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September/October 2004 Historically Speaking 17 ally framed as revelations and still leavened with compulsory cloying moralism. For instance, the historical establishment has rediscovered that industrial workers spent time in churches as well as factories and, guess what, one venue affected the other. Similarly, tight-knitcommunitiesunder stress produced conservative activists as well as heroic radicals and, guess what, lots ofthe conservatives were women. But there is hope for something beyond caution and quibbling. You do nothave to be a demographer or futurologist, only a regular at facultymeetings, to notice that the long predicted wave ofretirements will finallystart to occur within a decade. Then, briefly, demand for academic historians will once again exceed supply for roughly a decade. Another forty-year job crisis will undoubtedly follow. During this interlude, however, free spirits among Generation X-ers and the "millennial" generation that follows may feel sufficientlysecure to problematize questions that are significantly problematic. In the meantime, ain't it awful? You bet. It always is. Leo P. Ribuffo is Society ofthe Cincinnati George Washington DistinguishedProfessor ofHistory at George Washington University. He is the author of"Confessions ofan Accidental (or Perhaps Overdetermined) Historian , " in Elizabeth Fox-Genovese andElisabeth Lasch-Quinn, eds., Reconstructing History: The Emergence ofa New Historical Society (Routledge, 1999), 143-163. 1 Bruce Kuklick, The Rise ofAmerican Philosophy: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860-1930 (Yale University Press, 1977); Churchmen and Philosophers: FromJonathan Edwards toJohn Dewey (Yale University Press, 1985); Puritans in Babylon: The Ancient Near East and American Intellectual Life, 1880-1930 (Princeton University Press, 1996); To Every Time A Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia 1909-1976 (Princeton University Press, 1991); and "Writing the History ofPractice : The Humanities and Baseball, widi a Nod to Wrestling," in Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, eds., Reconstructing History: The Emergence ofa New Historical Society (Routledge , 1999), 176-88. 2 Almost all ofthe leaders ofour trade during the quarter century after World War ? affirmed the political, sociological, and psychological "vital center " (to recall ArthurM. Schlesinger,Jr.'s famous phrase), but they did not necessarily discern or affirm an American consensus. Accordingly, following Gene Wise, I prefer to call them counterprogressive historians. See Wise, American HistoricalExplanations :A Strategyfor GroundedInquiry (Dorsey, 1977). 3 In conversation over a beer. 4 Richard Rorty, "Philosophical Convictions," Nation, June 14, 2004, 54. 5 Bruce Kuklick, "History as a Way ofLearning," American Quarterly 22 (1970): 609-628. Comment on Kuklick Marc Trachtenberg What is going to determine the future ofthe American historical profession? For Bruce Kuklick, sheer numbers are of fundamental importance. The profession, he thinks, has become so large that it no longer has, or indeed can have, a clear sense ofwhat it is about. In the old days you knew what the important works were. You could see which works defined "the contours of historical knowledge" at any particular point in time. But today there are so many historians and there is so much pressure to publish that no one can hope to develop a sense for what, in scholarly terms, pulls the community ofhistorians together. Indeed—to draw out what for me is one of the key implications of Kuklick's argument —there is not much that makes our occupational group a real profession, with a distinctidentityand a broadlyaccepted set of standards for "authoritatively evaluating" scholarly work. Instead, what we have is a mass ofpeople laboring in particular subfields . The work they produce is rarely of interest to scholars working in other subfields . People write for very narrow audiences , producing books and articles that, as a general rule, almost no one reads. What passes for the profession is reallya congeries ofspecialized groups with highly parochial interests—groups, moreover, ofprivileged individuals, shielded by the tenure system, turned in on themselves, cut off from the larger society, incapable, by and large, of even giving theirundergraduate students the sort ofinstruction they need. The problem, according to Kuklick, is rooted inwhathe calls "mass professionalization ," although perhaps (ifwe bear in mind what a profession is supposed to be) "mass deprofessionalization" might be a better term. There are just so many people trained to be historians, and so much work that has to be published, that things more or less had to develop along these...


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