"Conceptual Change and Political Science" in Bordeaux

Special session at the ECPR General Conference,
4-7 September 2013

Deadline for abstract submission: February 1st.

Political concepts have a key role in and for political science: they serve at describing, analysing, explaining, and understanding research objects. But political concepts are not stable, since they are themselves controversial and an object of politics. Following this key insight from conceptual history, the aim of the section is to make conceptual change and its role for political science a subject of discussion and analysis.

The section is composed of six panels as follow: 

Citizenship (chair: Anna Björk)

European Integration (chair: Claudia Wiesner),

International Relations (chair: Evgeny Roshchin)

Parliamentarism (chair: Kari Palonen)

Democracy (chair: Jussi Kurunmäki & Anthoula Malkopoulou)

Comparing Political Regimes (chair: Vasileios Syros)

Panels of the section thus aim at

- Discussing challenges of conceptual historical approaches for political science 

- Broadening the understanding of conceptual changes for the study of politics 

- Analyse in detail conceptual changes in key periods, events, institutions or fields

The origins of conceptual historical approaches can be traced to Reinhart Koselleck’s and Quentin Skinner’s work. Since the 1990s international networks, research projects and publications on conceptual histories have been developing in numerous European countries, and political science scholars play an active role in them. 

Recent scholarship emphasises that conceptual disputes concern broader clusters of interconnected concepts, allowing variations both within and between the clusters. Conceptual clusters have different histories between languages and political cultures (for example the German Staat frequently corresponds to British government). European Integration accentuated disputes on conceptual transfer and translation as well as produced conceptual innovations of its own. 

The clusters and fields to be discussed in the section all have all a key role in political science, and all have been subject to long-time conceptual controversies and different interpretations. The discussion will focus on 1) their contingent origins, 2) historical and present controversies and the range of different interpretations, 3) the different connotations of the conceptual clusters across Europe, and 4) the consequences to be drawn for their use and analysis in political science. 


past event: 

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