Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access JSTOR through your library or other institution:

login

Log in through your institution.

Journal Article

THE MATHEMATICS OF TIME IN HISTORY

NOËL BONNEUIL
History and Theory
Vol. 49, No. 4, Theme Issue 49: History and Theory: The Next Fifty Years (December 2010), pp. 28-46
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41300048
Page Count: 19
Were these topics helpful?
See something inaccurate? Let us know!

Select the topics that are inaccurate.

  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
THE MATHEMATICS OF TIME IN HISTORY
Preview not available

Abstract

The themes of connectedness and continuity, which are also mathematical properties, have run like a red thread through the last fifty years of History and Theory, notably in the theory of the narration of action in history. In this essay I review various answers to the question of the driving force that motivates action and that propels a sequence, continuous or discontinuous. These answers underpin narrative strategies intended to solve the problem of human agency and thereby to provide the basis for historical narratives. I argue that both continuous and discontinuous conceptions of history have to do with the restrictive concept of trajectory. Most of our familiar concepts such as trajectory, equilibrium, optimum, probability, and sensitivity to initial conditions are taken from mathematics and physics, but how well adapted are they to dealing with the time of actors, whose actions are intermingled with uncertainty? I shall present alternative concepts of dynamics, ones that no longer lead toward just one particular future or that reflect a single past. On this basis I suggest reorganizing our view of historical time along the principles of maintenance, acquisition, and victory. Historical sources trace back not to one story or one process that is plausible or that appeals to common sense, but to a whole family of processes. From the past, we can obtain sets of constraints that circumscribe sets of stories rather than a single scenario. I shall then propose a topology of the time of action based on my alternative conception of dynamics, a topology made of what I call viability kernels, capture basins, and victory domains.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[28]
    [28]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
29
    29
  • Thumbnail: Page 
30
    30
  • Thumbnail: Page 
31
    31
  • Thumbnail: Page 
32
    32
  • Thumbnail: Page 
33
    33
  • Thumbnail: Page 
34
    34
  • Thumbnail: Page 
35
    35
  • Thumbnail: Page 
36
    36
  • Thumbnail: Page 
37
    37
  • Thumbnail: Page 
38
    38
  • Thumbnail: Page 
39
    39
  • Thumbnail: Page 
40
    40
  • Thumbnail: Page 
41
    41
  • Thumbnail: Page 
42
    42
  • Thumbnail: Page 
43
    43
  • Thumbnail: Page 
44
    44
  • Thumbnail: Page 
45
    45
  • Thumbnail: Page 
46
    46