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Proposal for a triennial conference cycle 2010-2012
Labour and Social Movements as Agents of Social Development
Arbeiterbewegung und soziale Bewegungen als Triebkräfte gesellschaftlicher Entwicklung / Mouvements ouvriers et mouvements sociaux comme moteur de transformation sociale

(updated May 2009)

46th Linz Conference (9.-12. September 2010): Labour Movements and Social Movements in Global Memory

47th Linz Conference (September 2011): Labour Movements as Agents of Societal and Individual Development (working title)

48th Linz Conference (September 2012): Social and Cultural Change through Labour Movements (working title)


In concordance with the strategic thematical orientation of the Linz conferences - to put impulses of labour history in the 'global South' in a productive relation to labour history in Europe and North America - the upcoming ITH conference cycle takes a global view. The centre of this conference cycle, comprising the 2010, 2011 and 2012 conferences, will be a critical examination of the social changes during the 20th century, which were directly or indirectly induced by labour movements, as well as their presence in collective remembrance.
'Development' can be understood as:
• the long process of social change with an open end
• societal transformation by an active and conscious intervention in order to achieve certain ends like 'modernisation' or 'socialism'.
• a discourse distinguishing 'developed' from 'underdeveloped' societies as part of 'western' dominance in the world

We thus do not understand 'development' in the sense of a modernisation theoretical distinction to the term 'traditionality', implying the economic, political or technical priority of certain pioneer societies and the subsequent changes of a latecomer which are termed 'development'. We shall take a look on basic, gradual or disruptive processes of development, through which new elements were either added to a society or a system of government or existing ones were modified. Revolutionary 'cycles of violence' should similarly be taken into account as well as evolutionary tendencies. Furthermore those concepts and practices of 'development' should be addressed, through those societies which have been changed or developed via outside intervention ('civilising missions, 'development assistance', 'socialist aid').
These processes of development shall be scrutinized at the level of individual labour movements and states, but also in transnational contexts. As a time period, the 20th century is envisaged, with a focus on the postcolonial epoch. A particular challenge will be to cover the different periods of time by unveiling temporal asymmetries as clearly as overall developments. It is planned to focus on five thematical sections:

1) Labour movements and social movements in global memory (Conference 2010)
2) Theories and practices of development in the context of labour and social movements (Conference 2011)
3) Contributions from labour movements to the formation of social norms (Conference 2011)
4) Contributions from labour movements to social integration and the development of the welfare state (Conference 2012)
5) Contributions of labour movements to cultural and educational change (Conference 2012)

The contribution of labour movements to these particular topic areas should not only highlight solely positively valued achievements in an affirmative sense, but identify in an analytical context – from later points of view often controversially assessed – effects of labour movement's activities. This tension can be exemplified in the 'civilising' plans to raise farmers in the Soviet Union to Soviet citizens, or in the participation of European labour movements in 'civilizing' colonial projects. Attention shall be given to both the 'classical' labour movements as well as to the labour movements of 'emerging countries'.

2010: Labour Movements and Social Movements in Global Memory

Starting point of the conference cycle is the question about the presence of labour movements in the repertory of the representation of the past in society ('collective memory'). This approach is topical in the context of recent readjustments of public policies of remembrance and of historiography. The changes in global politics and 'global memory' after the end of the bipolar world system led to very controversial debates: from questions about the exploitation of the past for political objectives and for the establishment of an internationally definable identity by the transnationalisation of a certain 'collective memory', to debates about the interpretation of 'collective memories' in the media and in memorial sites.
Yet, in this context, the role of labour movements has remained vague and has been scarcely discussed. Against this backdrop, the 2010 conference is meant to analyse which modes of remembrance (and non- remembrance) have influenced collective memory about labour movements, which events have been fed into the memory canon (and which not) and what were the changes these processes of memory have been subject to in the last few years: Are the social emancipation efforts and the call for humanisation of living and working conditions in the centre of memorization? Is it the contribution of labour movements to the formation of (European) welfare states and the creation of relatively homogenous societies in Europe – or do very different cognitive or affective traditions of thought play a role?

The conference shall consist of two parts:
- Commemorative politics and strategies of labour movements
- The place of labour movements and social movements in European and global commemorative politics

The first part shall provide a view on the commemorative repertory of labour and social movements; the second shall make out the place of the memory of labour and social movements in the inventory of 'global memory'.
In this regard, it has to be scrutinized if, and in how far, labour movements – as actors who saw themselves embedded in the flows of broader historical developments – were formative for commemorative strategies of political movements in general.
Has this concept of memory lost its foundation due to the new 'commemorative-regime' of our times in which future disappears in the past?
And how do labour and social movements position themselves towards globally towards attempts to provide an outlook for future through the examination of the past?

2011: Labour Movements as Agents of societal and individual development (working title)

1) Theories and practices of 'development', 'progress' and 'civilization'
This first section should lay out the basic conceptual and methodological frameworks for the conference cycle, which re-examine social change with terms like 'development', 'progress' and 'civilisation'. Also labour movements are situated within a large set of attitudes and practises, whereby since the enlightenment 'progress' has constituted a chronologically assurgent development towards 'civilisation' and 'culture'. The creation of 'one (civilized) world' and of social justice through the elimination of 'uncivilised' conditions were objectives of the social democratic/socialist as well as communist labour movements in Europe. They materialized in policies from colonialism to 'development aid' and 'socialist aid as competitive concepts of 'development'. The 'socialism' of a soviet kind can be regarded as a competitive development-project of politically accelerated development (in 10 years catch-up 100 years worth of development), with the 'socialist path of development' as a model for progress, understood as material wealth plus 'civilisation' of the people and their social behaviour. In this first section key elements for theories and practices 'development', 'progress' and 'civilization' should be worked out by means of case studies.

2) The contribution of labour movements to the formation of social norms
The second theme of the conference will be to examine the processes of societal norm formation resulting from labour movements. Representations and practices for the development of societies were closely linked to representations and practices for the development of individuals. In this area, for example, different normalisation processes like the development of specific notions of living standards, the social status of women, the family, the development of a righteous life or the attitude towards the question of political participation, democracy as well as peace and violence. The norms and values, which have been influenced or touched upon by labour movements, should be examined in this section in terms of both the quasi 'classical' countries of the labour movements as well as countries, in which labour movements have only recently formed.

2012: Social and Cultural change through Labour Movements (working title)

1) The contribution of labour movements to social integration and to the formation of welfare states
As a third theme the designing of the welfare state by the labour movement shall be dealt with. Within this framework, both aspects of safeguarding fundamental material means of existence as well as 'modern' manifestations such as healthcare provision, labour law and labour protection or general welfare state concepts will be thematised. The debates regarding aspects such as social assistance, protection from unfair dismissal and retirement benefits should be considered anew with a view to European as well as to non European developments. The historical developmental path of the welfare state in addition to questions regarding the future of the social security system in general shall be considered. In this context the question needs to be asked, to what extent labour movements have increased the social integration of the population in state and society and to what extent manifestations of social integration and disintegration were induced by labour movements.

2) The contribution of labour movements to the designing/construction of culture and education
The fourth theme covers cultural and educational politics of labour movements and the various ways they can be understood. Here, culture is understood in the sense of an extended concept comprising all distinguishable features of a material, intellectual and moral nature. In this sense, science and arts, encompassing primarily aesthetic definitions e.g. painting, plastic, architecture, music, dance, theatre, literature and film etc, can be incorporated. It is also possible that aspects of economic and business ethics or the organisation of the state and society – the so-called political and legal culture - can be covered within this section. Furthermore, it is essential to examine the extent to which labour movements have made access to culture - whether it is via mere material access to culture (e.g. worker' libraries) or via the development of socialist ideas and theories of culture - possible at all.

Context und further considerations
The separate, here briefly sketched threads of the discussions of the ITH sessions 2010 until 2012 should ultimately be tied together by comparisons, synchronic and diachronic, of the role that labour movements exert today in 'emerging countries' in their 'civilizing' and 'elite domesticating' function, with the historical role of labour movements in Europe. Moreover, connections should be drawn that show the interactions and transfers which made up transnational links between labour movements. This transnational dimension should serve both the aim to consolidate the network of 'labour historians' from the old and new centres as well as to discuss new theoretical and methodological issues regarding global labour history.

Organisation und timing
A first structured draft of the program with specific thematical panels shall be worked out in July 2009. In September 2009, it should be submitted to formal ratification by ITH in Linz. Afterwards, a complementary CfP may be launched for those parts for the 2010 conference for which no contributions have yet been fixed. The planning teams for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 conferences respectively shall reconstitute themselves in order to work out detailed programs. A completed CfP for the conference in 2010 is scheduled for October/November 2009.

Planning Team (provisional):
The summarised considerations here are based on several meetings in Linz, Amsterdam and Berlin, with the participation of Jürgen Mittag (provisional co-ordinator), Ravi Ahuja, Rudolf Ardelt, Michael Buckmiller, Bruno Groppo, Eva Himmelstoss, Jürgen Hofmann, Marcel van der Linden, Alexander Prenninger, Feliks Tych and Berthold Unfried.