AGENCY AND INFLUENCE IN THE HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT: THE AGENCY OF INFLUENCE AND THE INFLUENCE OF AGENCY

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Abstract:

The use of the category of influence in the history of ideas has been criticized by Skinner for its failure to provide explanatory links between the ideas and theorists it purports to connect and by Condren for its failure to respect the agency of thinkers. Bevir and Collingwood support the notion of influence and argue that it does accommodate the agency of thinkers. The arguments of Condren and Skinner point to significant issues and problems in the practice of the history of ideas but it is argued that these points do not count decisively against employing the notion of influence. The defence of influence by Collingwood and Bevir is seen to need qualification in the light of post-structuralist arguments that challenge the monopoly of meaning that is claimed for authors of texts in the history of ideas. The article concludes by urging that the category of influence is compatible with a nuanced account of agency.

Keywords: Influence; agency; anxiety; context; discourse; explanation; history of ideas; post-structuralism; rethinking

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Politics, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, OX3 0BP, Email: gkbrowning@brookes.ac.uk

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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