Key Concepts in Political Science: Fields, Issues and Arenas of their Change
The Section proposal is issued by the convenors of the proposed new Standing Group “Politics and Conceptual Change” currently under consideration
Section chair: Claudia Wiesner, University of Jyväskylä and University of Marburg
PD Dr. Claudia Wiesner is Marie Curie Research Fellow at the Finnish Research Centre in Political Thought and Conceptual Change. Her main research concentrates around the field of Democratisation, Political Theory and Conceptual Changes, and comparative political Sociology of the EU. Major publications in this field include the co-edited volume Parliament and Europe, Nomos, 2011, the forthcoming monograph Demokratisierung der EU durch nationale Europadiskurse? (EU democratisation via national European discourses?; Nomos) and the forthcoming volume “The Meanings of Europe” (Routledge).
Co-Chair: Kari Palonen, University of Jyväskylä
Kari Palonen is Professor of Political Science University of Jyväskylä, Editor of Redescriptions and Co-founder of the History of Political and Social Concepts Group. He has published extensively on four interrelated fields: the concept of politics and its history; the principles and practices of conceptual history, with the focus on works of Quentin Skinner and Reinhart Koselleck; the political theory and research methodology of Max Weber; and the political theory, rhetoric and conceptual history of parliamentarism.
Political concepts have a key role in and for political science. First, they serve at describing, analysing, explaining, and understanding its research objects as analytical and theoretical categories. Political concepts are themselves controversial and an object of politics and always related to changes in the real world: they are objects and indicators of political changes, conflicts or debates.
Conceptual historical approaches to the study of the history and changes of political concepts, has important resources to offer for analysing and tackling these questions. 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.
It is an aim of the Section to extend the use of conceptual historical approaches in political science, and to develop methodologies and practices for the analysis and consequences of conceptual changes further with regard to the purposes of political science.
Conceptual struggles are at the core of political changes. Conceptual changes can indicate new debates, for example around the concept of civil society from the 1980s onwards. Conceptual disputes also alter classical key concepts like liberty and democracy, having political thinkers question and discuss how they should be understood. Moreover, changes in European integration and International Relations challenge established interpretations of key questions, like sovereignty, state, citizenship or government. Finally, conceptual struggles in oral and written forms can take place in such arenas as newspapers, other media, public and parliamentary debates.