The lecture will first offer a brief genealogy of the idea of “the West” as a socio-political idea. The different uses of the term throughout its history will be analyzed and the contexts and reasons for its several metamorphoses will be scrutinized. The differences between the employment of “the West” in English and “l’Occident” in French will be focused on and the impact of French on English uses will be explored. Then the lecture will focus on the most explicit, thorough and systematic elaboration of a concrete idea of “the West” as a self-description (in preference to “Europe” or “Christendom”) and as a political project, in the mid-nineteenth century — with particular emphasis on the thought of the founder of Positivism and Sociology, Auguste Comte. Finally, the lecture will highlight the prominent role of the city of Paris in that story.
The Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of London was established in 2007. The Centre aims to consider how new scholarship and interdisciplinary approaches have shaped our understanding and assessment of the history of political thought and the broader field of intellectual history. Over the last thirty years or so, new approaches to the history of political thought have significantly changed our understanding of how ideas from the past might be studied and how we might assess their relevance to our contemporary political concerns. The primary focus of the Centre is to explore these new developments and to bring together a wide audience to discuss these issues.
Within Queen Mary, the Centre provides a loose institutional framework within which colleagues who share research interests are able to collaborate in a variety of research-related activities. It also provides a focus for the encouragement and support of the history of political thought within the University of London and beyond.
Its activities range from the organisation of a visiting speakers’ programme to the holding of international conferences and smaller reading group sessions. It also seeks to foster collaborative research at an institutional and international level.
The Centre welcomes applications from visiting scholars. Scholars ordinarily visit for a period of three months, and are encouraged to participate in the activities promoted by the Centre.