Histories of concepts after the linguistic turn
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The turn of the nineteenth century saw a philosophy directed towards linguistic epistemology and when this influence reached academia in general it became known as the linguistic turn. In historiography this turn happened in die second half of the twentieth century and one direction was towards semantics and concepts. The focus on concepts can be seen as an essential focus in historiography after the linguistic turn because concepts carry meaning and are thus the link between language (text) and historical reality (context). A conceptual analysis is a reliable source for past meaning. It is not only the German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte that can be seen as the history of concepts, although this is the traditional understanding of conceptual history. Histories of concepts can be socio-political as Begriffsgeschichte and works by Skinner, Pocock, Jonathan Clark and Stedman Jones, but also cultural like works by Stuart Clark, Foucault and Sandmo. In addition, there are similarities between gender history and conceptual history. Gender history is also a consequence of the linguistic turn and identity analysis of gender includes conceptual analysis. Notable academics in this field include Denise Riley, Judith Butler, John Boswell and Foucault. These approaches have in common a belief in the power of essential concepts power over society and social changes. Reinhart Koselleck and Michel Foucault are two historians with awareness of linguistics and their own conceptual methodology. Their approaches are, nevertheless, quite different and they use conceptual history for different purposes. Koselleck's writing is linked to his ideas on modernity and he finds Begriffsgeschichte the most suitable method to describe changes. Modernity can be seen as a conceptualisation process. Foucault sees language as power, and thus conceptual analysis is a critical method he uses to find the truth behind given power structures. Histories of concepts will always be critical disciplines.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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