Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives

By James W. Pennebaker; Dario Paez et al. | Go to book overview

can be classified as chronological, conflictual, characterizing, affective, polarizing, and history making.

These different narratives, which show the most coherence with respect to the hypotheses of Halbwachs ( 1950), concern different social groups. Aside from the interest that the identification of these groups that maintain different positions might have (their sociological and demographic characteristics, etc.), it is true that they could easily be recognized and clear differences could be shown. Later studies should eventually lead to a detailed description of the correspondences between narratives and social groups or categories.

This would, therefore, be a useful work, as it is through their belonging to a social group that individuals participate in the building of remembering. We agree with Connerton ( 1989) who stated that the idea of an individual memory completely separate from social memory is a meaningless abstraction. Nevertheless, the most important implication of this statement is that the different social groups, categories, and collectives, each with its own past, will surely have different social memories that shape and are shaped by their own intersubjectivity. Every memory, as personal as it may be--even of events that are private and strictly personal and have not been shared with anyone--exists through its relation with what has been shared with others: language, idiom, events, and everything that shapes the society of which individuals are a part.

In our initial discussion, we also sought the connection with ideology and political action. Remembering has something to do with both. We have maintained that the fundamental relationship is related to legitimization, and more specifically with the legitimization of the democratic order. Therefore, one of the consequences of the gradual conversion of social memory into history is the considering of the democratic order as the context that reduces the conflict, the fight, that the war represents. Another consequence is undoubtedly the presentation of a social context of continuity in time that favors identity as a collective unit, and restates progressiveness. As a result, unity between collectives and the political system is firmly asserted. This unity is guaranteed by the objectivization of certain enemies from the past, which must be fought in order to maintain the system--an aspect that falls back once again on legitimacy.


ACKNOWLEDGMIENTS

Previous versions of this chapter were presented at the 19th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Washington, DC ( USA) and XXV Congreso de la Sociedad Interamericana de

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