Annual symposium of the Collegium Carolinum in Bad Wiessee, Nov. 5-8, 2009
(Conceptual draft: Joachim von Puttkamer)
A state is nothing given a priori. When historical research considers the modern state either as a power structure having grown quite naturally (W. Reinhard), or as a cultural notion that is to a certain degree artificial (T. Mergel), this is applicable, perhaps even more so, to the socialist states between 1945 and 1989. In designating the GDR a “welfare dictatorship”, K. Jarausch aptly emphasized the contrast between ideological pretence and repressive practice, highlighting at the same time an inherent struggle in state socialism between inner stability and self-destructive tendencies. Moreover, an approach aiming at a cultural history of political thought and political development emphasizes the fact that institutionalized state structures, their forms of symbolic representation, and the things people have come to expect from a state are all culturally determined. As a consequence, new questions arise concerning the history of East Central European socialist states.
The Collegium Carolinum symposium in November 2009 will study these questions employing an auxiliary framework of three problem complexes, the ultimate aim being to determine what is specific to East Central Europe and, in particular, to Czechoslovakia. Contributions casting comparative glances at the Soviet Union, South East Europe or Western Europe are equally welcome.
We expect papers dealing with the following questions:
i) The notion of the state, expectations of the public
How did the notion of what constitutes a state change in East Central Europe after 1945, and what specific expectations were addressed to the socialist state? Can one find out about these changes by reflecting upon the symbols states elect to represent them? How important for the acceptance of the socialist states and the stabilizing discourse going on within them was a notion whereby they understood themselves as explicitly national, as heirs to developments from the inter-war period?
How were public expectations toward the state enshrined in legal provisions?
Where did, in the framework of real socialism, the domain of the state find its limits? Possible areas of research here include the demarcation between the state and the communist party, with the latter’s leading role usually laid down in constitutional law, but also the boundaries between the state and the mass organizations (which nominally at least belong to the societal sphere), the factories and businesses, or the cooperatives. What conclusions does this entail for the respective hypotheses of the “total” and the “totalitarian” state?
ii) Everyday encounters: the socialist state and its citizens
Where and how did state and citizens encounter each other in socialism? How did specific experiences with the state affect value systems and societal organization in East Central European societies, and to what extent did the socialist state augment or, on the other hand, erode the trust put into it by its citizens?
What was the origin of the idea of “anti-politics”? It was probably not by chance that this concept, signifying a complete and radical aloofness from the state, did evolve precisely in East Central Europe in an attempt to overcome the stark contrast between the ideological systems.
iii) Inner structures and mechanisms of the state
Were there specific patterns of institutional development of the administrative apparatus from the reconstruction effort after the wastage brought about by World War II, to Stalinism and, finally, to the stagnation of the 1980’s?
Can one observe specific mechanisms in which the state functions, e.g. in the way clientele structures or corruption evolve? How were institutional conflicts treated, and to what extent can one consider a specific state as an homogeneous administrative machinery? Does the distinction, according to E. Fraenkel, between “normative state” and “prerogative state” fit the development of socialist statehood?
Please submit a brief abstract (1-2 pages) of your proposed paper, in either German or English, by March 30, 2009, to:
Attn.: Jana Osterkamp
Attn.: Jana Osterkamp
Send comments and questions to H-Net
Webstaff. H-Net reproduces announcements that have been submitted to us as a
free service to the academic community. If you are interested in an announcement
listed here, please contact the organizers or patrons directly. Though we strive
to provide accurate information, H-Net cannot accept responsibility for the text of
announcements appearing in this service. (Administration)