The author argues that conceptual history is becoming increasingly indispensable due to the historical trend in political practices to move from a politics of answers to given questions to a politics of thematizing the questions themselves, that is, of agenda-setting. The very understanding of a certain question as contingent and controversial marks a politicizing change in the agenda. From the perspective of the history of concepts, the formulation of questions themselves become politically key issues, given that rhetorical problems of the renaming and reinterpretation of the meaning, significance and normative color of concepts play a key role in the decisions regarding inclusion and exclusion. Assuming that concepts function as “pivots” in the contemporary controversy, there is at least some possibility for change in terms of rendering the controversy intelligible by means of the instruments of conceptual history. If conceptual history were ever to play a direct political role, it might concern teaching politicians the styles of both a conceptual reading of politics and a political reading of the uses of concepts.
This article is a thought experiment. It constructs ideal types of political representation in the sense of Max Weber. Inspired by Quentin Skinner and others, the aim is to give a rhetorical turn to contemporary debates on representation. The core idea is to claim an ‘elective affinity’ (Wahlverwandschaft, as Weber says following Goethe) between forms of representation and rhetorical genres of their justification. The four ideal types of political representation are designated as plebiscitary, diplomatic, advocatory, and parliamentary, corresponding to the epideictic, negotiating, forensic, and deliberative genres of rhetoric as the respective ways to plausibly appeal to the audience. I discuss historical approximations of each type of representation and apply the combination of representation and rhetorical genres to the understanding of the European Union’s unconventional system of ‘separation of powers’. I conclude with supporting parliamentary representation, based on dissensus and debate, with complements from other types.
Contemporary Implications of the Skinnerian Re-thinking of Political Liberty
In this paper, the author takes up the opposition between liberty and dependence proposed by Quentin Skinner and applies it to the analysis of the debates involving voting rights and regulations. The goal here is to examine the rhetoric supporting different positions in favor and against the extension of suffrage, the exclusion of certain groups, etc. The author points out that dependence can be detected even in democratic societies that lack traditional hierarchies. A similar effort is made to think how commitment, deliberation, and contestation can take place in the context of today's representative democracy in ways that enhance freedom instead of endangering it.
Reinhart Koselleck, Vom Sinn und Unsinn der Geschichte, Herausgegeben mit Nachwort von Carsten Dutt (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), 387 pp.
Jan Surman, Gabriel Entin, Kari Palonen and Imke Rajamani
Stefan Willer, Sigrid Weigel, and Bernhard Jussen, eds., Erbe: Übertragungskonzepte zwischen Natur und Kultur [Heritage/inheritance between nature and culture] (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2013), 274 pp.
Ana María Stuven and Gabriel Cid, Debates republicanos en Chile: Siglo XIX [Republican debates in Chile: Nineteenth century], Vol. 1 (Santiago de Chile: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales, 2012), 627 pp.
Tobias Weidner, Die unpolitische Profession: Deutsche Mediziner im langen 19. Jahrhundert [The unpolitical profession: German medical doctors in the long 19th century] (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2012), 447 pp.
Hubert Locher and Adriana Markantonatos, eds., Reinhart Koselleck und die politische Ikonologie [Reinhart Koselleck and political iconology], Transformationen des Visuellen 1 (Marburg: Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte, 2012), 312 pp.