The winner of the JHI‘s Selma V. Forkosch Prize for the best article published in Volume 83 (2022) is Dan Edelstein, for “A ‘Revolution’ in Political Thought: Translations of Polybius Book 6 and the Conceptual History of Revolution.”
The judging committee provides the following statement:
This paper excels in historical erudition, philological rigor, and conceptual clarity. It traces the history of the concept of revolution as a political category down to ancient times, to Polybius’s Book 6 and Aristotle’s notion of anacyclosis where it already stood for political change. In Aristotle, the political dimension of the concept was still related to the ideas of revolt and sedition, and not yet conceived as indicating a world-historical event. Likewise, all of the elements of the modern concept of revolution were already in Polybius and his many commentors, although with the implication that revolution had to be avoided and mixed government was the way to keep this danger at bay. It was the re-interpretation of Polybius’s ideas that, for Edelstein, paved the way to incorporate a new temporal dimension to it and eventually conceive of revolutions as the means of solving political problems and improving the future. Revolution is thus transformed from a disturbance of social life into the solution to the ills of modern politics. This article helps us rethink Koselleck’s theory of the temporalization of concepts between ca. 1750 and ca. 1850. Overall, this is an article that straddles the history of scholarship and political theory in a grand way one does not often see.
Dan Edelstein is the William H. Bonsall Professor of French, and Professor of Political Science and History (by courtesy) at Stanford University. He studied at the University of Geneva (BA) and the University of Pennsylvania (PhD). He is the author of The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (Chicago, 2009), The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (Chicago, 2010), and On the Spirit of Rights (Chicago, 2018). He is the co-editor of seven volumes, most recently (with Stefanos Geroulanos and Natasha Wheatley) Power and Time: Temporalities in Conflict and the Making of History (Chicago, 2020). He is currently working on an intellectual history of revolution, tentatively entitled The Revolution Next Time (Princeton, forthcoming).
Last year, Edelstein spoke about his prize-winning essay with contributing editor Glauco Schettini as a part of our Broadly Speaking interview series. You can read their conversation here.
The JHI Blog extends its deepest congratulations.