Rüsen’s Legacy of Synthetic Historicism

Abstract The English translation of Jörn Rüsen’s Historik is a major event in the global community of the theory of history. Few contemporary thinkers in this field have been so systematic and comprehensive as Rüsen. This book, rendered as Evidence and Meaning, is the outcome of a whole life devoted to the renewal of German historicism. Rüsen’s contribution mirrors the great debates held in West Germany since the 1960s about the theory of history (Historik), discussions that prompted a conjoint reassessment of the old dispute between historicist academia and Marxist or Weberian sociologism, including the consequences of the linguistic turn. Rüsen has opened the German historicist tradition toward spaces of compromise with the Western “scientific” or more generalizing history. Furthermore, Rüsen’s synthetic historicism, with its insistence on praxis, might be taken as a case of convergent evolution between German and American syntheses of historical life and historical knowledge.