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Historicism refers to theories of history and historical interpretation. The usage of the term in English is confusing as it covers fundamentally different approaches. Karl Popper gave a first important sense of historicism in his critique of the theories of history of Plato, Marx, and Hegel, which sees developments in society as being determined by laws similar to the laws of nature. Historicism in English obscures the difference of this approach with what in German is called Historismus, a theory of history based on hermeneutics also opposed to classical historicism, which emphasized the importance of institutions, differences across time and space, and the analytical relevance of context. New historicism, a twentieth-century movement of historians and literary critics, also critiques classical historicism, focusing especially on its pretense to objectivity and singular narratives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory
EditorsBryan S. TURNER
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781118430873
ISBN (Print)9781118430866
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • hermeneutics
  • new historicism
  • relativism


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