Imagination as a Category of History: An Essay concerning Koselleck's Concepts of Erfahrungsraum and Erwartungshorizont

Reinhart Koselleck is an important thinker in part for his attempt to interpret the cultural changes resulting in our modern cultural outlook in terms of the (meta)historical categories of experience and expectation. In so doing he tried to pay equal attention to the static and the changing in history. This article argues that Koselleck's use of "experience" and "expectation" confuses their metahistorical and historical meaning, with the result that his account fails to do justice to the static, to continuity in history, and mischaracterizes what is distinctive of the modern era. As well as reconfiguring the categories of experience and expectation, this essay also introduces a third category, namely, imagination, in between experience and expectation. This is done to render intelligible what is obscure in Koselleck's account, and as a stimulus to a study of history that divides its attention equally between the static and the changing. In fact, it is argued that the category of imagination is pre-eminently the category of history, on the concrete historical as well as the metahistorical level.

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