Archaeology and Politics
No. 50 fo r May, 1975 Vol . V No. 3 Published December, 1975
Edited by Andrew & Wendy Selkirk, 9 Nassington Road, London NW3 2TX, Tel. 01-435 7517
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History reflects the age in which it is written. Consciously or unconsciously, we are all affected by the ideas of our own day, and the archaeologist, in interpreting his facts, is jus t as much influenced by the current climate of opinion as is the overt politician or moralist. Thus when politics change, archaeology wil l change too, and from time to time, the archaeologist should look at the political scene, to take stock of the biases to which he is subject, the atmosphere which subconsciously he wil l absorb.
Today, the political scene is on the verge of major changes. For the past 30 years there has been a fundamental consensus based largely on the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, whose ideas, though first accepted in Britain, have now become the conventional wisdom all over the free world. Yet critics of Keynes always said that his policies would inevitably result in ever increasing inflation, and the current worldwide inflation would seem to suggest that the dangers have indeed come to pass. Thus the Keynesian star is waning, and over the past few years, the most accurate predictions, and the most stimulating ideas have been those of the monetarist school of economics, headed by Professor Milton Friedman, of the University of Chicago. Friedman's monumental Monetary History of the United States, 1867 to I960, may well take its place alongside Marx's Capital and Keynes' General Theory as one of those books whose ideas have shaped the intellectual climate of a generation.
But i f economics change, politics wil l change too , and if politics change, sooner or later archaeology wil l feel the influence. Our sister study of economic history wil l doubtless feel an immediate influence: economic history at present is dominated by Keynesian macro-economic theory and will thus need to be re-thought. In archaeology too, one might suggest that some of the current obsessions of archaeologists, such as the 'New' archaeology in America, and the obsession with 'Continuity' in this country may well be challenged if the political beliefs on which they are based are themselves challenged. The prospect of the advent of new ideas is always an exhilarating one: if these new ideas flourish, then the next 50 issues of Current Archaeology may well be exciting ones.