Our Historic Mission' Party Political Pasts and Futures in Contemporary Britain

Robinson, Emily. 2010. Our Historic Mission' Party Political Pasts and Futures in Contemporary Britain. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The temporal positioning of political parties is an important aspect of their philosophical stance. This cannot simply be characterised as forward-facing progressivism and backwards-looking conservatism; since at least the late nineteenth century both progressive and conservative positions have involved a complex combination of nostalgia, obligation and inheritance. But while conservatives have emphasised a filial duty towards the past as enduring tradition, progressives have stressed the need to bear memories of past injustice forward, in order to achieve a different future. The contention of this thesis is that since the late 1970s these temporal positions have begun to dissolve. Both Labour and the Conservatives now favour what might be termed an 'affirmative presentist' approach to political time, whereby the present is viewed as both the 'achievement' of the past and the 'creator' of the future. There are strong affinities with a whig approach to history, particularly in the way that parliamentary politics are conceived as necessarily 'historic'. This is a clear departure from progressivism, which positions the present on an historical trajectory running from past oppressions to an imagined future. It is Similarly removed from conservatism, which roots its pragmatic approach to the present in a sense of lived continuity with the past. Affirmative presentism is based in an eternal, liminal present. It is always becoming history, becoming historic. Moreover, I suggest that this temporal positioning is in tune with wider cultural trends. Since the late 1970s, commentators have noted a growth in public nostalgia, whereby historicity is coded as authenticity - from estate agents' brochures to vintage clothing boutiques. In this cultural context, a link with the past is a valuable political commodity but the taint of anachronism or being 'stuck in the past' is to be avoided at all costs. The temporal emphasis remains firmly rooted in the present.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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temporal positioning, affirmative presentist, Labour, Conservative, conservatism, estate agents brochures,

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Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 15:42

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:17



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