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Introduction: Time, History, and Political Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2023

John Robertson
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

The introduction establishes a framework for the volume as a whole. It explains why questions of temporality are at the heart of political thinking, and points to the several ways in which many (but not all) political thinkers have invoked history. It asks what historians of political thought can learn from the wider ‘temporal turn’ in historical studies inspired by Reinhart Koselleck, while also arguing that the understanding of political thought in terms of plural ‘languages’ of politics, advocated by John Pocock and Quentin Skinner, already offers powerful resources for addressing the issues associated with time and history. Six such linguistic contexts for thinking about politics in time and history are identified – the legal, the sacred, the contingent, the social, the revolutionary and the global – and the individual chapters of the volume are then introduced in relation to these contexts. Particular attention is given to recent developments in global intellectual history. Approaching political thought in these contexts will show that the roles of time and history have amounted to much more than the cliché that ‘a week is a long time in politics’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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