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Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History$
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Darrin M. McMahon and Samuel Moyn

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769230.001.0001

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On Conceptual History

On Conceptual History

Chapter:
(p.74) 4 On Conceptual History
Source:
Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History
Author(s):

Jan-Werner Müller

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769230.003.0004

The chapter briefly tells the story of how conceptual history emerged in postwar Germany as well as recent attempts to “export” conceptual history to Europe more broadly and even globally. The chapter subsequently addresses the political concerns that have shadowed conceptual history, in particular the worries that it constitutes a form of antimodernism and that it is bound up with the thought of Carl Schmitt. It is then argued that conceptual history’s main promise has been to mediate “social history and the history of consciousness”—without it ever becoming fully clear how that mediation can be carried out coherently, or whether assuming a split between the two is plausible. Conceptual history’s most stimulating contribution remains the imperative to study conceptual transformations in conjunction with changing experiences of time. The chapter concludes with three suggestions for further work: constructing a critical conceptual history of the present; a history of translations and appropriations; and conceptual history as a means to theorize processes of historical change—in particular the changing nature of experience itself.

Keywords:   conceptual history, Reinhart Koselleck, Carl Schmitt, Otto Brunner, Cambridge School, philosophy of history, social history, experience, time

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