I contend that we should remake conceptions of power and politics, taking off from the project of remaking "modernity." Here, I perform a similar move for "power and politics,"core concepts for history and the human sciences, building on the foundational work of the 1970s and 1980s and bringing in key elements of institutionalist and culturalist critiques. The theories of the early days of social science history were usually materialist, and the character of state policies and political structures was understood to reflect the "balance of class forces," interests to flow from class position, and power to work in a juridical vein, as "power over." By the 1980s these common understandings were widely criticized. There were new emphases on the multiplicity of identities and structures of inequality, new questions about the adequacy of materialist accounts of politics. Dissatisfactions were also stimulated by "real-world" developments. However, we see a parting of the ways when it came to addressing these new political conditions and analytic challenges. Moves to "bring the state and other political institutions back in" have been focused on politics, while the scholars taking the various cultural turns have focused on power. The conceptualizations of power and politics have been sundered along with the scholarly communities deploying them. I address both communities and argue for new ways of understanding power and politics emerging from renewed encounters between institutionalist and culturalist analyses. Such encounters and the conceptual work that they will produce can help us reforge a productive alliance between history and the social sciences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)