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Critique

CROSSROADS: CRITICAL THEORIES IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD

Society for Socialist Studies
Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences
May 30 – June 2, 2012, Waterloo, ON

You know the nearer your destination
The more you are slip sliding away
Paul Simon

There are always some people who think that their time has just begun while others fear that they have run the course of history. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, liberals lamented the decay of free market capitalism and social democrats were disappointed that the organized capitalism they had envisioned as an alternative to the unfettered rule of capital had not materialized. Communists saw the general crisis of capitalism as the perfect chance to advocate their Soviet alternative whereas the Nazis rebuilt the power of capital in the name of racial superiority. Reflecting on the economic and political conditions of the 1930s, Adorno and Horkheimer argued that the dialectic of enlightenment had transformed societies in such a way that the historical choices Rosa Luxemburg had seen – ‘socialism or barbarism’ – were replaced by different kinds of barbarism. Dissident intellectuals like Benjamin, Freud, and Arendt seconded such arguments. Keynes struck a more positive tone by suggesting to reinvent liberalism could by aligning it with reformist labour movements.

Without a doubt, Keynes embedded liberalism was much more human than Hitler’s and Stalin’s respective empires. Yet capitalism with a human face also had its costs: Democratic participation was subjugated to technocratic management processes, entire groups of people, notably women, ethnic minorities, and immigrants, were marginalized, the Global South was turned into a site of proxy-wars between capitalism and Soviet communism, and Mother Nature was misused in the name of never-ending prosperity. By the late 1960s, a new generation of protestors, inspired by theoreticians as Marcuse and Mills but also by poets and singers of a burgeoning counter-culture, rebelled against the one-dimensional men that the allegedly antagonistic systems of the East and the West had both produced. Critical thinking, it seemed, became a force of social change. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long  until the then New Left began to mimic Old Left party building, with each of the self-appointed vanguard organizations claiming exclusive possession of the eternal truth, or disintegrate into single-issue movements of all kinds. With hindsight, the respective insularities of those new proletarian vanguards and social movements look like a practical anticipation of postmodern thinking, which accompanied the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s.

The collapse of the Soviet empire completed the complementary rise of neoliberalism on the right and postmodernism on the left. Ironically, even the small group of socialists who maintained that there are alternatives to capitalism and actually existing socialism abandoned their hopes after the latter ceased to exist. During the 1990s, neoliberals were as triumphant as Soviet propagandists had been in the 1930s, while the left was as scattered and disoriented as Great Depression liberals. Critical theories were as homeless as they were during that earlier period. The discontent with neoliberalism, which was growing over the 1990s, eventually produced a new generation of protestors who took to the streets without reading Marx, Marcuse or Mao. At a series of World Social Forums and similar events, each presenting a mix of protests and teach-ins, they sought to build a movement of movements – but couldn’t withstand the pressures of permanent warfare to which neoliberalism took refuge after the New Economy boom went bust. The Great Recession of recent years produced new kinds of discontent but, so far at least, nothing that amounts to a movement for progressive change. Ideas around which such movements could coalesce are also in short supply. Where they exist, they oscillate between abstract principles and small-scale experiments like in the days of Fourier and Owen. Unlike the utopian socialists of the early 19th century, though, we possess lots of experiences of failure that might contribute to a new socialist project.

In a world that has entirely changed since capitalism and socialist critique first developed old questions need to be answered in new ways. What is the relationship between our understandings of the world and visions of a new world? How much understanding of reality is possible in the first place? Where is the line between concrete utopias and eschatological beliefs? Who are the agents of progressive change? Which role can intellectuals play to support such change?

The Society of Socialist Studies invites proposals for papers, roundtables, and session addressing any aspect of the theme of “Crossroads: Critical Theories in an Uncertain World”.

Proposals for Roundtables and Sessions
At this point we are mainly interested in proposals for roundtables and sessions, which will then be posted on our website so that individuals can propose papers to all suggested sessions. Proposals for roundtables should include a list of participants. Unlike sessions they are not open for individual proposals.

Proposals for Papers
You can submit proposals for an individual paper at this point. The Programme Committee will try to find a place for it. Sessions open for individual proposals will be posted to our website as soon as they are accepted by the Programme Committee.

Please submit abstracts (maximum of 100 words) for any proposals before 15 January 2012 to: Ingo Schmidt, Programme Committee Chair, ingos@athabascau.ca

Please note: The Society for Socialist Studies is committed to interdisciplinary work. Anyone suggesting a session, roundtable, or paper who is also affiliated with other associations participating in Congress may think about cross-listing their proposals.

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Socialism and Hope

SOCIETY FOR SOCIALIST STUDIES

New Scholars Session
Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Fredericton, Canada 31 May – 03 June 2011

Call for Papers

The most recent crisis of capital poses an immense set of challenges. Neoliberalism is deepening, chronic hunger is widespread and ecological degradation continues apace. Opportunities have nevertheless emerged. Student movements are organizing across Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, while creative projects and struggles are proliferating across the world.

To make sense of all of this, the Society of Socialist Studies invites graduate students to submit paper proposals for the New Scholars Session at the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Submissions are welcome from those who have yet to complete their Masters degree. Perspectives from a wide array of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields are welcome, including history, political science and sociology, among others. Paper topics are encouraged from socialist, feminist, anti-racist and ecological points of view. Paper proposals could be in any of these areas, as well as on topics relating to the Society’s theme, “Continental Shifts, Divisions, and Solidarities.”

The theme marks an attempt to grapple with global shifting and fragmentation of capital and power. Like other changes in the past, “Continental Shifts, Divisions, and Solidarities” is an attempt to challenge to the ways we understand the world(s) around us. This is a time to rethink established epistemologies, theories and underlying philosophies.

Please submit abstracts (maximum of 100 words) by January 31, 2011 to: Matthew Brett, New Scholars chair, brett.matthew@yahoo.ca   

Contact Matthew for more information, or visit http://www.socialiststudies.ca

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Taweret

CONTINENTAL SHIFTS, DIVISIONS, AND SOLIDARITIES

Society for Socialist Studies

Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

University of Brunswick

Fredericton, 01 June – 04 June 2011

Call for Papers, Roundtables and Sessions

The West is looking East. Capitalists are seeking cheap labour and new customers in China. Workers fear low-wage competition and job losses. Politicians wonder whether China, possibly in conjunction with India, Russia and Brazil, will challenge the world dominance of Western countries. Environmentalists worry about the ecological impact of new centres of economic growth.

Yet it is by no means certain whether there really is a continental shift from the West to the East and whether economic growth can be sustained after the world economic crisis 2008/9. Maybe the East is just getting westernized as other parts of the world have before. Moreover, little do we in the West know about the aspirations, hopes and fears of people living on other continents.

What we can do is to speculate about the future. Times of uncertainty are also times of historical openings. Will there be ever-tighter market integration, a trans-pacific solidarity of capitalists? Will there be political divisions between the East and the West? Will workers East and West find ways to overcome the divisions that kept them apart for most of capitalist history? Will today’s workers struggles in China inspire workers struggles of the future in other countries and on other continents?

The changing geography of the world economy is intimately linked to changes in social structures within and between countries. Gender roles and ethnic compositions of societies are shaken, creating the space for new solidarities across the dividing lines of race and gender but also producing the danger of new forms of sexism and racism.

Like any other changes in the past, the “Continental Shifts, Divisions, and Solidarities” are also a challenge to the ways we understand the world(s) around us. Thus, this is a time to rethink established epistemologies, theories and underlying philosophies. The Society of Socialist Studies invites proposals for papers, roundtables, and session addressing any aspect of the theme of “Continental Shifts, Divisions, and Solidarities”.

Proposals for Roundtables and Sessions

At this point we are mainly interested in proposals for roundtables and sessions, which will then be posted on our website so that individuals can propose papers to all suggested sessions. Proposals for roundtables should include a list of participants. Unlike sessions they are not open for individual proposals.

Proposals for Papers

You can submit proposals for an individual paper at this point. The Programme Committee will try to find a place for it. Sessions open for individual proposals will be posted to our website as soon as they are accepted by the Programme Committee.

Please submit abstracts (maximum of 100 words) for any proposals before 15 January 2011 to: Ingo Schmidt, Programme Committee Chair, ingos@athabascau.ca

http://socialiststudies.ca/

http://congress2011.ca/

END

‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic (recording) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h7tUq0HjIk (live)

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MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

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Wavering on Ether: http://blog.myspace.com/glennrikowski

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com