22 April 2009

CFP: Democracy's Linkage to Capitalism

Please circulate widely! Blog about it! etc.

Call for papers: “Democracy's Linkage to Capitalism”

Fourth Annual International Symposium of the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS), 7-9 September 2009, in Geneva, Switzerland

For decades, scholars have been describing the period we live in as “late capitalism”. Why then have so many people been surprised that capitalism could indeed fall into a global crisis? And how do we explain the silence of the political left in the face of that crisis of the despised capitalist order? Besides the academic self-assertion of a few leftist scholars and publicists that had already given up on the revolution, there appears to be no organized political movement (anywhere) that seeks to overthrow capitalism now that it is weak. Anti- and alter-globalization movements and protests (most recently observed at the Nato and G20 summits) are smaller now than they were ten years ago. New scholarship is scarce on the failure of (neo-)liberal political-economic theories and the “science” of Economics.

The reason for all this, I propose, is that we are only too aware that any fundamental criticism of capitalism in the current situation would also imply a fundamental critique of democracy. As we all know, it is democratic nation states that keep capitalism alive now. Never before has it been so obvious that democracy is intrinsically linked to capitalism. No one dares to point it out: whoever wants to fight capitalism now must be prepared to fight democracy as well.

I argued this first in 2004 in my paper “Fighting Capitalism and Democracy”:


A summary of which is to be found here:


Why don't people dare to criticize democracy? While capitalism has been in crises before (though arguably not of such global dimensions), it is the first time that there exists no obvious alternative to capitalism and democracy. At the time of the last crises, socialism/communism or even fascism seemed viable political options. They are not anymore, and no new alternatives have arisen. China has become capitalist, and so has Russia. All criticisms of democracy available to us hail from a time when democracy had not been consolidated yet, in most countries. All this results in empty gestures of (journalistic) criticism of capitalism, without political content or demands.

On this, see my book “Anti-Democratic Thought”:


None of this should stop us from using the moment to further investigate the intrinsic linkage of democracy to capitalism. Papers on this and related themes are invited from affiliated and non-affiliated scholars of any discipline or background. Papers may be theoretical and/or empirical in nature.

Deadline for proposals is 30 June 2009, but later submissions may be accepted. Earlier submission is strongly encouraged and proposals may be accepted as they come in. Please send your proposal to: e.kofmel@scis-calibrate.org

SCIS Symposia are small interdisciplinary workshop-style events with 15-20 participants. Each paper is allocated about an hour for presentation and discussion. Previous SCIS Symposia took place at the University of Sussex and the Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, England (2006); University of Pisa and Hotel Santa Croce in Fossabanda, Pisa, Italy (2007); and Sciences Po/The Institute for Political Studies in Paris, France (2008). Keynote speakers included full professors from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; Duke University; King's College London/British House of Lords; etc.

As always, no fees will be charged for participation in this Symposium, and no funding is available for participants' travel and accommodation cost. We will be glad to issue letters of invitation on request though to assist participants with applications to their usual sources of funding. All participants are responsible to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements. The Symposium starts Monday afternoon and ends Wednesday at lunchtime.

Because we expect that particularly doctoral candidates and young researchers may experience problems obtaining funding for travel in the current economic situation, we will also accept tabled papers (i.e. authors do not need to be present personally; their full papers will be circulated among all participants prior to the Symposium). If in such a case you would like to make a video of your presentation, it can be shown to participants during the Symposium. If not stated otherwise, we will assume that proposed papers are to be presented in person in Geneva.

Erich Kofmel
Managing Director
Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS)

Postal address:
Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society
1200 Geneva

SCIS is an international association under Swiss law.

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