In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies

David Rieff


In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies

In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies

  • Title: In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies
  • Author: David Rieff
  • ISBN: 9780300182798
  • Page: 155
  • Format: Hardcover



The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana s celebrated phrase, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute And yet is this right David Rieff, an independent writer who has reported on bloody conflicts in Africa, the Balkans,The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana s celebrated phrase, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute And yet is this right David Rieff, an independent writer who has reported on bloody conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia, insists that things are not so simple He poses hard questions about whether remembrance ever truly has, or indeed ever could, inoculate the present against repeating the crimes of the past He argues that rubbing raw historical wounds whether self inflicted or imposed by outside forces neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option sometimes called for, sometimes not Collective remembrance can be toxic Sometimes, Rieff concludes, it may be moral to forget Ranging widely across some of the defining conflicts of modern times the Irish Troubles and the Easter Uprising of 1916, the white settlement of Australia, the American Civil War, the Balkan wars, the Holocaust, and 9 11 Rieff presents a pellucid examination of the uses and abuses of historical memory His contentious, brilliant, and elegant essay is an indispensable work of moral philosophy.


Recent Comments "In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies"

Essentially a literature review of standard writings on social and collective memory. The palimpsest of quotations, names and locations moves quickly from one thing to another, and as a consequence remains mostly at surface-level. When Rieff finally makes a concentrated feint at an argument, in his own words to boot, it is only in the concluding chapter. The preceeding tour d'horizon though has little structure and has not built strongly towards anything; as a result his wispy conclusions feel u [...]

The title of David Rieff's latest book, "In Praise of Forgetting" perhaps obscures his measured and judicious consideration of history, historical remembrance, historical memory, and forgetting. Rieff does not so much advocate forgetting history's atrocities, but makes, as the New York Times reviewer put it, a "pugnacious" argument for why not everything should be remembered. Reading "In Praise of Forgetting" was very much like listening to David Rieff at the dinner table (full disclosure: he an [...]

David Rieff has read a lot of books. This volume is just bursting with erudition, and although I disagree with a lot of his points (which, to be honest, I found hard to discern, as he seems to draw ellipses in avoidance of actually endorsing forgetting) it is a good collection of references towards scholars who work with history, memory and trauma. Yosef Yerushalmi, I have been waiting for you for a *very* long time.

El libro es una colección de pequeños ensayos muy provocadores sobre la naturaleza, proposito y utilidad de la memoria colectiva. ¿conocer el pasado, seguirlo recordando asegura que los errores del pasado no se repitan? es la pregunta que guía parte del argumento de los ensayos. Por otro lado el argumento también gira en torno a como la memoria colectiva en muchos casos puede terminar siendo una fuente de nuevas tragedias como el caso de Kosovo Polje en el siglo XIV y el rol que su recuerdo [...]

Interesting but wrong. The author bases its thinking upon a fallacy: historic manipulation equals abuse of memory. In order to prevent manipulation he prescribes forgetfulness. Time to distinguish concepts.

InterestingDensely written. Straightforward ideas. Communal remembering overrated, leads to violence. Author advocates for active forgetting. Not an easy read, author writes like Kant’s little brother.

Lucid, cogent, thoughtful, and provocative.

A fascinating read on an essential topic. Rieff’s perspective is challenging and well articulated.

I disagree with many of David Rieff's arguments because of a fundamental difference in the way we view history, but I'm learning a lot by reading stuff that challenges my view.My biggest pet peeve with this book is that I feel like I'm reading a sinister SAT reading passage. It's like this guy is trying to smash five different ideas into one paragraph-length sentence. I have to reread many of these types of blurbs because it slips out of my head. words words wordsexample:"And regardless of wheth [...]

As a historian, the premise from which I work is that history--the past--matters. And it matters not in some antiquarian sense of preserving that which is behind us, but in a critical sense of grappling with the past--of tracing historical continuities and ruptures--to tease out perspectives that can help us better navigate the dilemmas of our times. Reiff sets out to challenge that very premise, and I figured it was worth testing my case. I left with my assumptions intact. Why? Because Reiff, w [...]

Well, what a pleasant departure from my usual fare! This was an cogent academic essay that questioned the basis for collective memory very clearly and then in its 'even if' sections, questioned the justification of anything via collective memory, therefore we must be much more open to forgetting as an appropriate response. In reflecting on this book, which rightly puts memory at the forefront of building social cohesion, especially at a national level, I was eventually more concerned with the qu [...]

An interesting look at the price we pay to remember the past. Book is a great read and Rieff wonderfully organizes a ton of material. The dust jacket includes this little intro - "The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana’s celebrated phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute. And yet is this right?" At the end of it, I am not sure w [...]

This is one of numerous books since about 2004 that have considered the salutary uses (and abuses) of forgetting in situations of historical conflict. Joining Bradford Vivian, Paul Ricoeur, and others, Rieff, who is not a scholar, has written a very compelling and important essay challenging received wisdom of "never forget!" when it comes to events such as wars and genocides. But this is not a simplistic polemic; instead the author offers judicious and careful assessment of when remembering may [...]

The author proposes that forgetting history rather than always remembering it might be the saner option. This goes against the grain of all modern day nation building. Rieff discusses how little true history there is in memorials, commemoration and collective memory. Many good examples of how peoples and nations have used myth posing as history as a way to keep a grievance alive are given. It's a good discussion. Rieff is less successful pinpointing exactly which history should be forgotten. And [...]

The most thoughtful and thought-provoking book I have read in a long time. In an ideal world it would be required reading for anyone intending to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election - any election or Brexit type referendum for that matter. At times the writing style is dense, with long, parenthetically loaded sentences, but by the final page the need for this approach is clear and fully paid off. Rieff's commitment to the whole of humanity is rare and admirable. I don't see how it's [...]

For me this was an exciting and exacting read. The margins are filled with notes and questions and clarifications and I added a bibliography of the writers and thinkers he mentioned so I can read more. The challenge is to distinguish between the critical nature of history and the mystical nature of memory, so the wounds of the past need not, by necessity, become the wounds of the future. I have long argued that forgiveness does not mean you forget. My very position has been great challenge by th [...]

Examining the underpinnings of collective memory and drawing from examples both ancient and modern, the slim volume "In Praise of Forgetting" is a must-read for anyone serious about understanding how memory - whether accurate, revised, or contrived - has helped shaped our modern world and guides our social values. A philosophical book, it may not appeal to the average armchair historian.

This would have made a great essay in the Times magazine. The author assumes a lot of prior knowledge. Also, it was, in my opinion - and since this is my review, it's my opinion - that the author could have done with a good editor (because good editors help) to make some of the run-on sentences readable.

Couldn't stand reading this book it is so terribly written. It's the book version of that annoying guy you avoid at parties because all he does is name drop to make himself look cool. Same concept, except quoting famous philosophers and such, so you really know how well read the author is. Blech.

The author is the son of Philip Rieff and Susan Sontag, so you know he's smart. This is a wonderful, provocative essay. Ernest moral philosophy.

Only a cursory reading, and I cherry-picked the more interesting bits for reference purposes.I wouldn't call it "terrible" writing, but it definitely needs a tightening up. Too many run-on sentences.

Con un estilo complicado, difícil, lleno de referencias bibliográficas, citas, datos biográficos, aclaraciones, el autor trata un tema complejo y sutil, con puntos muy delicados y sensibles. Logra un texto interesante pero sin concreción.El tema parte de la idea de que quienes no conocen el pasado sin remedio están condenados a repetirlo, algo que la obra pone en duda. Quizá todos estén condenados a repetirlo, conozcan o no el pasado. ¿Sirve conocerlo? ¿Ayuda a evitar lo malo que antes [...]


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