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Workshop: Mapping Neoliberalism and Its Countermovements in the Former Second World, Budapest, 23-27 July 2012‏

Mapping Neoliberalism and Its Countermovements in the Former Second World
a five-day workshop, July 23rd-27th, 2012
Budapest, Hungary

In early July 2011, under the auspices of Budapest’s Central European University, a summer school took place. Its unwieldy title (The “(Neo)liberalization of Socialism and the Crises of Capital”) and stellar faculty attracted a group of young scholars interested in transcending the worn-out paradigms through which postsocialist societies are still interpreted in media, policy analysis, and academic research: communism v. democracy, transition, “return to Europe.” Many of the participants turned out to be no mere detached, Weberian scholars but social movement activists in their own contexts, whose theories draw on their political practices.

Inspired by the experience of mutual recognition, by the stakes of our conversation, and the opportunity to talk to other scholars from a region whose cultural and intellectual interconnections have been largely severed, we have organized a workshop from July
23rd to 27th, 2012, once again in Budapest. We have conceived it as at the same time a narrower and more ambitious event than last year’s. Narrower, because we lack the institutional affiliations, the major funding, and the intellectual resources that made
last year’s summer school possible. Ours will be a summer school without teachers. More ambitious, because the conversation has already begun, the commonalities/ camaraderies have been established, potential allies identified, and the urgency to formulate
intellectual and activist agendas and link them up across national borders — even greater!

In this spirit, we propose the following three themes as our main intellectual agenda for the workshop:
• Postsocialist neoliberalism. What is the explanatory power of concepts such as "neoliberalism" and "peripheral capitalism", “Third-Worldization” and "dependent development” when applied to the former Second World? What are their material expressions in
people’s everyday lives? What ideological justifications have been propagated to legitimate this developmental model?
• Countermovements. What forms does resistence to postsocialist neoliberalism take? Can the strength of right-wing and nationalist parties be explained this way? What does the left look like in every one Uof the societies represented at this workshop?
• We ourselves, as postsocialist scholars and activists. What are our locations in the academy and outside of it? How can we carry out critical research and participate in social movements? How can we help each other, across borders?

Over the course of a week in late July, more than 40 participants from a dozen of postsocialist countries will be answering the above questions. We hope, however, to reach a wider audience by opening sections of the workshop to the general public, audio-recording others, and linking it with regional journals/ internet sites of social critique with which our participants are affiliated: Commons (Ukraine), Critic Atac (Romania), Krytyka Polityczna (Poland), New Left Perspectives (Bulgaria), Prasvet (Belarus), Rabkor (Russia), and others.

The event is made possible thanks to the help of Corvinus University’s College for Advanced Studies and Theory (TEK), CEU’s Center for Historical Studies (Pasts, Inc.), the Global Civil Society Program of Tomori Pal College, Social Center Haspel in Sofia, and
the Budapest Center for Architecture.

Monday, 23 July
12.00 – 13.00
Registration and coffee

13.00 – 14.30
Talk: Mary Taylor via skype
The 2011 Neoliberalizing Socialism in Budapest: the 2011 CEU summer course

15.00 – 17.00
First Round of Introductions
All participants will briefly explain who they are, what they are fighting for (in research and activism) and introduce the institutions, publications, and groups with which they are affiliated.

18.00 – 19.00
Attila Melegh talk, “"The Global 1950s”"

TUESDAY, 24 July
10.00 – 11.00 József Böröcz talk, "Whitening Histories"

11.30 – 14.30 Excavating the origins of the neoliberal present in the late socialist past
Coordinators: Dan Cirjan, Rossen Djagalov, Piotr Wcislik
One of the recurring problems of most scholarship on postsocialism has been its tendency to build its analyses against the background of an undifferentiated socialist past, a homogenous set of institutions, economic practices and types of governance, which
seem to have remained constant throughout the communist period only to be reshaped by the “great transformation” of the 1990s. This panel, by contrast, is based on the premise that a more nuanced, global, and historically informed perspective on late socialism
will provide us with the much-needed understanding of the elements that were “re-formed”, reframed and re-organized through neoliberal policies under neoliberalism.

Late socialism also saw the emergence a particular type of discourse coming from dissidents, the “democratic opposition”, and reformists, which framed and interpreted “actually existing socialism” and its “crisis” outside of the official Party monologue. This
type of discourse proved pivotal in shaping the postsocialist public sphere and paved the way for the “neoliberalization of the Left,” especially the reformist left, after 1989. In this sense, the panel has a dual aim: on the one hand, it seeks to understand
the late-socialist reforms in the spheres of production and welfare provision and their relationship to world-economic processes, especially the capitalist restructuring of the 1970s and 1980s. On the other, it aims at reconstructing the process through which
elements in the political thinking of the Left could lead to embracing neoliberalism as a progressive project.

15.30 – 18.30
History of class formation in CEE
Coordinators: Mikolaj Lewicki, Maciek Gdula, Adam Ostolski, Przemyslaw Sadura
The transformation of social structures after 1989 in so called post-communist countries is rarely analyzed with reference to the notion of class. The popularity of concepts such as inequality, social mobility and stratification contribute to naturalization
of capitalism and do not form a basis for critique of new order. We would like to offer an analysis of social structures in Central and Eastern Europe from a number of class-oriented perspectives. The focus will be on three interconnected aspects:
changes in composition of class system, different class cultures and social conflicts. This approach offers not only a much richer perspective on what has happened during last twenty years but also allows us to pose questions about the prospects of social and
political change.

Wednesday, 25 July
10.00 – 14.00
"Is the revolution necessarily urban?"
Coordinators: Mariann Dosa, Csaba Jelinek, Zsuzsanna Pósfai
Many writings from critical/radical urban studies scholars since the 1980s highlight the pivotal role of cities and urban landscapes in neoliberal restructuring and governance. Apart from these theories, the emerging leftist struggles against the neoliberal
hegemony have often been situated in and focused on the urban realm. An especially powerful and well-known concept encapsulating the intimate relationship between urban phenomenon and (counter-)hegemonic forces of neoliberalism is the Right to the City (RTC)
framework developed by David Harvey. Recognizing the fact that many of the young critical scholars from our region have a special interest either in critical urban research or in urban movements, this session tries (1) to theoretically reflect on the role
of cities in leftist countermovements, (2) to explore postsocialist specifics and differences within the region regarding urban scholarship, marginality and movements and (3) to speculate about the potentials of a future urban focused coalition among the leftist
actors in the region.

We will begin this session by introducing Harvey's urban theories and his Right to the City concept. Two case studies — the Hungarian City is for All and the Polish RTC movement — will inform our discussion. Workshop participants will help us establish our
empirical base by answering the following questions about urban life in their societies: How was the privatization of the housing stock/ urban space carried out? Is there a housing crisis, and if yes, what characterizes it (is it quantitative, qualitative
or accessibility crisis)? What is the structure of the housing sector and what are the main processes in it? What are the forms of urban marginality?

We will then move on to discuss the specificity of postsocialist cities and the applicability of the RTC framework to urban struggles there. Can we agree with Harvey that — in this region not unlike his Western and Third-World examples — cities and urban movements
should be crucial sites for leftist struggles? Who are the agents of postsocialist urban movements (middle-class hipsters? vulnerable groups?) and what are the issues that they problematize (homelessness, the urban environment)? What are the main topics and
dynamics of critical urban research in the various countries? How can we urban research and urban struggles?

15.00 – 19.00
Crisis, austerity, and countermovements, Part I. Movements on the right
Coordinators: Marek Mikus, Piotr Wcislik
In this panel we want to question the entanglements between neoliberal crisis, the postsocialist condition and the countermovements on the right. The goal is to see the real thing behind the various caricatures which proliferate in the academic descriptions,
including on the Left. Most interpretations of nationalist protest movements classify them according to their sources or their political functions in the dynamics of postsocialist capitalism. As far as the sources are concerned, the interpretations range between
the extemporaneous and contemporaneous arguments. The privileged trope of the former (traditional liberal) approach has been the "homo sovieticus," designating a type of mentality unable to adapt to the postsocialist realities both in the marketplace (outdated
welfare demands) and in the sphere of values (unprocessed xenophobia, traditional values, nationalism). The latter (more critical) argument assimilates the protest movements on the right under the umbrella term of "populism," which is considered to be the
product of the postpolitical condition of both Western and Eastern societies after 1989. As far as the political functions of those countermovements are concerned, the interpretations range between a "Troyan horse of capitalism" and a "surrogate Left" perspectives.
In the first case, the focus is on how the objective economic sources of popular indignation are steered towards an (ethnic or ex-Communist) Other while redeeming the image of capitalism as a nice thing if run by decent people. In the second case, the ideological
fundamentals of the nationalist right - such as the defense of popular sovereignty, critique of — hegemony and anti-elitism — are taken seriously to the extent that they overlap with left's own agenda.

All these conceptual problems should include a comparative dimension in both time and space. Are the CEE nationalist protest movements from the 1990s the same as today’s? How do they compare with the far-right movements in Western and non-Western worlds?

The objective of the panel is to rethink these interpretations with the view of the Left's own strategy. Where is the place of the Left? With the liberals in a "popular front of modernization" or with the "people,” that is, the current constituency of right-wing

Thursday, 26 July
10.00 – 14.00
Crisis, austerity, and countermovements, Part II. Movements on the left
Coordinators: Natalia Buier, Agnes Gagyi, Mariya Ivancheva, Piotr Wcislik
In the second session on countermovements to neoliberal regimes we discuss the contemporary movements associated with the left or considered as progressive both inside and outside the academia. We invite participants to introduce countermovements they know
well so that we could reach a larger, international perspective of their workings as well as a sense of „what is to be done.”

Beyond serving to introduce relevant regional developments, the panel will problematize the study of social movements through a dual epistemological concern: on the one hand, it will ask how the array of recent social movements challenges our analytical tools
as sociologists, anthropologists, students of history and culture; on the other hand, it also asks seeks to understand the inscription of dominant ideologies in the act of studying these movements and the complicity of academics in obscuring histories of militance.
Our own relationship to those movements as both researchers and participants will be further discussed in the next panel: Academic struggles.

15.00 – 19.00
Academic struggles: the position and task of the CEE academic left
Coordinators: Jana Bacevic, Natalia Buier, Rossen Djagalov, Agnes Gagyi, Mariya Ivancheva
The panel aims to be a theoretical reflection on our own work, as well as a strategic discussion about what we could do together, internationally. We will begin with a discussion of the role of universities (as institutions) and higher education (as a field
of knowledge production) in reproducing neoliberal ideology as well as its political and economic elites deploying that ideology. What are the implications of the changing conditions of knowledge production for the possibilities, stratagems, and spaces of
resistance within the academe? Could critical pedagogy and activism be aligned within the university we know? What kind of epistemological challenge do practices such as militant ethnography pose? What do we make of the differences in position, history and
vocabulary from similar questions asked in Western academia? From the institutional context, we will then move to the disciplinary one. Each of the disciplines represented at this workshop — anthropology, sociology, history, and so on — has a specific capacity
for legitimating and critiquing neoliberalism. What would a leftist academic project look like in each of them? Finally, many of us also inhabit non-academic spaces, be they NGOs, journals of social critique, political parties. What is the relationship between
our academic and non-academic engagements?

We invite participants to introduce the academic context of their work, join the debate about our common task, and think of possibilities of collaboration.

Friday, 27 July
10.00 – 14.00
Interview Day
As many workshop participants happen to be editors or contributors to leftist magazines and web sites and as other, local publications might also join us, the last morning is left open for group/personal interviews and inter-publication networking. Those of
us who are not giving interviews might just sit on the nearby terrace and continue our discussion over a few beers.