looking back century by century to remotest Antiquity, I see nothing that resembles what I see before me. When the past is no longer capable of shedding light on the future, the mind can only proceed in darkness.”129 One can no longer, as Chateaubriand still thought possible in 1794, “with the torch of past revolutions in our hand,…boldly enter into the darkness of future ones.” The previous regime of historicity, in which the past precisely illuminated the future, was over for good. A world which is “totally new” requires a “new political science.” This was precisely what Tocqueville set out to develop from his vanguard position, perched in his lookout to scrutinize the future.130

ORDERS OF TIME 2
4 – memory, history and the present
Returning to the schematic parallel I made between Chateaubriand and Nora above, what is immediately striking are their different relations to time. The “new plan” required by the “progress” of reason implied a vision of time as a process of improvement and progress, which ushered in freedom “offspring of manners,” as discovered in America. The Historical Essay’s many revisions show this clearly. Yet Chateaubriand could not ignore that the way liberal historians worked, taking this new world as “a revised scale by which to measure the old one,” was poles apart from his own way of writing, constantly crisscrossing, and crossing out, from one world to the other.6 By contrast, when Nora set out on what was to become the Lieux de mémoire, not only was there no question of a progressive time, but he remained entirely within the circle of the present. He aimed at a kind of inventory prior to a death foretold: “The rapid disappearance of our national memory seemed to me to call for an inventory of the sites where it had chosen to manifest itself.”7

There are cogent arguments for situating the modern regime of historicity between the two symbolic dates of 1789 and 1989. I would suggest, at least provisionally, that the two dates mark the entrance and the exit of this regime on the stage of History. At the very least, one can suggest that they constitute two caesuras, or breaks, in the order of time.10 11 September 2001 poses no serious challenge to this outline, unless the American government has decided to make it into a new beginning of world history, a new present and one alone, that of the war on terror. That said, with 9/11 the contemporary event reached its logical limit. Under the glare of the TV cameras, the event exhibited itself in the making, undergoing a real-time transformation into history that was simultaneously, and already, a (self-) commemoration.11 In this sense, the structure of the event had become absolutely presentist.

Koselleck’s by-now classic analyses, which we mentioned earlier, summarize the modern regime as the passage from the German plural die Geschichten to the singular die Geschichte, History. “Beyond histories,” he says, “there is History,” History in itself. In Droysen’s words, as cited by Koselleck, History must become “knowledge of itself.”13 More importantly, it is conceived as a process, with the idea that events do not simply occur in time but also through time, with time itself as an agent, and even the agent. Since, today, the past no longer makes the future comprehensible, history’s lessons have become obsolete, and what is required are, rather, predictions. Historians are no longer in search of the exemplary, but of the unique. The topics of historia magistra had allowed the past to connect with the future through the exemplary model to be imitated: in looking back at famous men, I could also find them in front or ahead of me.

The modern regime replaced the exemplary with the nonrepeatable. The past was, a priori or due to its position (which amounts to the same), outdated.

The future illuminating the past and giving it meaning constituted a telos or vantage point called, by turns, “the Nation,” “the People,” “the Republic,” “Society,” or “the Proletariat,” each time dressed in the garb of science. If history still dispensed a lesson, it came from the future, not the past.

The twentieth century, in retrospect, combined futurism and presentism. It started out more futurist than presentist, and ended up more presentist than futurist. It was passionately futurist, blindly so, and, as we know, embraced the worst. In futurism, the imperative dimension of the order of time decrees that the viewpoint of the future shall prevail. It is an order that presents itself as constantly accelerating. History is made in the name of the future, and it must be written in the same way.

But the Futurist Manifesto also showed how one could move from futurism to presentism, or how futurism was also (already) a presentism. When Marinetti declared: “Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in a world of the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed,” the present became “futurized,” or, equally, there was already nothing but the present. Speed transformed the present into eternity and Marinetti, at the wheel of his racing car, could imagine himself to be God.

The linguist Émile Benveniste noted that the etymology of praesens is “what is ahead of me,” hence something which is “imminent, urgent,” and “will not permit delay,” in the sense of the Latin preposition prae.23 The present is imminent: it is the runner’s body tensed forward at the very moment he or she leaves the starting blocks.

“The present is never our aim, and while it and the past are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but are always hoping to live, and, constantly preparing ourselves to be happy, it is beyond doubt that we never shall be happy.” – pascal

Perhaps the clearest sign of the radical exclusion of anything but the present in the Swinging Sixties was the slogan “forget the future.” Revolutionary utopias were nothing if not progressivist and futurist, even if they were also backward-looking and retrospective (the revolutionary barricades and the Resistance). But henceforth they had to adapt to the narrow circle of the present. The slogans covering the walls of Paris in May 1968 were “Sous les pavés, la plage” (“Beneath the pavings, the beach”) or “Tout, tout de suite” (“All, all at once, now”). But they were followed shortly by “No future,” in other words, no revolutionary present.

the present’s expansionism increasingly eclipses death, as the poet T.S. Eliot noted already in the 1940s: “In our age…there is coming into existence a new kind of provincialism which perhaps deserves a new name. It is a provincialism, not of space, but of time; one for which…the world is the property solely of the living, a property in which the dead hold no shares.”44 The dead no longer have a place, or even, as Philippe Ariès declared in his historical study of the phenomenon, “In towns, everything goes on as if nobody died anymore.”

Would it not be true to say that any self-respecting person today owes it to him- or herself to have no time for anything?

additionally the present, in the very moment of its occurrence, seeks to view itself as already history, already past. In a sense, it turns back on itself in order to anticipate how it will be regarded when it is completely past, as though it wanted to “foresee” the past, to turn itself into a past before it has even fully emerged as present.

To ensure that one is the first to cover the news, what better solution than to announce that something has already taken place when it is yet to come!

[Halbwachs]: Collective memory is “a current of continuous thought” (it retains from the past only what is still living), whereas the historian “can truly achieve his task only by deliberately placing himself outside the time lived by those groups that participated in the events concerned, which have more or less direct contact with these events and can recall them.”66 History, which “extracts changes from duration,” forges “an artificial duration having no reality for the groups from which these events are borrowed.”67 The bird of history can thus spread its wings only when night has fallen entirely, that is, when the present is absolutely dead.

However, if the historian who is thus excluded from the field of memory does not recognize himself in this portrait, then the rigid opposition between history and memory ceases to hold, whereupon the historian’s “hunting ground” may include collective memory or, better still, collective memory may feed into contemporary history. Nora always rejected the idea of a break between the past and the present, which he considered artificial and illusory. Unlike the authors of the report to the minister, Nora argued that it is for “the historian of the present” to make “the past consciously emerge into the present (instead of making the present unconsciously emerge in the past).” Nora’s reflections on the event additionally suggest a relation between the new status of the event in a consumer society and the perception of time: “Does our treatment of the event not transform time itself into something to be consumed, in which we invest analogous affects?”69 This idea points to another aspect of presentism: time itself, Nora suggests, is trapped in the time of consumption, and itself becomes a consumer product.

[Nora] For “our form of memory” is “nothing but history, a matter of sifting and sorting.” We have become obsessive archivists, transforming everything into memory, in furtherance of the present’s immediate self-historicization, which we mentioned above. Memory has become a private affair, entirely psychologized, introducing a new economy of the “self’s identity.” “An order is given to remember, but the responsibility is mine and it is I who must remember.” Hence “to be Jewish is to remember that one is such; but once this incontestable memory has been interiorized, it eventually demands full recognition. What is being remembered? In a sense, it is memory itself.” Lastly, “our” memory is based on a relation to the past in which discontinuity predominates. The past is no longer “solid and steady.” Hence we have moved “from a history sought in the continuity of memory to a memory cast in the discontinuity of history.” Today’s form of memory “is no longer what must be retrieved from the past in order to prepare the future one wants; it is what makes the present present to itself.”74 It is an instrument of presentism.

Given that “the Nation” and “Progress” had been so powerfully welded together in the nineteenth century, how could the idea of the Nation return when that of Progress was no longer sustainable? What was left of the Nation? It was often figured as a Nation without prospect(s), a retrospective and nostalgic entity, basically a refuge, linked to a form of history enthralled once again to the charms of historia magistra.

So we commemorate “Bastille Day,” in which 1880, 1789, and 1790 prefigure and echo each other.113 Péguy, in his Clio, had striking terms for this: “The storming of the Bastille was a genuine feast-day, it was the first celebration, the first commemoration and in a sense the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.…The Fête de la Fédération, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, was not its first commemoration. It was the storming of the Bastille itself which was the first Fête de la Fédération, a Federation avant la lettre.”114 Today, this phenomenon has become the norm, with every event already incorporating its own commemoration. This was the case in May 1968, and it was true again, in extreme form, for 11 September 2001, with all the television cameras trying to catch on film the moment when the second plane would crash into the World Trade Center’s second tower.

… the present’s tendency to transform itself instantly into history.

The end of the tyranny of the future also had the effect of making the past inscrutable again, and at least partly unpredictable too. This was not simply linked to the issue of contingency, which Raymond Aron highlighted in his critique of causality in Simiand.122 The past waiting to be rediscovered was neither linear nor unambiguous, and it was construed as a field crisscrossed by pasts that had for a time been possible futures, including those which had begun to exist and which had been prevented from doing so.

Our doubly indebted present: the reign of presentism
According to François Ewald, responses to uncertainty have taken three forms: foresight, prevention, and, today, precaution.23 The paradigm of responsibility (linked to the advent of liberalism) can be associated with foresight, that of solidarity (represented by the Welfare State) can be associated with prevention, and perhaps a new paradigm, for which a name has yet to be found, will come to be associated with precaution. Ewald proposes the paradigm of “security” and the concomitant emergence of a “Precautionary State.”24 “Foresight” implies not overlooking the ups and downs of life, “prevention” means evaluating risks on the basis of scientific knowledge, and “precaution” acknowledges that even science is not infallible. With it, a new relation to harm and to time is introduced: “there exist the irreparable, the irremediable, the unpardonable, the harm which is beyond compensation and the crime whose prosecution is beyond time restrictions [imprescriptible].”25 Irreversibility and sustainable development are concepts whose temporalities carry with them the idea of time as continuous and seamless, from us to future generations or from future generations back to us. Of course we look toward the future, but on the basis of an extended present, without interruption or revolution.

[…] Ewald has drawn our attention to an “extreme form of the figure of precaution,” according to which development itself would constitute a risk. Let us imagine a product with “an undetectable and unforeseeable defect, which only becomes apparent after a certain length of time. Moreover, the responsibility for the defect can be imputed to the product or producer only due to a scientific context different from the one existing when the product was first put into circulation, used and consumed.”26 How determine civil or criminal liability in such a case? How can someone be held responsible after the fact for something he or she could not possibly have known at the time?

Yet with development risk, when a danger is discovered at some future date, the past (in which the danger was unknown) is still considered to be part of the present of the risk’s discovery. This means that we never leave the present (or at least a legal present). The as yet unsuspected risk is (already) present, and once it has been proven, after the fact, it will continue to belong to that present; it will not be considered as past.

The lifting of statutory limitations here means that the criminal in crimes against humanity remains contemporary with his crime until his death, but by the same token we too are contemporary with the facts to be judged.

The present has thus extended both into the future and into the past. Into the future, through the notions of precaution and responsibility, through the acknowledgment of the irreparable and the irreversible, and through the notions of heritage and debt, the latter being the concept which cements and gives sense to the whole. And into the past, borne by similar concepts such as responsibility and the duty to remember, the drive to make every-thing into heritage, the lifting of time limitations, and last but not least the notion of “debt.” This double indebtedness, toward the past and the future, but derived from our present and weighing upon it, is another hallmark of our contemporary experience. The figure of debt is what transports us from the genocide of the Jews to the risks threatening the entire human species, from the obligation not to forget to the imperative of responsibility:29 in order that future generations may still have the life of human beings and never forget man’s inhumanity to man.

We “start out from” the present, but never really “leave” it? It is the source of all enlightenment. And in a sense there is nothing but the present, not as infinite, but as indefinite. The managerial response to uncertainty is called “flexibility,” where the idea is not so much to anticipate change as to be as flexible as possible at every moment, that is, to be able to be immediately present (“on the case”). It is worth noting that the centrality of uncertainty and of the present applies not only in relation to the future, but also in our approach to the past

[…] however eternal this present might appear, it also avidly or anxiously sought to historicize itself, as though it were forced to project itself ahead, in order to turn back and see itself as already past, forgotten.