Man [ . . . ] has forgotten how to hope.
This hell of the pres ent is at last his kingdom.
— Albert Camus
If there is not a single concept capable of capturing the specificity of the
pres ent, or of a significant subset thereof, it is because it is irreducible to a
sole dimension or a unique trajectory. It has no single meaning or direction.
There is, on the one hand, a plurality of significations and a multiplicity
of methods for trying to grasp the pres ent. This explains the impor-
tance of the notion of a historical imaginary, which is plural and varies
according to time, space, and social milieu. On the other hand, history
does not follow a sole and unique course, despite what some would have
us believe. There are multiple directions and vari ous currents. History
is not to be confused with destiny, and one will not find a single motor
at the core of all historical developments. There is rather a plurality of
agencies that interact with one other in a highly complex chemistry.
It is for this reason, among others, that the notion of a conjuncture is
particularly pertinent, since it refers to the meeting point of multiple
directions and meanings of history.
In proposing a counter- history of the pres ent, this book does not seek to
identify the characteristic feature of our time. On the contrary, it aims
at breaking with epochal thought by highlighting the nonexistence of
the pres ent in the singular. Taking into account the three dimensions
Taking Charge of the Meanings
and Directions of History