Conceptual decline has been one of the least examined forms of conceptual change. This essay explores some of the methodological and interpretive problems that have arisen through a study of the declining use of the concept of legal personhood in Anglo-American juridical discourse over the first half of the twentieth century. Such effort will generate a number of significant methodological questions: 1) How does identifying conceptual decline challenge an author-centered approach to a history of conceptual change? 2) How might the decline of a concept in one discourse affect the ways in which the term operates in other discourses; and how does the study of concepts operating across multiple discourses complicate the dichotomy between basic and technical concepts? 3) How might a once active, but now silent, concept continue to impact political discourse? Do lost concepts have an "afterlife"? The study of conceptual decline benefits from an interaction between Begriffsgeschichte and Cambridge School methods of studying conceptual change, while at the same time questioning some of the foundational assumptions of each approach.
Some Considerations on the Loss of the Legal Person
Douglas C. Dow
Anger in Popular Hindi Cinema
The article advocates the importance of studying conceptual meaning and change in modern mass media and highlights the significance of conceptual intermediality. The article first analyzes anger in Hindi cinema as an audiovisual key concept within the framework of an Indian national ideology. It explores how anger and the Indian angry young man became popularized, politicized, and stereotyped by popular films and print media in India in the 1970s and 1980s. The article goes on to advocate for extending conceptual history beyond language on theoretical grounds and identifies two major obstacles in political iconography: the methodological subordination of visuals to language in the negotiation of meaning, and the distinction of emotion and reason by assigning them functionally to different sign systems.
On Moments of Conceptual Tertium Datur
Focusing on examples related to the concept of scripture, I highlight certain moments of indecisiveness in the context of larger processes of possible conceptual change. In these moments, agents involved in the process frequently employ language that in one way or another expresses a conceptual tertium datur. This article sets out to distinguish some of those ways, such as analogy, assertions of resemblance, quasi-status or partial scripturality, oxymoronic adjectival qualification, and exclusivity by selection. The examples draw on four cases, the publication of the Sacred Books of the East series, Petrus Venerabilis's discussion of the Koran, a taxonomy by al-Shahrastānī with regard to the “People of the Book”, and the canonization of the Five Classics in ancient China. Finally, I issue a rallying cry for an entangled and transnational conceptual history. Such an approach is likely to foreground interlingual situations where conceptual indecisiveness is the rule rather than the exception.
A Struggle for Representation in the Discourse of the Polish Great Emigration, 1832–1846/48
, which itself passed through extraordinary conceptual change in the 1830s and 1840s. At that time, democracy was no longer treated solely as a political or social system (as it had been in the last decades of the eighteenth century) 15 but—as Reinhart
Brendon M. H. Larson
The concept of novel ecosystems (CNE) has been proposed as a way to recognize the extent and value of ecosystems that have been irreversibly transformed by human activity. Although the CNE has recently been subject to critique, existing critiques do not appear to seriously engage with the extent of anthropogenic change to the world’s ecosystems. Here, I seek to provide a deeper, philosophical and constructive critique, specifically arguing that the usefulness of the CNE is limited in the following three ways: (1) it is too static, (2) it is too vague, and (3) it is too dualistic. Although the CNE provides some conceptual advance (“new wine”), some of its conceptualization and packaging weakly support this advance (“old wineskins”), so I consider some ways to further develop it, in part to encourage more widespread recognition and appreciation of novel ecosystems.
The question in this article is how citizenship is reinvented and recontextualized in a newly founded European Union after the launching of Union Citizenship. What kind of conceptions of citizenship are produced in this new and evolving organization? The research material consists of documents presented by EU organs from 1994 to 2007 concerning eight EU programs on citizenship and culture. I will analyze conceptual similarities (continuities) and differences (discontinuities) between these documents and previous conceptualizations in various contexts, including citizenship discussions in the history of integration since the 1970s as well as theories of democracy and nation-states. Based on the analysis of participation, rights, and identity as central dimensions of citizenship, I will discuss the relationship of Union Citizenship to democracy and nationality.
How Historical Semantics Helps Us to Understand the Emergence of the English Exchequer
The article argues that it is not only useful to study the changing meanings of concepts, but also to analyze the way these concepts changed their meaning over time. As a case study, I analyze the transformation of the language of the earliest surviving accounts of the yearly auditing process in England, the pipe rolls from the twelfth century. The language changed gradually and continually, without guidance or a plan. It is highly likely that the language was learned while the pipe rolls were written. Thus, the clerks could easily close their circle. This led to a strong sense of belonging and self-consciousness, which can be affirmed by other contemporary sources, and which laid the foundation for the accounting procedures that became a long-lasting organization.
A Study in the Rehabilitation of a Concept
For centuries, innovation was a political and contested concept and linguistic weapon used against one's enemy. To support their case, opponents of innovation made use of arguments from ethos and pathos to give power and sustenance to their criticisms and to challenge the innovators. However, since the nineteenth century the arguments have changed completely. Innovation gradually got rehabilitated. This article looks at one type of rehabilitation: the semantic rehabilitation. People started to reread history and to redescribe what innovation is. What was bad innovation became good innovation because of long-lasting and beneficial effects, so it was believed.
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 Comparative Conceptual Exploration
José María Rosales
Rooted in late seventeenth-century theories of rights, liberal ideas have brought forth since the nineteenth century a full-edged complex of traditions in moral, political, economic, social, and legal thought. Yet in historiographical debates such complexity is often blurred by presenting it under the uniform terms of a canon. Along with other methods, conceptual history is contributing to the rediscovery of liberalism's diversity. This group of articles compiles three conceptual studies on scarcely explored aspects of the history of liberalism in Denmark, Finland, and Hungary—countries whose political past has only occasionally figured in mainstream accounts of European liberalism. This introductory article is a methodological discussion of the rationale and forms in which liberalism's historical diversity is rendered through comparative conceptual research. After reflecting on the limits of the Anglophone history of political thought to grasp the plurality of liberal traditions, the article examines how transnational conceptual histories recast the understanding of liberalism as a concept, theory, ideology, and political movement.