International Conference “Crisis and Mobilization since 1789”
International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, February 22-24, 2013
organized by the
International Scholars’ Network “History of Societies and Socialisms” (HOSAS)/H-Socialisms
Organizers of the 2nd HOSAS conference, to be held in Amsterdam in February of 2013, welcome proposals from all fields of the social sciences and humanities from around the world that consider socialism and its relation to the conference theme –Crisis and Mobilization since 1789.
The political Left—mainstream socialists above all, but also anarchists, communists, feminists, and others—has played a central role throughout modern history in giving access to democracy and its benefits to ever widening portions of society. Socialists—especially those organized in Marxist-oriented European social democratic parties—proved adept at mobilizing popular support during political, economic, and other crises to push forward agendas aiming to combat the social inequalities created by industrial capitalism, to broaden citizenly enfranchisement in order to include formerly excluded groups (for example, wage-earning workers and women), and to pursue many other reformist or revolutionary goals. Geoff Eley’s landmark study Forging Democracy (2002), is among the strongest recent arguments for the importance of the socialist Left in shaping and democratizing modern European history, particularly through its capacity for mobilizing in response to crisis. We are pleased that Eley will be present at the conference to give a key-note address and engage in a discussion of his theses.
Alongside impressive successes, resounding defeats and setbacks have characterized socialism’s record in modern Europe and around the world. But until the late 1960s, conventional socialist or social democratic parties stood at the center of this drama and self-consciously led the European Left, while more revolutionary variants held sway in the “developing” world. Since the late 1960s, however, the socialist Left has declined in influence due to the rise of identity and one-issue movements (for example, feminist and environmentalist movements), the changing geographies and modalities of the global economy and labor, the concomitant weakening of trade unions that had constituted socialism’s traditional base of support in many countries, the final discrediting and collapse of Soviet-style “real existing socialism” in Eastern Europe, the growing power of neo-liberalism as the ideology of the political mainstream, and other structural and contingent changes. These developments have challenged conventional socialist politics’ claims to leadership of the political Left and have led many to question socialism’s very relevance.
Since the 2008 onset of the current economic crisis, critiques of capitalism—many of them invoking Marx and/or the socialist mobilizations of previous eras—have re-entered mainstream political debates in Europe and around the world. Scholarly discussions about this legacy and its contemporary relevance have also profited from a surge in interest. Not least, socialist parties have won some significant electoral contests, as they recently did in France. Yet in many places, conventional socialist or Leftist political parties still remain on the defensive and some of the most recent popular mobilizations that challenge the political and economic status quo (for instance, the Occupy Movement) generally reject alliances or identification with established socialist politics.
In this climate, we think it timely to consider the historical trajectory of socialism—in all its diverse forms—through crisis and mobilization. We understand crisis in the broadest sense of the word, encompassing not just economic downturns, but also political, social, cultural, and environmental crises as well as war, famine, natural disasters, and other disruptions. Crises vary in scale too, from the global or continental level down to the local. By bringing together scholars from multiple disciplines who specialize in various time periods and places across the globe, and by opening broad temporal, comparative, and transnational vistas, we hope to update and enrich the scholarly conversation about socialism(s). Among the core questions that we aim to address are:
- How have socialist politics developed historically as a response to crisis, broadly defined, and through mobilization?
- Why have certain people and movements in history self-identified as “socialist,” and which theories and concepts have they drawn on?
- How and what did these people and movements learn from their activist experiences, and what are the memories and legacies of mass mobilization in times of crisis?
- What lessons – if any – do present-day activists and movements draw from the past, and how are various memories and myths appropriate to current debates and actions?
- To what extent have socialist mobilizations that respond to crisis displayed unique characteristics in the non-European/western or developing world?
- What have socialist mobilizations accomplished (or not accomplished) in attempting to redefine the relationships between the state and society and between society and capitalism?
- How has the recent economic crisis contributed to, or changed, socialist politics as well as our understanding of socialism as an aspect of European or global modernity?
- How have socialists (of any sort) stood in relation to other Leftist political groupings and/or non-Leftists in responding to crisis, both historically and today?
- To what extent does “socialism” remain a useful category for animating/galvanizing or studying mobilizations of a certain kind?
In addition to papers that address one or more of these questions, we invite papers or panels dealing with any of the following broad thematic areas in any part of the world that have relevance to the central conference theme:
I. Capitalism in Crisis: Experiences, diagnoses and solutions, past and present
II. Riots, Revolts & Revolutions: Violent reactions, street activisms, and their outcomes
III. Parties & Movements: Organisations, networks, and institutions
IV. Ideas & Programs: Analyses, ideologies, and remedies
V. Rebels & Leaders: Who is in charge, why and how?
VI. Elites & Masses: Interests, alliances, and encounters
We invite both junior and senior scholars to present results of research, works-in-progress, or polished papers concerning these issues and others related to the general workshop theme. We are interested in receiving individual paper proposals and proposals for panel sessions. The organizers will consider publishing some of the contributions following the conference. Conference presentations will be 15 minutes in length. Unfortunately, we cannot provide travel funding.
Please email your proposal (250-300 words) along with a brief (100 words max.) academic bio,
to H-SOCIALISMS@H-NET.MSU.EDU by October 10, 2012.
Geoff Eley (University of Michigan): Forging Democracy: On the history of the “Left”, 1850-2000
The organizers are:
Giovanni Bernardini, German-Italian Historical Institute - FBK, Trento, Italy
Christina Morina, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Germany
Jakub S. Beneš University of California, Davis, USA
Kasper Braskén, Åbo Akademi University, Finland
Stefan Müller, Universität Duisburg-Essen
For more information on HOSAS/H-Socialisms, visit: www.h-net.org/~socialisms/
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