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Fiction and the Social Contract

Genocide, Pornography, and the Deconstruction of History

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Larry L. Langford

Although postmodernism has questioned the distinction between history and fiction, it has not weakened it. History is a discourse with necessary consequences. Since Plato its distinction from fiction has been recognized as a fundamental aspect of the social contract and, therefore, as a matter of life and death. The authority to designate what is real leads ultimately to the authority to decide when it is morally permissible to take a human life. Controversies as diverse as the historians' debate on the Holocaust and the feminist critique of pornography take as their starting point the need to resist those who would treat the past as a type of fiction that can be rewritten to further the aims of political or sexual oppression.