In your own time

Take the point made below about timescales, but reverse it. This isthe more accurate representation of how things stand in terms ofinfluence. Our own particular, partisan approaches require that thingsbe presented in the manner I first suggested, but the more exhaustivereading indicates that the reverse is the case. It seems a minor point,but it is crucial to the presentation of the argument. Here’s why.

Inthis change of timescales throughout history, the fragmentation of timehas taken place just as the individual has risen in importance.Fragmentation here isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can simply observethat from the introduction of clocks in villages and towns, allowingfor a more precise breakdown beyond the pace of the ringing of churchbells for services, up to the industrial age and the ascent of thepocketwatch (and all the social effects of this) ever smaller divisionsof time have become possible. As a result, the grand timescales ofdynasties and institutions are now seen as an aggregate of phases, ofyears and decades and centuries. As such, the long view is no longerregarded as an organic or collective entity unto itself.

Considerthis with regard to the phenomenon of European aristocratic dynasties.The Habsburg family (with all its various cadet branches included)claims to trace itself back to the 10th century, and from herethey married their way to a continental supremacy that convulsed Europein war and ruin over the centuries. It would not be fruitful toconsider their history in terms of individuals, as our sense of time isdifferent to theirs.

Theircoat of arms is a testament to the various alliances, co-options,annexations, marriages, and outright thefts that consolidate such adynasty as a supra-individual entity. In these terms, we must considerthe context of time and timescales. By leaving out the collectiveentity of time, we miss something. In his “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View”,Kant points out in his second thesis that “those natural capacitieswhich are directed to the use of […] reason are to be fully developedonly in the race, not in the individual.” Ignoring the use of the word’race’ here with it’s chauvinistic implications, we see that there isan awareness of the different implications of different timescales. Oneis not superior to another, but has rather a different function.


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