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History of political thought and the history of political concepts: Koselleck's proposal and Italian research

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The article analyses different forms of the theoretical paradigm of German Begriffsgeschichte. It focuses on the coherently formalized proposal made by Reinhard Koselleck, showing its relevance for the main Italian schools of interpretation. Koselleck is able to move beyond the historicist framework of Begriffsgeschichte on the basis of a theory of the Sattelzeit or Schwellenzeit--located between the eve of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century--capable of orienting the reconstruction of the history of political concepts. This presupposition, which refers to a theory of the 'Vorgriff' or historical conceptual reconstructions, draws upon and elaborates a key theme of the logic of the social sciences that was put forth by Max Weber. The possibility to adhere or not to this residual Weberian moment explains the two different modalities in which conceptual history has been interpreted in Italy: one pointing at the reconstruction of the conceptual framework of the nineteenth century, the other aiming at the philosophical-political reconstruction of the genesis, the historic limits and the crisis of the political concepts of Western modernity.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Padova, Italy. Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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