Conference/Workshop: Changes in Social Regulations – State, Economy, and Social Actors since the 1970s
History network of the Hans-Boeckler-Stiftung
June 8th to June 9th, 2012, in Duesseldorf / Germany
Deadline: February 15th, 2012
Recent debates in contemporary history crystallize an increasing focus on the 1970s and 1980s as the political incubation period for an increasingly business- and market-oriented policy. In Germany, Anselm Doering-Manteuffel and Lutz Raphael coined the ongoing discussion with their account of a Strukturbruch ("structural breach"), thus starting in the early 1970s, marking "social change of revolutionary quality" and reshaping social self-conceptions and modulations. Essential to this view is the assumption of radically changing working environments against the background of the collapse of many traditional industries and the coeval rise of a science-based economy. (Anselm Doering-Manteuffel / Lutz Raphael: Nach dem Boom. Perspektiven auf die Zeitgeschichte seit 1970, Göttingen 2008.) As early as 1973, David Bell likewise diagnosed the rise of a Post-Industrial Society. (David Bell: The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, New York 1973.)
Processes of denationalization and deregulation, today often simplified by the use of the term 'Neoliberalism', are transnational phenomena. On the other hand, comparative studies have shown Ungleichzeitigkeiten (temporal differences) within those processes, which could be conceived as "Varieties of Capitalism". (Peter A. Hall und David Soskice: Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford 2001.)
A newer social phenomenon is a rising inequality even within the global economic centers indicated by increasing disparities of the average income in the majority of the OECD-member states, starting in the 1980s. Furthermore, we witness increasing national debts and a simultaneous decline of tax revenues. In political discussions, a potential regulation of national debt crises through higher tax revenues are thereby practically irrelevant. (Gustav A. Horn: Des Reichtums fette Beute. Wie die Ungleichheit unser Land ruiniert, Frankfurt am Main/New York 2011.)
A third phenomenon is the state's retirement in public affairs, may it be through privatizations, outsourcing of political expertise, or preliminary decisions in boards and committees beyond parliamentary control (e.g. the German Hartz-Kommission in 2002). Furthermore, market-oriented ideologies have extended into public as well as private spheres in a way which seemed to be unthinkable four decades ago. (The conference Privatisierung – Idee, Ideologie und Praxis at the Jena Center 20th Century History on Dec. 10, 2010, covered privatization in this all-encompassing meaning; for conference proceedings, see http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/tagungsberichte/id=3516 ) An example may be the transformation of public communal budgets from traditional cameralistics into double-entry accounting.
Obviously, political and economic regulations as well as the ideological categorizations have eminently changed since the 1970s. The genesis of those changes can be located in the mid-1970s. The significance of the Nobel Prize in Economics for Milton Friedman – hence for the Chicago School – in 1976 has repeatedly been pointed out. The termination of the Bretton Woods system five years earlier is another far-reaching element often perceived as marking a new period.
In the upcoming workshop, we try to ascertain this Vorgeschichte der Gegenwart ("Prehistory of the Present") by asking about the motives, actors, structural mechanisms and ideological implications of the social changes since the 1970s. We do not initially assume a consistent and unimpaired process and also want to ask about contrarian trends and movements towards statehood, standardization and deliberalization. For example: Can we actually talk about an international trend towards ‘(Neo-)Liberalism’, like it is often happening in political discussions, or are national political and economic characteristics more formative than critics of ‘(Neo-)Liberalism’ like to think? How can the impact of the political cesura of 1989/90 and the concurrent end of the Systemkonkurrenz (the competition between the two ideological Cold War systems) onto those processes be ascertained? Did those changes have a promotional or a counter-effect?
The workshop seeks to explore the changes of social regulation since the 1970s in the fields of politics, economy and social actors along the following questions:
1. How could the call for deregulation and denationalization advance to be the central navigation point of political decision makers? Did fiscal problems play the decisive role, or rather social developments towards more individualized and pluralized lifestyles and their inherent skepticism about state intervention? On the basis of individual processes and/or incidents, can well-grounded case examples about networks and discourses be carved out?
2. How did the models of regulation change in the economic field? Is it possible to identify this change by means of single businesses or macroeconomic decisions? To what extent was this change influenced by supranational conditions?
3. Are there new models of political regulation since the 1970s to be identified? Is there a change in the relationship between politics and scientific expertise in this period? Which ideas channeled the regulations of the educational sector, not only of the universities, but also of general and professional education?
4. How did the structural change actually take shape for social actors like social movements, political parties, unions or initiatives? For example, is there a correspondence between the decline of traditional mass organizations (like unions and parties) and the coincidental rise of new social movements with any kind of change in social regulation? To what extent were social actors themselves subject to structural change, and how did they perceive it?
Assuming that many of those processes started in the early 1970s, the workshop is focused on the 1970s and 1980s. The geographical centers should be Germany, Europe and the United States. The governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan are supposed to be the initial experimental grounds of politics targeted towards denationalization and economic liberalization, those eras therefore are of main interest in this context.
To emphasize the intended workshop atmosphere as well as the interdisciplinary character, we emphatically encourage contributions presenting "work in progress" and out of all fields of social sciences and the humanities.
Those interested should send a 500-word proposal for a 20 min presentation to Ralf-Richter@BOECKLER.DE by February 15th, 2012. We ask accepted contributors to send in a short form of their presentation by May 15th, 2012, a reader will be distributed to all participants before the conference. Travel expenses can be covered by the Hans Böckler Stiftung.
The conference is being organized by:
Knud Andresen, Hamburg
Wolfgang Fluechter, Ludwigsburg
Stefan Mueller, Duisburg
Ralf Richter, Düsseldorf
Helen Rottmann, Berlin
Alexander Simmeth, Berlin
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