This article traces the main methodological and substantial similarities between Reinhart Koselleck's notion of Begriffsgeschichte and J. G. A. Pocock's approach to the history of political thought. Both approaches are responses to the shift in the unit of analysis in the study of human historical consciousness. Rather than focusing on ideas, Koselleck and Pocock concentrate on how language articulated heightened awareness of historical change. Concepts and paradigms reflect in varying manners the intensity of historical sedimentation. The more sedimentation, less space there is for innovation, and political action tends to be conservative. Conversely, unstable concepts or obsolete paradigms, reflect historical change and space for linguistic innovation.
Some Remarks on the Practice and Future of a Project
Karin Tilmans and Wyger Velema
This article is a progress report on the Dutch national conceptual history project. The project places emphasis on interdisciplinarity, the resort to the widest possible range of sources, and the prospect of international comparison. The initiative, started by a group of Dutch scholars in the 1990s, has so far focused on the concepts of liberty, fatherland, and citizenship, all of which have had a prominent role in a specifically Dutch political discourse.
It is said in some quarters that political theory need not, and perhaps should not, be a “historical” enterprise. It should be concerned with discovering and articulating timeless truths or addressing “perennial problems.” Or it should be an ahistorical “analytical” study in which one aims to answer important questions definitively and once and for all. The author argues that these and other attempts to de-historicize political theory are misguided and that, indeed, political theory is inescapably historical in several senses of that term. Firstly, works of political theory are written in particular places and times by authors attempting to address particular questions. Secondly, these works are received and read by audiences in other times. And thirdly, the meanings of these works are interpreted by readers through the medium of one or another interpretive framework, which is itself historically datable. All these considerations point to the conclusion that political theory is necessarily “historical.”
A Reconsideration of the Concept of Space and Its Role in the Early Modern Period
This exploratory essay seeks to unravel the inherent contradictions between two fundamental trends in contemporary historiography: the “spatial turn” on the one hand, and the “linguistic turn” on the other hand. The “spatial turn,” it argues, turned “space's” status as a category of analysis into an accepted dogma. Under these circumstances, one often overlooks the fact that “space,” like all concepts, can also be problematic and at times even misleading. By looking at several examples from and about the intellectual world of early modern Europe, the article demonstrates how the use of space as a category of analysis encounters two fundamental challenges. First, the problem of the absence of the word “space” itself from important early modern texts (“shrinkage”); and second, the overuse of the term “space” in translations and analysis of early modern intellectual works (“contamination”).
Reflections on a Trope in Eighteenth-Century Historiography
This article attempts to explain the appeal of "terror" in the French Revolution by examining the history of the concept of terror. It focuses on historiographical representations of sovereign powers, whether monarchs or nations, as "terrors" of their enemies. It argues that the term typically connoted majesty, glory, justice and hence legitimacy. Moreover, historiographical depictions of past rulers and nations frequently emphasized the transiency of terror as an attribute of power; they dramatized decline in formulations such as "once terrible." For the revolutionaries, terror therefore provided a means of legitimation, but one that always had to be guarded and reinforced.
Writing the Conceptual History of the Twentieth Century
Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Kathrin Kollmeier, Willibald Steinmetz, Philipp Sarasin, Alf Lüdtke, and Christian Geulen
Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe Reloaded? Writing the Conceptual History of the Twentieth Century Guest editors: Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann and Kathrin Kollmeier
Introduction Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann and Kathrin Kollmeier
Some Thoughts on the History of Twentieth-Century German Basic Concepts Willibald Steinmetz
Is a “History of Basic Concepts of the Twentieth Century“ Possible? A Polemic Philipp Sarasin
History of Concepts, New Edition: Suitable for a Better Understanding of Modern Times? Alf Lüdtke
Reply Christian Geulen
methods of conceptual history, or Begriffsgeschichte , continue to be especially relevant to ideology studies, a subfield of political theory finally liberated from the Marxian undertones that see ideology as a ubiquitous, and not simply ruling
Political Rhetoric around Capitalism in Britain from the 1970s to the Present
article is particularly evident. In this way, I hope to contribute to the efforts made, notably by Melvin Richter and Kari Palonen, to bridge the gap between the approaches of Reinhart Koselleck, the leading figure in Begriffsgeschichte , and his
João Feres Júnior
The author argues that the development of a critical history of concepts should be based on a programmatic position different from that of original Begriffsgeschichte, or of its main interpretations. By drawing upon theoretical insights of Axel Honneth, he reassesses the basic assumption of Begriffsgeschichte regarding the relationship between the history of concepts and social history, and calls attention to the problems that spring from focusing analysis almost exclusively on key concepts. According to Feres, special attention should be paid to concepts that are socially and politically effective, but, at the same time, do not become the subject of public contestation. Based on this programmatic position, he ends the article proposing a sketch for organizing the study of conceptual history in Brazil along three semantic regions.
The article “Applying Begriffsgeschichte to Dutch History: Some Remarks on the Practice and Future of a Project” (Contributions to the History of Concepts, vol. 2, no. 1, March 2006, pp. 43-58) is based on a collective paper Wyger Velema and I wrote for the first HSPCG conference held at the Finnish Institute in London, June 1998. It contains therefore substantive parts written by him, and as this is not at all clear from the published article, I would very much herewith like to rectify this and apologize for any inconvenience caused.