16 November 2015

Is History is the Memory of States?

No significant conclusions are possible in the study of foreign affairs—the study of states acting as units—without an awareness of the historical context. For societies exist in time more than in space. At any given moment a state is but a collection of individuals, as positivist scholars have never wearied of pointing out. But it achieves identity through the consciousness of a common history. This is the only "experience" nations have, their only possibility of learning from themselves. History is the memory of states.
Henry A. Kissinger, A World Restored (1957)
Henry Kissinger presumes the existence of nationalism. Nationalism requires a collective memory, a set of shared experiences among disparate individuals.

In "History is the Memory of States" (2009), I extracted a longer passage from Kissinger's A World Restored (1957). My concern there was to pose some questions concerning Howard Zinn's use of Kissinger's assertion, "History is the memory of states," as a foil against which to develop his People's History. Zinn quoted the statement accurately, obscured the context, and produced a history that is vastly different in emphasis than anything written by Kissinger.

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