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- the distinctive historical quality or character of a social context. This aspect of social reality is emphasized by those sociologists who believe in the importance of an historical approach in bringing authenticity to social accounts. See also HISTORICISM, HERMENEUTICS.
- the capacity of a society to reflect and to act upon itself. This term was first used by SARTRE, and is taken up by GIDDENS to characterize the capacities possessed especially by historical (as against ‘prehistorical’) societies.