Concepts in Transit: Political Ideas between Context and Universality

Human Rights
Political Theory
Comparative Perspective
Normative Theory
Political Ideology
Section Number
Section Chair
Rieke Trimcev
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald
Section Co-Chair
Rosario López
University of St Andrews

Political concepts – in their everyday usage, in political thought, or when used as analytical categories – acquire their meaning and their force from the concrete contexts in which they are used. Yet concepts often raise claims that reach beyond these particular contexts. This Section focuses on the tension between the context- bound and context-transcending qualities of political concepts. The notion of “transit” points to a passage between different discursive spaces and levels of abstraction, a passage with its own rules and strategies. The Section will examine manifold types of conceptual transit and conceptual change in a number of different fields and subdisciplines.

The theme of “Concepts in Transit” brings to the fore questions such as how political concepts move between contexts, be it linguistic, social and cultural, discursive, or disciplinary contexts. The topic links to a number of questions: How does the normative and/or analytical reach of political concepts change in such conceptual transits, from both temporal and spatial perspectives? How are concepts used and/or interpreted differently in different contexts and subfields? What are the costs of conceptual travels, and what are their limits? What kind of strategies, rules, rhetorical moves, and practices are involved in them? What is the role of political ideologies in this regard? Is there a tension between a universalization of political languages on the one hand and an appeal to nationalisms or particularisms in politics on the other? Can political agents and speech acts purposely bridge the gap between the ideas of the particular and universal? How has the transit to universalization been undone and reinvented in both history and contemporary contexts?

Dr Rieke Trimҫev is a postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Political Science and Communication Studies, University of Greifswald. Specialized in Political Theory and the History of Ideas, her principal fields of research are the history of political metaphors, theories of political obligation and memory theory. She is review editor of Contributions to the History of Concepts and board member of Concepta, International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought.

Dr Rosario López is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Málaga, and co-editor of Global Intellectual History (University of St Andrews). Her research concerns the fields of philosophy, history, and politics. It focuses on Victorian political liberalism from an intellectual history perspective, particularly on Richard Cobden and John Stuart Mill. She’s board member of Concepta, International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought, and Working Group Leader in the COST Action "Reappraising Intellectual Debates on Civic Rights and Democracy in Europe”.

This Section is endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group Political Concepts and will be composed of the Panels listed below:

1) Conceptualising Inter-parliamentary Politics
Chairs: Onni Pekonen (Leiden University) and Taru Haapala (University of Jyväskylä);
Discussant: Kari Palonen (University of Jyväskylä)

The Panel examines the style and the language of parliamentary politics in different assemblies, from national parliaments to the city councils and the European Parliament, and studies their transfer to associations and institutions, from student unions to the UN General Assembly.

2) Concepts of Politics in Post-war Political Science
Chair: Veith Selk (Universität Trier)
Discussant: Dirk Jörke (Technische Universität Darmstadt)

The Panel focuses on the concepts of “politics” and “the political” in Political Science since World War II. It reconstructs and evaluates the theoretical transformations these concepts undergo in moving between practical and academic contexts as well as between cultures.

3) Making Concepts Political Again: Human Rights and the Republican Public Sphere
Chair: Petr Agha (Charles University in Prague)

The Panel examines how the concept of human rights changes when understood under the prism of republicanism. Yet conversely, it also asks whether the republican tradition itself has changed in view of contemporary moral, legal, and political developments in human rights.

4) Contested Solidarity - Between Particularism and Universalism
Chairs: Andreas Busen (University of Hamburg) and Stefan Wallaschek (University of Bremen)

This Panel analyses the tension between particularism and universalism which has underwritten the history of the concept of ‘solidarity’ and asks how it has been affected by recent changes such as globalization, digitalization, or the formation of new political entities such as the EU.

5) Beyond the Lines: Transformations of Sovereignty, Forms of Resistance and the Law of War
Chairs: Gabriella Silvestrini (University of Eastern Piedmont) and Francesca Iurlaro (European University Institute)

This Panel revisits the debate on the limits of sovereignty from the perspective of the right to resist. Among others, it will raise the questions of whether we should redefine sovereignty in order to rethink resistance, and in what ways the right to resist weakens or strengthens the sovereign power.

6) Conservatism between Politics and Philosophy
Chairs: Eno Trimçev (University of Greifswald) and Martin Beckstein (University of Zurich)

Conservatism has been the “between-ideology”: an ideology against ideologies, a universal in homage to the particular, a movement between politics and philosophy. The Panel aims to explore this tension within and across the work of diverse conservative thinkers.

7) Traveling Liberalisms
Chairs: Rosario López (Universities of St Andrews and Málaga), and Rieke Trimçev (University of Greifswald)

The Panel focuses on thinkers, texts and events whose articulation of liberal ideas was importantly shaped by the experience of different cultural contexts. How has the re-integration of novel experiences into the liberal framework shaped both the reinvention and the renegotiation of liberal universalism?

8) Constitutional Democracy, Rule of Law and Pluralism
Chairs: Jan Harald Alnes (UiT, the Arctic University of Norway), Manuel Toscano (University Málaga)

This Panel explores the conflictivel interplay between concepts of democracy and the rule of law from the perspective of different disciplinary contexts, such as the philosophy of law, moral philosophy or political philosophy.

9) Western Democratic Concepts in Non-Western Contexts
Chair: Alexander Weiß (Helmut Schmidt University)

The Panel will investigate the traveling of Western concepts of democracy in non-Western contexts from a variety of methodological perspectives. How are concepts of democracy translated, re-framed, adapted and vernacularized, and with which new counter-concepts are they confronted?

Panel List

P077Concepts of Politics in Postwar Political Science View Panel Details
P079Conceptualising Inter-Parliamentary Politics View Panel Details
P083Conservatism between Politics and Philosophy View Panel Details
P085Constitutional Democracy, Rule of Law and Pluralism View Panel Details
P092Contested Solidarity - Between Particularism and Universalism View Panel Details
P160Exploring the Western / non-Western Dichotomy through Liberalism and Democracy View Panel Details
P500Traveling Liberalisms View Panel Details
P519Western Democratic Concepts in Non-Western Contexts View Panel Details
Share this page

"Nothing in politics is ever as good or bad as it first appears" - Edward Boyle

Back to top