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On the Notion of Historical (Dis)Continuity

Reinhart Koselleck's Construction of the Sattelzeit

Gabriel Motzkin

The author contends that a transition period is conceived in terms of its continuity with preceding or subsequent periods, rather than an entirely discontinuous temporal unit. Thus, in order to conceive of a period of transition, one must assume an overarching historical continuity. This contrasts with Reinhart Koselleck's and Michel Foucault's conception of the period of transition to modernity which is at once a break and part of the modern period. By analyzing how time is experienced in terms of contemporary awareness and retrospective consciousness, the author maps out the epistemological determinations that allow for the conception of a period of transition to modernity such as Sattelzeit.

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Reinhart Koselleck

His Concept of the Concept and Neo-Kantianism

Elías José Palti

The present article intends to trace the conceptual roots of Koselleck’s concept of the concept. Koselleck’s distinction between ideas and concepts has its roots in the logic of Hegel, who was the first to elaborate on the multivocal nature of concepts as their distinguishing feature vis-à-vis ideas. The main hypothesis proposed here is that Koselleck reformulated Hegel’s view on the basis of the neo-Kantian philosophies developed at the turn of the century, with which his theory maintains a tense relationship, without breaking, however, some of its fundamental premises.

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Sandro Chignola and João Feres Júnior

Contributions to the History of Concepts has much to celebrate. On one hand, issue number 3 inaugurates the journal’s second volume; its second year of existence. The reception of volume one could not have been better. We have received enthusiastic feedback from readers all over the world. Contributions has published authors from many different countries and from diverse academic milieus and traditions. The international reception of conceptual history has been on the rise for decades and Contributions is both a consequence of and an agent in this process. Our celebration, however, is not without sorrow. On February 3, 2006, Reinhart Koselleck passed away. One of the most influential historians and theoreticians of the last fifty years, Koselleck was simply the most important author in the field of conceptual history and, at the same time, an active promoter of its international reception.

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Immunity

A Conceptual Analysis for France and Romania

Ciprian Negoiţă

This article aims to investigate, from an interdisciplinary point of view, the concept of parliamentary immunity. The main objective of this inquiry is to identify the historical premises and the political, linguistic, and legal instruments that determined the conceptualization of parliamentary immunity in light of the main intellectual events in Romania and France. Embracing Reinhart Koselleck's working methods, this research will develop in extenso a comparative conceptual analysis based on methodological rigor, emphasizing not only the importance of the concept after its entry into national languages, but also the political usages of the concept and the present understandings of it.

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Rudolf Valkhoff

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.

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Jan Ifversen

The article explores the object and the methodology of conceptual history, by elaborating on Reinhart Koselleck's idea of key concepts, and proposes to study them according to two different aspects of meaning: The representational aspect, which touches upon the relations between words and concepts and studies words and concepts within semantic fields, and the referential aspect, which brings in both the social history reflected in semantic changes and the contexts in which the concepts serve as factors, and which make the use of the concepts possible. The article concludes with a methodological suggestion for the use of digitized textual databases for diachronic as well as synchronic histories of concepts.

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Blake Ewing

Political theorists, especially in the subfield of ideology studies, continue to draw insights from Begriffsgeschichte (conceptual history) to help them better analyze the morphology of political concepts over time. However, other aspects of Reinhart Koselleck’s work remain underutilized. This is especially true of the connections between Begriffsgeschichte and his development of a theory of history (Historik), dealing with the broader intersection of language, structure, and the experience of time. This article focuses on just one aspect of this intersection: on the potential relevance of Koselleck’s use of the concept of horizon to theorize a particular “horizonal mode” of the politics of time. After discussing some relevant features of the horizon metaphor, the article moves to reappraise Koselleck’s use of the concept before elaborating and expanding on it to claim that Koselleck helps to showcase the contestation of different temporal horizons as a core feature of political thinking.

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Introduction and Prefaces to the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe

(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.

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Conceptual History, Memory, and Identity

An Interview with Reinhart Koselleck

Javiér Fernández Sebastián, Juan Francisco Fuentes and Reinhart Koselleck

Among the many subjects you have worked on throughout your career, we would like to concentrate on those related to the methodology of intellectual history, especially conceptual history. We will then go on to make you a few questions about your recent work on memory and identity.

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Crisis? How Is That a Crisis!?

Reflections on an Overburdened Word

Michael Freeden

Crisis has become such a ubiquitous word that its discriminatory power is diminished across various disciplines. It challenges the word-concept relationship inasmuch as it is associated with a host of partner words that imbue crisis with divergent meanings. Not least, it stretches between major upheavals and minor disturbances, often employed with calculating or rhetorical dramatic effect. This article explores both professional and vernacular usages of “crisis” and notes the distinction between theories of crisis and ideologies of crisis. It then turns to examining two domains closely linked to the language of crisis: Marxist analyses of capitalism, and legitimation problems. The latter is explored particularly through Seymour Martin Lipset and Jürgen Habermas. The role of crisis as filtered through different ideological families is indicated. Finally, the relationship between the tipping-point connotations of crisis and the finality drive of political decisions is considered.