Andreas Rhodes and “21.0: A Brief History of Contemporary Times”

  as an identity crisis often have to face professional discipline, history always have to justify their existence on two levels: one is the process of historical awareness, and the second is the function of historical knowledge. Postmodernism and knowledge sociology have had a huge impact on history on the first level, while public historiography requires historical self-innovation on the latter level. Observing the trend since the turn of the century, the discussion inside and outside the discipline has shifted from “how can historical knowledge be as close to historical truth as possible” to “how can historical knowledge benefit our survival and life”. “21.0: A Brief History of Contemporary Times” (hereinafter referred to as “21.0”) written by historian Andreas Rödder from the University of Mainz, Germany, proves the latter question. The value of historical writing. He tried to “explain the contemporary era with historical methods” to help people move forward with a “fearless attitude towards the future”.
  The subtitle of “21.0” is “Contemporary History”. But this is not a “contemporary history” (Zeitgeschichte) in the strict sense, but a novel “history of the present” (Geschichteder Gegenwart). Hans Rothfels, the founder of the specialization of contemporary history research in the Federal Republic of Germany, once defined the objects of research in this field as: the era in which “contemporaries” lived and their scientific treatment of this era . In this concept of relativization, the demarcation of time has become a key issue in contemporary history research, and historians need to adjust the starting point of the “contemporary era” in stages. The years 1917/1918, 1945 and 1989/90 have successively become the beginning of contemporary history. Of course, whether the drastic changes in Eastern Europe and the reunification of the two Germans mean the arrival of a new era in contemporary history writing remains controversial. In any case, contemporary history is a research field defined by me based on a specific time period; in contrast, “present history” is a complete problem history, which neither focuses on time sequence, nor It does not aim to be comprehensive. After drawing on Max Weber’s method to divide the research objects into different types such as country, politics, economy, society and culture, the core of “21.0” is to explore: “In the contemporary era, what is new and what is the reproduction of historical templates? “So, in terms of time, this book does not have an exact starting point. It is based on contemporary phenomena and problems, and then traces the roots one by one. “As for how far back it is, it depends on each research object.”
  Rhodes successively analyzed themes such as the digital revolution, global economy, energy policy, climate issues, socio-cultural and structural changes, “the motherland”, European integration, and world politics. He always uses rich facts to describe the phenomenon, then points out the problem, then analyzes the similarities and/or new changes between reality and history in the review of history, and finally gives his own judgment. He took Germany as the center of the circle, and Europe, the two sides of the Atlantic, the so-called Western world, and the whole world as concentric circles, and then stood in the center and looked outward. Constructing a complete picture of the current history, weighing and considering the branches of the zeitgeist, examining the influence of all major trends, distinguishing political disputes and the scientific thinking behind the discourse-all these are huge challenges for historians, or like De said by himself, it is an “adventure”. In this adventure, he put forward an insightful point of view, and it is inevitable that there will be undersight and bias.
  on digitization, the world economic and environmental issues these big themes, Rhodes did not dwell too much. He just asked: Is it a new phenomenon that technological innovation has changed society? Is the acceleration of life at all levels a new phenomenon? Are people’s fears, hopes, defenses and adaptations of new technologies new phenomena? Is the second globalization an upgraded version of the first globalization, or a new phenomenon, or a combination of both? Was the world financial crisis from 2007 to 2009 a fundamental failure of capitalism? Or is it a periodic systemic crisis? Is climate change a new topic? How does it become a thorny problem deep in the complex network of science, media, and politics? By looking back at history, Rod gave a clear answer to the above questions. But he does not simply answer with “yes” or “no”. He always tries his best to present the complexity, multiplicity, nonlinearity and uncertainty of history and reality. However, in these areas, Rhode’s excellence has not yet been fully demonstrated. He has not provided more insights on the description of “now”, but only made some deeper interpretations of the status quo.
  Starting from the third of the book, when Rod began to enter his more specialized field, he better combined inspection and analysis, and put forward many controversial but thought-provoking views . The first thing that attracts attention is his discourse on social culture and structural changes. Here, the core concept used by Rhodes is “value.” Values ​​can be understood as universal and basic normative concepts of order, which “prescribe people’s thoughts, speech, and actions”. Rhodes is concerned: How has value judgment changed since the 1970s? What is the value of the new meaning structure? How can they further lead to more general social changes? For this reason, he put forward the viewpoint of “value transformation”. This transformation is manifested in two levels: one is the change in the connotation of a certain value itself, which is mainly reflected in people’s new understanding of freedom and equality; the second is the transformation of the entire value system, which is mainly manifested in the transition from modern value to postmodern Value change. However, Rod did not draw this transformation as a simple and clear line. The development of history has never been “new” completely replacing “old”. He analyzed the paradox and legacy of postmodernism, and emphasized that after deconstructing the traditional concept of order, postmodernism itself has constructed a new concept of order—“fusion”. Fusion points to diversity, tolerance, sharing, balance and integrity, but it also creates a new power structure. Because it is in the fusion culture that “traditional concepts and lifestyles of order have become the edge of discourse and norms.” The fusion culture centered on freedom and diversity has triggered changes in the social structure: consumption is regarded as a symbol of free choice and self-construction, and therefore has become an important factor in identity; the free market economy generates wealth and inequality, and the more market economy there is Vitality increases inequality; multiculturalism has become the norm in many societies, but it has challenged the formation of basic social consensus; the decline in the birth rate is mainly the result of enjoying more freedom; the attitude towards gender and family also means that Choose equally among many free choices.
  In this part of the content, it is very obvious that Rod’s historical writing is constantly in dialogue with the diagnosis of the era of social science. He shuttled in the fields of sociology, social philosophy, social psychology, economics, political science and communication, and of course always returned to history in the end. In fact, in the past ten years, the question of “whether and when should contemporary historians associate with the results and theories of contemporary social science research” has triggered a long-lasting methodological dispute within German historical science. The main battlefield is the German language. In the world’s most important professional journal of contemporary history “Contemporary History Quarterly”. From 2009 to 2018, Rohde presided over a historical research project of the German Science Foundation on value transformation. Because “value transformation” itself is a social science concept, this research has become the best experiment for the integration of history and social science. In the conference proceedings of the project “Have there ever been a value transformation? “(Gab es den Wertewandel?, 2014), Rhodes clearly pointed out that for history, social science research can play three roles: “First of all, they act as historical observers by virtue of their own questioning methods and types of analysis. Conceptual starting point. Historical observation is never without preconditions. It always starts from presupposition. In this respect, they are (methodological and theoretical) references. Given their historical significance and historical applicability, they need to be reviewed Inspect. Secondly, they are used as empirical data and conclusions at their disposal. However, considering their prerequisites, methods, intentions and significance of results, history should be particularly critically cautious and expert opinions. To use them. In this regard, social science research can be regarded as a unique type between historical data and reference documents, or a connection between the two. Again, social sciences as actors, their research As an element of the social process, it is itself (in a broad sense) the object and historical data of the observation of the history of science.”