By J. H. Plumb (auth.)
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Extra resources for The Death of the Past
Think but of radio sets or of motorcars and how they have changed in less than a generation. So men and women today are not conditioned in their daily lives to a world that is tied to an imperTHE THE SANCTION OF THE PAST ceptibly changing past, in which the patterns of work, the relationship between fathers and children, or even between the social classes, possess the sanctity of tradition. Life is change, uncertainty, and only the present can have validity and that, maybe, not for long. The consequence, of course, is to accept a similar attitude in ideas of conduct, in the concepts of social structure or family life.
Needham, Science and Civilization in China (Cambridge, 1965), iv (2) 465-80. The most elaborate and complex astronomic clock of the T'ang dynasty appean to have been devised so that the position of the stan THE THE PAST AS DESTINY mean a static world without technical change or social transformation. Indeed, no civilization has looked so resolutely backwards as the Chinese, yet the technical ingenuity of the Chinese was quite remarkable and often well in advance of Western would be known even if the Heavens were cloudy, in case any of the Emperor's wives or concubines conceived.
And from the oracle bones of An-yang 1 The official historian in China seems to have evolved, during the Han period, from the office of the Grand Astrologer, by which title Ssu-ma Chi'en's father was known. For a description of the way tortoise-shells were used, see The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, transl. Burton Watson (Columbia University Press, 1968), 298. AS THE DEATH OF THE PAST and the omen tablets of Old Babylon to the dialectical materialism of Marx, Engels and Lenin, the same optimistic hope that the study of the past will enable one to control the future everywhere abounds.