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Language and politics, political theory and practice : a study of the relationship between language,… Mandel, Naomi 2002

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L A N G U A G E A N D POLITICS, POLITICAL T H E O R Y A N D PRACTICE: A S T U D Y OF THE RELATIONSHIP B E T W E E N L A N G U A G E , ACTION A N D CONCEPTUAL CHANGE by NAOMI MANDEL B. A., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1999  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE D E G R E E OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A D E C E M B E R , 2001  ©Naomi Mandel, 2001  In  presenting  degree freely  at  the  available  copying  of  department  this  publication of  in  partial  University  of  British Columbia, I agree  for reference  this or  thesis  thesis for by  his  fulfilment  and study.  or  her  this thesis for  representatives.  of  DE-6 (2/88)  M  (%  j ^ o s - ^ k ^ ,  ct<9Q \  requirements that the  agree be  It  financial gain shall not  The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  Date  I further  the  scholarly purposes may  permission.  Department  of  is  for  an  Library shall make  that permission for granted  by the  understood  be allowed  advanced  that  it  extensive  head  of  copying  my or  without my written  11  Abstract This essay is premised on two assumptions: first, that concepts change their meaning; second, that the examination o f the relationship between language and action two central components o f the public sphere - illuminates the process o f change. Three models o f conceptual change are critically discussed through their language-action axis. The first, adduced by German historian o f concepts Reinhart Koselleck, assumes that conceptual change results from a gap between language and action. The second, put forward by historian o f political thought Quentin Skinner, argues that conceptual change is produced by political theorists that are doing something when writing; language, according to this model is (sometimes) a form o f action. The third model is derived from the American P C movement, which, it is argued here, presents us with a theory and a practice o f conceptual change. According to this model, conceptual change results from a deliberate change o f language by social agents. Language, as maintained by this model, is the world; action cannot be discussed separately from language since everything exists only through language. A s we move from one model to the next we see that the place language assumes i n both political theory and practice is increasing i n relation to, and at the expense of, action. This essay argues that the mid-twentieth century "linguistic turn," coupled with the growing influence o f postmodernism on political theory and practice, results in a distorted picture o f the polls. This weakens the ability o f political theory to make intelligible the world around us, and also its effectiveness as a guide for action. This tendency must be remedied i f political theory and practice wishes to remain relevant to the public sphere.  Table of Contents Abstract  ii  Table o f Contents  iii  Acknowledgments  iv  Introduction Chapter I  1 Language, A c t i o n and the History o f Concepts  8  1.1 Language, Action and the Polis  8  1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Chapter II  Language and A c t i o n in Social Analysis T w o Concepts o f "Concept" The German Begriffsgeschichte The Cambridge School  Reinhart Koselleck and Quentin Skinner: Language, A c t i o n and T w o Models o f Conceptual Change 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4  Chapter III  Reinhart Koselleck: Crisis and Conceptual Change Concepts: Language and Action Differentiated Quentin Skinner: Intentionality Theory and Conceptual Change Concepts: Language Is (Sometime) a Form o f A c t i o n  Politically Correct: A Theory and Practice o f Conceptual Change 3.1 P C : Changing Concepts and Conceptual Change 3.2 The Protagonists o f the American P C Debate 3.3 P C : Manifold Meanings 3.4 The Symptoms: Fighting Over Words 3.5 The Roots: A Conceptual Revolution  Conclusion Bibliography  11 19 23 28  34 35 39 49 54 64 64 69 73 78 82 96 101  iv  Acknowledgments It is m y privilege to thank the following people. M y supervisor, D r . LaSelva, for his unstinting support, for spending countless hours i n reading, rereading and commenting on earlier drafts o f this essay, and, most o f all, for setting such high standards that allowed me to reach farther and develop intellectually. Rita Dhamoon, for her friendship, her willingness to engage and explore, and for being the inspiring person that she is. Audrey A c k a h for listening and understanding. Itai Erdal for believing, and for accepting me. Finally, m y greatest gratitude is to m y family and m y parents, Ralph and Shoshana, for their unconditional love, encouragement, and support.  1  Introduction Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions...Words had to change their ordinary meaning...Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. 1  Reality, it is sometimes said, is more surprising than the imagination. That George Orwell has become a source o f inspiration for American neoconservatives i n their battle against the new left's ongoing effort to change the social agenda, even Orwell could not have foreseen. The American "politically correct" (PC) movement, on the other hand, is undoubtedly " R o o m  101" for neoconservatives.  Not only  does  P C threaten  to  revolutionize the way Americans define themselves, it has singled out one o f the most cherished neoconservative social institutions - the university - as its principal target. The' literary exchange between these two groups is emotionally charged. From the left, Richard Feldstein criticizes neoconservatives - who have taken upon themselves the task of  "confuting...critics who foreground issues o f class, race, gender, and sexual  orientation i n their analyses," - for fabricating the P C myth o f "robotic professors who mindlessly move i n lockstep, adhering to a program o f monolithic indoctrination." O n 2  the right, Dinesh D ' S o u z a is no less dramatic when he writes: Within the tall gates and old buildings, a new worldview is consolidating itself. The transformation of American campuses is so sweeping that it is no exaggeration to call it an academic revolution. The distinctive insignia of this revolution can be witnessed on any major campus in America today, and in all major aspects of university life. 3  The American P C debate is often described as a "culture war;" and, insofar as language is culture it is not surprising that i n this war language is the battlefield, the weapon and the  Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3:82. Translated by J.H. Finley, Jr. (New York: Random House, 1951) p. 189. R. Feldstein, Politically Correctness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997) p. 6. D. D'Souza, Illiberal Education (New York: The Free Press, 1991) p. 2.  1  2  3  2  principal bearer o f this controversy. From the left, the appropriateness and ability o f the "liberal language" to serve as a proper and effective tool o f communication is questioned; instead, a new language -  a new conception o f the world -  is advanced. For  neoconservatives, on the other hand, letting go o f the "language o f liberalism" (which, ironically, becomes "traditional") means the dismantling o f everything American. Indeed, since the 1960's American society is in a state o f social and conceptual flux; both language and society are changing their meaning. To the extent that P C is a "language war," this intriguing process o f change is illuminated when we examine what both neoconservatives and new leftists are doing with language, and what action they are taking in order to achieve change. In other words, thinking about language, action, and conceptual transformation this thesis asks: what is the role that language and action assume i n the process o f conceptual change? W h y is this question important? Wittgenstein alludes to the significance o f this query when he ruminates on the concept "Festivity" and writes: " W e connect it with merrymaking; in another age it may have been connected with fear and dread. What we call " w i t " and "humor" doubtless did not exist i n other ages. A n d both are constantly changing." In this same spirit, this essay takes as its point o f departure a 4  simple statement: concepts change their meaning. Yet, what seems at first glance to be nothing but a mere truism immediately becomes more complex when we pause to consider the parts separately from their whole. To begin with, what is a "concept"? Is it the same as a "word" or an 'idea'? Granted that the meaning o f concepts changes, why  L. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G.H. Von Wright trans. Peter Winch (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980), p. 78e.  4  3 does this occur? H o w and when do they acquire new meaning? A n d , most importantly, why is the investigation o f this process o f interest to the student o f political thought? "When language changes meaning, the world changes meaning, the world changes meaning, and we are part o f the w o r l d . " From the point o f view o f political 5  theory, it can be said that when political concepts change their meaning, the political world changes meaning, and this change is o f utmost importance for the student o f the "political world." For man, Aristotle has proclaimed, is "a political animal." Thus, the 6  "political" is understood here i n a broad sense. It is inspired by Hannah Arendt's approach to the "political" as an experience which springs from the interaction o f "men in the plural, that is men insofar as they live and move and act i n the world [and] can experience meaningfulness only because they can talk with and make sense to each other and to themselves." A t the same time the perception o f the "political" seeks to remain 7  loyal to what Sheldon W o l i n calls the "public concern:" " A l l o f the major theories o f the past were informed by "public concern," a quality which was not incidental to the Q  activity, but fundamental to the very notion o f being engaged i n political  theory." The  process o f conceptual change in the political sphere implies social interaction and as such is a "public concern" from the point o f view o f political theory. Three models o f conceptual transformation and innovation are critically examined i n this essay, and all three models are approached from the language-action axis.  J.B. Boyd, When Words Lose Their Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984) p. 4. Aristotle, The Politics, Book I ch. 2 trans, by T.A. Sinclair (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1962) p. 28. H. Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: Chicago University Pres, 1970) p. 4. S.S. Wolin, "Political Theory as a Vocation," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 63 (1969) p. 1062. Emphasis in original. 5  6  7 8  4  The first model, put forward by German historian o f concepts Reinhart Koselleck, suggests that conceptual change results from a crisis; the crisis, however, is an outcome o f a dissonance between language and the action that it is supposedly describing. The second model, adduced by the British historian o f political thought Quentin Skinner, assumes that conceptual change is intentional, and occurs as individuals do something when speaking (or writing). Language i n this model is welded to action and is understood as a form o f "speech-act." Nevertheless, it is important to underline that "speech-acts" are understood as a response to action. Conceptual change occurs as agents, i n their use o f language, struggle to present certain actions i n more or less favorable language. The third model derives from the American P C theory, which, it w i l l be argued, is a movement o f conceptual change premised on the assumption that language is our only access to the social sphere. The theory and practice o f P C views language as the primary force o f the polis; language defines and makes intelligible the actions that are taken i n this sphere. A s such, conceptual change is sought almost exclusively in language; to change action one must concentrate one's efforts on changing language. Since concepts exist only within a language-action scheme, it is necessary to appreciate the role that these two defining entities play i n the social life before conceptual change can be explained (perhaps even anticipated). In all three models conceptual change is premised on an a priori  understanding o f the role and significance o f language  and action i n the social sphere. The administration o f the polis necessitates both talking and doing but the balance between these activities varies from one polis to the next and raises serious questions: What is the relationship between language and action? Is there a difference between them? Does language define action, or is it the other way around? Is  5 language a form o f action? Is action a form o f language? D o we control our language, or are we controlled by it? The three models that are presented i n this essay grapple with these questions and at the same time seek to unearth the source and reason o f conceptual change. After critically discussing each model on its own terms, it becomes apparent that the importance o f language in both political theory and practice has increased over the years while that o f action is steadily diminishing. This conclusion is most evident in the case o f the P C movement where the predominance o f language leads to a unification o f language with action. The growing portion o f language in the "political," stems from the fact that both political theory and practice, more than i n the past, are informed by the problems and methods o f linguistic philosophy and postmodernism. The mid-century "linguistic turn" coupled with the growing influence o f the postmodern "attitude" have distorted the much needed balance between language and action i n the polis.  Political  theory and practice, unlike linguistic philosophy and postmodernism, cannot afford being oblivious to action. Since the purpose o f this thesis is to examine the relationship between language and action i n the process o f conceptual change, it does not refer to a single body o f knowledge but rather explores various disciplines such as history, linguistic philosophy and political theory. It is the subject matter that compels the use o f multiple bodies o f knowledge. In part this is because those who study conceptual change have done so, i n part because the relationship between language and action and the process o f conceptual change has implications that go beyond political thought. Since all o f us use language and act in the world, this crucial relationship is o f interest in many disciplines.  6 Thus, in the first chapter, we begin by discussing the importance o f language and action in the polis  - both Greek and metaphoric - and examine theories that have  articulated this relationship and thereby altered the way we think about society. It then considers what is meant by "concept" and reviews the development o f conceptual history. The study o f conceptual history i n political thought is largely a postwar phenomenon and is a field o f study which has attracted considerable attention from prominent scholars. But while in the immediate postwar period the orientation was towards central analytical terms in "the modern vocabulary o f social and political understanding," today scholars 9  of this "new intellectual genre"  10  are increasingly studying the actual concepts used by  "agents" in political discourses o f the past. Two schools o f thought i n particular are engaged i n this type o f study. The first, the so-called Cambridge School, which is identified with J . G . A . Pocock and Quentin Skinner, defines a trend o f research known as linguistic contextualism or intentionalism. The second, the German  Begriffsgeschichte,  which is identified with Reinhart Koselleck, focuses on the historical recovery and the historical development o f central political concepts. The  second chapter examines the models adduced by Koselleck and Skinner.  Although they share a common interest i n the history o f political concepts and a mutual dissatisfaction with the methodological tools used i n the past i n this field o f study the two scholars are found to be at loggerheads about other central defining aspects. A major difference lies i n the understanding o f the relation between language and action and i n the source o f conceptual change.  J. Dunn, The History of Political Theory and Other Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) p. 22.  9  .7 The third chapter is a critical investigation o f the P C movement and its assumptions regarding language, action and conceptual change. T o the extent that the study o f the history o f political concepts is the study o f history and the study o f language in history, the story o f P C provides a particularly illuminating case study o f the way language, action, and conceptual change are perceived today i n political theory and practice.  8  Chapter 1  Language, Action and the History of Concepts Language  and Action in the  Polis  The history o f language and politics begins i n the Greek polis, emergence o f the Aristotelian bios politikos.  What is a bios politikosl  with the  H o w does one  engage i n this type o f living? Hannah Arendt illuminates this way o f being in her discussion o f the term vita activa, which refers to "three fundamental human activities: labor, work, action." Labor corresponds to the natural/biological process o f the body. 1  Work relates to the unnaturalness o f the human existence, it belongs to the artificial world o f things, within which humans have their homes. Action, contrary to labor and work, exists without the intervention o f things; it bears a direct relation to the human condition o f plurality - to the fact that the world is inhabited by men, not M a n . A s such, "action" is the "political activity par excellence."  2  The bios politikos  transcends the  necessities o f labor and work; it is the life o f one who has freely chosen to devote oneself to the polis.  3  " O f all activities necessary and present i n human communities," Arendt  notes, "only two were deemed to be political and to constitute what Aristotle called the bios politikos,  namely action (praxis)  and speech (lexis) out o f which rises the realm o f  human affairs from which everything merely necessary or useful is excluded."  4  Manifestly, the designation o f "action" has gradually expanded over the centuries and generations since Aristotle and the Greek polis,  reaching its opposite extreme with  H. Arendt, The Human Condition, p. 7. Ibid, pp. 7-9. The other two action-driven life are the life of enjoying bodily pleasure and the life of the philosopher. All three types of living are concerned with the search for the "beautiful," that which is not necessary or merely useful. Ibid, pp. 13-4. Ibid, pp. 24-5. 1  2  3  4  9 the feminist aphorism "the personal is political" and the postmodern assertion that "everything is political." Yet praxis  and lexis remain constitutive o f our political lives,  between them our human affairs rise and take shape. True, we have seen a change in the dichotomy that language and action represent. In the Greek polis  language meant  persuasions and reliance on rhetoric, while action meant sheer violence, and as such, a pre-political act carried out only outside the polis,  in the private sphere or amongst  despotic societies. In our times, as distinct from the Greek polis, the very act o f drawing 5  the line between language and action is political. Yet the place that language and action assume i n the political life,  i n both the minimalist Aristotelian and maximalist  postmodern perceptions o f the "political," has neither diminished nor been severely modified over the years. Language, action and their interrelationship, continue to control our social and political lives. "Taking action," then, is what we do i n the polis, in the public sphere. But what is meant by "language" in this context? What language do we speak i n the  "polis"'?  Terrence B a l l makes an analytical distinction between "natural language" and "moral" or "political" language in order to characterize the language o f the polis,  the language that  the student o f political concepts is concerned with. "In referring to this or that 'language,'" he writes, "I do not mean the natural languages analysed by linguistics Attic Greek, for example, or modern English - but allude to what one might as a first cut call a moral or political language." In other words, while true that all languages are 6  social artifacts and hence are not "natural" in the literal sense o f the word, within language we find "discourses" (Ball) or "sub-languages" (Pocock) which convey, as  5 6  Ibid, pp. 26-7. T. Ball, Transforming Political Discourse (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988) p. 11.  10 James B o y d White puts it, "shared conceptions o f the world, shared manner and values, shared resources and expectations and procedures for speech and thought [through which] communities are i n fact defined and constituted." It is this "political" or "moral" 7  language that stores cultural identity on one hand, and the language that shapes and defines the way we think and see the world on the other. When this language changes when "our shared conceptions o f the w o r l d " are modified - we change too, and vice versa. However, differentiating between the so-called "social" and "natural" language, as the next section reveals, is not a straightforward act to execute since it involves selecting and hence theorizing. Having identified the two boundary markers o f this essay - the language and action o f the polis  - we must identify more closely the way i n which these two are  approached. Conceptual history and the history o f concepts w i l l be our guide i n tracing political change. A s we shall see, concepts tie language and action together, and allow us to examine the process o f change. Thus, the purpose o f this chapter is threefold. First, to introduce theories that articulate the role o f language and action i n the social sphere and have exercised a critical influence on the study o f concepts. Second, to reflect on the concept o f "concept" and to underline the importance o f studying concepts as means o f gaining insight into the political sphere. Third, to introduce the two major schools o f thought engaged i n the study o f concepts, the so-called Cambridge School and the German Begriffsgeschichte  (history o f concepts). Two prominent representatives o f these  schools - Reinhart Koselleck and Quentin Skinner - w i l l be our focus i n the next chapter.  7  J. B. White, When Words Lose Their Meaning, p. 193.  11  Language  and Action  in Social  Analysis  It was noted above that the dichotomy represented by language and action has undergone change and expansion since the Greek polis.  Here we w i l l consider how  philosophers o f language and history have grappled with this dichotomy and sought to grasp its essential meaning and its influence on our lives. It must be stated though, that we confine ourselves to the "modern era," by which is meant, by and large, central developments since the late nineteenth century. Insofar as conceptual change is a product of the relationship language/action we w i l l ask: H o w does social language shape social reality and vice versa? What types o f relationships language and society entertain? H o w does the history o f concepts help us come to grips with these questions? The founder o f modern linguistics, Ferdinand de-Saussure (1857-1913) is usually seen as the first theorist who made distinctions in language that contained far-reaching implications on the way we approach social analysis. Underlying Saussure's theory is a linguistic 8  structure o f binary oppositions, two o f which are o f interest here; the first pertains to the relationship between language and society, the second to the question o f change i n language. The first set o f binary opposition is the langue (language) and the parole Langue  (speech).  specifies the abstract structure o f language, the part not susceptible to individual  modification or deliberate change; the parole  denotes the "private" or "personal" aspect  of language, it signifies the individual's selection o f words from the langue speaking. According to Saussure, langue rather than parole 9  linguistic analysis since language rather  when  is the real subject matter o f  than speech contains the principles o f  P.J. Corfield (ed.) "Introduction: Historians and Language," in Language, History, and Class (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) p. 4. Ibid, p. 9. 8  9  12  classification in light o f which speech becomes intelligible. Langue, explains, operates as a constraint over parole;  Michael Shapiro  because the speaker must choose his words  and concepts (and hence his ideas) from an existing closed system, it follows that these are predetermined by the range o f meanings and interpretations that are available in language.  10  From this follows, that not only the range o f possible speech is fixed, but so  is the scope o f possible actions, since action can only be interpreted in light o f existing language: "the possibilities o f action.. .exist in the language o f culture, and the actions that actually emerge are presented as a result o f the controlling interpretations, those with general legitimacy."  11  In other words, one cannot do what one has no words to describe.  The second set o f oppositions pertains to the phenomenon o f change in language and is encapsulated i n the dichotomy between "synchronic" and "diachronic" states: the former refers to the condition o f language at any given moment i n the present, while the latter designates the existence o f language through history. This distinction allowed linguistics to focus on the state o f the language as they found it, so to speak, rather than rely on its history as the explanatory force over language. The point is not that a language does not have a history, but rather that language and its history should be analytically disentangled. Linguistic analysis, according to Saussure, should focus on the synchronic 12  state o f affairs, for it reflects the language that the community o f speakers "really speaks."  This alone may not be o f special significance to the historian o f political  thought; but, since change i n language occurs and registers in the synchronic level, it offers the historian o f political thought a tool for detecting political change: "Everything  M. J. Shapiro, Language and Political Understanding (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981) p. 130. "Ibid. P.J. Corfield, "Introduction: Historians and Language," Language, History, and Class, pp. 5-6. F.R. Dallmayr, Language and Politics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984) p. 58. 10  12  13  13 diachronic in language is diachronic only by virtue o f speaking. For speaking contains the seeds o f all changes."  14  Thus, to the extent that our political lives consist o f speaking, and  to the extent that they change, language "as we find it" becomes our compass for determining new directions o f long-term social and political changes. Saussure's  theory is associated with a larger structuralist tradition, which  "interprets human conduct as the surface practices emanating from a deeper structure that represents  the constitution o f human thought."  15  M i c h e l Foucault (1926-1984) a  philosopher o f history and culture shares some o f the assumptions put forward by structuralist theorists,  16  and has greatly influenced the study o f conceptual history,  especially the Anglo-American tradition. L i k e Skinner's and Koselleck's, Foucault's philosophy o f history is rooted in his historical studies and as such it is "not concerned with the absolute truth o f history, but with forms o f historical knowledge which are provisional, fragmentary and plural."  17  A s was the case with Saussure, only two concepts  in Foucault's philosophical reflections on history, those deemed most relevant from the point o f view o f this essay, w i l l be discussed here: his formulation o f "discursive practices" and the "archeological" method he develops as means o f recovering these practices.  F. de-Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, ed. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, trans, by Wade Baskin (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959) p. 81. Quoted in F.R. Dallmayr, Language and Politics, p. 58. M. J. Shapiro, Language and Political Understanding, p. 133. Roland Barthes, Claude Levi-Strauss, Jacque Lacan and to some extent Michel Foucault follow the structuralist approach in their works. Although his explicit rejection of this association, expressed, for example, in his "Forward to the English Edition" in The Order of Things (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970) p. xiv. Foucault is often classified by scholars as a structuralists since his analysys of history and culture, discussed below, focuses on structures of discourse. He differs from "classical" structuralism in his rejection of the fundamental structuralist assumption that "surface practices" convey deeper meanings. H. Rayment-Pickard, "Posthistory," in R.M. Burns and H. Rayment-Pickard (eds.) Philosophies of History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000) p. 301. 14  15  16  17  14  Foucault's approach to history is premised on a rejection o f the traditional divisions o f history into "vast unities like 'periods' and 'centuries,'" and recommends instead comprehending history as "the phenomenon o f rupture, o f discontinuity." Subscribing 18  to this position, Foucault maintains, requires the historian to pose a new set o f guiding questions, since "the problem is no longer one o f tradition, o f tracing a line, but one o f divisions, o f limits; it is no longer one o f lasting foundations, but one o f transformations that serve as new foundations, the rebuilding o f foundations."  19  B y emphasizing  discontinuities Foucault attempts to overcome the traditional chronological approach to history i n which one age is seen as giving rise to the next. History as perceived by Foucault consists o f a series o f radical breaks, each break results i n a wholly new understanding o f what it means to be human.  20  A s such, Foucault's approach to history is  concerned, first and foremost, with conceptual change and movement. Once the study o f history is freed from the "myth o f continuity" we are left, Foucault asserts, with historical materials that are i n their "raw, neutral state, a population o f events i n the space o f discourse in general."  21  "Discourse in general" becomes the subject matter o f the  historian. The turn to discourse is based on Foucault's fundamental assumption that  M. Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge, Trans, by A.M. Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972) p. 4. Ibid, p. 5. Foucault calls the time between these "breaks" episteme. Each episteme is believed to rest on a distinct set of principles, which determine and classify the modes and structures of knowledge. In his Order of Things, Foucault describes the purpose of his research as "an inquiry whose aim is to rediscover on what basis knowledge and theory became possible; within what space of order knowledge was constituted; on the basis of what a priori, and in the element of what positivity, ideas could appear, sciences be established, experience be reflected in philosophies, rationalities be formed..." (pp. xxi-xxii). Foucault identifies three episteme: "sixteenth century" (knowledge is based on God), "classical" (knowledge is based on classification) and "modern" (knowledge is based on empirical sciences.) At the end of the Order of Things, Foucault hints that the modern episteme is approaching its end, though he does not specify the new terms on which knowledge will be based in the "postmodern" era. M. Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge, p. 27. 18  19  2 0  2 1  15 "language uses persons...[and]  discourses, the various forms i n which language is 22  actualized, are responsible for the deployment o f both objects and subjects." What becomes immediately important is the equation that Foucault assumes between discourse (language) and practice (action). A practice - e.g. medicine, grammar, or politics - is constituted through its "discourse," the type and substance o f the statements it makes use of. A "discursive practice" is a "a body o f anonymous, historical rules, always determined i n the time and space that have defined a given period, and for a given social, economic, geographical, or linguistic area."  23  History is "discourse in  general," and it consists o f more specialized discourses, i.e. "discursive practices." The study o f history, then, becomes the study o f "discursive practices;" Foucault calls this approach to history "archeology." Discourses are likened to the "monuments" o f history; they are the "objects...the things left by the past"  24  which it is now the duty o f the  historian to situate within a historical .discourse. "Archeology," Foucault writes, "tries to define not the thoughts, representations,  images, themes,  preoccupations that are  concealed or revealed i n discourse; but those discourses themselves, those discourses as practices obeying certain rules."  25  Both Saussure and Foucault have exercised a tremendous influence on many disciplines, the history o f political thought being merely one o f them. Yet, it is important to underline the extent to which these thinkers " l i v e " i n the works o f both Skinner and Koselleck. Saussure's influence on Koselleck is immediately apparent. Not only does Koselleck speak explicitly about "diachronic structures" and "synchronic structures," but, M. J. Shapiro, Language and Political Understanding, pp. 145-6. This assumption is but one example for structuralistic foundations in Foucault's philosophy. M. Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge, p. 117. Ibid, p. 7. Ibid, p. 138.  2 2  2 3  2 4  2 5  16  as we shall see, his methodological approach is ultimately based on binary oppositions such as language/action and long-term/short-term transformations. Saussure has also had a considerable influence on the Cambridge School scholar J . G . A . Pocock. Pocock's Kuhnian paradigmatic analysis o f political discourse is based on the opposition between langue and parole,  as well as on the assumption that the langue determines our actions  and therefore the historian o f political thought must recover the langue  before he can  interpret political action. Foucault's spirit looms large i n Skinner's work. In his historical writings Skinner follows Foucault's "archeological" method as a means o f excavating the past; his approach to history, a disengaged historical survey, is recommended by Foucault; and finally,  Skinner's philosophy o f history shares with Foucault the  assumption that history is driven by a succession o f power relations.  26  Notwithstanding, the contribution o f Saussure and Foucault to the development o f conceptual history is most evident i n the methodological orientation and vocabulary adopted by historians o f concepts. The study o f concepts, though, was as much influenced by the postwar philosophical revolution as it was b y Saussure and Foucault. The mid-century "linguistic turn" embedded the study o f conceptual history i n a new linguistic philosophy, a new ontological understanding o f "what is." In fact, it can be argued that conceptual history, as it is practiced today, is to a large extent a product o f this "turn." The "turn" was carried out by linguistic philosophers, most notably J . L . Austin (1911-1960) and L u d w i g Wittgenstein (1889-1951),  27  who turned away from the  J. Tully (ed.), "The Pen is a Mighty Sword," in Meaning and Context (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). pp. 16-7. Wittgenstein's philosophy is usually divided into two phases. In his early writings, exemplified in The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein was defending the logical positivist approach. Only in his 2 6  2 7  17 prevailing logical positivism which, they argued, was no longer considered to be a satisfactory approach for addressing philosophical problems, and instead claimed that "ordinary language," - the language that tells us how things are i n the world, - is the only appropriate subject for philosophy, since everything that exists, exists i n language. Logical positivism, the "scientific philosophy," emerged i n the nineteen Twenties and Thirties o f the last century i n Vienna, and purported to be the remedy for the non-sensical metaphysical speculation which, according to the members o f what became known as the Vienna Circle, characterized traditional philosophy. Exemplified i n the works o f Ernst M a c h , Bertrand Russell, R u d o l f Carnap, A . J . Ayer and the early Wittgenstein, logical positivists sought to make the nature o f meaningful statements depend on the nature o f what could be empirically k n o w n .  29  Reflecting on this movement, A y e r writes: "I was  entirely convinced...that for a sentence to be literally meaningful it was necessary and sufficient that it expressed a proposition the truth or falsehood o f which could be determined  either  by empirical observation  or solely i n virtue o f its f o r m . "  30  Metaphysical philosophy, the logical positivists held, was based on nothing and therefore meant nothing. Statements, sentences and words were considered meaningful only i f they  later writings, most notably in Philosophical Investigations, does he abandon logical positivism and develops his "ordinary language" philosophy. It is the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations who is alluded to here. Although both Wittgenstein and Austin contributed equally to the formulation of "linguistic philosophy," they pursued different agendas. While Wittgenstein, in his later writings, is concerned with the diversity of functions we perform in language, Austin focused mainly on one type of non-descriptive sentences, which he called "performatives," referring to sentences that were said to do something other than state or describe. M. J. Shapiro, Language and Political Understanding, pp. 50-1. We shall come back to Austin's theory in the next chapter. B. S. Gower (ed.), "Introduction: The Criterion of Significance," in Logical Positivism in Perspective (London: Croom Helm, 1987) p. 6. A.J. Ayer, "Reflections on Language, Truth and Logic" Ibid, p. 24. 2 8  2 9  3 0  18 were related to empirical observation, or i f their meaning could be logically derived from observation. Truth, i n other words, had to be based on experience.  31  Against the claim that meaning is based on non-linguistic foundations - that is, on experience and observation - Austin and Wittgenstein, among others, proclaimed that there are neither facts outside our "ordinary language," nor is there a "reality" other than that which is represented i n language. Speaking, according to this approach, was understood as an activity and words gained "meaning by virtue o f what speakers do with them, what actions or 'speech acts' they perform with them,"  32  be that referring,  describing, explaining or any other linguistic action. Words, Wittgenstein argued i n one of his most famous formulations, are meaningful only within their "language game." "The term 'language-game,'" Wittgenstein wrote, "is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking  o f language is part o f an activity, or a form o f life."  A language-  game, then, is a "form o f life," a way o f acting i n the world; it is not grounded i n metaphysics nor is it based on rational foundations, it is grounded i n practice, "woven into human activity..." It exhausts the whole sphere o f language and action since 34  the knowledge of a language, the ability to "play" language games which are part of a culture, form...the horizon of our understanding of reality and our capacity to act in it; they form the background of our behaviour, both from the point of view of our acting and from the point of view of the interpretation of action. 35  R. Nieli, Wittgenstein: From Mysticism to Ordinary Language (New York: State University of New York Press, 1987) pp. 7-8. In order to determine whether a statement was meaningful, logical positivists developed the "verification principle;" before a statement was considered "meaningful" its truth-conditions, that is, its accessibility to experience, had to be shown. B. S. Gower, "Introduction: The Criterion of Significance," in Logical Positivism in Retrospect, pp. 8-9. T. Ball, Transforming Political Discourse, p. 5. L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, part I, 23, trans, by G.E.M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1968) p. 11. Emphasis in original. J. Tully, "The Pen is a Mighty Sword," Meaning and Context, p. 23. D.M. de-Souza Filho, Language and Action (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1984) p. 3. 3 1  3 2  3 3  3 4  3 5  19 Critical o f the strict procedures employed by logical positivists i n an effort to verify the truth, "ordinary language" philosophers claimed that no particular set o f procedures leads to "meaning" and that none o f the actions carried out i n language are "privileged, much less paradigmatic o f what meaning (really) is. N o r does any particular set o f linguistic practices, e.g. scientific discourse, set a standard o f meaningfulness that all "inferior" discourses (e.g. moral, or aesthetic discourse) should seek to emulate."  36  Richard Rorty sums up the revolutionary essence o f linguistic philosophy when he writes: "linguistic philosophy [is] the view that philosophical problems are problems which can be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use." The "linguistic turn," then, reduced all that there is to language, and, as w i l l be seen immediately, it had a tremendous impact on the approach to the study o f political thought and on the development o f conceptual history. Yet its influence is not confined to theory alone. A s the third chapter o f this essay shows, the assumption that language is our only access to reality, and the idea that a change i n action is a result o f a change i n language, lies at the heart o f the American P C movement, and informs its practices.  Two Concepts  of  "Concept"  W e have seen that enunciating the relationship between language and action is closely interwoven with formulating the "social." A n d while language and action represent the limits o f the social world, concepts are "caught" between those two boundary markers, helping us to map more closely the content o f the social, rather than  T. Ball, Transforming Political Discourse, p. 5. R. Rorty (ed.) "Introduction," The Linguistic Turn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967) p. 3.  20  its confines. It is useful to begin thinking about concepts by considering the difference between the study o f concepts and the study o f ideas, as this w i l l clarify the sense i n which "concepts" are understood i n this essay. The proximity and interchangeability between "concepts" and "ideas" are explicated in Isaiah Berlin's celebrated essay, " T w o Concepts o f Liberty." Anyone familiar with the essay w i l l readily agree that by "two concepts," Berlin means two ways o f life, two systems o f thought. In other words, negative and positive liberty, are two moral structures. Ideas, for Berlin, exist outside the human sphere: It is only a very vulgar historical materialism that denies the power of ideas, and says that ideals are mere material interests in disguise. It may be that, without the pressure of social forces, political ideas are stillborn: what is certain is that these forces, unless they clothe themselves in ideas, remain blind and undirected. 38  For Berlin, concepts are "ideas," the highest form o f abstraction and rationalization, and are believed to exist i n the natural world, prior to language and society. Society, as Berlin says, merely forces ideas to materialize and words are but symbols or names for these ideas. But, as we saw, the assumption that ideas exist prior to language was fervently contested in the past half century, since the "linguistic turn." A s the attention shifted to language, now posited as the sole creator o f reality, nothing was thought to exist outside the spheres o f language, "the limits of my language  mean the limits o f m y w o r l d , "  39  as  Wittgenstein eloquently puts it. I f language sets the boundaries o f our world, it follows that whatever cannot be articulated in words cannot be conceived and hence does not exist. This approach views language as the primary container o f what is human.  1. Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty," in H. Hardy and R. Hausheer (eds.) The Proper Study ofMankind (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998) p. 193. L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, aphorism 5.6. Translated by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuiness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974) p. 56. Emphasis in original. 38  3 9  21  Language and what we do with it becomes the sole protagonist i n the study o f human affairs, a social institution that defines and embodies philosophical categories such as knowledge and meaning. Concepts, according to this view, still represent ideas, but these ideas are a product o f language and are bounded by history, which can - indeed must - be recovered for the meaning o f concepts to be construed. In other words, concepts are not "forces clothed i n words," they are what people make them to be according to their temporal circumstances and immediate needs. It is in this sense that the term "concept" is used here. The difference, then, between the study o f ideas and the study o f concepts as these two branches o f knowledge have been practiced, is primarily a difference o f origins. But this difference cannot be undermined. In their latter application concepts are tied to the history o f their use, which i n turn suggests that people have power over them. Amongst other fields o f thought, this new ontological approach was embraced by some historians of political thought and has had far reaching implications on the way scholars approach this body o f knowledge. The history o f political thought, it seems, has been irrevocably transformed to the history o f people talking. W e w i l l return to this transformation i n the concluding part o f this essay, where we w i l l ask whether the turn to language has come at too high a price from the perspective o f political thought. That being said, subscribing to the position that language is all that there is, does not tell us much about the ways i n which language actually interacts with action, or how it influences social action and why concepts are important to this process. History tells us that meanings o f concepts change over time. Earlier it was argued that conceptual change implies a change i n our shared values and morals; now we move  22  to consider the relationship between conceptual change and political change. Concepts are components o f the "political language." Concepts become "political" not only because they are used in the political discourse, but also because their meaning is contested; concepts are "social institutions," thus their meaning and function is prone to debate, control and manipulation. A s a result o f the things people do with concepts, they change: Conceptual change is one imaginative consequence of political actors criticizing and attempting to resolve the contradiction which they discover or generate in the complex web of their beliefs, actions, and practices as they try to understand and change the world around them. 40  A n d since concepts constitute the "political language," it seems useful to trace conceptual change as a means o f recovering political change, since "to understand conceptual change is i n large part to understand political change, and vice versa."  41  H o w large this "part" is  varies from one theory to another. The degree to which concepts and the "real w o r l d " reflect, influence and change one another and the question o f what are these forces o f change, lie at the very core o f this essay and w i l l occupy us in the next two chapters as we examine the three models o f conceptual change. What is the purpose o f this endeavor? W h y is it important for us to know how our predecessors used words, or, put differently, what they meant by them? "The ultimate aim o f history" Collingwood teaches us, "is not to know the past but to understand the present."  42  The task o f the historian o f concepts is no different. Language is successive  and is passed down to the present loaded with layers o f accumulated meanings; by tracing the history o f concepts we hope to recover the footsteps o f our ancestors in anticipation  J. Farr, "Understanding Conceptual Change Politically," T. Ball (ed. et al.) Political Innovation and Conceptual Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) p. 25. Ibid, pp. 24-5. R. Collingwood, The Principles of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 140.  4 0  4 1  4 2  23 of illuminating the links between past and present, illustrating and perhaps even explaining social and political change. A s was noted earlier, the English Cambridge School and the German Begriffsgeschichte  are presently the two major schools o f thought  engaged in the study o f concepts as a means o f studying social and intellectual history. The roots and goals o f these schools are the focus o f the next two sections.  The German  Begriffsgeschichte  (BG)  In the broadest sense o f the word, the study o f concepts is not a new phenomenon in the German scholarly world. Hegel is believed to have been the first philosopher to use the term B G ,  4 3  and throughout the nineteenth century German philosophers investigated  the origins o f the terms they used. In theological faculties too, historians o f dogma dedicated themselves to the study o f words and concepts.  44  The current trend o f B G ,  however, has grown out o f two more recent German traditions: Geistesgeschichte of the mind and/or spirit) most identified with W i l h e l m Dilthey and  (history  Ideengeschichte  (history o f ideas) exemplified in the work o f Friedrich Meinecke. In his work, Dilthey (1831-1911) developed a "set o f practices used to write epochal  or cultural history i n terms o f shared  Zeitgeist."  45  assumptions,  presupposition,  or  H i s project was informed by both philosophy and history as he attempted to  study the "whole" nature o f man, and the history o f the mind. This a priori philosophical quest took an historical turn when Dilthey reached the conclusion that human nature is  R. Koselleck, "Social History and Begriffsgeschichte" in I. Hampsher (ed. et al.) History of Concepts: Comparative perspectives (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1998) p. 24. P. DemBoer, "The Historiography of German Beriffsgeschichte and the Dutch Project of Conceptual History," Ibid, p. 13. M. Richter, The History of Political and Social Concepts (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) p. 3. 4 3  4 4  4 5  24  manifested through experience and thus entails the revival o f the past. H i s dual interest i n history (experience) and philosophy (mind) naturally led Dilthey to writing a history o f ideas.  46  Initially, he attempted to accomplish his objective by writing purely descriptive  psychology, that is, the facts o f consciousness; his repeated failures to achieve this goal led h i m to Schleiermacher and the hermeneutic school - the belief that all historical knowledge is discerned through the interpretation o f facts i n the context o f a larger whole, which, paradoxically, could only be understood through its parts.  47  Ideas,  according to Schleiermacher's hermeneutics, existed prior to language hence texts must be understood as expressions o f their authors' thoughts and intentions. Accordingly, the historian's task was to "relive" past texts i n order to excavate their "spirit."  Only then  could history be properly understood. L i k e Dilthey, Friedrich Meinecke (1862-1954) was concerned with the human experience as means o f arriving at a comprehensive universality o f the human nature. H i s philosophy o f history viewed the individual as the "analytical" unit upon which philosophical generalizations should be based. A descendant o f the historical idealism movement, Meinecke sought to "capture the existential uniqueness within historical events and to penetrate the motivations o f the human person." Meinecke's Ideengeschichte;  49  Idealism is apparent i n  an idea, according to idealists, is a mysterious and  transcendental active force that dominates history. A s such, individuals - persons but also nations - were understood as animators o f ideas. The historian's task was to penetrate G. Masur, "Wilhelm Dilthey and the History of Ideas," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 13, Issue 1 (Jan. 1952) pp. 95-7. M. Burns, "Secular Historicism" & "Hermeneutics," in M. Burns and H. Rayment-Pickard (eds.) Philosophies of History, pp. 155-58, p. 218. M. Van-Gelderen, "Between Cambridge and Heidelberg. Concepts, Languages and Images in Intellectual History," History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 228. P.J. Wolfson, "Friedrich Meinecke (1862-1954)," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 17, No. 4 (October, 1956) p. 515. 4 6  4 7  4 8  4 9  25  these ideas by means o f his imagination, he had to "see" - visualizes as well as understand them - i n an almost primordial sense and to have an antecedent relation to them.  50  Countering these approaches, B G historians, most notably Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck, rejected the claim that political and social concepts merely represent basic abstract patterns such as "mind," "spirit" or "idea." According to the B G historians, that approach separated concepts and ideas from their political and social environment, in which they were used as weapons in political debates.  51  Seeking to  remedy this, B G presented itself as an alternative method, aiming to recover the history of concepts as they appear " i n the texts o f individual thinkers and bodies o f thought i n the past."  52  Concepts were identified as the key unit because, as Koselleck's asserts, studying  the history o f concepts makes it possible "to survey contemporary space o f experience and horizon o f expectation, and to investigate the political and social functions o f concepts, together with their specific modality o f usage."  53  Concepts, i n other words,  embody the past (experience) the present (usage) as w e l l as the future (expectation). Three major projects have been applying B G methodology i n the study o f concepts: (1) A Dictionary in 1971) (2) Basic and Social Basic  Concepts  Language  Political  of Philosophy in History:  in Germany  and Social  on Historical A Dictionary  Principles on Historical  (first volume published Principles  of  Political  (first volume published i n 1972) (3) A Handbook  Concepts  in France,  1680-1820  of  (first volume appeared i n  R.M. Burns, "Classical Historicism," M. Burns and H. Rayment-Pickard (eds.) Philosophies of History, pp. 62-3. M. Richter, The History of Political and Social Concepts, p. 6. M. Richter, "Reconstructing the History of Political Languages: Pocock, Skinner, and the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe," History and Theory, Vol. 29, Issue 1 (Feb. 1990) p. 38. R. Koselleck, Future Pasts trans, by Keith Tribe (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1985) p. 80. 5 0  51  5 2  5 3  26  1985).  In fact the small number o f books is deceiving. Since these projects are  dictionaries, B G historians have produced a vast and rich body o f literature. B y 1995, for example, eight volumes o f the Handbook  were already published containing over 11,000  double-columned pages. Based on these dictionaries M e l v i n Richter defines B G as: [A] generic term to designate all three of these scholarly practices used to study the history of concepts. It is thus the choice of concepts as units of analysis in the history of thought which distinguishes B G from alternative methods focusing on other topics: individual authors, texts, schools, tradition, persisting problems, forms of argument, style of thought, discourses, ideologies. 55  A s this definition indicates, Richter's access to the German B G is, for the most part, through the practice rather than the method. In his discussions about B G Richter tends to emphasizes the historical over the linguistic perspective as the core purpose o f this project, and his analysis is founded on a close textual reading o f the three dictionaries, i n effect making the B G methodological agenda secondary to the historical insights that it presents. Other scholars approach this project from a more linguistic point o f view, accentuating historians.  the synchronic/diachronic  linguistic analysis  provided  by the B G  56  Although scholars differ on the major thrust o f the B G project, some emphasizing the historical aspect o f it and others the linguistic, to choose one over the other would seem to miss the central point that Koselleck is making. B G , Koselleck argues, designates an "autonomous sphere" where society and language meet; it is at this conjunction that 57  history is created. Concepts epitomize this coming together o f history and language. The  In German, these dictionaries are titled: (1) Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historiche Lexicon zur politisch-sozialer Sprache in Deutschland (2) Historiches Worterbuch der Philosophic (3) Handbuch politisch-sozialer Grundbegriffe in Frankreich 1680-1820. M. Richter, The History of Social and Political Concepts, p. 3. Ibid, p. 4. 1. Hampsher-Monk, K. Tilmans & F. Van Vree, "A Comparative Perspective on Conceptual HistoryAn Introduction" in History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 1. Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 80. 5 4  5 5  56  5 7  27 choice o f encyclopedic dictionaries as the preferred format for presenting B G adds another dimension to the balance sought between history and language, since it enables the "autonomous sphere" to be expressed externally as well as internally, and designates both language and history an equal role. A s opposed to the position taken by Richter, here B G is approached from its methodological aspect and the emphasis is on the role o f language and action i n the process o f conceptual change. Earlier we saw that B G was developed as a reaction to the abstract foundations on which the history o f ideas, as practiced by Dilthey and Meinecke, was premised. It was also noted that B G seeks to historicize concepts and trace their use and change within texts i n order to arrive at a more precise history. However, as a method, B G presents itself as a distinct body o f knowledge providing historical data which, Koselleck contends, can only be arrived at by rigorously following its procedures. In the next chapter we w i l l see that B G was initially designed to analyze conceptual transformation in Germany between  1750-1850, when, according to Koselleck, rapid changes i n  language took place. Here it is important to underline that B G extends itself universally. A n y age which exhibits rapid changes in social action as w e l l as the conceptual level can be analyzed by invoking the method o f B G , because, Koselleck argues: A characteristic of historical time is its constant reproduction of the tension between society and its transformation on the one hand, and its linguistic adaptation and processing on the other. A l l history feeds on this tension. Social relationships, conflicts and their solutions, and the changing preconditions for them are never congruent with the linguistic articulation on the basis of which societies act, understand, interpret, change and re-form themselves. 58  "Historical time," then, is defined i n general terms to allow for B G to be applied universally. A s we shall see i n the next chapter, Koselleck is especially interested i n the  R. Koselleck, "Social History and Begriffsgechichte" in I. Hampsher (ed. et al.) History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 25.  5 8  28 gap that opens up between language and action as a catalyst o f history, as w e l l as i n the consequences o f this gulf for both language and action. Concepts, as we shall see, assume a central role i n this process.  The Cambridge  School  In England, too, as i n Germany, dissatisfaction with the a-historical and alinguistic approach to the history o f political thought i n the post W o r l d War II era brought about an alternative approach, less philosophical and more attuned to linguistic and historical realities. Based in Cambridge University, scholars such as R. G . Collingwood, J . G . A . Pocock and Quentin Skinner, working i n various disciplines history, philosophy and political science - launched a reformatory campaign i n the study o f the history o f political thought. In its course, they simultaneously broke down the walls between these fields o f study (by historicizing political philosophy) and articulated the division o f labor between them (by differentiating the work o f the historian from that o f the philosopher). Prior to this "revolution," there were two prevailing approaches (or "orthodoxies," as Skinner refers to them) i n the study o f political thought: the "text" and the "context." Broadly speaking, textualists, Leo Strauss prominent among them, emphasized textual exegesis independent from socio-historical context, as well as from the historian's own concerns. Behind this approach lies the assumption that the canon o f political philosophy - the "Great B o o k s " tradition - conveys perennial questions and timeless values. Strauss believed that political texts communicate esoteric or hidden messages regarding the intention o f the philosopher i n writing his text, though these messages could only be  29 discerned by the select "trustworthy."  59  B y "intention" Strauss does not mean the  immediate mundane interest that a political philosopher might have been referring to, but the philosopher's desire to reach a greater, natural truth as was understood by h i m .  60  Contextualists, on the other hand, believe that religious, political, and economic factors determine the meaning o f texts.  61  Contextualists were rejected by Cambridge scholars  since they failed to see that explaining why an author has written a text does not explain the text; i n other words, Cambridge scholars argue that while it is true that the context can illuminate the reasons why a text was written, it cannot show what was the point o f writing it, what the was author trying to do or achieve through his words.  62  This, Skinner  and Pocock found unacceptable. Skinner and Pocock, the two scholars most identified with the English "historic turn," both deeply influenced by Wittgenstein and Austin, rejected these assumptions. They advanced the thesis that prevailing methods i n the study o f political thought lacked an appropriate historical consideration, and consequentially presented as historical what is actually philosophical: Alone among the major branches of historical study in the middle twentieth century, the history of political thought was treated as the study of a traditional canon, and the conversion of tradition into history was in this case conducted by the methods of philosophic commentary in the intellectual contents of the tradition, arbitrarily defined as philosophy. 63  Skinner's path-breaking article "Meaning and Understanding i n the History o f Ideas" opened up a new scholarly era with the assertion that the two leading orthodoxies in the  This type of intention must not be confused with Skinner's intentionality theory, discussed below. F.R. Dallmayr, Language and Politics, pp. 79-81. Q. Skinner, "Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas," in J. Tully (ed.) Meaning and Context, p. 29. M.Van Gelderen, "Between Cambridge and Heidelberg. Concepts, Languages and Images in Intellectual History," in I.H. Monk (ed. et al.) History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 230, p. 277 fn. 19. J.G.A. Pocock, Politics Language and Time (New York: Atheneum, 1971) p. 5. 6 0  61  6 2  6 3  30 study o f political thought - the text and the context - are based on theoretical errors and thus commit philosophical mistakes in the assumptions they make about the conditions necessary for the understanding of utterances. It follows that the result of accepting either orthodoxy has been to fill up the current literature in the history of ideas with a series of conceptual muddle and mistaken empirical claims. 64  Furthermore, J . G . A . Pocock and Quentin Skinner argued that there are neither "perennial questions" nor a set o f "basic concepts" that the student o f political thought ought to align himself by. Rather, they maintained, knowledge o f the historic, social, and primarily linguistic context is a necessary condition for the proper study o f political thought.  65  A  "proper study," Skinner stated, seeks to excavate the authorial intention behind the text: "the understanding o f texts...presupposes the grasp both o f what they were intended to mean, and how this meaning was intended to be taken."  66  The demand for greater historical precision and the search for "real" history in language as arguments against a philosophical quest for "perennial questions" i n the field o f political thought is worth reflecting on since it reveals the scope o f Skinner and Pocock's project. Should the study o f political thought be conducted solely within a historical framework? The project inaugurated by these two scholars was motivated by linguistic and historical concerns, and thus called for separating the methodological and conceptual arsenal o f the historian from that o f the philosopher. M u c h o f the attack on the " o l d " generation is focused on the methodological confusion with which their work is rife, according to Skinner and Pocock. Philosophy, Pocock explains, is a different mode o f reflection than history:  Q. Skinner, "Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas," in J. Tully, Meaning and Context, p. 29. Originally published in 1969. Ibid, p. 30. Ibid, p. 63. 6 4  6 5  6 6  31 The non-historical practitioner is not concerned with what the author of a statement made in a remote past meant by it so much as with what he in his present can make it mean: what he can do with it for purposes of his own, which may or may not - and therefore do not have to - coincide with those of the author. 67  The historian, on the other hand, is "interested i n the question o f how far the author's use o f his words coincide with his modern interpreter's use o f them."  68  Yet one can argue that the advantage o f philosophical reflection lies precisely in its freedom to detach itself from time and place and be conducted i n the realm o f abstract or absolute categories that are rarely an integral part o f our everyday, hence historical, experience. B y philosophy, Hobbes writes, "is understood the knowledge acquired by reasoning." Historians take quite the opposite view. They do not, as Marc B l o c h puts it, 69  think o f humans i n abstract, rather, they "breathe freely the air o f the climate o f time." One does not need to decide which approach is better in order to appreciate that history and philosophy are two distinct disciplines. N o r do Skinner and Pocock deny this categorical difference: on the contrary, they cite this difference as evidence that anything that does not comply with their "proper" way o f studying history, i n unworthy o f the title "the history o f political thought." Nevertheless, Skinner and Pocock's project cannot be accepted in place o f other approaches i n the study o f political thought but rather as a contribution to it. John Dunn, a Cambridge School scholar, makes this point when he insists that the history o f political vocabulary and concepts - "the new history," as he refers to it - as practiced by Skinner and Koselleck is indeed a valuable contribution to the history o f political theory, but does not supplant it:  J.G.A. Pocock, Politics Language and Time, p. 7. Ibid. Emphasis in original. T. Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651, part 4 ch. 46 in C.B. Macpherson (ed.) (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1968) p. 682. M. Bloch, The Historian's Craft (New York: Vintage Books, 1953) p. 27. 6 8  6 9  7 0  32 In relation to this new (and as yet almost wholly unwritten) history, the history of political theory will be at least as much a grateful consumer as it will a proud contributor. What is certain, however is...[that] it could not, under any circumstances serve as an effective alternative to, or replacement for, the distinctive forms of understanding provided by the history of political theory. 71  Joseph V . Femia is more explicit, arguing that Skinner's historicism has gone too far i n denying the recurrence o f "perennial problems." Some issues, he says, are timeless and do tend to recur over time and place, for example questions such as who should rule, why and how. Indeed, i f this were not so, Femia contends, the past would be o f no interest to  Finally, a word o f comparison. In both the English and German instances the study o f concepts combines a consideration o f multiple disciplines: history, linguistics t  politics and society. They are interwoven i n an effort to understand how concepts are first formed and then transmitted within societies and between them. These two schools o f thought, although essentially different, pursue similar objectives and thus are amenable to comparison.  73  In a rare acknowledgment o f an intellectual affinity, T. B a l l , J. Fair and R .  Hanson, affiliated with the Cambridge School, write: "What we share with them...is the common conviction that speaking a language involves taking on a world, and altering the concepts constitutive o f that language involves nothing less than remaking the w o r l d . "  74  M e l v i n Richter, whose research o f the German B G present us with the few existing English texts on the topic, describes the Cambridge School as B G ' s "nearest Anglophone analogue;"  75  "they share," he writes, " a common concern with political language treated  historically, and the insistence...that political thought and behavior, now and i n the past, J. Dunn, The History of Political Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) p. 22. J.V. Femia, "An Historicist Critique of 'Revisionist' Methods for Studying the History of Ideas," in J. Tully (ed.) Meaning and Context, pp. 164-5. Unfortunately, the practitioners of these schools have shown very little interest in each other's work. T. Ball (ed. et al.) Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, p. ix. M. Richter, The History ofPolitical and Social Science, p. 3. 71  7 2  73  7 4  75  33 cannot be understood without reference to the distinctive vocabularies used by agents in given contexts."  76  One way o f acknowledging the disparity between these schools is through the different metaphors they invoke to describe their divergent approaches. B G historians tend to view history from above, often making use o f the world o f typography and mapping to describe the work o f the historian who "attempts to map the minefield, as it were, by examining the various historical turning-points or watersheds i n the history o f concepts..."  77  Cambridge School scholars, in contrast, tend to observe history from  below, using Foucault's archeological metaphor to characterize the work o f the historian o f concepts; as Skinner writes: "one corresponding role for the intellectual historian is that o f acting as a kind o f archeologist, bringing buried intellectual treasure back to the surface, dusting it down and enabling us to reconsider what we think o f i t . " metaphors do not o f course cover the whole range o f difference  78  These  between  these  approaches, but as we move on to examine more closely Koselleck and Skinner's work, they may prove helpful in adding a visual point o f view to the cognitive dimension.  Ibid, p. 124. T. Ball, Transforming Political Discourse, p. 9. Q, Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) p. 112.  34  Chapter 2  Reinhart Koselleck and Quentin Skinner: Language, Action and Two Models of Conceptual Change In the previous chapter it was argued that change occurs i n the polis  and that,  since language and action constitute the polis it follows that it is useful to examine their relationship and the influence they exert on the political sphere. Concepts were identified as one possible unit through which this change can be examined. If we can determine how, when and why concepts change their meaning then we may be able to achieve a greater understanding o f how, when, and why our political and social lives change. In this chapter we w i l l examine two competing models that attempt to answer these questions, the first adduced by the B G conceptual historian Reinhart Koselleck the second by the Cambridge School historian o f political thought Quentin Skinner. Koselleck and Skinner share an intellectual interest. Both are first and foremost historians o f "modernity," and, accordingly, their thoughts about the causes o f conceptual change spring primarily from their interpretation o f the transition to modernity. Both scholars devote as much attention to methodological and philosophical problems i n the study o f history, as to its practice. Above all, they agree that the appropriate subject matter o f history is the study o f concepts. Indeed, there would seem to be more similarities between these two scholars than they would probably care to admit. Y e t the apparent resemblance is overshadowed by two compelling differences: the source o f conceptual change, and the relationship between language and action i n this process. It is these crucial differences that constitute the focus o f this chapter.  35  Reinhart  Koselleck:  Crisis  and Conceptual  Change  Conceptual change, Koselleck argues, results from a crisis; yet the crisis is a result o f this conceptual change. Koselleck attempts to break this apparent "chickenegg" circle by making a distinction between language and action. This division allows 1  h i m to examine changes i n language independently from changes in action, and further determine the extent to which these transformations are convergent. W e w i l l come back to this analytical differentiation a little later, after considering Koselleck's theory o f conceptual change. A s we shall see, it is the nature o f the crisis that leads Koselleck to distinguish these two entities. First, we must examine why, according to Koselleck, modern society is conditioned by a perpetual state o f crisis that was caused by conceptual change and how, at the same time, this conceptual change helped bring the crisis about. In this process concepts form an independent category, bridging action and language. For the English reader the discussion o f crisis as a model for conceptual change is explored and defended most notably in Koselleck's Critique  and Crisis?  First published  in 1959, the book begins by discussing contemporaneous issues. T w o central problems are o f interest to Koselleck: first, the search for the historical preconditions o f German National Socialism whose "loss o f reality and Utopian exaltation had resulted i n hitherto unprecedented crimes." Second, reflecting on the C o l d War, Koselleck asserts that the 3  "present tension between the two superpowers, the U S A and the U S S R , is a result o f European history." Furthermore, this conflict reiterates the permanent state o f crisis in 4  M. Van-Gelderen, "Between Cambridge and Heidelberg. Concepts, Languages and Images in Intellectual History," History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 234. R. Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern State (Oxford: Berg, 1988). R. Koselleck, "Preface to the English Edition," Ibid, p. 1. "Ibid, p. 5. 1  2  3  36  which the world has been adrift since the mid-seventeenth century. A t that time, a gap between language and action started to open up, and as these two units grew further and further apart, the discord between the action that was taking place and the language that was used to talk about it fomented a crisis - the French Revolution. The language o f the Enlightenment and the desolate present created by the Absolute State, the language o f morality and the actions o f politics, the tension between concepts and the world, Koselleck argues, brought about the incipient crisis, which has been present in our world ever since. Koselleck identifies the genesis o f the first crisis - the "prototype"- i n Germany during the transition from the Absolute State to the age o f Enlightenment, between 1750 and 1850, a period that was crucial both for its political and social thought, as well as for 5  the rapid structural changes in government, the economy, and in society. To underline the radicalism o f these processes, Koselleck coined the German word Sattelzeit,  - meaning  an extreme break from the past - to characterize this era. During this period, Koselleck avers, a bourgeois class was emerging; a class which saw itself as the precursor of the new world, and was "laying intellectual claim to the whole world and simultaneously denying the o l d . " The "intellectual claim," namely the philosophy of Enlightenment and 6  its language o f progress encompassed humankind as a whole, which now purportedly could anticipate a better future that would culminate i n a Utopian society. This language of progress and utopianism underlines for Koselleck a fact that w i l l become crucial when Koselleck was criticized for insisting on such a fixed time framework. Melvin Richter attempts to fend off this criticism, arguing that is should be regarded as a heuristic device; the time framework "is meant to make it possible to classify concepts in terms of whether their meanings remained sufficiently consistent to be understood by readers today, whether their meanings altered so as to require present-day reconstruction of their former uses, or whether they are neologism. " The History of Political and Social Concepts, p. 171 fn. 9. Yet while defending the idea that historical periods can be fixed in time, Richter is not offering an explanation which renders this heuristic device more acceptable. R. Koselleck, Critique and Crisis, p. 6. 5  6  37 the crisis erupts. Philosophers o f the Enlightenment, he argues, specifically tailored the Enlightenment's language to meet political needs: "the State, as it was, demanded a response,  and  the  response  was  discovered."  7  In this  sense,  the  language o f  Enlightenment was a language o f critique. One more crucial characteristic o f the Absolute State, epitomized i n Hobbes' political theory must be discussed before the crisis unfolds: the absolute division between the public and private spheres as a prerequisite for peace and order. For Hobbes, the 9  reson d 'etre behind the demand for absolute separation, stems directly from the state o f nature, where the "war o f all against a l l " reigns. In Hobbes' state o f nature "private man is judge o f good and evil actions," and this results i n a perpetual clash between men. 10  For the State to be able to maintain peace and order, man must give up his private consciousness i n exchange for gaining the one political good for which he enters society: security. Thus, the law o f the Absolute State is not "tied to social interests and political decisions and religious hopes; instead, it designates a formal domain o f political decisions beyond any Church, estate, or party."  11  According to Koselleck, the division  between the private and the public, on which the Absolute State was founded, coupled with the propagation o f the language o f progress, became the two obstacles which led the Enlightenment to its destruction - to the crisis.  Ibid, p. 7. It is important to stress the fact that Koselleck is referring to later developments in the Enlightenment. At first, the Enlightenment accepted the Absolute State and propagated a theory of Enlightened Despotism. Only later, around 1750, did it redirect itself as a critique of the Absolute State. Note, however, that Koselleck specifically refers to the time since 1750, and not before. R. Koselleck, Critique and Crisis, pp. 25-31. T. Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651. part 2. ch. 29. in C. B. Macpherson (ed.) (Middlesex, England: Penguin Book, 1968) p. 365. R. Koselleck, Critique and Crisis, p. 31. 7 8  9  10  11  38 The  public/private  and  political/moral dichotomies,  Koselleck  maintains,  prevented Enlightenment philosophers, who espoused a progressive analysis o f history, from seeing that their critique was in itself political, and as such not attuned to the concrete  political challenges  o f the  day. In other words, the  gap between  the  Enlightenment's philosophy o f history and the unchanged status o f the Absolute State created the dissonance which finally culminated i n a crisis - the crisis according to Koselleck, "an ideal-type framework which time and again made its reappearance in the subsequent  history o f the  modern  world"  12  -  namely,  the  French Revolution.  "Enlightenment," as Koselleck puts it, "succumbed to a Utopian image which, while deceptively propelling it, helped to produce contradictions which could not be resolved i n practice and prepared  the way for the Terror and for dictatorship."  13  However  challenging, this casual representation cannot be discussed here. Rather, it is important to emphasize that Koselleck's model o f conceptual change derives from a perceived gap between language and action. The aspiration to solve a political problem by means o f changing language (the Enlightenment's critique o f the Absolute State) resulted in a growing gap between signifier and signified, between language and the world, which eventually produced a break. The change in language alone without an equivalent change in reality generated the crisis. A s was suggested above, Koselleck's model makes universal claims. "Modernity" is at once a specific historical period and any "new time." From this follows the assumption that "the more a particular time is experienced as a new temporality, as  12  13  R. Koselleck, "Preface to the English Edition," Ibid, p. 2. Ibid.  39 'modernity,' the more demands on the future increase,"  14  and as we have seen, the more  these demands increase without a substantial change i n action - i n the world - the greater the inevitability o f crisis. A second universal claim is more closely confined to "our" modernity, but can be extended to any "new time." According to Koselleck, by identifying those traits that constitute what is specifically modern - the "genetics o f modernity" - we can begin to explain peculiar occurrences. A s we have seen, Koselleck 15  links his present - the atrocities o f the W o r l d Wars and the potential for mass destruction o f the C o l d W a r - to patterns first established in the eighteenth century. Thus, a study that begins  as research  into the  origins o f "our" modernity becomes  the temporal  exemplification o f a repeated pattern and a study o f the tension between long-term and short-term social structures. Illuminating the relationship between long-term and shortterm processes - the "autonomous sphere" - stands at the heart o f B G , it is its purpose: To understand how modern political and social concepts came into existence, we need to know more about the diverse ways in which the vast transformation of political, social, and economic structures during the Sattelzeit were conceptualized by those experiencing them...we can also learn much about structural change from the concepts that both registered experience and helped shape it through organized decision and action. 16  W e shall return to this tension later. First, it is necessary to understand what Koselleck means by "concept" and why studying the history o f concepts is a worthwhile endeavor.  Concepts:  Language  and Action  Differentiated  Concepts, Koselleck argues throughout his work, are indispensable for studying synchronic and diachronic change. From a synchronic point o f view, concepts are a  R. Koselleck, Futures Past, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1985) p. xxiv. R. Koselleck, "Preface to the English Edition," Critique and Crisis, p. 4. M. Richter, "Conceptual History (Begriffsgeschichte) and Political Theory," Political Theory Vol. 14 No. 4 (November, 1986) p. 618. 14  15  16  40  heuristic device; from the diachronic perspective, the study o f concepts becomes an end unto itself, forming a distinct body o f knowledge. Koselleck, unlike Skinner, in fact adduces a definition o f the term "concept," though i n many ways it is less than satisfactory. It is clear, Koselleck maintains, that sociopolitical terminology embodies expressions that, when subject to critical exegesis, are immediately shown to be concepts. Therefore, Koselleck defines a "concept" in opposition to a "word:" A word can become unambiguous in use. A concept, by contrast, must remain polysemic in order to remain a concept. True, the concept too attaches to a word, but at the same time it is more than a word: a word becomes a concept once the plentitude of political-social context of meaning and experience, in which a word is used, enters into that one word...a word contains possibilities of meaning, a concept, by contrast, unites in itself a plentitude of meaning. Therefore a concept may be clear, but it must remain polysemous. 17  Put differently, Koselleck asserts that words have definite meanings, while concepts are always interpreted. But, is it a viable proposition that words have a "definite meaning"? 18  Koselleck does not deny that words, like concepts, can become ambiguous. H i s claim is more modest; adhering to Wittgensteinian philosophy Koselleck suggests that "a word can become unambiguous i n use," whereas a concept "must remain ambiguous in order to be a concept," A concept, contrary to a word, can never become unambiguous i n use. 19  However, scholars tend to reject this definition as a tenable premise for the study of conceptual history. According to Bodeker, identifying a concept through its multiple meanings is at once to acknowledge that concepts can only be understood within a broader net o f meaning and are always in need o f contextualization. B G historians, he argues, fail to recognize that it is not concepts that are the subject matter o f their project, R. Koselleck, "Begriffsgeschichte und Sozialgeschichte" in Vergangene Zukunft, Frankfurt, 1984, p. 113. Quoted in and translated by B.F. Scholz, "Conceptual History in Context: Reconstructing the Terminology of an Academic Discipline," in I. Hampsher-Monk (ed. et al.) History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 257 m. 7. H.E. Bodeker, "Concept-Meaning-Discourse. Begriffsgeschihcte Reconsidered," trans, from German by Allison Brown, in Ibid, p. 54. R. Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 84. 17  18  19  41  but rather a much larger structure o f conceptuality within which concepts become meaningful.  20  From a different perspective Bernard Scholz argues that by a "concept,"  Koselleck actually means "mental correlates o f expressions" which "serve i n the construction and maintenance [of] the social reality" and thus appear i n multiple strands 21  of  conversation: tracts,  treatises,  diaries, newspapers,  governmental decrees  and  proclamations, to name a few. But, Shcolz maintains, Koselleck's definition does not recognize this multiplicity and consequentially fails to offer a proper guide for the historian o f concepts; which o f these "strands" should he study?  Boer carries this  critique further, arguing that Koselleck often speaks o f concepts as i f they were living bodies, referring to them as entities that have "life spans," "vital properties" and a "temporal internal structure,"  23  thus giving the false impression that words have a life o f  their own. Despite the difficulties that arise from Koselleck's definition, we should not dismiss his broader view about the importance o f concepts i n writing and understanding history and its relation to the present. Indeed, B G demonstrates the vitality o f concepts in writing the history o f political thought and action. T w o themes i n Koselleck's work are particularly illuminating with regard to the advantages o f studying concepts: the analytical difference between language and action, and the difference between social history and B G i n the process o f decoding social change. These two themes w i l l be our focus in the rest o f this section. E. Bodeker, "Concept-Meaning-Discourse. Begriffsgeschihcte Reconsidered" trans, from German by Allison Brown, in I. Hampsher-Monk (ed. et al.) History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, pp. 5455. B.F. Scholz, "Conceptual History in Context: Reconstructing the Terminology of an Academic Discipline" in Ibid, p. 89. Ibid, pp. 88-9. P. Dem Boer, "The Historiography of German Beriffsgeshcichte and the Dutch Project of Conceptual History" in Ibid, p. 16. 2 0  21  2 2  2 3  42 Earlier we saw that Koselleck links the transition to modernity with the upsurge o f a crisis. This historical interpretation leads him, i n his methodological discussions, to draw a sharp distinction between language and action i n the process o f conceptual change. Language and action are understood as two discrete units o f analysis, each having its own history. Historical occurrences and the language used to speak about them are essentially at variance. However, it must be emphasized, although language and action are analytically differentiated, the mutual dependency between them is fully recognized:  24  A l l language is historically conditioned and all history is linguistically conditioned.. .But at the same time I do want to insist that language and history be kept separate analytically, because neither one can be related in its entirety to the other. Between language and action.. .there remains 25  a difference even if language is a speech act, and even i f action... [is] mediated by language. Thus, without denying this dependency, Koselleck specifies three realms that illustrate the difference between language and action: (1) pre/extra linguistic conditions o f history; (2) the relation between history and language from the perspective o f events "coming into being;" (3) the relation between language and action in retrospect. The pre/extra linguistic conditions o f history refer to "natural givens" that humans share with animals. These meta-historical conditions are the circle o f life, the polarity o f the sexes and the progression o f generations ("generativity"). In addition, pre/extra linguistic conditions are represented by the conflicts that arise from what Koselleck calls the "inner/outer" dichotomy. Erecting borders between societies as well as within them generates conflicts that constitute history. A l s o , Koselleck draws attention to the  Koselleck equates history with reality and being and contends that these stand in opposition to language, thought and consciousness, respectively. R. Koselleck, "Linguistic Change and the History of Events," Journal of modern History 61 (December 1989) pp. 649-50. 4  2 5  43  "master/slave" dichotomy on which political communities are based  26  as a meta-  historical natural given; that is, one o f the conditions that make history happen. The pre/extra linguistic conditions form the basis for the diachronic conflicts, they are the " s t u f f without which "no history can come to be."  27  Again, it must be stressed, by  arguing that these formal oppositions (earlier/later, inner/outer, above/below) condition history, Koselleck is not denying that they are grasped linguistically; rather, he is insisting that "these elementary, natural givens remain, however much language may seek to efface them."  28  Notwithstanding, these three dichotomies seem qualitatively different. The claim that humans are caught i n the circle o f life and are divided into two sexes is manifestly not equal to the claim that it is i n our nature to demarcate borders and form master/slave communities. The first claim is an indisputable biological fact; the latter two are historically based and thus are not "natural." Koselleck appears to be invoking his own (somewhat Hobbesian) understanding o f human nature here, thus influencing his choice o f "natural" elements. Moreover, it can be argued that the ability to speak, to communicate intelligibly, is i n itself a pre-linguistic natural given, like the life-death circle and that these two are i n fact the only "natural givens" with which we come into the world. Next, Koselleck exemplifies the discrepancy between language and actions that are "coming into being." Here he refers to "practical concepts which precede a political  That societies may seek more equal forms of political organizations does not, Koselleck argues, contradict the initial formal given of an "above/below" dichotomy. R. Koselleck, "Linguistic Change and the History of Events," Journal of Modern History 61 (December, 1989) p. 651. Ibid, p. 652. 2 7  2 8  44 act."  29  In Herodotus' History,  consisting  of  monarchy,  Koselleck argues, a linguistic constitutional typology  aristocracy  and  democracy  was  first  introduced.  By  differentiating between these three possible constitutions, Koselleck asserts, Herodotus was not only reacting to a temporal problem, but also formulating structural alternatives o f history. In this case concepts represent different possibilities o f action, that is, various possible histories, i n effect initiating and conditioning action. In other words, only what 30  is already articulated in words, has the potential o f becoming history. Koselleck uses Herodotus to draw one more conclusion regarding the relationship between language and history. B y tracing conceptual change over time, he maintains, we discover that certain structural patterns persist i n language. In his view the public debate in Germany prior to the French Revolution, serves as proof that the constitutional conceptual structure has not changed since it was first formulated by Herodotus, only its temporal circumstantial content.  31  Thus, from the difference between language and actions that are "coming into  being," we learn that "language changes more slowly than does the chain o f events that it helps to set i n motion and that it seeks to comprehend."  Furthermore, we realize that at  different points i n time, our possibilities are not endless, but are already determined by language. Finally, language and action are differentiated in retrospect, in the process o f writing history. Obviously, writing history involves selecting from what, for all practical reasons, is an unlimited field o f action. However, Koselleck asserts, this selection is not Ibid, p. 653. Ibid, pp. 654-57. Koselleck here might be accused of overlooking the work of Montesquieu, who, prior to the French Revolution has offered a new constitutional classification consisting of Republic, Monarchy and Despotism. One possible reason for this might be that Koselleck is examining the German discourse rather than the French one. R. Koselleck, "Linguistic Change and the History of Events," Journal of modern History 61 (December 1989) p. 660. 2 9  3 0  3 1  3 2  45 merely restricted by language, " a l l selection is already structured prelinguistically"  33  and  is conditioned by the same "natural givens" discussed above. First, Koselleck argues, it makes a difference whether the historian is a contemporary o f the events or whether he is reporting on them in retrospect. Being a philosopher o f history during the Enlightenment gave one's historical analysis a status o f truth, which faded only with the critical distance o f the generations to come. Secondly, the historian's political and social status also determine his point o f view and the meaning he reads into historical developments; Machiavelli, M a r x and Rousseau immediately come to mind. Thirdly, it is consequential whether the historian is part o f the events he discusses or whether he reports on them from outside.  34  In all these cases we see that language and action run their own course,  although they constantly check each other. There is also an incipient sense o f the importance o f concepts as links between these two entities. A s we shall see shortly, apart from bridging language and action, Koselleck claims that the study o f concepts constitutes an independent branch o f knowledge. In his methodological writings, Koselleck often reflects on the difference between practitioners o f social history and B G . Jorn Rusen has sketched the development o f German historiography since 1945 in three phases, social history being the most recent approach. The first phase (1945-1960) practiced mainly hermeneutic methods, and sought to interpret the intentions and self-understanding o f principal agents. The second phase (early 1960's to mid-1970's) was revolutionary i n character, calling into question the organization and purpose o f the historical profession as a whole. In this period, a new generation o f scholars experimented with new methods and approaches, such as critical  Ibid, p. 662. Ibid, pp. 661-62.  46  theory, critical rationalism and Marxist critique. The third phase (end o f 1970's to mid1980's) involved a synthesis o f the two earlier ones. Practitioners o f social history no longer portrayed history as a narrative, but as part o f a larger framework o f social structures that condition human action. Thus, to some extent, these structures were understood to be outside human intentions and purposes.  Koselleck compares and  differentiates B G from this type o f social history. The discrepancy between social history and B G resembles the language-action dichotomy that Koselleck argues for, to the extent that these two disciplines feed on each other while remaining parallel, mutually dependent, paths o f change. Social history and B G represent two distinct "structures;" the former seeks to uncover long-term patters o f change, the latter is focused on short-term changes. This innate structural difference entails also an apparent difference in sources: "a Begriffsgeschichte  concerns itself  (primarily) with texts and words, while a social history employs texts merely as a means of deducing circumstances and movements that are not, i n themselves, contained within texts."  36  Notwithstanding, as was the case with the language/action dichotomy, social  history and B G are mutually dependent: Without common concepts there is no society, and above all, no political field of action. Conversely, our concepts are founded in politicosocial systems that are far more complex than would be indicated by treating them simply as linguistic communities organized around specific key concepts. 37  Above all, Koselleck argues that B G is a necessary component i n writing social history, although it is at the same time an independent branch o f knowledge. To fail to consider the history o f concepts when attempting to write social history, w i l l render it incomplete. J. Rusen, "Theory of History in the Development of West German Historical Studies: A Reconstruction and Outlook," Germanic Studies Review, 7 (1984), pp. 11-25. Quoted in M. Richter, The History of Political and Social Concepts, pp. 27-8. R. Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 73. Ibid, p. 74. 3 5  3 6  3 7  47 In support o f this claim, Koselleck identifies a discrepancy between social history and B G in three spheres: method, discipline and theory. W e begin with the methodological disparity. Since a perpetual gap exists between "vanished reality and its linguistic evidence,"  38  B G presents itself as a type o f "source  criticism," a tool for filling this constant gap. Social history, tracing long-term processes, is not equipped to sort out this discrepancy, and thus is dependent on B G to illuminate concepts by way o f verifying their "linguistically stored experience." "Source criticism" 39  is a method o f textual exegesis, which enables the social historian to closely study the meanings and politicosocial status o f concepts. To fully appreciate an historical social policy, for example, it is not enough for the social historian to situate it within a net o f political and social conditions, nor w i l l it suffice, as Skinner recommends, to study the language o f other contemporary authors and documents. In order to understand social policies o f the past, it is imperative to examine the specific concepts they enshrined, since they  illuminate questions  that transcend  mere  comprehension:  contemporary disputes, continuing elements o f the past.  future  intentions,  40  Koselleck thus presents the method o f B G as a tool for writing accurate social history. However, B G is not only a necessary component i n writing social history, it is at the same time an autonomous discipline that produces an independent branch o f knowledge. A "by product" o f source-criticism, Koselleck asserts, is the writing o f a concept's history. In an historical investigation, a concept is taken out o f its original text and its meaning is then determined diachronically, i n light o f its existence i n time, and  R. Koselleck, "Social History and Begriffsgeschichte," in I. Hampsher-Monk (ed. et al.) History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, p. 35. Ibid. R. Koselleck, Futures Past, pp. 75-77.  3 8  3 9  4 0  48 synchronically, in relation to other contemporary concepts.  41  One immediate advantage  of subjecting a concept to diachronic analysis, is the possibility to trace persistence, change, and novelty i n its meaning; furthermore, Koselleck argues, it is only after these are identified that a structural transformation can be grasped: The persistence and validity of a social or political concept and its corresponding structure can only be appreciated diachronically. Words that have remained in constant use are not in themselves a sufficient indication of the stability of their substantial meaning...It is the diachronic disposition of elements which discloses long-term structural changes. 42  From this disciplinary contribution follows the theoretical difference between social history and B G . Koselleck's remarks here are vague, and it is the least substantial o f the three discrepancies he discusses. The theoretical component o f B G , Koselleck maintains, derives from the flexible change i n points o f view - from synchronic to diachronic - that it makes possible. The theory o f B G attempts to the link event and structure, insofar as concepts determine the conditions o f what can be considered possible or real history: "It  is only concepts  which  demonstrate  persistence,  repeatable  applicability, and empirical validity - concepts with structural claims - which indicate that once a 'real' history can today appear possible and be represented as such."  43  This  controversial claim can only be understood in light o f Koselleck's overall approach. It appears that Koselleck is arguing that only those concepts which have survived the passage o f time and are still in use today - even i f their content has changed - make possible the reconstruction o f the remote past i n the present. This claim brings us back to Koselleck's understanding o f the "modern" condition and his contention that long-term structures have accompanied humanity since early on and are manifested i n individual  4 1  4 2 4 3  Ibid, pp. 79-80. Ibid, p. 81. Ibid, p. 90.  49  incidents time and again. A s a theory, this view is o f course contestable, and since it extends beyond the topic o f conceptual change per se and involves a broader historical discussion about whether the consistency o f concepts validates the hypothesis that history happens once and is then repeated time and again, it cannot be addressed here. Rather, after discussing Koselleck's approach to the relationship between language and action and his view regarding their role in the process o f conceptual change, we turn to examine Skinner's contribution to question at hand.  Quentin Skinner: Intentionality  Theory and Conceptual  Change  Skinner's intentionality theory is at the heart o f his methodological as well as philosophical discussions. Stated simply, "intentionality theory" holds that recovering an author's intention in writing is equivalent to recovering the point (or meaning) o f his utterance: what the author was attempting to do or achieve in his writing. But what does it mean that agents do things in writing? W e have seen that "ordinary language" philosophy assumes that to speak is to participate in a "language game," to act i n the world. In his renowned book How To Do Things  With Words,  44  J . L . Austin grounds his  language/action theory on this assumption and discusses a class o f sentences which, he argues, are best understood as speech-acts. Since Skinner's intentionality theory draws heavily on Austin's, we w i l l first review those aspects o f Austin's speech-act theory that Skinner utilizes. Speech-act theory, as its name implies, holds that to speak is (sometimes, not always) to act. The action carried in language is not of speaking (i.e. making intelligible  J.L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968; originally published in 1962). 4 4  50  noise); rather, action is generated by speaking, or as it is usually put in speaking, but is not a consequence o f it. If, for example, John utters the sentence "I promise to be on time," John's promise is created by his utterance and the particular words he uses. If the word "promise," or an equivalent, had not been used, a promise would not have been engendered. M a k i n g a promise, then, can only be done in language, by speaking. In How To Do Things  With Words,  Austin is especially interested i n a class o f speech-acts  consisting o f cases such as promising, betting, and marrying which he calls "performative sentences," thus distinguishing them from mere statements.  45  Language as action is  captured by the designation "performative sentence," Austin explains, because to perform is the "usual verb with the noun 'action:' it indicates that the issuing o f the utterance is the performing o f an action - it is not normally thought o f as just saying something."  46  Yet speech-acts, i n common with all forms o f speaking, are never uttered i n a vacuum, and this is w h y "the appropriate circumstances"  47  i n which an utterance is  delivered becomes crucial for completing a successful communication act. To be considered an effective act o f communication, a speech-act is dependent on two essential components: the context in which it is uttered and the speaker's intention i n delivering it. Consider, for example, the importance o f the context i n the sentence: "There's a bear in the forest." This sentence performs at least three different speech-acts: it may be a description (of the forest); a warning (in the case that one is contemplating a walk in the wood); and advice (if, for example, one has never seen a bear before and asks where he can find one). Evidently, the very same words carry different meanings and purposes, depending on the context i n which they were uttered and the intention the speaker wished  4 5 4 6  4 7  Ibid, pp. 1-11. Ibid, p. 6. Ibid, p. 12.  51 to convey. Ascertaining the speaker's intention is important due to the multiplicity o f contexts, as presented above. Equally important is the ability to differentiate between an utterance and its context i n analytical categories. Since speech-acts combine talking and doing, Austin must make a clear distinction between the speech and the act. Thus, every speech-act is composed o f a "locutionary act" and an "illocutionary force." The former refers to the literal meaning latter  refers  to  the  48  o f the words uttered ("There's a bear i n the forest"); the  intention o f the  utterance (description/warning/advice).  The  illocutionary force depends on the context in which the utterance was delivered. In order "to determine what illocutionary  act is so performed we must determine i n what way we  are using the locution," i.e. the intention behind it. 49  This is a crucial point for Skinner, who builds on Austin's speech-act theory and applies it to political texts. To identify the illocutionary force o f a text, Skinner argues, is in fact "to know what a writer meant by a particular work...to know what his primary intensions were i n writing it...an attack on or a defence o f . . . a criticism o f or a contribution to, some particular attitude or line o f argument."  50  However, although it is  true that political texts consist o f utterances, can it be argued that political texts are equivalent to one utterance and are therefore amenable to analysis as such? Furthermore, a method for detecting "performative sentences" is essential before one can determine which sentences are genuinely "performative." Yet, according to Forguson, Austin fails to provide an adequate answer to this problem. In fact, he argues, a satisfactory answer to this question cannot be offered because it is impossible to make explicit that part o f an  The use of the word "meaning" is based on Austin's own suggestion that the locutionary act is "roughly equivalent to 'meaning' in the traditional sense." Ibid, p. 108. This is less then a clear definition of the concept "meaning" and is used above to signify the literal immediate meaning of the words uttered. Ibid, p. 98. Q. Skinner, "Motives Intentions and Interpretation," in J. Tully (ed.) Meaning and Context, p. 76.  4 8  4 9  50  52  utterance which is performative, that is, the exact point o f the act carried i n i t . This 51  criticism is valid i n the case o f Skinner's intentionality theory as well. Political texts are highly complex "utterances," consisting o f multiple intentions and purposes; is it possible to determine for certain the exact intention behind them? Skinner attempts to bypass this problem by arguing that the illocutionary force o f a political text can be recovered i f the historian o f concepts delineatefs] the whole range of communications which could have been conventionally performed on the given occasion by the utterance...and, next, trace[s] the relations between the given utterance and...[its] wider linguistic context as means of decoding the actual intention of the given writer. 52  Can this be accepted as a solution? Is it plausible to describe and explain the "whole range o f communications"? A n d what does this "range" consist of? Texts o f political thought alone, or should it perhaps include newspapers, literature and art as well? In other words, Skinner's attempt to solve Forguson's problem is unsatisfactory. So far we have seen that to identify what an author was doing in speaking, the illocutionary force o f his utterance, is equivalent to knowing what he meant to do - what action he was pursuing - when communicating and highlighted some problems that rise from this approach. Y e t the notion that an author can do something i n speaking assumes another party i n the equation. If there is a point in doing something, it has not yet been specified what might be on the receiving end o f this deed. This is the juncture where language and social action are joined, for it is the social sphere (consisting o f social conventions, norms, values), to which things are done, according to Skinner. For this reason, intentionality theory presents us with a set o f explicit assumptions regarding the  L.W. Forguson, "In pursuit of performatives" Philosophy, 41 (October, 1966) pp. 371-2. Q. Skinner, "Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas," in J. Tully (ed.), Meaning and Context, pp. 63-4. Emphasis in original.  5 1  5 2  53 relationship between language and action, as well as its possible implications. The interplay between  language-action  (speech-acts)  and  the  social  sphere generates  conceptual change. This outcome is brought about by a series o f intended confrontations that political theorists have had with prevailing social conventions i n their societies. Social conventions were countered or confirmed by them in language; i n this process, the meanings o f shared concepts (and social conceptions) were altered. Because he believes that "texts are acts,"  53  Skinner assumes that political texts embody the deeds that their  authors espoused vis-a-vis social conventions and prevailing norms. B y recovering their illocutionary force, their intention, Skinner asserts, we begin to see not merely what arguments they were presenting, but also what questions they were addressing and trying to answer, and how far they were accepting and endorsing, or questioning and repudiating, or perhaps even polemically ignoring, the prevailing assumptions and conventions of political debate. 54  W e are able to know what they meant to do - how they intended to influence and manipulate the social sphere. This is the sense i n which recovering intention equals the recovering o f meaning. According to Skinner, this type o f linguistic performance sets the wheels o f conceptual change i n motion. If speech-acts are, as Skinner' maintains, a form o f "social behavior" that make up "a class o f (linguistic) action" and we can, as he argues, derive their.intended point 55  their illocutionary force - by situating them in the right context, it follows that we can also know what political theorists such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke really meant and thus separate the historical from the unhistorical:  Q. Skinner, "A Reply to My Critics," Ibid, p. 279. Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. 1 (Cambrdige: Cambridge University Press, 1978) p. xiii. Q. Skinner, "On Performing and Explaining Linguistic Actions," The Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 21 No. 82 (January, 1971) p. 1. 5 3  5 4  5 5  54 [T]he key to excluding unhistorical meanings must lie in limiting our range of descriptions of any given text to those which the author himself might in principle have avowed, and.. .the key to understanding the actual historical meaning of a text must lie in recovering the complex intentions of the author in writing. 56  Only then can "real" history be written. The appeal to intentionality, it must be stated clearly, is first and foremost, a guideline for writing a history o f political thought. A t the same time, there are unavoidable implications for the relationship between language and action, since intentionality assumes that individuals, namely political theorists, have single-handedly generated change in action through their calculated and manipulative use o f language, which, i n turn, generated a change i n language itself. Building on Austin's speech-act theory, Skinner assumes that an agent can - and i n fact does - actively and purposely alter social reality through his use  o f language.  That is, effectively  maneuvering language produces a change in social conventions and the meaning o f concepts. This is the reason why intentions are o f such interest. Skinner's scrupulous methodology is aimed at excavating authors' intentions in speaking, showing how they used and manipulated the language they "lived i n , " thereby influencing the political agenda both positively and negatively. For this reason, Skinner argues, conceptual language should be the focal point o f historians o f political thought. But what does Skinner mean by "concept"?  Concepts:  Language  Is (Sometimes)  a Form of  Action  W e are accustomed to think o f concepts as being a certain type o f word. Likewise, most people w i l l readily accept the fact that words change their meaning. Can it be inferred from these two statements that concepts change when the meaning o f words  Q. Skinner, "Some problems in the analysis of Political Thought and Action" in Political Theory Vol. 2 no. 3 (August, 1974) p. 283. 5 6  55 changes? According to Skinner, the answer is definitely not. Although agreeing that the fact that words change their meaning tells us something about "the process o f political innovation,"  57  Skinner maintains that the process o f change cannot be reduced to a simple  formula according to which a change i n a meaning o f a word generates a corresponding change in a concept. This is because words are not concepts, and concepts are more than words: " I f we wish to grasp how someone sees the world - what distinctions he draws, what classifications he accepts - what we need to know is not what words he uses but rather what concepts he possesses."  58  W e see, then, that Skinner, like Koselleck, draws a  distinction between a "word" and a "concept." A word is not a concept and a concept is not the accumulative meaning o f words, and "to argue for such equivalence is undoubtedly a mistake." To account for this difference Skinner adds a third component 59  - a "term" - to his analysis o f conceptual change. Adding the intermediate category "term" allows Skinner to create a linguistic hierarchy o f "concepts," "terms" and "words." Conceptual change occurs as these three units are negotiated through the use o f speech-acts. The  intermediate  category "term" amounts  to the evaluative-descriptive  60  vocabulary we use when assessing things i n the world. It is crucial to understanding Skinner's theory o f conceptual change. A "term" is a word that "gains its meaning from the place it occupies within an entire conceptual scheme."  61  It is our guide when  Q. Skinner, "Language and Political Change" in T. Ball (ed. et al.) Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, p. 6. Ibid, p. 7. Ibid. There are cases in which to describe is at the same time to evaluate. Skinner's intentionality theory is based on this assumption, which is further explained and discussed below. Q. Skinner, "Language and Political Change" in T. Ball (ed. et al.) Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, p. 13. 5 7  5 8  5 9  6 0  6 1  56 attempting to decode the prevailing ideological language  in which an author was living.  "Terms" are value-laden and when attached to an action, they reveal to us whether the action is conceived positively or negatively by the users o f the language. However, it is important to note that although i n most cases "terms" assist us i n identifying concepts, this is not always the case. Skinner puts forward two claims regarding the demarcation between "concepts" and "terms" that exemplify why they are sometimes mutually exclusive. In the first case, he says, "it cannot be a necessary condition o f m y possessing a concept that I need to understand the correct application o f a corresponding term." For 63  example, at the beginning o f Paradise  Lost, when M i l t o n "emphasized...his decision to  deal with 'things unattempted yet i n prose or r h y m e , ' " he could not have used the word 64  "original" since it had not yet entered the language at that time. Nonetheless, Skinner notes, the "concept is clearly central to his thought."  65  The second claim is the reverse o f  the first: to possess a concept cannot be merely to understand the correct application o f a corresponding term. There are certain highly general terms, such as being and  infinity,  which language users may be capable o f applying with perfect consistency, yet "it might be possible to show that there is simply no concept which answers to any o f their agreed usages."  66  Thus Skinner concludes, "the possession o f a concept w i l l at least  standardly  be signaled by the employment o f a corresponding term. A s long as we bear i n mind that  Skinner does not explicitly define what he means by "ideology." James Tully notes that Skinner refers to the word "ideology" in a broad and general way, to designate "a language of politics defined by its conventions and employed by a number of writers." "The Pen is a Mighty Sward: Quentin Skinner's Analysis of Politics," in J. Tully (ed.) Meaning and Context, p. 9. Q. Skinner, "Langauge and political Change" in T. Ball (ed. et al.) Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, p. 7. Ibid.. Ibid, pp. 7-8. Ibid, p. 8. This example is very surprising since Skinner is identified with the Wittgensteinian approach according to which to know what a words means we must look at the way it is used. Yet here Skinner suggests that meaning can, in some cases, transcend use. 6 2  6 3  6 4  6 5  6 6  57 "standardly" means neither necessarily nor sufficiently."  The linguistic hierarchy that  Skinner builds is made o f "words," some o f which are "terms," that make up "concepts," which, in turn, are part o f the ideological language. What then are concepts? Nowhere in his writings does Skinner explicitly define what a concept is, but we are now i n a position to see how he uses this word (that is, what it means). Earlier it was noted that for Skinner "concepts" are not "words;" now it becomes clear that Skinner uses the word "concept" i n a very broad sense to designate a world-view, a social convention, a norm. In this understanding o f the word, a concept is an agreement that a community o f speakers share, a social scheme. This is the reason why, according to Skinner, we ought to study conceptual  change: to trace conceptual  change is to follow the course o f shifts in social conventions. That is, to discover how societies transform. Concepts, here, are not merely "ideas" they are the key to unlocking society's self-image. W e w i l l consider one o f the numerous examples o f Skinner's use o f the word "concept" as a designation o f a world-view. In his The Foundations  of Modern  Political  Thought, Skinner states that one o f his goals is to show that between the late thirteenth century and the end o f the sixteenth century, "the main elements o f a recognisably /TO  modern concept o f the State were gradually acquired."  In this period there was a shift  from the idea o f the ruler "maintaining his state" to the idea that the state is a separate legal and constitutional order that the ruler has a duty to maintain. This historical development led to the view that the power o f the state, not the ruler, was the basis for government, which, i n turn "enabled the state to be conceptualized i n distinctively  Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. 1, p. ix.  58 modern terms - as the sole source o f law and legitimate force within its own territory, and as the sole appropriate object o f its citizens' allegiances."  69  A t the end o f the  sixteenth century, then, a new conceptual era is said to begin. The concept "state" is now associated with the modern conceptualization o f the social order, and we see how a social convention was historically formed. U n t i l now we have seen that Skinner, following Austin, treats language as a form of action. Though Skinner offers little critical reflection on this topic, i n his use o f the concept "action" he is i n fact alluding to two separate spheres i n which language and action are components o f change: the social and the conceptual. The first use o f action follows Austin's speech-act theory: in airing an utterance an agent is thought o f as doing something. This level o f interplay between language and action takes place within linguistic confines. Although a speech-act has pre-linguistic origins (motives) and postlinguistic implications, it is nonetheless a linguistic action. The second use o f action is implicit and is closer to the definition o f action as non-linguistic behavior: a "project" as Skinner refers to it. Action as language and action as non-linguistic behavior are mutually dependent, and so the problem facing an agent who wishes to legitimate what he is doing at the same time as gaining what he wants cannot simply be the instrumental problem of tailoring his normative language in order to fit his projects. It must in part be the problem of tailoring his projects in order to fit the available normative language. 70  Although Skinner does not want to claim that linguistic action is the only type o f action that exists i n the social sphere - hence the reference to the relationship between an agent's projects and the normative language at his disposal - his choice o f subject matter and method, namely, historicizing political language, results i n a distortion o f the  6 9 7 0  Ibid, p. x. Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. 1, pp. xii-xiii.  59  attributes o f the social sphere. Skinner does not discuss those non-linguistic acts that are manifestly part o f the social sphere, with the result that language is presented as the sole generator o f change. W e w i l l come back to this point again later, after considering two still outstanding questions about the relationship between language and action in Skinner's intentionality theory: What is it specifically that an agent does i n language? A n d how does an agent actually do things in language, that is, how do concepts change? Skinner specifies three actions that agents do i n language: describing, evaluating and 71  legitimizing "untoward actions." To describe is sometimes to evaluate. Skinner here argues for a specific class o f speech-acts that consist o f "evaluative-descriptive terms."  72  A n example o f this type o f  speech-acts w i l l , i n this case, also serve to explain it. If, for instance, we describe an action as courageous or honest, we are thereby commending it; if, on the other hand, we * 73  describe an action as treacherous or disloyal we are at the same time condemning it. Commending and condemning i n these cases are the illocutionary forces behind the descriptions. According to Skinner, studying the evaluative-descriptive class o f speechacts may result i n three main types o f insights: "insights into changing social beliefs and theories; into changing social perceptions and awareness; and into changing social values and attitudes."  74  After examining these three processes, we w i l l be able to see how it is  possible, by manipulating this class o f speech acts, to legitimize untoward actions, and how, consequentially, concepts change. Q. Skinner, "Some Problems in the Analysis of Thought and Action," Political Theory Vol. 2 No. 3 (August, 1974) pp. 289-300. Ibid, p. 293. Ibid, p. 294. Q. Skinner, "Language and Political Change," in T. Ball (ed. et al.) Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, p. 20. 71  72  73  7 4  60 In order to use an evaluative-descriptive speech-act, there are three things we need to know: first, the criteria for applying it; second, whether the required criteria are present i n the specific circumstances; third, the range o f speech-acts the word can be used to perform.  75  When we disagree about the application o f one o f these criteria i n language,  we are, Skinner argues, ipso facto  disagreeing about the social order and allowing for  change to occur. To illustrate the first type o f knowledge, Skinner cites Duchamp's use o f "certain familiar objects (coat-pegs, lavatory bowls) as works o f art."  The debate over  whether these objects should be treated as works o f art generated a disagreement at the linguistic level that centered on the question o f whether there should or should not be a criterion (e.g. the exercise o f skill) for the correct application o f the evaluativedescriptive speech-act "work o f art." Yet, Skinner argues, this disagreement transcends the linguistic sphere. The concept "work o f art" has traditionally been associated with "an ideal o f workmanship, has been opposed to the 'merely useful,' has been employed as an antonym for nature and so o n . "  77  Thus, according to Skinner, to change the criteria for  applying the descriptive-evaluative speech-act "work o f art" means changing a whole set o f conceptual links and associations, i n effect, transforming social conventions. But is this really a case o f conceptual change!  It depends on how one interprets change. Skinner  might be overstating the process described above as a case o f change par excellence.  This  process is perhaps better described as a case o f conceptual expansion, for it cannot be said that what traditionally used to be associated with "a work o f art" is now dismissed as such. Rather, we have expanded our definition o f the concept "art," not changed it.  7 5  7 6 7 7  Ibid, p. 11. Ibid. Ibid, p. 13.  altogether  61  The second type o f knowledge is concerned with the presence o f the appropriate circumstances for the standard use o f a descriptive-evaluative speech-act. When, for example, someone says: "Wives in ordinary middle-class families are... suffering exploitation,"  78  the use o f the strong evaluatives "suffering" and "exploitation" reflects a  social attitude. Skinner is right to assert that i n this case the use o f the terms "suffering" and "exploitive" in these circumstances is indeed a non-standard application o f it in relation to prevailing norms ("Wives," that is, are not normally described i n these words); but w i l l this non-standard use generate a change i n the fate o f those wives? Perhaps; a change i n the social world is a possible outcome, not a necessary one. The limits o f this type o f change w i l l become most apparent in the discussion o f the P C movement where we w i l l ask whether a change i n social action can be considered complete when it remains solely at the linguistic level. There is yet a third type o f knowledge to be examined regarding the application o f 79  evaluative speech-acts, which involves a dispute about the "nature and range"  o f their  application. In this category, an agent may use or refrain from using a certain evaluative speech-act in order to state a social position. H e can weaken or even abolish the force o f a speech-act by simply not using it (this, Skinner suggests, is the fate o f the word gentleman);  he can make it clear from the context that he is using an evaluative merely as  a description, not an evaluation (as is the case with the word black  to describe a  person). In other cases he may change the direction o f the evaluative speech-act through 80  the context (for example, the concept "liberal" can be used both as an appraisal and as a Ibid, p. 14. Ibid, p. 17. It is interesting to note that the American PC movement eliminates the distinction between evaluating and describing; according to this approach, to describe is necessarily to evaluate. 78  7 9 8 0  62 context (for example, the concept "liberal" can be used both as an appraisal and as a condemnation).  81  These three types o f knowledge help us assess the interplay between language and social action. W e come now to the fourth action that an agent might do i n language: legitimizing untoward action by manipulating evaluative-descriptive terms. This is i n fact the most important act i n the process o f conceptual change, since "it is essentially by manipulating this set o f terms that any society succeeds i n establishing and altering its moral identity."  82  Skinner presents two ways i n which agents can legitimize untoward  actions and thus stimulate conceptual change. First, an agent can manipulate an existing set o f evaluative-descriptive terms. A n agent can describe illegitimate actions using a standard disapproving set o f terms, though at the same time make it clear from the context that they are being used i n an approving or neutral way. The same goal can be achieved by introducing new and approving evaluative terms as descriptions o f the actions the agent is seeking to legitimize or b y turning neutral terms into terms o f approbation and using them to describe the untoward action. Second, an agent can vary the range o f disapproving descriptive terms either by neutralizing an existing set o f such terms or by reversing their meaning, to express approval. Change - conceptual and actual - is prompt as a result o f these linguistic maneuvers. In other words, the fact that we can do things in language explains not only how the meaning o f concepts changes over time but also how change is produced i n our social non-linguistic world. Language i n Skinner's analysis is thus seen as the primary  Ibid, pp. 18-19. Q. Skinner, "Some Problems in the Analysis of Political Thought and Action," Political Theory, Vol. 2 No. 3 (August, 1974) p. 294. Ibid, pp. 296-99. 81  8 2  8 3  63 source o f change insofar as linguistic and non-linguistic actions are explained i n reference to available normative language: In recovering the terms of the normative vocabulary available to any given agent for the description of his political behaviour, we are at the same time indicating one of the constraints upon his behaviour itself. This suggests that, in order to explain why...an agent acts as he does, we are bound to make some reference to this vocabulary, since it evidently figures as one of the determinations of his action. 84  What some o f the other determinations i n an agent's actions outside language might be, Skinner does not specify, thus risking the reduction o f all social and conceptual change to language. If we take this thought one step further, we find that we are facing language which is action and action which is a reflection o f this language and thus i n no substantial way different from this language. Social and political goals are achieved, according to this representation, almost exclusively in language. W e see that for Skinner, language and action are treated as the same type o f phenomenon. A n d it is the assumption that language is a form o f action and that action is a linguistic deed that serves as the premise for the American P C movement, as the next chapter reveals.  Q. Skinner, The Foundation of Modern Political Thought, vol. 1, p. xiii.  64  Chapter 3  Politically Correct: A Theory and Practice of Conceptual Change PC: Changing  Concepts  and Conceptual  Change  A t the heart o f the "politically correct" (PC) movement lies the assumption that everything - truth, facts, values, standards - is a product o f language. The content o f these concepts, it is claimed, is established through rhetoric and persuasion i n a world where "reality" is "a human invention...a linguistic habit." A s such, P C offers us a third 1  model for observing the language/action relationship in the process o f conceptual change. In the previous chapter we saw that for Koselleck, conceptual change springs from the opening o f a gap between language and action that finally culminates i n a crisis. W e also saw that Skinner uses speech-acts as signposts along the path o f conceptual change. The P C theory is based on a third language-action model, i n which social action is a fabrication o f language. Language, this approach maintains, makes action "social;" only through language can one know what is considered an action i n the social sphere. Because everything is mediated through language, it becomes almost the sole locus o f attention and the primary vehicle for achieving change. Accordingly, it is assumed that social problems ensue from adhering to a conceptual scheme that robs language o f its real interpretive force, thus creating an illusion that something exists beyond language - a truth, a sui generis  reality, a natural world. The implications o f this position are far-  reaching, "far beyond the realm o f aesthetics and philosophy to the very texture o f everyday life." A n immediate consequence is that to generate change i n action - that is, 2  J.M. Choi and J.W. Murphy, The Philosophy and Politics of Politically Correctness (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1993) p. 4. S. Fish, There' s No Such Thing as Free Speech (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) p. 57. 1  2  65 in society - it is necessary to change language; i f the world that appears to us is a function o f language, then "we cannot alter the one without altering the other." P C is not usually approached from this perspective. In its popular use, P C is associated  with  the  "challenged"  euphemisms  (vertically  challenged,  optically  challenged) or else it is used to indicate awareness o f the fact that an utterance is considered "offensive:" "I know it is politically incorrect to say that.. .but..." In academic circles, P C is often associated with the so-called "culture war" on American campuses: affirmative action policies, the opening o f new departments (e.g. women studies, gay studies), speech codes and the battle over the Western canon. Undoubtedly, these are all 4  aspects o f the P C movement, but are better understood as its manifestations than as its source. Similar confusion exists over the place o f language in the P C debate. This chapter attempts to disentangle cause from effect i n the linguistic sphere o f P C i n order to examine its proposed agenda for conceptual change. A discussion o f P C ' s roots and sources provides insight into the relationship between language and action i n a process o f conceptual change which has been underway i n American society since the 1960's but goes unnoticed when P C is discussed as a "culture war." Indeed, this process is worth reflecting on, since it gives rise to new assumptions about the role o f language i n society, while also providing an opportunity to examine a movement that is dedicated to the promotion o f conceptual change. This, it is argued here, is i n fact the legacy - the theory and practice - o f P C .  Ibid, p. 23. Why there is such a wide gap between the popular meaning of PC and its academic reference, and what this says about the communication between academic and popular circles begs an answer, yet these questions are outside the scope of this essay. 3 4  66 What is the novelty o f P C ? After all, the view that language is our only foundation for understanding reality is hardly new; as was discussed i n the first chapter this  approach  was  developed and defended  by linguistic philosophers  such  as  Wittgenstein and Austin. However, an obvious but important point must not be overlooked: Wittgenstein and Austin were philosophers and did not attempt, as P C ' e r s do, to translate their teachings into a social policy. To the extent that P C seeks to implement this theory i n practice, it is unique both from the point o f view o f linguistic philosophy and that o f the models advanced by Koselleck and Skinner. Thus, reflecting on the P C phenomenon, we w i l l ask: In what sense does language become the basis o f society? H o w is conceptual change sought? A r e P C ' e r s capable o f achieving this conceptual change? D o they offer a new set o f concepts, - a new understanding o f society, - that can also be practiced? The desire to generate conceptual change begins with a delegitimization o f existing language, the prevailing "language o f liberalism" or the "liberal paradigm." P C aims to undermine liberalism's status as the only valid structure o f thought; targeting "Liberalism with a capital L , " PC'ers seek to unmask the liberal paradigm's biases, 5  which, they argue, is falsely presented as a neutral, value-free theory. To achieve this goal, champions o f P C take aim primarily against the central concepts that constitute the liberal paradigm and are said to be falsely devising a sense o f meaning and order; concepts such as "objectivity," "rationality," "fact," "truth," and "reality." A l l worldconceptions that emanate from the liberal paradigm are inherently suspicious and are portrayed by P C ' e r s as no more than "judgments relative to differing and competing  S. Fish, The Trouble with Principles (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999) pp. 285-6. 5  67 vocabularies or paradigms." The word "relative," though, should be taken with caution; 6  as we shall see, PC'ers are not suggesting that the Archemedian point has completely lost its validity. Rather, according to PC'ers, the Archemedian point is language; and since there are numerous languages, there are multiple Archemedian points. Every society is a mesh o f words and concepts, and although the social web is not easily knitted, it is still possible - indeed it is desired - to tear down the prevailing (liberal) web and recreate it in a way that w i l l better facilitate society. Instead o f the liberal paradigm, PC'ers aspire to establish a new paradigm based on flexible, constantly fluctuating concepts. A s we shall see, action and language in this system are continuously checked against each other. In its extremity, the P C project becomes almost incomprehensible. It robs society o f stability and finds futile the search for anything that is "greater" than contingent, locally negotiated, linguistic interpretations of "reality." This position immediately begs serious and important questions: What is a "local" truth? W h o partakes i n the negotiation process and on what basis? W h o decides that a concept is no longer representative o f a "local" truth? Their roots and horizon consisting o f language alone, P C theorists rarely ponder these basic questions. Yet at the same time, PC'ers are not seeking anarchism or promoting nihilism. PC'ers seek order and truth, though they want the content o f these concepts to rest on negotiation and remain open to democratic debate. But, it must be asked, i f all paradigms necessarily represent only partial social interests, can it be argued that the P C project is based on hypocrisy? W e shall come back to this question later. Finally, this introductory section w i l l not be complete without asking whether P C is really no more than postmodernism in disguise. Is there a difference 6  S. Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, p. 57.  between  68 postmodernism, poststructuralism, and P C that makes discussion o f the latter valuable on its own terms? P C is often equated with these theories, yet scholars tend to stop short o f viewing them as identical. Jung M i n Choi and John Murphy, whose book The and Philosophy  of Political  Correctness  Politics  is one o f the few to offer a comprehensive  analysis o f P C , contend that: While PC is not synonymous with postmodernism, they are associated because of their respective positions on the interpretive or non-dualistic character of reality. Therefore referring to P C as the postmodern alternative is somewhat justified. In each case, language use extends to the core of existence and defies objectification. 7  B y "alternative" the authors mean that P C , i f practiced, can become a social haven. In other words, the difference between postmodernism and P C is that the latter supposedly informs the social life in a way that the former does not. W h i l e postmodernism, poststructuralism and P C are all suspicious o f non-linguistic foundations, only P C aspires to translate this principle into action by opening up the discussion, identifying and lifting barriers to freedom o f speech, i n effect paving the way to a society based solely on debate and consent. Nevertheless, the difference between P C and postmodernism, according to 8  Choi and Murphy, is mostly a matter o f intention and thus becomes quite difficult to draw. Similarly, Steven Watts argues that although there is a close affinity between poststructuralism and the recent "discourse radicalism" o f the American left, it would be "stretching things" to say that all parties to this discourse are poststructuralists. Yet 9  Watts too fails to offer a finer demarcation between poststructuralism and P C . It is evident, then, that P C and postmodernism share a common theoretical background;  J.M. Choi and J.W. Murphy, The Politics and Philosophy of Politically Correctness, p. 57. Ibid, pp. 4-7. S. Watts, "The Idiocy of American Studies: Poststructuralism, Language, and Politics in the Age of SelfFulfillment," American Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 4 (December, 1991) p. 630. 7  8  9  69 indeed, the works o f M i c h e l Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan - the "fathers" o f postmodernism and poststructuralism - are a source o f great influence on the P C movement. P C , though, goes one step farther, adding a practical component that postmodernism and poststructuralism reject. While the latter two are theories, or "attitudes"  10  as M i c h e l Foucault puts it, P C is a social movement, and as such must be  considered on its own terms. To be able to appreciate the novelty o f the P C movement and to differentiate the symptoms from their roots, it is necessary to contextualize this debate and introduce its protagonists. A s w i l l be seen, the origins o f the P C movement and the history o f this concept are an integral part o f the battle to control social concepts and in fact reflect the essence o f P C .  The Protagonists  of the American  PC  Debate  The P C debate encapsulates the fragmentation o f American consensus theory since the 1960's. The pre-1960's consensus theory "held that there was wide agreement among Americans on such liberal values as individualism, individual liberty, political equality, economic opportunity, and consent o f the governed."  11  The 1960's were a decade o f  social upheaval i n the United States. Three central processes brought about the collapse o f the consensus theory; the first belongs to history in actu, the latter two to intellectual circles. From the perspective o f history in actu, the late 1960's and early 1970's, characterized by the growing civil-rights movements and the Vietnam War, led to the emergence  o f "countercultural alternatives  [that] turned attention away from  the  'American character' and focused it on the picture o f a divided nation seen from 'the M. Foucault, "What is Enlightenment," in P. Rabinow (ed.) The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984) p. 39. R.B. Fowler, Enduring Liberalism (Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 1999) p. ix. 10  11  70 bottom u p . ' "  12  Being "American" no longer signified "a legitimate.. .identity" since "the  culture at large...lost its legitimacy."  These sentiments soon found their way into  13  intellectual circles. Cracks began to appear i n the assumption that the history o f America was indeed a story o f consensus. Beginning in the 1960's and going w e l l into the 1970's, consensual theory was nullified first as an accurate description o f American history, and second as a desirable moral objective.  14  Instead, a new consensus emerged, which  portrayed America as a "multiracial" and "multicultural" society: "feminist, AfricanAmerican, Native American, Latino, gay, and lesbian voices joined...scholars who denied the historical validity o f consensus interpretations..."  15  This "alliance" enabled  these "new voices" - generally referred to, in the aggregate, as the N e w Left - to enter American intellectual life, heralding a period o f unprecedented diversity and pluralism.  16  For some, these developments were too radical. Not long after this "burst o f diversity,"  17  a counterattack was mounted i n the 1970's. A group o f " o l d leftists" - Irving  Kristol, Seymor Martin Lipset, Nathan Glazer and Daniel B e l l among others, for whom the N e w Left's agenda became too radical and who maintained that liberalism had "lost its  moral  and  neoconservatism.  political 19  bearing,"  18  -  founded  what  came  Its objective was to create a "new synthesis"  20  to  be  known  as  between the social left  and the conservative right. O n American campuses too, according to Nathan Glazer, the N e w Left's radicalism had reactionary consequences: "The student revolt...served to  12  13  14  15  S. Watts, "The Idiocy of American Studies," p. 625. A. Delbanco, "The Politics of Separatism" Partisan Review 4 (Dec, 1993) p. 539. R.B. Fowler, Enduring Liberalism, pp. 40-42. Ibid, p. 40. Ibid, pp. 35-6. Ibid, p. 41. 1. Kristol, Reflections of a Neoconservative (New York, basic Books, 1983) p. ix. The concept 'neoconservatism' was coined by socialist critic Michael Harrington. 1. Kristol, Reflections of a Neoconservative, p. xii.  16  17  18  19  20  71  deepen the estrangement from radicalism o f others like myself who saw it as a threat to the university and to the values o f which the university, with all its faults, was a unique and precious embodiment."  21  The N e w Left and the neoconservatives are the two main  antagonists i n the P C debate. 22  A s was noted earlier, the N e w Left is made up o f various "special interest" groups such as c i v i l rights advocators, feminists and multiculturalists, that sprang from the mostly " o l d " Marxist leftist camp beginning in 1960's and since. According to Stanley Fish, the diversity o f the N e w Left is "insufficiently general to serve as the basis for a program, or a course, or a standard o f judgment."  23  Meaning, i n other words, that  the N e w Left is not, and should not be taken as, an ideology. However, as a postmodernist, Fish may be overstating the absence o f "programming" i n the N e w Left. That these groups pursue diverse social goals does not contradict the possible existence o f shared assumptions: achieving conceptual change as a means o f enhancing equality is but one example. Indeed, as with all leftist movements, the driving force o f the N e w Left's social agenda was the thrust for greater equality. While the destruction o f the class system as the way to achieve equality is the legacy o f the " o l d " left, the novel element o f the N e w Left was the claim that equality must transcend economic grievances and include also identity-generating groups, such as gender, race and ethnicity, which, new leftists maintained, possess "traits" from which inequality and discrimination stem. It was, Geoff Andrews asserts, a process o f "radical modernization,"  24  premised on the  desire to democratize a whole culture. The elite-led state system, the N e w Left N. Glazer, "On Being Deradicalized" Commentary 50 (1970), p. 76. S. Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, p. 7. "Ibid. G. Andrews, "The Three New Lefts and their Legacies," G. Andrews (ed. et al.) New Left, New Right and Beyond (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999) p. 67. 2 1  2 2  2 4  72  proclaimed, was no longer capable o f meeting changing social needs, so a new form o f 25  politics, able to accommodate popular participation, was required. Concurrent with these developments, though divorced from social problems, the postmodern, poststructural anti-foundation revolution, seeking equality i n and through language, had its debut on the American intellectual scene i n the 1970's. From literature to legal thought, the impact o f postmodernism on American intellectuals such as Richard Rorty, Michael Shapiro, and Stanley Fish, to name but a few, was sweeping.  26  Radicalism was now catching up with language, which, i n turn, was viewed as " a crucial but shaky affair...as all concepts at all times are involved i n an open-ended, ongoing process o f signification." The N e w Left soon appropriated this theory. Steven Watts 27  contends  that the all-encompassing embrace  o f postmodernism by the American  intellectual left was a reaction to the rightward drift o f American society during the 1970's. Alienated and estranged from society, this "linguistic radicalism," Watts argues, gave the intellectual left something to be radical about as it moved steadily from political activism to the "politics o f discourse." Poststructuralism and postmodernism turned the N e w Left into a "linguistic left" preoccupied with discursive manipulation, excessive textualization and a growing avoidance o f social reality.  Referring to the growing gap  between the language o f the left and the world, Peter Emberley adds that fewer and fewer people could understand the "pseudo-intellectual jargon" o f the cultural left; leftists, Embereley writes, have "swamped ordinary language with obscurantism, permitting  A. Hooper, "A Politics Adequate to the Age: the New Left and the Long Sixties," Ibid, p. 16. R.B. Fowler, Enduring Liberalism, pp. 51-56. S. Watts, "The Idiocy of American Studies" p. 628. Ibid, pp. 630-632, 649-657.  73  have  "swamped  ordinary language  with obscurantism, permitting much political  posturing but offering little constructive insight into the real sources o f injustice."  29  While the left was preoccupied with its new social-linguistic perception and steadily turning away from the "inadequate" liberal center, neoconservatism took its first steps  towards  claiming  this  "middle  ground"  as  it's  rightful  heritage.  The  neoconservatives' new defense o f liberalism was accompanied by a conceptual change i n the content o f the concept P C . For this reason, the neoconservative contribution to the P C debate is perhaps best represented through the history o f this concept, which we w i l l now examine.  PC: Manifold  Meanings  L i k e any other concept, the meaning o f P C depends on whom you ask. M a n y scholars rightly observe that much confusion exists in the meaning and use o f this concept; so much so that Morris Dickstein was prompted to conclude that "it should be retired forthwith." Yet insofar as P C entails conceptual change, this confusion is part o f 30  the history o f P C . In fact, by examining the concept's origins we may well be able to remove the confusion. A n historical survey o f the P C concept shows that much o f the ambiguity associated with it was consciously promoted by neoconservatives, who sought to change its meaning. In its contemporary use, the concept P C is divorced from its original meaning, i n fact denoting its exact opposite. A s a result, even those who have been closely involved i n promoting P C are dissociating themselves from it. In short, it has become politically incorrect to be "politically correct." A t the same time, an  P. Emberley, Zero Tolerance (Toronto: Penguin Books, 1996) p. 205. M. Dickstein, "Correcting PC" Partisan Review, 4 (December, 1993) p. 542.  74  examination o f the history o f the concept sheds light on a second source o f confusion that is generated, albeit unconsciously, by PC'ers. P C is at once both a social movement involved i n a process o f social change (as manifested i n the "culture war") and also the method b y which this change is sought (changing concepts as a means o f effecting conceptual change); i n other words, P C is a social movement that seeks to bring about social change by means o f changing concepts and i n this sense it is both a movement and a method, a theory and a practice. The term "politically correct" was first used i n 1793 i n the U S Supreme Court by James W i l s o n who objected to the wording o f the common toast: "The United States," he said, "instead o f the 'People o f the United States' is the toast given. This is not politically correct."  31  W i l s o n did not use the term conceptually but literally, arguing that the existing  toast was not aligned with the "correct" (i.e. prevailing) American political theory.  Thus  it cannot be said that this occasion marks the birth o f the concept. The term did not resurface i n America until the 1930's, when it was used i n socialist and communist circles. It was then invoked by American socialists against American communists, who wanted to portray the latter as rigid dogmatic moralists, uncritically accepting any Communist Party p o l i c y .  33  B y referring to communists as "politically correct," the  socialists meant to separate their belief in equality as a moral ideal from the stance they claimed was taken by the dogmatic communists who advocated and defended the Communist Party's positions regardless o f its moral substance.  34  Contrary to current  Chishold vs. Georgia, 2 Fed. 419, 462 (1793), quoted in J.K. Wilson, The Myth of Political Correctness (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995) p. 3. Ibid. Feldstein, Political Correctness, p. 4. H. Kohl, "The Politically Correct Bypass: Multiculturalism and the Public Schools," Social Policy, Vol. 22 Issue 1 (Summer, 1991), p. 33.  31  3 2  3 3  3 4  75 usage, socialists used the term to signify that "they take pride i n thinking for themselves."  35  H o w , then, did P C come to mean the exact opposite, associated with  militancy and totalitarianism? Before the term was appropriated by neoconservatives and in fact became a concept, it went through one more stage, which might have contributed to its reversal o f meaning. O n the left, during the 1960's, P C was used ironically to delineate one's political position (which might be "correct") from one's personality (which was found lacking). Eugene Goodheart recalls that he first heard the phrase from a woman o f the left "as a prelude to a critical judgment," when the woman said about her colleague: "Her attitudes were politically correct, but"  36  her political attitude was insufficient to offset her  personality; that is, the fact that one holds the "correct" political view, does not necessarily mean that one's personality is immediately accepted. Goodheart adds that "the tone o f irony with which she spoke the phrase was intended to distance herself from the vulgarity and tyranny implied by 'political correctness."' Between the 1950's and 1980's, the American right regrouped as a powerful political movement. Building a solid coalition consisting, among others, o f the O l d Right, neoconservatives, N e w Right and libertarians, these groups were able to transcend immediate  interests  and  "focus  their  resources  on  cultural  change."  The  neoconservative appropriation o f the concept P C i n the early 1980's was part o f this "cultural change," and it soon became a euphemism to attack what was once again portrayed as the radicalism o f the left. It was at this point that "politically correct"  F. Feldstein, Political Correctness, p. 4. E. Goodheart, "PC or Not PC," Partisan Review, 4 (December, 1993) p. 551 Ibid, p. 552. E. Messer-Davidson, "The Attack on Liberalized Higher Education," After Political Correctness (Boulder: Wesrview Press, 1995) p. 42.  3 5  3 6  3 7  3 8  76 became "politically correctness" and it was set to be a "vast conspiracy"  plotted by the  left. That P C was initially invoked to signify critical thinking, or irony, became irrelevant. The association with Communism was enough to provoke waves o f antagonism. Given the history o f the concept, writes Herbert K o h l , "I was surprised to hear right-wing intellectuals i n the 1990's using the phrase 'politically correct' to disparage students and professors who advocate multiculturalism and are willing to confront racism, sexism, or homophobia at the university."  40  To the extent that P C is a movement o f conceptual change, neoconservatives follow P C assumptions as much as their leftist opponents. Both are battling over conceptual control as a means o f gaining social control. O n both sides o f the debate language is seen as an institution amenable to manipulation and individual modification. In both cases language is being altered i n order to fit shifting political needs, and i n this process concepts are being disconnected from their history and being given a new one. Both parties to the debate are pursuing political interests. There is, however, an important difference. While the left is advocating a conceptual change by introducing new concepts or by infusing existing concepts with new content, neoconservatives are preoccupied with what Teresa Brennan calls "a language appropriation." The Right, she argues, has seized "the language o f change that has been the Left's hitherto,"  41  leaving the left without a  language i n which to argue its case. Yet this linguistic takeover has gone farther than that. While P C ' e r s are denying the appropriateness o f the liberal paradigm to accommodate the changing social circumstances, the neoconservatives have managed to establish  4 0 4 1  J.K. Wilson, The Myth of Political Correctness, p. 4. H. Kohl, The Politically Correct Bypass," p. 33. T. Brennan, "Forword" in R. Feldstein, Political Correctness, p. xiii.  77 themselves as the true defenders o f the liberal tradition, ostensibly fighting for the preservation o f free speech and thought. Note, for example, Peter Drucker's use o f language against the P C ' e r s whom he describes as "the new barbarians...the deconstructionists, the radical feminists, the gay and lesbian liberationists"  4 2  when he writes:  Fortunately, there are signs that the academia is beginning to realize the danger and is beginning to fight back, especially against the imposition of politically correctness on freedom of thought and speech...The real task is to restore the liberal arts to responsibility, to commitment, to being "liberal" in other words. 43  This short passage exemplifies what neoconservatives are doing with language. First we see how Drucker depicts P C as a regime o f fear and danger, ruling the campuses, which, in turn, are portrayed as a war zone. Second, his comment about the imposition o f P C on the freedoms o f thought and speech is an act o f ideological reversal in which neoconservatives hijack the liberal legacy. The left, which is proposing a new untraditional social and educational agenda, is described as the camp that sets limits on thought and speech. But, like many neoconservatives, Drucker fails to acknowledge that the cry to "fight back" against the "new barbarians" itself falls short o f a full commitment to freedom o f thought and speech. Drucker's position is not only theoretically confused but also internally contradictory: the contradiction between advocating free speech and the neoconservatives' fierce fight against the emergence o f "new voices" on American campuses is never addressed. Although this process is indeed one o f conceptual change, it remains distinct from the conceptual change sought by the left because o f the reasons discussed above; the leftists' P C , rather than its neoconservative version, is the focus o f this chapter. In what 4 2  4 3  P.F. Drucker, "Political Correctness and American Academe," p. 62. Ibid, p. 63.  78 follows, we w i l l explicate and analyze both the symptoms and root causes o f the P C debate i n order to examine what is done to language and what is done with language.  The Symptoms:  Fighting  over  Words  The discrepancy between "symptoms" and "roots" is reflected i n the way different scholars have defined the concept P C , emphasizing its manifestations - the action that is supposedly taken in its name - rather than its theoretical components. Robert Brustein, for example, contends that P C is a "popular phrase" for "the current method o f increasing the rights o f minorities"  44  on American campuses. The method, he  asserts, consists o f new regulations such as "speech codes, revised canons, new departments, lowered standards, increased pressure for faculty and student diversity, excessive vigilance regarding the sensitivity o f minorities." Morris Dickstein argues 45  that P C "is a form o f groupthink fueled by paranoia and demonology and imposed by political and social intimidation."  46  A l l forms o f political intolerance and conformity are  considered by Dickstein to be manifestations o f P C . It follows, Dickstein argues, that P C is not an exclusively leftist phenomenon; the right too had its " P C moments:" "nothing could be more P C than the rigid ideological test applied during the Reagan and Bush years to all prospective appointments to the Supreme C o u r t . "  47  Eugene Goodheart  provides another catch-all definition o f P C that transcends the political right-left spectrum by describing it as a "doctrine o f opportunism."  48  Since the "correct" view  R. Brustein, "Dumbocracy in America" Partisan Review 4 (Dec, 1993) p. 526. Ibid. M. Dickstein "Correcting PC," ibid, p. 543. Ibid, p. 542. E. Goodheart "PC or Not PC," Ibid, p. 551.  79  changes from time to time, "such opportunism is not a matter o f left or right."  4y  The  prevailing "correctness," Goodheart claims, stems from the left and is based on the exclusion o f those who do not agree with the view that " a l l evils o f the modern world [spring] from Western imperialism, and who are concerned with the discovery o f commonalities among people rather than difference."  50  It is not surprising then, that on the topic o f language much o f the literature focuses on the "symptoms" o f P C . This partly symptomatic  51  aspect o f P C involves the  imposition o f speech codes in American campuses, a topic that sparks much literary heat and  evokes  "groupthink."  intimidating 53  Orwelllian  images  such  as  "thought  police"  52  and  P C is a "cultural comedy," Goodheart asserts, i n which short people are  described as "vertically challenged" and handicapped people are "differently abled." "The comedy" he writes, "lies in the euphemistic solemnity o f the phrases."  54  Yet  Goodheart underestimates the seriousness o f some o f these projects. Henry Beard and Christopher C e r f s book The Official  Politically  Correct  Dictionary  and  Handbook,  classified as a "satire and humor" book, is one such example. In the introduction to the Dictionary,  Beard and Cerf explain that the book was  written for oppressors, victims and those who are not sure whether they are the former or the latter to help all o f them "survive i n the be-sensitive-or-else nineties" and clarify  The other part of the free speech debate involves works of radical feminists who are promoting the idea that there are words (and images) that hurt in exactly the same way action does. Since this part of the free speech debate is considered here to be associated with the conceptual revolution propagated by PC, it is discussed in the section that deals with its roots rather than the symptoms of the PC movement. On December 24, 1990, Newsweek''s cover story announced the arrival of the "Thought Police," referring to the spread of PC. Quoted in J. Neilson "The Great PC Scare: Tyrannies of the Left, Rhetoric of the Right" in J. Williams, PC Wars, pp. 60-90. M. Dickstein, "Correcting PC" in Partisan Review 4 (December, 1995) p. 543. E. Goodheart, "PC or not PC," Ibid, p. 551. 51  5 2  53  5 4  80 "what's O K to say to whom, what isn't, and w h y . " The Dictionary 55  as "indefinitely idled: unemployed" indicator o f a person's value," Recruiter  News,  57  56  contains entries such  and "lookism: the belief that appearance is an  and all entries are referenced to their source  (Executive  1990, and handout published by the Smith College Office o f Student  Affairs, 1990, respectively). Beard and Cerf are not, as Goodheart has it, "comedians," since their work carries a serious message. Echoing Watts' and Emberley's critique, they write: ...as linguists...suspected as early as the 1940's - and postmodern theory has confirmed language is not merely the mirror of society; it is the major force in "constructing" what we perceive as "reality." With this in mind, it's easy to see why so many reformers have forsworn a unified assault on such distracting side issues such as guaranteeing equal pay for equal work; eliminating unemployment, poverty, and homelessness...in order to devote their energies to correcting fundamental linguistic inequities... 58  The Dictionary,  then, is an evaluation o f the left, from the left, which, i n turn, is critiqued  for losing sight o f society. That being said, it is important to note that although intended as a critique o f the left, the authors actually fail to distinguish between what W i l l i a m Lutz described as "double-speak," - a "language that pretends to communicate but really doesn't...[a] language that makes bad seem good, the negative appear positive, the unpleasant appear attractive or at least tolerable"  59  and is often used by politicians to  disguise their real motives and actions by using manipulative language - with the P C project. P C ' s goal is not to misrepresent reality, as Beard and Cerf have it. Thus, although they are correct in discerning the theory o f the P C project, Beard and Cerf fail to identify its practice thus, unconsciously, contributing to the confusion surrounding this concept.  H. Beard and C. Cerf, The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (New York: Villard Books, 1994) p. vii. Ibid, p. 36. Ibid, p. 42. Ibid, p. ix. W. Lutz, DoubleSpeak (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990) p. 1. 5 5  5 6  5 7  5 8  5 9  81 Promoting equality in language  as a means o f creating greater equality in  society,  the P C project is manifested primarily i n the invention o f new words and the substitution of discriminatory and "offensive" terms with "neutral" ones, i n an effort to create a language that is not abusive and is free o f prejudice or any other aspect that could be deemed hurtful to traditionally "objectified" minority groups such as women, gays, and African-Americans. The idea is to disarm language from its judgmental tendencies. The "old" language is perceived as prejudiced and degrading since it describes minorities from a "master's" (i.e. "white male") perspective, or fails to acknowledge the inclusion o f minorities i n various social activities. A case i n point is Margaret D o y l e ' s The A-Z of Non-Sexist  Language.  Sexist language, she writes, consists o f "terms and usages that  exclude or discriminate against women" and is based on the presumption that "maleness is standard, the norm, and that femaleness is non-standard, or the exception." and phrases such as "bellboy," "businessman,"  and "mankind" constitute  60  Words "sexist  language." This type o f usage, Doyle argues, must be changed because it "is unclear and inaccurate, because it excludes more than half o f the population, because it encourages destructive stereotypes, because it hurts."  61  The lexicon includes, for example, the phrase:  " M a n or mouse, are you a?," followed by Doyle's advice to language users: " A v o i d this challenge altogether, unless using ironically. If necessary, replace with something more descriptive. Options: brave or meek, tough or t i m i d . " lists female-oriented  61 6 2  62  In another part o f the book, Doyle  neologisms that are intended to supplement  the  M. Doyle, The A-Z of Non-Sexist Language (London: The Women's Press, 1995) p. 1. Ibid, p. 3. Ibid, p. 55.  male-based  82 language: herstory  (instead o f history) womyn/wimmin  womage (as opposed to manage).  (to replace woman/women) and  63  Notwithstanding, Doyle makes very clear that there are limits to the use o f her guide. In fact, these limits make it possible to disregard this project completely: The intention of the book is not to obliterate words or usages from the language...If a term or usage is not objectionable to you, and i f you feel that it will not appear sexist to others, and especially i f you feel that no suitable alternative can be found, you will probably want to use that term. Its inclusion in the book is not meant to indicate that it should be 'banned' from use. 64  What then does it indicate? W h y does Doyle stop short o f "banning" certain words? In the attempt to eliminate ambiguities in language a new ambiguity is introduced. One possible reason for this caution might be Doyle's explicit desire to dissociate herself from the P C project which, she contends, stands i n opposition to everything that inclusive languages represents: "inclusive language is not narrow and prescriptive; it does not aim to create a canon o f 'politically correct' words." though i n the neoconservatives  great "language who are  65  N o r is P C "narrow and prescriptive,"  war" it has become  successfully representing  a captive i n the hands o f  it as  such. Ironically, Doyle  dissociates herself from the way P C is wrongly represented by Beard and Cerf, although they too are critiquing it. What, then, is P C ?  The Roots: A Conceptual  Revolution  W e saw that both parties to the P C debate are seeking to control concepts i n order to shape their content and histories. Yet to the extent that P C ' e r s are expanding and renewing shared concepts, only the left is involved i n propagating a conceptual  Ibid, p. 42. Ibid, p. 7. Ibid, p. 5.  83 revolution. Neoconservatives, contrary to the N e w Left, are not proposing a new social agenda - a new set o f shared concepts - but instead are involved in changing their position on the political continuum, from the right to the center, seeking to revive the "old" consensus. Seen from this perspective, Choi and Murphy underestimate the scope and depth o f the P C ' s movement aspirations when they argue that " P C ' e r s propose symbolic changes that could alter everything." P C ' s program for change is far from 66  being symbolic, even though it might appear as such; seemingly, all that needs to happen is that people view the polis differently. But before this can occur there must be a drastic shift at the core o f the social life. In this section two such shifts are examined. The first draws on the work o f Stanley Fish, who has been actively promoting conceptual change for more than twenty years. W e w i l l examine the way Fish redefines the concepts "truth" and "reason," basing his proposal on his postmodern position, which is softened by his P C ' i s m . The second conceptual change that w i l l be considered is sought by radical feminists working to eliminate the distinction between "words" and "action." Words, according to these feminists, hurt in exactly the same way actions do. "We  are all politically correct,"  67  says Stanley Fish, meaning, we are all  "political" and we are all "correct." While this statement can be seen as an attempt to dismantle the concept o f P C into its literal meaning, Fish is aiming higher than that. Not only is he reiterating the postmodern conviction that "everything is political," he is also striving to " w i n back" control over the concept o f P C , suggesting that it is a "state o f  J. M. Choi and J. W. Murphy, The Politics and Philosophy of Politically Correctness, p. xii. S. Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, p. 79.  84  mind," our "social condition," which allows us always to operate only "on the basis o f partial v i s i o n , "  68  as he writes:  Political correctness, the practice of making judgments from convictions, is not the name of a deviant behavior but of the practices. Debates between opposing parties can never be political correctness and something else, but between  the vantage point of challengeable behavior that everyone necessarily characterized as debates between competing versions of political  69  correctness. A s was noted earlier, the fact that we are all "politically correct" is based on the conviction that language is the only real anchor o f reality. What this means is that "words are responsible not to what is real but to what has been laid down as r e a l , " and concepts 70  are "empty" "until filled with whatever content and direction one can manage to put into them."  71  P C ers invoke this argument as part o f their battle against the dominant  neoconservative foundationalist position. Yet while this approach stands firmly as the antithesis to neoconservatism, it should be examined on its own terms, i n terms o f its thesis. To do so, we w i l l examine how Fish redefines the concept "truth." H o w do we know that something is "true"? According to the traditional view, "truth" is the product o f an accurate reflection o f the nature o f reality.  A s such, "truth"  transcends language, or else, language has the ability to mirror it. Hobbes expresses this relationship between language and truth when he says that "truth consisteth in the right ordering o f names...a man that seeketh precise truth, had need to remember what every name he uses stands for; and to place it accordingly." One condition for finding truth, 73  then, is the correct use o f language. A n d there is, according to Hobbes, a direct relation 6 8  6 9  7 0  Ibid. Ibid, p. 9. S. Fish, Is There a Text in the Classroom? (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980)  £.241.  S. Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, p. 102. J.M. Choi and J. W. Murphy, The Politics and Philosophy of Politically Correctness, p. 61. T. Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651. part 1 ch. 4. In C B . Macpherson (ed.) (Middlesex: Penguin, 1968) p. 105. Emphasis in original.  7 2  7 3  85 between the way we use language and the path to truth. Hobbes though, is by no means suggesting, as P C ' e r s do, that truth is determined by language. From a different point o f view, though still non-linguistic, we have seen that logical positivists attempted to develop tools for measuring the truth-value and meaning o f statements; this project extended into language when logical positivists tried to develop an ideal language that would allow all that can be said to be said clearly and all statements to relate to one another in a purely logical w a y .  74  In the eyes o f foundationalists, truth has nothing to do with language. It has to do with developing the right tools for discovering it, since truth is "out there" in the natural world waiting to be uncovered. Since truth is natural, A l l a n B l o o m contends, "nature should be the standard by which we judge our own lives and the lives o f peoples."  75  Reason is a key tool in man's search for the truth. Since man is the only creature endowed with the capacity to reason, the path to truth is to follow reason. B l o o m defends this claim against the counter-PC (and postmodern) claim that only culture (that is, language) can lay a basis for truth. A n d while B l o o m does not explicitly refer to the idea that standards are a linguistic product as proposed by PC'ers, the inference is justified. In language, as Herder said, resides the whole o f man's domain, "its traditions, history, religion, and the basis o f life, all its heart and s o u l . "  76  Thus, B l o o m ' s rejection o f culture  as the basis for truth is equivalent to the rejection o f language as such. The belief that "truth" is natural is o f course hardly new. Philosophers, from Plato to Kant, believed that truth is natural, waiting to be discovered. Neoconservatives merely  S. Cavell, "Ending the Waiting Game," in S. Mulhall (ed.) The Cavell Reader (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1996) p. 100. A. Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987) p. 38. Herder, Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind. Abridged with an introduction by F.E. Manuel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968) p. 83. 7 4  7 5  7 6  86 reiterate and defend this position. The motives for this defense - opportunistic or sincere - are part o f the so-called "culture war" and as such are not o f immediate relevance. What is relevant is the fact that neoconservatives claim that there is One Truth and that there are fixed procedures and set standards forjudging it. P C ' e r s have two rejoinders to this, both o f which echo the postmodern attitude. In the first place, they claim, "truth" is not "one." Since there are many languages, and since in language we find the measures to judge our world, there are many truths. Truth is plural and "flow[s] from local contexts;"  77  it is only tentatively a certainty. Secondly, P C ' e r s argue, not only is truth not  "one" or "natural," but to regard it as such is part o f the elite's political agenda. Representing the "truth" as an artifact waiting to be discovered is nothing but a "formula" advanced by those who have the skill and resources to spread their own version o f the "truth," thus serving the vested interest they have i n maintaining their status. The strategy for attaining a monopoly on the truth, Fish argues, is as follows: "First detach your agenda from its partisan origins, from its history, and then present it as a universal imperative, as a call to moral arms so perspicuous that only the irrational or the godless •  78  (two categories often conflated) could refuse it." The argument against having "one truth" goes further. P C ' e r s not only deny the idea o f impartial truth detached from history, they also reject the prevailing methods for knowing it. Reason, Fish contends, cannot guide us i n our search for "truth" since the process o f "reasoning" is premised on one's faith; that is, "reason" is developed only to confirm what one already believes. H e adds: "Reasons... are extensions o f your faith and are reasons for you because what you already believe at a level so fundamental that it is 7 7  S. Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, p. 8.  87 not (at least while you are in the grip o f belief) available for self-conscious scrutiny."  79  Fish here not only repudiates the trust in "reason" he also provides us with insight into the process by which this is done: one simply frees oneself from the grip o f belief; heightened  awareness becomes  the key to overcoming "fundamental  faiths" and  entrenched beliefs. Stated differently, Fish is asking us to overcome our prejudices. Leaving the complexity (and doubtful success) o f this enterprise aside, a different aspect o f this claim becomes immediately problematic. What Fish is asking us to believe is premised on one universal demand: we must first believe that the "truth" is plural and "local" before we can go ahead and find our own contingent truth. Lurking behind the assumption that "truths" are numerous and various is one universal truth. It is i n this sense that the P C project is hypocritical. Fish, too, advances his own belief using universal language. Instead o f through reason, PC'ers tell us, "truth" is known through rhetoric, interpretation and persuasion. It is at this point, C h o i and Murphy argue, that P C differs from postmodernism and becomes a praxis,  "a domain where social life can be invented  and constantly redeployed in any number o f forms."  P C according to Choi and Murphy,  offers a premise for a true democratic and just society, where each is given an equal opportunity to influence the life o f the society. L i k e i n the Greek polis,  rhetoric once  again becomes a tool for searching and negotiating truth, the basis for constructing "certainties," as Fish writes: If.. .you begin with a sense of the constructed nature of human reality.. .then the notion of the rhetorical is no longer identified with the ephemeral, the outside, but is reconceived as the  Ibid, p. 7. Emphasis in original. J.M. Choi and J.W. Murphy, The Politics and Philosophy of Politically Correctness, p. xiii.  88 medium in which certainties become established, in which formidable traditions emerge, [and] are solidified... 81  B y promoting the power o f rhetoric, Fish is again involved i n a conceptual shift. In the prevailing liberal paradigm, he argues, rhetoric is "an evil gesture i n which the 'real' is overwhelmed."  82  But, like Skinner, Fish believes he can change the direction o f this  concept: " T o call oneself a sophist is rhetorically effective.. .you begin by saying, "I am a sophist," and then.. .unashamedly.. .explain why for you this is not a declaration o f moral guilt."  83  Fish is not suggesting that "truth" cannot be established or that "truth" is  meaningless, rather rhetoric is taken to be the starting point for knowing it and the vehicle for establishing knowledge i n general. But how are we to assess different social positions, i f language is the only standard against which "truth" is measured? Is Fish suggesting that all truths are equal? To protect himself against this inevitable and undesirable conclusion, Fish relies on interpretation as the procedure through which one strand o f rhetoric becomes acceptable among the members o f what he calls an "interpretive community." According to Fish we all live in "interpretive communities," which are structures o f norms that inform language.  84  The idea o f an "interpretive community" is an attempt to translate the  notion o f language-game into practice, yet being an abstract philosophical concept, it is hard to imagine how a "language-game" can become a practice. Communication and understanding, Fish asserts, do not occur because agents "share a language, i n the sense o f knowing the meanings o f individual words and the rules for combining them, but because a way o f thinking, a form o f life, shares us, and implicates us i n a world o f  81  8 2 8 3 8 4  S. Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, p. 290. Ibid. Ibid, p. 291. S. Fish, Is There a Text in this Class? pp. 303-321.  89 Of  already-in-place objects, purposes, goals, procedures, values and so on;" adds "is always perceived within a structure o f norms."  86  language, he  Once again, Wittgenstein's  spirit is present; but while for Wittgenstein language precedes norms, Fish wants to argue the reverse: that norms precede language. But where do norms come from, i f not from language? Interpretation is the key to unlocking this seemingly tautology. From the point o f view o f an "interpretive community," "truth" means shared concepts that are based on local history and depends on the ability "to tell a persuasive story that follows from and extends one's deepest  convictions."  87  Seen from this perspective, "one's  deepest  convictions" are inherent, and i n fact inform language. Yet "convictions" are not necessarily tantamount with "truth;" i n fact, history teaches us that when "one's deepest convictions" are taken to be the only measure for truth, horrendous actions sometimes follow. The social sphere, according to PC'ers, is made up o f individuals driven by convictions, which they wish to communicate and share with other fellow individuals in an effort to consolidate these sentiments as the "truth;" language is their tool for achieving this goal. Yet, in spite o f the problems that might arise from this position, what is important to underline is that PC'ers are not claiming that the concepts "truth" and "reason" are invalid; P C ' e r s reject the dominant contemporary interpretation o f the "truth" as something that can be found and based on objective "natural" knowledge. They do not, however, succeed in offering a better solution. Things become even more complex as M a r i l y n Friedman attempts to articulate the way in which "truth" is approached: "The real problem does not lie i n the concept o f truth i n its pristine abstraction. The real problem is to discern which o f the many 8 5  8 6 8 7  Ibid, p. 304. Emphasis added. Ibid, p. 318. S. Fish, The Problem with Principles, p. 287.  90 competing accounts o f debated subject matters shall be deemed the truest account..."  88  W e have already stated the difficulty o f this enterprise and the serious questions that arise from it. Here we want to ask a different question: i f the problem is not with "truth in its pristine abstraction" does this mean that i n its "pristine abstraction," truth is natural? If not, then, it too becomes a "political entity." Seen from this perspective, it is actually the liberal interpretation o f the concept "truth" that P C is rejecting, while setting aside the origins o f the pursuit o f truth in general. This line o f thought may render the concept o f "truth" in general part o f a political agenda promoted by various social agents. Is the concept "truth" relevant to the successful operation o f a social community, especially i f that community is composed o f many "truths"? It is o f course not possible to answer this question here. What is important to underline is that this aspect o f P C , vigorously represented by Fish, strives to offer a new basis for engaging i n society, one that is rooted solely in language, and as such encounters not only theoretical problems but also, and more importantly, serious practical complications. In contrast to this outcome, the second type o f conceptual change, sought by radical feminists, which we now turn to examine, is premised on action (although it too occurs only at the linguistic level) and thus is more successful in extending itself into the world. In their search for greater equality i n and through speech, radical feminists such as Patricia H i l l - C o l l i n s , Catharine M a c K i n n o n and M a r i Matsuda, otherwise pursuing different social agendas, call for redefining hate speech and pornography, now protected in America as free speech under the First Amendment o f the United States constitution,  M. Friedman and Jan Narveson, Political Correctness: For and Against (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995) p. 20. 8 8  91 as an illegal act.  89  Hate speech and pornography they argue, although expressed in  language, are harmful and hurtful acts; protecting them as "free speech" ignores the fact that "words have power."  90  Because, i n the view o f these theorists, there are cases in  which "words hurt" and should therefore be treated as actions, both legally and theoretically, they seek conceptual change. Their paramount contention is that treating all forms o f speech equally, generates inequality i n the world. Therefore, only by acknowledging that not all forms o f speech are equally valid w i l l it be possible to achieve social equality. Seen from this perspective, these theorists are i n effect arguing for inequality as a means o f attaining greater equality. The achievement o f this goal entails a conceptual change. That hate speech, pornography, homophobic speech, and the denial o f the Holocaust are protected as free speech, Matsuda argues in Where is Your Body? the First Amendment to nothing but a mere formalism.  91  reduces  In protecting absolute free  speech, she asserts, the First Amendment makes a false distinction between speech and content, disregarding the fact that speech is meaningful only within a social context and as such conveys a social message.  92  A l l speech, Matsuda asserts, is content: "a simple  ' G o o d M o r n i n g ' can convey love, harassment, indifference, threat o f violence, pleasure, anger or insanity, depending on the context."  93  B y treating all forms o f speech equally  and disregarding their social message it becomes "okay to speak with the intent o f  Stanley Fish, too shares this position, and has expressed it in essays such as: "There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing Too," "Jerry Falwell's Mother, or, What's the Harm?" in There's No Such Thing as Free Speech. M. Matsuda, Where is Your Body? (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996) p. xiii. Ibid, pp. 95-6. Ibid, pp. 84-6. Ibid, p. 86. 8 9  9 0  91  9 2  9 3  92 silencing, wounding, degrading, excluding, and cutting another person to their core."  94  The root o f the problem, according to Matsuda, is that the First Amendment is premised on an absolute free-speech/censorship  dichotomy. To repair this state o f affairs, she  explores the idea o f "different kinds o f contents," which, she argues, goes beyond this dichotomy. In its stead, new categories for measuring speech are put forward: dissent vs. assault, and tolerance o f difference vs. tolerance o f subordination. Classifying different forms o f speech must be based on history: "I define subordination contextually so that the exclusion o f gays must be understood in light o f the history o f homophobia and violence against gays. The Holocaust hoax tracts must be understood i n light o f the history o f antiSemitism and genocide against the Jews."  95  Anticipating the inevitable "drawing the  line" dilemma, Matsuda writes: "The know-nothingness  o f pure tolerance  is an  inadequate response i n a world o f growing violence, and, i n m y view, does not achieve freedom."  96  C a n free speech be restricted and still be considered "free-speech"? That is a  possibility, but only i n the wake o f conceptual change. After all, we do not complain that one's freedom is infringed when one has engaged i n actions such as theft or murder and was taken to prison. A r e words qualitatively different than acts? In her book Only  Words,  Catharine M a c K i n n o n unambiguously rejects  the  absolute differentiation between language and action. It is this categorization, she argues, that legitimates pornography. Currently in the U S pornography is interpreted literally as an "image," that is, as an embodiment o f an expression, in the same way that speech is an expression.  9 4  95  9 6 9 7  97  Like hate speech, discussed above, pornography is protected under the First  Ibid, p. 96. Ibid, p. 98. Ibid. C. MacKinnon, Only Words (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993) pp. 10-15.  93 Amendment since it is understood as a message. Objecting to this representation, M a c K i n n o n rhetorically asks: There are many ways to say what pornography says, in the sense of its content. But nothing else does what pornography does. The question becomes, do the pornographers - saying they are only saying what it says - have a speech right to do what only it does? 98  Emphasizing the symbiosis between words and actions and their causal relationship, M a c K i n n o n , in support o f her argument that pornography is i n fact action and must be redefined as such, refers to a dual process: making pornography, and its impact on society. The protection o f pornography as speech overlooks the "before and after" aspect of its production. M a c K i n n o n is not referring here only to the subordination o f women that pornography encourages, or to its immorality. She is much more explicit i n her reference to action. What makes pornography different from others kinds o f speech (even hate speech) is that it is action-based, and has action-oriented consequences i n real l i f e . " To realize this conceptual change M a c K i n n o n and Andrea D w o r k i n proposed a new law that makes clear that what pornography does, it does through what it says: "graphic sexually explicit materials that subordinate women through pictures and w o r d s . "  100  This  is perhaps the most explicit example o f conceptual change that is sought i n language: laws, as we know, are first framed in words, and only subsequently translated into action. However, from the point o f view taken i n this essay, we see how the "social" is redefined and changed in language, but contrary to the change sought by Fish, this change expresses itself in action. From a different perspective, Patricia H i l l - C o l l i n s discusses the correlation between speech and ideas by rethinking the "fighting words" doctrine. "Fighting words,"  9 8 9 9 1 0 0  Ibid, pp. 14-5. Ibid, pp. 15-22. Ibid, p. 22.  94  as defined b y the U S court i n 1942, are words "which b y their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach o f the peace."  101  Hate speech is protected  under the First Amendment, unless it can be proven that a specific utterance posed a "clear and present danger"  102  to society. If hate speech were subsumed under the category  "fighting words," it would lose its constitutional protection and be regulated. Moreover, H i l l - C o l l i n s calls for extending the reach o f "fighting words" beyond hate speech into the realm o f academic theorizing. Academic speech, she argues, also operates as a form o f "fighting words." Although academic speech "may not intentionally set to harm its victims (unlike hate speech), its actual effects may be similar."  H i l l - C o l l i n s equates  words (hate speech) and ideas (theories explaining race and gender) as tools i n the process o f elite power building, and rejects both on these grounds.  104  A t the same time, contrary to Matsuda and M a c K i n n o n , H i l l - C o l l i n s opposes the idea o f regulating (i.e. censoring) "fighting words." D o i n g that, she maintains, would be "fighting fire with f i r e . "  105  The type o f thinking that would regulate "fighting words"  merely duplicates the binary-oppositional approach (e.g. White/Black, man/woman, public/private, center/margin, powerful/powerless, reason/emotion), which is responsible for generating "fighting words" i n the first p l a c e .  106  A real solution necessitates thinking  differently. Instead o f the binary-oppositional model, H i l l - C o l l i n s suggests critical social theory as the means o f diffusing the power relations that underlie binary oppositions. Social theory "is a body o f knowledge and a set o f institutional practices that actively  Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 569 (1942), at 571-72. Quoted in M. Friedman and J. Narveson, Politically Correctness: For and Against, p. 3. Ibid, p. 3. P. Hill-Collins, Fighting Words (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998) p. 85. Ibid, pp. 84-6. Ibid, p. 86. ibid, p. 87. 101  102  103  1 0 4  105  106  95 grapples with the central questions facing a group o f people i n a specific political, social, and historic context."  107  It is "critical" since it is committed to justice, for one's group  and/or for others. Its advantage over the binary model, H i l l - C o l l i n s writes, is that it opens up a space for any group to theorize about social issues and undermines the elite's attempt to monopolize knowledge. Together, the work o f Matsuda, M a c K i n n o n and H i l l - C o l l i n s allows us to observe a different aspect o f P C , one which, although it begins i n language, is able to transcend it and become a true informer o f action. It underlines the fact that while as a whole P C is a political theory and a social practice that is dedicated to achieving conceptual change, this process assumes multiple paths and enjoys varying degrees o f success.  Ibid, p. xii. Ibid, p. xiv-xv.  96  Conclusion This essay began by stating that concepts change their meaning and suggested that an examination o f the relationship between language and action - the two forces that drive the polis  - can illuminate the process o f change. Three distinct models o f  conceptual change were presented and discussed through their language-action axis. Together, these models underline an important trend i n contemporary political theory and practice. W e w i l l now briefly review the essence o f these models, recapitulating their perception o f language and action in the process o f conceptual change. The first model, put forward by Reinhart Koselleck, identified conceptual change as the outcome o f a crisis, which had occurred as language and action became disassociated and lost their integral coherence. According to this model, language and action assume an equal role in both the process o f change and i n the course o f historical analysis. This is so, because language and action, while mutually dependent, are nevertheless separate entities that generate distinct paths o f change; i n some cases action is pre-linguistic, i n others, language predetermines action. Thus, language and action are never completely congruent. The propounder o f the second model, Quentin Skinner, contends, contrary to Koselleck, that conceptual change results from acts that agents performed i n speaking. Based on the idea that language is (sometimes) a form o f action, Skinner argues that political innovation is a product o f linguistic deeds. According to this model, "action," i n the sense meant by Koselleck, is not fully present; rather, it is assumed that political theorists did things i n language as a response to actions ("projects") that were taking place in the social sphere and consequentially action is accorded only secondary significance. Change is identified primarily i n and through  97 language, and the relationship between language and action i n the social sphere is distorted i n favor o f language. In the model, adduced by the American P C movement, action is almost invisible. Far from sometimes being a form o f action, language becomes the world. Language and action, according to this third model, cannot be discussed separately; "action" is confined to the act o f changing language. W e see, then, that since the "linguistic revolution" o f the mid-twentieth century, the role o f language has become increasingly prominent in both political theory and practice. Moreover, the  growing influence o f postmodernism -  fragmentize the "metanarratives" o f the polis  which  seeks to  and has had a clear impact on the P C  movement - also contributes to the neglect o f action i n favor o f language. From the point o f view o f political theory and practice, the problem is not so much the call to tear down universalistic and oppresive narratives, but rather the inability (and professed refusal) o f postmodernism to provide an alternative social order that can exist outside the spheres o f language. To the extent that P C is a political theory and a social practice that seeks to change action - that is, to change the polis  - the growing attention to language over  action must be acknowledged and amended since this orientation distorts the social sphere. Language alone cannot adequately inform our political theories and practices; allowing language to dominate and define the social sphere has serious ramifications for both theory and practice. Let us first consider these implications from the point o f view o f theory. In his essay "Political Theory and Practice," Charles Taylor discusses the importance o f theory and its relation to practice. The central question o f political theory, he asserts, is "what is  98  going on? What is really happening i n society?" A successful theory answers this 1  question by "making explicit.. .a society's life, i.e. a set o f institutions and practices;" i n other words, a good theory makes our practices clearer. "To have a good theory," Taylor asserts, "is to understand better what we are doing," and thus to orient ourselves better in 3  the world. A theory that is informed solely by language cannot fulfill  this task  successfully. "What is really going on" i n the polis cannot be reduced to merely talking. That language is an extremely important aspect o f our political lives is an indisputable fact. But, viewing the polis  through the prism o f language alone, assuming that  everything that is "going on" is mediated by language, conditioned by it, and can be resolved by changing it, results in a theory that does not fully account for "a society's life." Conceptual change is sometimes a product o f non-linguistic action, but the theory and practice o f P C do not acknowledge this vital aspect o f the "political." Furthermore, the overwhelming significance o f language i n relation to action has consequences for the ability o f theory to guide practice. In his book The Old Regime and the Revolution,  A l e x i s de Tocqueville discusses the relationship between French "men o f  letters" and society towards the middle o f the eighteenth century. What interests us is not the particular problems with which the French intellectual class o f the time grappled, but the relationship between "letters" and the "world." In the mid-eighteenth  century,  Tocqueville writes, intellectuals were looking to "rebuild society on some wholly new plan," indulging i n abstract and general plans o f governance, uninformed by the actual 4  C. Taylor, "Political Theory and Practice," in C. Lloyd (ed.) Social Theory and Practice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983) p. 62. Ibid, p. 73. Ibid, p. 78. A. de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution, trans, by J. Bonner (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1856) p. 172. 1  2  3  4  99 experience o f governing. O n the one hand, this can be seen as an advantage. Lacking practical experience, those intellectuals were "bolder i n their projects o f innovation, fonder o f theory and system, more prone to despise the teaching o f antiquity and to rely on individual reason than is usually the case with speculative writers on politics." W e 5  know that their projects were bold and innovative because we know their outcome: the French Revolution. O n the other hand, though, this intellectual tendency resulted i n a divided political world, where social actors were divorced from political writers: the former were engaged in administration, the latter were enunciating principles. This, Tocqueville writes, culminated in a political world made up o f two bodies: "Society proper, resting on a framework o f tradition, confused and irregular in its organization, with a host o f contradictory laws...and above this, an imaginary society, i n which every thing was simple, harmonious, equitable, uniform and reasonable."  6  Tocqueville is by no means  denying the great achievements o f French intellectuals; indeed, he writes, the Revolution was i n part engendered by their "vague expressions, abstract terms, ambitious words and literary phrases."  7  Nevertheless, he is quick to remind us, words alone cannot be our  guide for action, "for what is a merit i n an author is often a defect i n a statesman, and characteristics which improve a book may be fatal to a revolution." What is the lesson to be learned from Tocqueville about the dangers o f being over-sensitive to the use o f language? It is mainly that our political language must be, at least i n part, informed by practice. Language w i l l never do justice to the world i f it is  5  6 7  8  Ibid, p. 173. Ibid, p. 178. Ibid, p. 180. Ibid.  100 informed solely by reason. N o r w i l l political theory be o f use i f it is premised on the notion that "reality is language." The power o f words can become deceiving to those whose duty it is to think and make intelligible the world. Wittgenstein was right to claim that "words are deeds,"  9  but this should not be construed to mean that all deeds are  words. The consequences o f overlooking action can be detrimental to political theory and practice; what these consequences might be i n the contemporary context - a critical question for the student o f the "political w o r l d " - w i l l have to be answered elsewhere.  L. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G.H. Von Wright trans, by P. Winch (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980) p. 46e, quoted in J. 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