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Clarifying Liquidity

Keynes and Marx, Merchants, and Poets

Rolf Hugoson

Abstract

This article is a history of liquidity presented as interaction between metaphors and theoretical concepts in social contexts. While taking note of Zygmunt Bauman's metaphor “liquid modernity,” the study instead surveys the wider conceptual field. The text turns around mercantile liquidity (liquidity as clarification) and liquidity in modern economics (characteristic of all assets), as well as older metaphors, notably the famous phrase of the Communist Manifesto, “all that is solid melts into air” (Alles Ständische und Stehende verdampft), which is revealed to have resonance in texts by poets, notably Heinrich Heine. The main result is the historical consistency of the field, where liquidity is a promise of knowledge and clarity.

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Max Stille

Abstract

This review article provides an overview of important, recent approaches to conceptual history from scholarship on South Asia. While conceptual history is not a consolidated field in South Asia, the colonial encounter has greatly stimulated interest in conceptual inquiries. Recent scholarship questions the uniformity even of well-researched concepts such as liberalism. It is methodologically innovative in thinking about the influence of economic structures for the development of concepts. Rethinking religious and secular languages, scholars have furthermore stressed the importance of smaller communicative units such as genre or hermeneutical practices to shape ideas e.g. of the political. As part of global and imperial formations, scholars are well aware of the link between power and colonial temporalities. Lastly, they have suggested new sources for conceptual history, such as literature, film, and sound.

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Christian Ewert and Marion Repetti

Abstract

What is democratic theory? In this article we treat it as a semiotic code – that is to say, a shared assumption – and argue that democratic theory enables people to think and talk about the idea(s) of democracy. Furthermore, the application of this specific code is highly political. For one, it is embedded in concrete contexts and discourses and used in arguments and narratives. In addition, the application of democratic theory has also substantial consequences on the lives of people. We illustrate this argument by reflecting briefly on Abraham Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address” and its recodification and consequences in different contexts.

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Ali Aslam, David McIvor, and Joel Alden Schlosser

Abstract

Urgent alarms now warn of the erosion of democratic norms and the decline of democratic institutions. These antidemocratic trends have prompted some democratic theorists to reject the seeming inevitability of democratic forms of government and instead to consider democracy as a fugitive phenomenon. Fugitive democracy, as we argue below, is a theory composed of two parts. First, it includes a robust, normative ideal of democracy and, second, a clear-eyed vision of the historical defeats and generic difficulties attendant to that ideal. This article considers how democratic theorists might respond to the challenges posed by fugitive democracy and the implications of such an understanding for future research in democratic theory.

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Modernity, Ḥadātha, and Modernité in the Works of Abdallah Laroui

Conceptual Translation and the Politics of Historicity

Nils Riecken

Abstract

The puzzle this article examines is how one can study the concept of modernity within the history of its universalization as a process of translation. For this purpose, I look at how the contemporary Moroccan historian and intellectual Abdallah Laroui has critically engaged with the history, politics, and epistemology of translating modernity (Arabic ḥadātha, French modernité) into his intellectual and political setting of Morocco, North Africa, and the Middle East during and after the colonial period. I read him as making a critical intervention into existing modes of timing and spacing the concept of modernity and, thus, what I describe as the politics of historicity. In conclusion, I make a methodological plea for framing the history of concepts across political borders in terms of translational practices.

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Charles Bradford Bow

This article examines the “progress” of Scottish metaphysics during the long eighteenth century. The scientific cultivation of natural knowledge drawn from the examples of Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), John Locke (1632–1704), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) was a defining pursuit in the Scottish Enlightenment. The Aberdonian philosopher George Dalgarno (1616–1687); Thomas Reid (1710–1796), a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society known as the Wise Club; and the professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University Dugald Stewart (1753–1828), contributed to that Scottish pattern of philosophical thinking. The question of the extent to which particular external senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) might be improved when others were damaged or absent from birth attracted their particular interest. This article shows the different ways in which Scottish anatomists of the mind resolved Molyneux’s Problem of whether or not an agent could accurately perceive an object from a newly restored external sense.

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"A Mountain of Words"

Children's Literacy in Rural France, 1800–1950

Elizabeth C. Macknight

This article presents an interdisciplinary approach to archival research on records produced by children that survive in family archives. It corresponds with the aims of education specialists who investigate patterns in language learning to understand how young minds absorb influences concurrently from familial, religious, and social circles across disparate cultural settings. Drawing upon the concept of syncretic literacy, the article interprets French archival evidence of children’s development of linguistic competency and sensitivity to language use in context. It argues for the need to advocate both the conservation of children’s archives and the design of educational programs that enable children to discover the role of archivists and the purposes of recordkeeping in society.

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Reflecting on Fifty Years of Democratic Theory

Carole Pateman in Conversation with Graham Smith

Carole Pateman and Graham Smith

Carole Pateman reflects on her fifty years of scholarship in conversation with Graham Smith. The discussion focuses particular attention on Pateman's work on participatory democracy and considers her contributions to debates on political obligation, feminism, basic income, and deliberative democracy.

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Systematizing Democratic Systems Approaches

Seven Conceptual Building Blocks

Rikki Dean, Jonathan Rinne, and Brigitte Geissel

Abstract

The notion that democracy is a system is ever present in democratic theory. However, what it means to think systemically about democracy (as opposed to what it means for a political system to be democratic) is under-elaborated. This article sets out a meta-level framework for thinking systemically about democracy, built upon seven conceptual building blocks, which we term (1) functions, (2) norms, (3) practices, (4) actors, (5) arenas, (6) levels, and (7) interactions. This enables us to systematically structure the debate on democratic systems, highlighting the commonalities and differences between systems approaches, their omissions, and the key questions that remain to be answered. It also enables us to push the debate forward both by demonstrating how a full consideration of all seven building blocks would address issues with existing approaches and by introducing new conceptual clarifications within those building blocks.

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Michael Saward

Abstract

How can we theorize about democracy? We can identify the major topics that form the focus of democratic theorists (and others traversing the field), such as democracy's meaning and value. This article focuses on the methodological lenses through which the topics have been and can be viewed. Different lenses bring into focus different phenomena, questions, and problems of democracy. It is argued that the lenses that bring conventional democratic theory approaches into view can provide an unnecessarily narrow and restrictive perspective. Donning different methodological lenses can introduce alternative perspectives, such as renewed attention to value pluralism and the “everyday.” The article sketches four “circles” that capture different potential types of and sources for theoretical work, some of them radically unconventional. It concludes by discussing the specific example of how methods and assumptions of design theory can prompt promising new approaches to theorizing about democracy.