The article singles out one dimension of the history of concepts in general and of Koselleck’s work in particular, the “theory of historical times,” which at present is both contested and simply overlooked. After discussing some of the arguments for and against the necessity of such a theory for the practice of conceptual history, the article moves on to suggest an alternative context for grasping its originality, the so-called linguistic turn, manifest in French structuralist thought and especially in the works of Michel Foucault. In Koselleck’s works key structuralist ideas like structure and the diachronicsynchronic opposition are developed in ways that open them to questions of historicity and multiple times.
What Does Word Use Contribute to the History of Concepts?
This article looks at the use of the word christianitas at the time of Innocent III (1198–1216 CE) to study how contemporary word use can contribute to the history of a concept. The papal register of letters shows that it is difficult to trace a consistent use of christianitas as a term for the concept of Christendom by Innocent III. In England, France, and Germany the word mainly designated the Christian religion, a personal virtue, or a restricted clerical unit, whereas the Armenians and others tried to invoke the idea of Christendom to rally support for their own political agenda. The constitutions of the IV Lateran Council, where Innocent III gathered ecclesiastical and secular princes from almost all Christian lands to impose his church reform, do not contain the word. It thus seems questionable if christianitas could be employed as the generally accepted term for designating a concept or an actually existing supranational unit.
In this article, the author applies the methodology of Begriffsgeschichte to the study of the concept of despotism in France, focusing mainly on the eighteenth century and the Revolution. During this period despotism became a basic concept (Grundbegriff), and thus highly contested. At the same time, the concept's long history, which stretches back to antiquity and includes the semantic boundaries that previously made it indistinguishable from "tyranny," created a diachronic thrust against which anyone seeking to add a new meaning or application had to work. Finally, as other key concepts, despotism produced political consequences unanticipated and undesired by those using it, not only major theorists but also pamphleteers, in a number of intensely fought conflicts which helped bring down the monarchy.
The Tradition of Republicanism and the Agrarian Question in Brazil
Heloisa Maria Murgel Starling
The article traces the reception of different strands of Republicanism in Brazil. French republicanism inspired authors such as Euclides da Cunha in his realization that a true Brazilian republic would only be achieved with the inclusion of its vast interior and its destitute population. But the reception of republicanism in Brazil also drew from Anglo-Saxon sources, which resulted also in an emphasis on the political nature of the community. American republicanism, with its conception of territorial expansion, land possession, and active economic participation added a further dimension to Brazilian republicanism. In particular, Teofilo Otoni's attempt to create a political community in the Mucury Valley was modeled after the ideals of American republicanism. Even if the Brazilian republicanism that emerged from the reception of these strands failed to impose its agenda over the political mainstream, it provided a unifying ideology for the opposition throughout the Second Empire and the First Republic, and still constitutes a source of inspiration for political reform and criticism.
Translations in Modern Italian and Conceptual Change
By focusing on the Italian translations of civilization, the author explores ways in which conceptual change has reflected historical developments in Italy. Unlike the widespread literal translation of civilization from English or French to other languages, civilizzazione has been a marginal term in Italian. On the other hand, terms such as civiltà, more akin to the Latin civitas, are more frequently employed. e article maps out the complex semantics of civitas and how its trajectory in the philosophy of history was uniquely translated into Italian. Whereas in other European nations civilization and the notion of historical progress it conveyed became a central concept, in Italy, due to the elaboration of an identity heavily influenced by Christian heritage, the more static concept of civiltà proved to be more significant.
Language and Sociability in France from the Fourteenth to the Nineteenth Century
This article describes the social and linguistic processes underlying the formation of political language in France from the end of the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. The author emphasizes the close relationship between the evolution of political language, as it can be traced through the many editions of dictionnaires and grammaires, and novel forms of sociability, from the medieval notion of friendship to revolutionary civism. The eighteenth century is considered a crucial moment in this process, given that during that period the thinkers of the Lumières, in their effort to harness civil society through language, forged the notion of a space of universal communication among men as a precondition for the invention of a political language specific to contemporary democracy.
J.F. Struensee on the State of Denmark
Frank Beck Lassen
This article examines the de facto rule of Johann Friedrich Struensee from 1770 to 1772 in Denmark, in which an effort was made to implement administrative reforms inspired by the ideas of French materialism and Prussian cameralism. Metaphors, particularly mechanical ones, had an important role in Struensee's attempt to legitimize his actions. Based on theoretical premises first presented by Hans Blumenberg, this article investigates two issues: first, how explicit and implicit mechanical and machine-like metaphors were used by Struensee to indicate the ideal architecture of the Danish absolutist state in the 1770s; and second, how his opponents made use of the same metaphors to describe what they saw as Struensee's illegitimate reach for power.
(Basic Concepts in History: A Historical Dictionary of Political and Social Language in Germany)
Reinhart Koselleck and Michaela Richter
This is the first English translation of Reinhart Koselleck's "Introduction" to the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (GG, Basic Concepts in History: A Historical Dictionary of Political and Social Language in Germany), which charts how in German-speaking Europe the accelerated changes occurring between the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution were perceived, conceptualized and incorporated into political and social language, registering the transition from a hierarchy of orders to modern societies. The "Introduction" presents the problematic and method formulated in 1972 by Koselleck for writing the history of concepts (Begriffsgeschichte). During the twenty-five years needed to complete the GG, he continued to revise and develop this method. In prefaces written for subsequent volumes, he replied to criticisms of its choice of basic concepts and findings. In these prefaces Koselleck both summarized the great contribution to our historical knowledge of political and social terms that this work and its index volumes had made, and suggested further research projects to build upon its achievements.
Toward a Jewish History of Concepts
The field of modern European Jewish history, as I hope to show, can be of great interest to those who deal with conceptual history in other contexts, just as much as the conceptual historical project may enrich the study of Jewish history. This article illuminates the transformation of the Jewish languages in Eastern Europe-Hebrew and Yiddish-from their complex place in traditional Jewish society to the modern and secular Jewish experience. It presents a few concrete examples for this process during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The article then deals with the adaptation of Central and Western European languages within the internal Jewish discourse in these parts of Europe and presents examples from Germany, France, and Hungary.
Zeitgeist in Early Nineteenth-Century Political Discourse
This article traces the uses of zeitgeist in early nineteenth-century European political discourse. To explain the concept's explosive takeoff in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, two perspectives are combined. On the one hand, the concept is shown to be a key element in the new, “temporalized” discourses of cultural reflection emerging during this time. On the other, its pragmatic value as a linguistic tool in concrete political constellations is outlined on the basis of case studies from French, British, and German political discourse. Developing this two-sided perspective, the article sheds light on an important aspect of early nineteenth-century political discourse while also pointing to some general considerations concerning the relationship between the semantic and pragmatic analysis of historical language use.