The concept of transparency, its history, and the theory of Begriffsgeschichte

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A review essay on: 'Transparency in Postwar France: A Critical History of the Present' by Stefanos Geroulanos. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2017.

In this review essay, I examine the theoretical assumptions required in order to reconstruct an understanding of another historical period. Stefanos Geroulanos has produced a masterful history of mid‐twentieth‐century French thought, and he argues for a significant difference between that period and our own based on the values and ideas associated with the concept of transparency. The book is innovative in both its method and interpretation of the period of 1945–1984. However, despite the suggestive theoretical framework announced at its start, Geroulanos prefers to explore the theoretical content of conceptual history more than to explain how one might go about identifying, understanding, and translating the concepts of a different epoch. In order to contribute to what is already a successful project, I endeavor to extend some of Geroulanos's theoretical sketches through a comparison with Reinhart Koselleck's theory of Begriffsgechichte. Despite some muted criticism of Koselleck from Geroulanos, I argue that the projects share similar commitments, although Geroulanos needs to develop his theoretical premises at greater length, both for a full comparison and in order to complete the critical project that Transparency appears to be undertaking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-470
Number of pages11
JournalHistory and Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2019


  • philosophy of history
  • intellectual history
  • Begriffsgeschichte
  • concept
  • Koselleck
  • conceptual history
  • Reinhart Koselleck
  • twentieth-century French philosophy


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