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Conference: 12th Aleksanteri Conference: Competition and Good Society - the Eastern Model, Helsinki, 24-26 October 2012‏

12th ALEKSANTERI CONFERENCE: Competition and Good Society - the Eastern Model

24th-26th October 2012, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland

The link between competition and good society has seldom been extensively discussed on any international academic forum.
Since the 1980s there has been vivid political discussion of and rivalry among the varieties of capitalist models. The ongoing Western economic crisis with political decision-makers' discord, a growing sense of social insecurity and global demonstrations all point out how cutting-edge this topic is. Hence, we aim to discuss competition and competitiveness not primarily in the economic context but, more importantly, in reflection to societal life. We are interested in what kind of preconditions competition creates for welfare, social justice, equality and culture, in addition to how competition affects changes on the level of mentality and ideas - subjects that have been greatly neglected.

The purpose of the 12th Aleksanteri Conference is to generate academic research and discourse on this subject. The focus of the conference is on the Eastern angle. Its aim is to discuss how people in Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, and even further in the East in Central Asia and China understand the preconditions of a good society and what role competition plays in it as well as how competition is reflected in the semantic systems and the cultural structures of these countries. Especially the area that faced the enormous task of building a new social system after the collapse of socialism had to redefine its relation to market forces, competitiveness and social well-being. What are the experiences of this societal development after twenty years? Are the Eastern models divergent or convergent with the varieties of Western capitalism? What are the norms, limitations and practices of competition in the diverse Eastern models? How has the understanding of competition changed after the Second World War? Can we find continuities of ideas, practices or mentalities rooted in the communist past and Cold War period that still affect these issues?

We call for contributions from a wide range of disciplines in social sciences and humanities since the aim is a fruitful interdisciplinary discourse. The conference organisers welcome presentations particularly on the following topics:

- Competition as individual performance, rivalry, struggle or fulfillment
- The merging of individual and social purposes of competition
- Competition as a channel and overarching bond between the individual and community
- The social appeal of competition: the attraction of Olympic games, beauty contests, song and choir contests, quizzes, survival competitions, chef contests, etc.

- Influence of historical background and cultural traditions on contemporary competitiveness and the understanding of social welfare
- Traces of the Cold War and state socialism
- New forms of competition and new interpretations of social well-being
- Impact of competitive practices on change in the political sphere, working sphere, education and gender relations

- Regional, national and international differences and similarities: the notion of competition and the needs of society
- Transnational, supranational and non-national aspects
- Comparisons of Eastern and Western models

- Spread of competition in societal life
- Interaction of the political and economic spheres: integration, intervention, influence
- Egalité, fraternité, liberté! Democracy and civil society from the point of view of competition
- Role of the media
- Individual manoeuvring space and social boundaries
- Intersectional approaches: gender, class, ethnicity
- Gendered competition
- Competition and corruption: trust and the idea of the constitutional state

- Competition, entrepreneurship, innovations
- Competing ideas: theories of individualism and communality
- New resistance and global phenomena
- Ideology of growth and sustainable development in connection with competition


Ivan Berend
Ivan Berend is Distinguish Professor of the University of California, Los Angeles, member of the British Academy, the Academia Europea, and four other European Academies of Sciences. He is author of 29 books on economic history; the most recent ones being "Europe Since 1980" (2010), "Industrialization and Diversity. A Regional Economic History of 19th Century Europe" (forthcoming in 2012) and he is currently working on "Out of the Blue? The 2008-12 European Economic Crisis."

Vladimir Gel'man
Vladimir Gel'man is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the European University in St. Petersburg, visiting Professor at the Central European University in Budapest, the University of Texas in Austin and the Center for Modernization Studies at the Aleksanteri Institute, Helsinki. He is member of the editorial board of journals Polis, European Political Science and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. He has published 17 books and over 120 articles on Russian and Post-Soviet politics and comparative politology.

Andrea Petö
Andrea Petö is Associate Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at the Central European University in Budapest, the President of the gender and women's history section of the Hungarian Historical Association, the Feminist Section of the Hungarian Sociological Association and co-President of AtGender, The European Association for Gender Research, Education and Documentation. Petö is author of several books and articles on European comparative social and gender history.

Colin Sparks
Colin Sparks is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Westminster (UK) and Director of Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI). He was one of the founders of Media, Culture and Society, and was a founder of the European Institute for Communication and Culture. His current research interests include the comparative study of media systems undergoing rapid change. He is particularly interested in comparing the media systems of post-communist countries with those of other societies that have moved away from different forms of dictatorship towards more democratic forms of political rule.

Iván Szelényi
Iván Szelényi is William Garam Sumner Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Yale University, Max Weber Professor of Social Science and Foundation Dean of Social Sciences at NYUAD. He is a Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as member of the Hungarian National Academy of Sciences. Szelenyi has published several books and articles on social inequalities from a comparative and historical perspective in Communist and Post-Communist countries.


Proposals for panels (500 words): April 30th, 2012
Abstracts for individual papers (300 words): April 30th, 2012
Notification of acceptance: May 31st, 2012
Publication of the conference programme: June 30th, 2012
Conference: October 24-26th, 2012

Please submit your abstract and contact information through the abstract submission form:

or panel proposal submission form: .

For further assistance or more details, please see the conference website

or contact the Conference Coordinators at .

The Aleksanteri Conference is an annual, multidisciplinary, international conference organised by the Aleksanteri Institute, the Finnish Centre for Russian and Eastern European Studies, affiliated with the University of Helsinki. Aleksanteri Conferences have attracted broad interest among researchers and policy-makers in a wide variety of disciplines, both in Finland and abroad, interested in the development of post-socialist countries.

--Amy Garey
PhD student
Department of Anthropology
University of California-Los Angeles
Listserv Editor
Soyuz: the Research Network for Post-Socialist Cultural Studies