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A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central EuropeVolume I: Negotiating Modernity in the 'Long Nineteenth Century'$
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Balázs Trencsényi, Maciej Janowski, Monika Baar, Maria Falina, and Michal Kopecek

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198737148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198737148.001.0001

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The Political Implications of Positivism

The Political Implications of Positivism

(p.318) 8 The Political Implications of Positivism
A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe

Balázs Trencsényi

Maciej Janowski

Mónika Baár

Maria Falina

Michal Kopeček

Oxford University Press

A new intellectual style emerged in the 1860s challenging the national Romantic ideological framework of historical and social thought. It was rooted in positivist philosophical and scientific doctrines, viewing biology as the paradigmatic science and advocating an evolutionary model of civilization. Positivism’s most lasting contributions were to reshape scientific discourse about the nation and to create and/or consolidate the “national sciences”—ethnography, economy, and history. Discussions on political economy sought to adapt “grand theories” to specific local circumstances and linked economic transformation to mental, social, and political change, thus making “backwardness” more than just a sum total of economic facts. Positivist thought catalyzed a reconceptualization of state, nation, society, and gender. Nevertheless, despite the attack on the Romantic mythological constructions of identity and introduction of the most up-to-date scholarly paradigms into the study of society, positivist references often helped to legitimize the national agenda launched by the Romantic “awakeners.”

Keywords:   Positivism, evolution, organicism, “national sciences,” ethnography, economy, history, free trade, “backwardness,” women’s rights

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