Political Thought and Conceptual History (PolTCH)
The team Political Thought and Conceptual History has its intellectual raison d‘être in the revolution in the understanding of the idiom “political thought” in terms of thinking about various phenomena politically that has taking place in the recent decades. The analysis of how political agents themselves use the vocabulary, concepts and speech acts offers a perspective on an improved understanding of politics. Reflections on political agency form a part of politics itself, and they can be analysed similarly to the conceptual activities of politicians in the narrow sense of the term. The point is to understand both theorists as politicians and politicians as theorists.
The analysis of the changing and contestable character of concepts aims at avoiding the traditional prioritisation of stability over change and order over disorder. In political practice, concepts function as “pivots” around which the vocabularies, rhetorics and discourses circulate in the political language. Political theories should be treated as polemical speech acts, as contributions to the “theory politics” of ongoing controversies. It is within this perspective that the history of concepts has partially replaced the classical study of the “history of ideas”.
The practices of conceptual history always refer to contemporary debates, of which the scholars must remain conscious in order to avoid anachronisms. The studies on contemporary political thought presuppose a conceptual distance to the objects that can only be reached by a historisation of the conceptual singularity of contemporary thinking. Hence the research team is not just a simple junction between historians specialising in concepts and political theorists concentrating on political thought. Historians understand their own work also as a study of politics and political theorists must also view themselves as historians in their own research practices.
The team has its background in a number of long-term studies on political thought and concepts carried out by the team’s senior scholars. The international publications on political thought and conceptual history and the key role of the team members in the History of Political and Social Concepts Group (HPSCG), in the Concepta School for young researchers, and in other international networks as well as national research teams form main organisational references of the team.
The Team organises the Annual Jyväskylä Symposium on Political Thought and Conceptual Change, which is intended to become an internationally recognised annual event, with the link between political thought and conceptual change serving as its distinguishing characteristic.