Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

'Pastness and Presentism in Contemporary British Politics'

27 November 2013 | 4.30pm - 6:00pm | Seminar

EC Stoner 10.70

You are all warmly invited to our next Political Theory Research Seminar delivered by Emily Robinson, (University of Sussex)


This paper examines the way that British political parties locate themselves in time. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which laments the a-historicity of contemporary party politics, it shows that the past remains an ever-present point of reference in political discourse. However, it argues that this is a fundamentally different historical attitude to that which prevailed before 1979. Until recent decades, political understandings of the past – and of the historical process - were ideologically distinct.

Yet, in the place of conservative duty and radical obligation to active political pasts, we now see a rather anodyne use of history as a source of lessons, warnings and precedents. The past is called upon to legitimate and affirm the present, but not to challenge it. Above all, it provides a legitimating framework by which contemporary political actions appear constantly ‘historic’. This has consequences. It constrains the way in which political actors imagine their own roles and limits their capacity to imagine and create different futures.

Location Details

EC Stoner 10.70

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