Comments on Works | Li Hongtu and Meng Zhongjie Editor-in-Chief, “On the History of Global Thought (Part 1): The Flow of Concepts”

2020-07-04 | By Historian | Filed in: Character.
Content Introduction

With the deepening of globalization, the anti-globalization and anti-globalization forces are also increasingly active. What kind of echo and agitation will the flow of ideas in the world trigger? Is the future moving towards “clash of civilizations” or “integration of civilizations”? How does history, especially the study of ideological history, explain these phenomena and make due responses? Starting from the perspective of global ideological history, this book studies the global flow of concepts and texts, examines and differentiates the impact of this flow and shift on people, and how to shape people’s value world, and then starts the practice of constructing the world. It is expected that this discussion will provide new resources and expand new horizons for the development of “civilization” in the future.


History of British Thought from 1950 to 2017: Contribution of Cambridge School (UK) John Robertson’s Translation of Zhou Baowei’s School

The Academic Path of Paradigm Shift in Ideological History Research Li Hongtu

What Is “Concept”–Some Differentiation and Analysis of the Research Object of “Concept History” Zhou Baowei

Keith Thomas’s Research Method of Thought History Zuo Min and Li Guanjie

The Theory of Ocean Space in Montesquieu’s Political Thought Li Hansong

Several Dimensions of Recognition-A Study of Xiao Qi Centered on Koyev and Fukuyama

Concept Travel: The Acceptance of the Original Theory of Historiography in China by Li Xiaoqian

Traditional Thought under the Changes of World and Learning–Interpretation of “Taoism Originated from Historians” by Modern Scholars Wang Rui

On the Decline and Fall of Ancient Empire Wang Jiafeng

From Governing Power to Empire: From the Derivation of Latin Concept of “Empire” to See Roman Empire View Wang Yue

What is “Reich”? -Looking at the German Empire Concept Meng Zhongjie from the Dispute over the Name of the Country in the Early Weimar Period

From Formal Empire to Informal Empire-Different Imaginations of Empire Space in the Library Catalogue of the Wangs Colonial Society (1881 ~ 1977) Zhu Lianbi

The Mission of Civilization: A Probe into the Concept of Empire in Britain in the 19th Century

Another Form of “World”-Li Lei’s Consciousness of “World” in the Construction of Ethnic Regime in Eastern Jin Dynasty and Northeast China

Absolute Idea and Flexible Standard: Huang Chunyan’s Application of “Hua Yi” and “China” Ideas in the Political Field of Song Dynasty

The Construction of Basic Common Sense of “Modern China”–The Popularization of Modern State Concept in Reader in Late Qing Dynasty and Early Republic of China by Qu Jun

The Discourse of Property Rights in the Late Period of French Old System Zhang Zhi

Use and Power: Hobhouse’s Discussion on Property Rights Wang Tongtong

Individuality and Common Good: Green’s Discourse of Property Rights Deng Zhenjun

“Sports is what”: An Investigation of Conceptual History by Liu Guihai

Sports Spirit: Analysis Based on Philosophy of Language Wang Xiaohui and Liu Guihai


In 2016, While presiding over a cooperation project with Professor Espagne, director of the Center for Cultural Change and Communication in Paris Normal University and a famous historian, I have proposed to cooperate on the theme of “the flow of concepts”, Since then, The global flow of concepts, the changes in the connotations of concepts in different cultural spaces, As well as how people in different cultural regions think and define these concepts have always been my personal interest and that of a group of academic colleagues. I hope to explore people’s different cognition of the world, especially people in different spaces, and the thinking modes formed in this process. In June 2019, the Global Thought History Research Center of East China Normal University was established. After discussing with Professor Meng Zhongjie, Director of the Center, Professor Mu Tao, Executive Director of the World History Research Institute, and Associate Professor Zhou Baowei, I unanimously agreed to compile a collection of essays on this theme, so as to reflect the research purpose of the Center and display the research results of many colleagues. It is thanks to the joint efforts of all of you that this collection of essays is finally published.

This book mainly focuses on the global history of thought, especially the theme of “the flow of concepts”. Specifically, we have chosen concepts such as empire, property rights and sports, as well as issues such as the theory and methodology of the history of thought and concept. Here, I would like to explain the theory and methodology involved in this book when it is published. Therefore, we can not only understand the value and significance of this book, but also better understand the contents involved in this book.

In the past ten years, global history has emerged in the field of historical research and has become an extremely eye-catching research trend. In the field of ideological history research, in order to echo the orientation of global history research, some scholars have also loudly put forward the international turn of ideological history and even directly used the concept of global ideological history. At present, there is no universally recognized and unified definition of the history of global thought: is it an international turn or a spatial expansion of ideas, texts and concepts? However, there is no doubt that one thing is widely accepted by everyone, that is, it is necessary to study the global circulation and acceptance of concepts and texts, so as to examine and analyze how people recognize the world or how they think about the world. Therefore, the history of global thought does not only examine the global flow of specific contents such as a certain concept or text, What is more important is to explain and reveal the mechanism and motivation behind this flow, as well as the influence of this flow and displacement on people, so as to shape and construct their values and how to inject their meaning into social practice in their own way.

Take the concept of “empire” selected in this book as an example. Although the concept and concept of empire have existed for a long time, it was not until the 19th century that the concept of empire was endowed with new connotation and accepted by people in other regions in the global flow and displacement as European countries, especially Britain, became a world empire with “the sun never sets”. Therefore, the investigation of this concept needs to be carried out in two dimensions: one is the historical dimension, which discusses the historical evolution of the concept of empire. For example, in Europe, the concept and connotation of empire are what, and how to understand empire in China; The second is to explore how people in another cultural region, such as China, understand this from the perspective of global space. In this way, we should think about the connotation changes of concepts in history and space, and how people form the way of cognitive world through understanding and defining concepts.

Similarly, this dual-dimensional research has also promoted the development of conceptual history. Previous studies on conceptual history can be generally divided into two schools, forming two theoretical and methodological paradigms, one is represented by Quentin Skinner of Cambridge School, and the other is represented by Kosleck of Germany. As for these two different research paradigms, Professor Monk, a researcher in the history of British thought, pointed out that Quentin Skinner pursued the model of “speech action” analysis focusing on Austin and Searle and the model of conceptual history. He also believes that the conceptual history model of the English world and the conceptual history model of the German world are obviously incompatible-in the English world, people emphasize the need for a broad synchronic context in order to identify specific concepts; In the German-speaking world, for the need of diachronic analysis, people try to separate the individual concept from its synchronic context. In the conceptual history of the English world, people emphasize human initiative. On the contrary, in the conceptual history of the German-speaking world, people place more emphasis on the historical process. In fact, two different paradigms of conceptual history can be summarized as follows: Skinner studies conceptual history from rhetoric and speech acts with the help of Austin and Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language; On the other hand, with the help of hermeneutic theory, Coslake studies the history of concepts from the perspective of social history, thus taking concepts as the display and propeller of society. If we look at the broad scope of disciplines, Skinner conducts the study of conceptual history in the category of ideological history, while Kosleck conducts the study of conceptual history in the category of social history. However, no matter which research paradigm, they only focus on the English-speaking world or the German-speaking world. Even Skinner himself admitted that his investigation of concepts such as “freedom” and “country” is limited to the English-speaking world, which is inevitably narrow. Indeed, if the dimension of space is introduced, we can break through the fact that we are only fixed and limited to a certain cultural region to examine the historical evolution of concepts, and we can see various new historical situations formed by the flow of concepts in a wider space, thus enriching our understanding of concepts and deepening our understanding of history.

It is very important to differentiate and analyze the expressions of these words and the connotation of the concept of empire defined by these words, so as to understand its ideological world and value orientation, and naturally it is a work that academic research should do. This book’s historical investigation of the concept of empire embodies this research purport and hopes to realize this academic goal. Similarly, after entering the 19th century, property rights, the basic core concept of modern society, have also changed. Is it still “private property is sacred and inviolable” as declared in the 18th century French Declaration of Human Rights, or can property be redistributed for the “common good” of society? The new social reality requires new discourse expression and a new definition of the concept of “property right”. Therefore, concepts have their own history, and concepts are always flowing and are constantly redefined and re-conceptualized.

It should be noted that the publication of this book is not the end of the research on this topic. In fact, it means that our research has just begun and there are still many topics worth discussing. With the progress of globalization, the forces of anti-globalization and anti-globalization are also increasingly active. What kind of echo and agitation will the concept trigger in the global flow? Is the future moving towards “clash of civilizations” or “integration of civilizations”? How should history, especially the study of ideological history, respond to and explain these phenomena? Looking for a new paradigm for the development of “civilization” in the future, I think this is a historic task that researchers in the history of thought should undertake.

Li Hongtu

December 28, 2019

This article is reproduced from the public number: Mingsha

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