Call for Papers
Wars of Position: Marxism and Civil Society
International Conference, Manchester, UK, 8-10 June 2017
Jodi Dean, Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York. Author of books including Crowds and Party (2016), The Communist Horizon (2011), Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies (2009)
Stathis Kouvelakis, Reader in Political Theory, King’s College, London and former member of Syriza’s Central Committee. Author of Philosophy and Revolution: From Kant to Marx (2003)
Kevin Morgan, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History, University of Manchester. Author of books including Bolshevism, Syndicalism and the General Strike: The Lost Internationalist World of A.A. Purcell (2013), Labour Legends and Russian Gold (2006), The Webbs and Soviet Communism (2006).
‘In Russia’, wrote Antonio Gramsci, ‘the State was everything’ and ‘civil society primordial’; in the highly-developed West, civil society formed ‘permanent fortifications’ which the revolutionary party would have to occupy and transform in order to take and hold power.
No Marxist parties in the West made a revolution. Historical analysis of their failure has been abundant, but insufficiently attentive to parties’ approaches to civil society in Gramsci’s sense (i.e. social practices and institutions outside the government, judiciary and repressive state apparatus). This international and interdisciplinary conference is at once historically grounded and attuned to contemporary debates on the Left. It brings together: analysis of the theory and practice of twentieth-century Marxist parties in relation to civil society; analysis of contemporary Left formations’ approaches to civil society; analysis of the ‘idea’ of communism today and the relevance or obsolescence of ‘the party’ as an organizational form in the twenty-first century.
Proposals are invited for twenty-minute papers and panels of three papers. Abstracts (250 words) should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1/12/16. Conference interpreters may be available for delegates who wish to present in languages other than English (please e-mail the organisers). The conference will take place in Manchester’s People’s History Museum, an institution committed to archiving and chronicling the history of radical politics; some panels will discuss the challenges faced by such institutions today. Papers for the conference might address, but are not restricted to:
- History, civil society and the ‘idea of Communism’ debate (Badiou, Žižek, Dean et al)
- Civil society and political strategy in recent / contemporary Left formations (e.g. Podemos, Syriza, Five Star Movement, Die Linke, Parti de gauche)
- Theoretical debates in the Marxist tradition on ‘civil society’ (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Lukács, Althusser, Marcuse, Poulantzas et al)
- The struggle for ‘proletarian culture’ in the 1920s and after
- Communism, the nation and the Popular Fronts in the 1930s and 1940s
- New Lefts and communism
- ‘Anti-revisionism’ and cultural revolution
- Eurocommunism and civil society
- Marxism, gender and the family
- Marxist parties and intellectuals/ education / science / religion / writing history/ the media / the family
- Marxism and the arts / the avant-garde / popular culture
- Marxist parties and their cultural institutions, publishing houses, publications and counter-hegemonic events
The conference is part of the AHRC-funded project, Wars of Position: Communism and Civil Society led by Dr Ben Harker at the University of Manchester:
It is run in collaboration with the People’s History Museum and the journal Twentieth Century Communism. The organisers intend to publish an edited collection based around the conference proceedings.