ABSTRACT

We are asked to consider the relation between politics and the imagination, or, to put it more precisely, politics as a struggle for the imagination. In this chapter, I want to consider the extent to which history, considered as both a mode of being in the world and as a kind of knowledge about the world, has been used in that struggle. Let me say at the outset that I regard the study of history or indeed any inquiry into the past as primarily an imaginative enterprise. Bachelard once said that we can study only that which we have first dreamed about. This may or may not be true or may be true of some things and not of others. In any event, insofar as dreaming belongs to the imagination much more than to the rational faculty, Bachelard is telling us something important about the relation between certain kinds of knowledge (or knowledge production) and certain kinds of objects of knowledge.