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.
Peter De Bolla, Ewan Jones, Paul Nulty, Gabriel Recchia and John Regan
This article proposes a novel computational method for discerning the structure and history of concepts. Based on the analysis of co-occurrence data in large data sets, the method creates a measure of “binding” that enables the construction of verbal constellations that comprise the larger units, “concepts,” that change over time. In contrast to investigation into semantic networks, our method seeks to uncover structures of conceptual operation that are not simply semantic. These larger units of lexical operation that are visualized as interconnected networks may have underlying rules of formation and operation that have as yet unexamined—perhaps tangential—connection to meaning as such. The article is thus exploratory and intended to open the history of concepts to some new avenues of investigation.
Elitism, Lexicography, and the Meaning of The Political
This article comprises a twofold attempt: the first is to establish a semantic field that revolves around the concept of siyāsat—roughly equivalent to the political—in Muslim South Asia; the second is to trace semantic shifts in this field and to identify circumstances that may have prompted those shifts. It is argued here that the terms that constitute the semantic field of the political oscillate between two sociolinguistic traditions: a strongly Islamicate Arabic one, and a more imperially oriented Persian one. Another linguistic shift is indicated with the replacement of Persian by Urdu as the dominant literary idiom in and beyond North India since the eighteenth century. The aim is to serve only as a starting point for a more intensive discussion that brings in other materials and perspectives, thus helping to elucidate the tension between normative aspirations by ruling elites and actual political praxes by variant socioeconomic groups.
Steps toward a Conceptual History of Systems Theory, 1880–1980
This article proposes to analyze the idea of organism and other closely related ideas (function, differentiation, etc.) using a combination of semantic fields analysis from conceptual history and the notion of boundary objects from the sociology of scientific knowledge. By tackling a wide range of source material, the article charts the nomadic existence of organism and opens up new vistas for an integrated history of the natural and human sciences. First, the boundaries are less clear-cut between disciplines like biology and sociology than previously believed. Second, a long and transdisciplinary tradition of talking about organismic and societal systems in highly functionalist terms comes into view. Third, the approach shows that conceptions of a world society in Niklas Luhmann's variant are not semantic innovations of the late twentieth century. Rather, their history can be traced back to organicist sociology and its forgotten pioneers, especially Albert Schäffle or Guillaume de Greef, during the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Is the Concept of Democracy Essentially Contested?
This article surveys the history of the concept of democracy from Ancient times to the present. According to the author, the conceptual history of democracy shows that the overwhelming success of the concept is most of all due to its ability to subsume very different historical ideas and realities under its semantic field. Moreover, the historical evolution of the concept reveals that no unequivocal definition is possible because of the significant paradoxes, aporias, and contradictions it contains. These are popular sovereignty vs. representation, quality vs. quantity, liberty vs. equality, individual vs. collective, and, finally, the synchronicity between similarities and dissimilarities. The ubiquitous usage of democracy in present-day political language makes it impossible to speak of it from an external perspective. Thus, both democratic theory and practice are suffused with empirical and normative elements.
What Kind of State Have Lithuanians Been Fighting For?
This article deals with the question of the conceptualization of state (Lith. valstybe) in twentieth-century Lithuanian political thought and its reflections in Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian independence movement, during the years 1988-1990. It is a commonly accepted myth that Sąjūdis restored the language of Lithuania's interwar period and thus the nation-centered, nationalistic paradigm of that period. A closer look at the political discourse of the interwar period suggests that it is misleading to talk about this kind of restitution. Furthermore, considering the fact that it is important to take into account the Soviet paradigms of the state that influenced Lithuanian political discourse for fifty years, the article finds arguments for speaking about a continuation of Soviet political discourse. Thus, along with restitution, it is possible to find continuities while conceptualizing state in Sąjūdis. While analyzing the meaning and semantic fields of those concepts, it is possible to draw arguments about the real nature of the political transformation of Soviet Lithuania.
Analytical Routes through Multiple Meanings
Translator : Jeffrey Hoff
’sacred’ and’spiritual’ that are located in the same semantic field as the religious. This tension between diagnoses (fluid realities) and categories (in their persistent dichotomies) is manifest in other planes. Perhaps the most salient is that of the