in Post-everything


This volume emerges out of a workshop held on 31 August and 1 September 2017 in the Trip House in Amsterdam, a seventeenth-century neoclassical city palace that is nowadays the seat of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The irony of discussing post-concepts in a historic building full of antique art and furniture was hard to miss. While we examined rhetorical strategies for ‘getting rid of the past’, the decorated ceiling above our heads tried to keep classic architectonic forms alive. From the walls, solemn oil portraits of white male luminaries eavesdropped on our conversations on postfeminist identity. In one of the coffee breaks, we found ourselves exploring how images of weaponry inside and outside of the building – the Trip brothers made their fortune in the arms trade – related to the post-colonial sensibilities discussed just a few minutes before. Clearly, the past can be present in unexpected ways, challenging simple, secessionist accounts of historical change.

Nonetheless, what a privilege it was to spend two days in this historic location, thanks to yet another historical figure: the nineteenth-century Dutch prime minister Johan Rudolph Thorbecke (1798–1872). It was the Thorbecke Fund, established by Willem Thorbecke (1920–2014) in honour of his great-grandfather, that provided generous funding for our workshop as well as for the open access publication of this volume. Although the link between Thorbecke’s liberal constitutionalism and the rise of post-concepts in post-war sociology and theology is not immediately evident, it so happened that the auctor intellectualis of the Dutch constitution of 1848 started his career as a historian and philosopher. Thorbecke’s 1824 book Ueber das Wesen und den organischen Character der Geschichte (On the Nature and the Organic Character of History) shows his deep fascination for historicist notions of development. If this volume points to the persistence of such ‘developmental historicism’ in the post-Christian and post-ideological imagination, it testifies to the long-term influence of a mode of thinking that was dear to the young Thorbecke.

Turning now to the living, we would like to thank the commentators who greatly contributed to the liveliness of our discussions: Sascha Bru, Peter van Dam, Meike de Goede, Liesbeth van de Grift, Rajesh Heynickx, Yolande Jansen, Merel Leeman, Matthijs Lok, Bram Mellink, Marion Pluskota, Henriette Steiner, and Peter-Wim Zuidhof. One of them, Yolande Jansen, helped us improve the balance between ‘older’ and ‘newer’ post-concepts by turning her improvised remarks on post-humanism into a fully fledged chapter, co-authored with Leire Urricelqui and Jasmijn Leeuwenkamp. We are indebted to K. Healan Gaston, whose detailed comments on our book proposal and draft introduction were particularly helpful. Also, we are grateful to Martine Koot (KNAW) for her practical help in organizing the workshop, to Manon van den Brekel for carefully editing a whole pile of draft chapters and to Caroline Schep for preparing the index. At Manchester University Press, Emma Brennan cheerfully shepherded the manuscript through to publication. Finally, we thank our copy-editor, Anita Joseph, for correcting a lot of small mistakes.

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An intellectual history of post-concepts


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