Development policy rests on the conceptual division of the world between developed and underdeveloped countries. The article argues that this dichotomous way of splitting the world into one collective self, on one side, and a collective other, on the other, pertains to the category of what Koselleck has termed “asymmetrical counterconcepts.” Moreover, many of the characteristics of our modern concept of development directly derive from older counterconcepts or dichotomizations e.g. the idea that the underdeveloped can, in principle, “develop” and that developed countries should assist others in developing themselves. In this essay some historical examples of such dichotomies are examined, with a special emphasis on the civilized-uncivilized conceptual pair and on the idea of civilizing the “Barbarian.” The recapitulation of past dichotomies not only unearths the historical influences on the idea of development. Above all, it contributes to a better understanding of its present-day complexities.
Philipp H. Lepenies
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.
Semantic Investigations of a Counterconcept during the French Revolution
After 1789, counterrevolution emerged as revolution’s first counterconcept in French political discourse. While scholars of the French Revolution commonly associate counterrevolution with a backward-oriented political program, often with the restoration of the ancien régime, this article challenges such a retrograde understanding. Drawing on a broad corpus of sources, it emphasizes the flexible and pluralistic meanings of counterrevolution during the 1790s. Rather than designating a political objective, counterrevolution first of all focused on the process of combating the revolution as such, which allowed for different political strategies and aimed beyond a return to the status quo ante. By discussing, next to the French case, examples from the Haitian Revolution, Britain, Germany, and Switzerland, this article also highlights the transnational dimension of the debate on counterrevolution. It concludes with a plea for rethinking counterrevolution as revolution’s asymmetric other in a more relational rather than dichotomous perspective.