Political thought as traditionary action: The critical response to Skinner and Pocock

History and Theory 24 (2):115-46 (1985)
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A polemical and reductionist critical response to Skinner and Pocock has inhibited an appreciation of the true potential of their historiographical discussions for the practice of political theories. An important step in understanding the history of political thought in its duality - as both being about acts of political discourse over time and as itself being political - is to recognize the "traditionary" nature of discursive acts. Following Pocock and Skinner, we should speak not of tradition as objects carried on, but of the nature of that carrying on, that activity of handing down through language. A traditionary act involves subscription to a fairly sophisticated account of the development of a particular form of practices through time and the identification by the actor of his act as part of that development. This subscription allows us to overcome the categorical dichotomies such as history versus philosophy, autonomy of texts versus ideas as expressions of social relations, voluntarism versus determinism, and language as either restrictive or instrumental, which underlie much of the contemporary methodological dispute



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