essentially contested concept

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essentially contested concept

a category of general concepts in the social sciences, e.g. POWER, the application of which, according to Gallie (1955) and Lukes (1974), is inherently a matter of dispute. The reason given for this is that competing versions of concepts such as ‘power’ inevitably involve relativity to VALUES. According to this view, hypotheses using concepts such as ‘power’ can be appraised empirically but will remain relative to the evaluative framework within which the particular versions of the concept are couched. There are parallels between this notion and Weber's earlier view that social science propositions are VALUE-RELATIVE (see also VALUE FREEDOM AND VALUE NEUTRALITY). See also POWER.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
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Gallie's framework of essentially contested concepts. The book examines activism in academia at the levels of individual research, academic community, and within society.
Gallie, "Essentially Contested Concepts," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 (1955-56), pp.
Such criticism results from a misunderstanding over the range of application of the idea of essentially contested concepts. One of the most frequent misconceptions is that essential contestedness can be applied to terms such as "politics", "law", "history", etc.
It would be wrong to claim that essentially contested concepts are necessarily reducible to psychologisms such as interest or distrust, or to the fact that on the philosophical level there is a plurality of metaphysical interpretations.
Gallie (1956) proposed the essentially contested concepts (ECC) theory to address concepts that, by their very nature, invite perpetual disputes and are inevitably contested.
(1956), "Essentially Contested Concepts", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society " 56: 167-98 reprinted in M.
Gallie, "Essentially Contested Concepts" in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol.
In particular, he considers and rejects explanations which attribute the persistence of disagreement to conflicting value-claims or which claim that disputants simply fail to understand one another, offers what he takes to be a novel reconstruction of the essentially contested concepts doctrine and suggests that recent optimism as to the possibility of "an overlapping consensus upon a political conception of justice" is misplaced.