Why Concepts Matter: Translating Social and Political Thought


Translation is indispensible to transmissions of knowledge across time and place; to understanding how and what others think. There is a vast stock of theories about how to translate, deriving mainly from controversies about sacred and literary works. Yet there is little discussion of the distinctive issues involved in translating political and social thought. This volume breaks new ground by focusing on them. Thirteen scholars consider problems arising from the study of translation and the cultural transfer of texts. Especially novel is the application of these issues to two relatively new disciplines: translation studies, and the history of concepts (Begriffsgeschichte). This volume opens a discussion of what and how each of them can learn from, and contribute to, the others.

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Biographical Note

Martin J. Burke (Ph.D., Michigan, ’87) is a Professor of History at CUNY. He is author of The Conundrum of Class: Public Discourse on the Social Order in America, and executive co-editor of The Journal of the History of Ideas.

Melvin Richter (Ph.D., Harvard, ‘53) is an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at CUNY. Among his many works are The History of Political and Social Concepts: an Introduction, and The Meaning of Historical Terms and Concepts: New Studies on Begriffsgeschichte.

Review Quotes

Wanneer inzichten uit [de] drie disciplines […] geschiedenis van het politieke denken, vertaalwetenschap en begripsgeschiedenis […] met elkaar gecombineerd worden, levert dat innovatieve en verfrissende interpretaties op. Dat wordt accuraat geïllustreerd in de uitstekende en warm aan te bevelen bundel studies die tot stand kwam onder redactie van Martin Burke en Melvin Richter Why Concepts Matter. Translating Social and Political Thought.
Erik de Bom, Filter. Tijdschrift over vertalen, Vol. 19, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 41-42

Table of contents

Notes on Contributors

Introduction: Translation, the History of Concepts and the History of Political Thought, Melvin Richter

A Translation Studies Perspective on the Translation of Political Concepts, Jeremy Munday

On History in Formal Conceptualizations of Translation, Anthony Pym

Reinhart Koselleck on Translation, Anachronism and Conceptual Change, Kari Palonen

Translation as Cultural Transfer and Semantic Interaction: European Variations of liberal between 1800 and 1830, Jörn Leonhard

Bodin as Self-Translator of his Republique: Why the Omission of “Politique” and Allied Terms from the Latin Version?, Mario Turchetti

Translation as Correction: Hobbes in the 1660s and 1670, Eric Nelson

Translating the Turks, Peter Burke

Translating the Vocation of Man: Liang Qichao (1873–1929), J. G. Fichte, and the Body Politic in Early Republican China, Joachim Kurtz

The Public Limits of Liberty: Nakamura Keiu’s Translation of J. S. Mill, Douglas Howland

On Translating Durkheim, Steven Lukes

Translating Weber, Keith Tribe

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Specialists, M.A. and Ph.D. students in: Political Science (esp. the History of Political Thought), History of the Social Sciences, Conceptual History, the History of Ideas, and Translation Studies. Academic libraries.

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