CfP: Beyond 1917: Socialism, Power and Social Change

We invite proposals for an academic conference to be held May 13-14, 2017 at Oxford University, United Kingdom, addressing the following themes:

With the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, socialism attained state power for the first time in history. After more than a century or theorizing socialism as an alternative social order, as a paradigm of social critique, and as an ideal crowning a broad political constellation aimed at ‘forging democracy’ (G. Eley), Lenin’s seizure of power marked a contentious landmark. Among others, the parliamentary social democratic parties of central and northwestern Europe disputed the Bolshevik claim on the intellectual heritage of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as well as their promise to fuse theory and practice in the pursuit of ‘real’ social change. This conference takes this epochal and controversial moment as its starting point to consider the various attempts to combine socialism and power, in the widest sense of both words. It invites papers from diverse disciplines (history, politics, sociology, philosophy, cultural and media studies, etc.) that address efforts to empower socialism by intellectual, emotional, cultural, political and violent means in the twentieth century.

1917 was a European and global event that reconfigured the possibilities for social change in large part by reconceptualizing the relationship between socialism and power. The new questions and challenges raised by this conjuncture were answered in different places in strikingly different ways, from the USSR to the ‘Nordic Model’ to the movements of the Global South and the postwar New Left to the Chinese way to socialism. Power featured differently in these and other programs for a socialist society. Taking critical stock of these blueprints and visions and how they wrestled with the rupture of 1917 is one of the primary aims of this conference. Conversely, papers might consider the potentialities for such a rupture that predated 1917. Contributions may approach power from the perspective of political and/or military dominance, cultural capital or hegemony, theoretical interventions, gender and racial hierarchies, emotional regimes, or dominant myths, memories, and remembrances — to name a few possible frameworks. We especially invite papers that are comparative, transnational, or global in scope clustered around the four themes of 1) socialist visions of power, 2) socialism and power, 3) socialism in power, 4) legacies of power.

Please send an abstract of 300 words with a short CV to the organizers by October 15, 2016 to:

We expect to have limited funds available to cover travel and accommodation costs. The conference will involve around 15 speakers.

Contact Info:
Jakub Beneš, Oxford University,
Christina Morina, German Studies Institute, University of Amsterdam,