top of page

Socialisms in Global Historical-Comparative Perspective




Opening speech:

László Csicsmann
Associate Professor of International Studies
Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Corvinus University of Budapest


Iván Szelényi
Professor of Sociology 
Dean of Social Science, NYU-Abu Dhabi

Mahua Sarkar,
Associate Professor of 
Sociology, Gender Studies and Asian / Asian American Studies
Binghamton University

József Böröcz
Professor of Sociology
Rutgers University


Attila Melegh
Associate Professor
Institute of Sociology and Social Policy, Corvinus University

6-9 pm, 20 March 2014

Lecture Hall IX, C building, Corvinus University of Budapest
1093 Budapest, Közraktár utca 4-6

Detailed description

Iván Szelényi
Professor of Sociology
Dean of Social Science, NYU-Abu Dhabi

Capitalism after communisms

There are three major hypotheses I will formulate in this presentation:
1/ It is analytical error and a politically dangerous mistake to regard communism as a unitary system. It was an extended family (often burdened with severe family feud), some totalitarian some paternalistic, some moving to a disaster, some at least during the 1960s – with a chance of success. (I refer here especially the self-government in Yugoslavia and the mixed economy of mid-kadarist Hungary.)

2/ After the fall of communism former communist countries began to diverge driven be their geo-political situation (what can be measured by the number of miles these countries are separated from Frankfurt), differences in institutional structure at the time of breakdown and long duree historical tradition. China built “capitalism from below “during the first decades of the reform; the former Soviet Union (with the exception of the Baltic states) developed a “neo-patrimonial oligarchic capitalism”, while Central Europe was mainly following the neo-liberal prescription with increasing dependence of FDI (though pre-war restorationist and even proto-Nazi tendencies were at work from day one)

3/ During the last decade there is a new re-convergence of former socialist countries (China entered this road right after Tiananmen Square). Politically the nationalist, neo-conservative, traditionalistic, occasionally neo-Nazi ideologies gained ground, the impact of religion and church grew, secularism declined. More emphasis was put on law and order, the democratic institutions failed to consolidate. If right wing parties managed to gain control over politics they tended to “manage the democratic” process. In Russia and Eastern Europe since the common good by 2000 was already largely privatized (in Russia the patrimonial-oligarchic way, in Eastern Europe in a quasi- liberal way) the re-distribution of formerly privatized property away from untrustworthy oligarchs to new loyal followers (this system I called neo-prebendalism) became the praxis. Economic criminalization of political enemies (in the name of “corruption”) is a general practice of post-communist governance. Post-communist countries seem to merge around a new model: Putinims.

Ivan Szelenyi is William Graham Sumner Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Yale University; Max Weber Professor and Foundation Dean of Social Sciences, NYUAD; Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Ordinary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Mahua Sarkar,
Associate Professor, Sociology, Asian and Asian American Studies
Binghamton University

Translating for Socialism

The history of the encounters and contacts between the Third World and Europe is overwhelmingly marked by the intrinsically hierarchical and racist logic of colonial and neo-colonial domination of the former by Western Europe. Accounts of the Third World’s connections with the ‘other’ Europe—societies that were state socialist through much of the twentieth century—seem to be lodged mainly within the master-narrative of the Cold War. These histories, in turn, tend to be dominated by macro-structural narratives of official—state-level developmental, military, and cultural—exchanges. Discussions of the more intimate, inter-subjective dimensions of the social and cultural linkages forged between people as they circulated within the alternative sphere of the socialist world across continents seem to be relatively rare. The proposed paper approaches this other history of intimate entanglements--between state socialist Europe and the Third World--through an analysis of oral histories and memoirs of a specific group of intellectuals—translators—<wbr></wbr>from the Indian subcontinent, who lived and worked in the Soviet Union for decades. In the process, the paper hopes to make significant interventions in current debates on cross-cultural, global historical connections, beyond simplified notions of putative hierarchies of power and knowledge.

Mahua Sarkar is Associate Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, SUNY, and currently Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. Her areas of research interest include Historical Sociology, Gender/Feminist Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Problem of Methods, Transnational Migration and Labour History. Her publications include Visible Histories, Disappearing Women: Producing Muslim Womanhood in Late Colonial Bengal (Duke University Press, 2008); “Between Craft and Method: Meaning and Inter-subjectivity in Oral History Analysis” in Journal of Historical Sociology (2012); “Difference in Memory” in Comparative Studies in Society and History (2006); and “Looking for Feminism” in Gender & History (2004).

József Böröcz
Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University

“About Socialisms, Without Apologies?”

Histories of socialisms offer a potential goldmine for the historical social sciences. At stake is the prospect of revising some of classical sociology’s foundational insights about modern society. Meanwhile, much of the work in this area is characterized by asymmetrical comparisons (Kocka) and counterconcepts (Koselleck), reflecting the logic of the cold war. They also often suffer from methodological nationalism and show little interest in recent scholarly innovations in coloniality, empire and global-local entanglements. I suggest that we: 

1. view state socialist societies in a global historical-comparative context and evaluate their, highly varied experiments through that lens. This requires that we
2. abandon the ‘totalitarianism’ framework and regard state socialist societies not as aberrations of some kind by default.

József Böröcz is Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. He is the author of The European Union and Global Social Change: A Critical Geopolitical Economic Analysis. For details on his scholarly interests and past work, please see, http://<wbr></wbr><wbr></wbr>jborocz, and <wbr></wbr&gt;globalsocialchange.blotspot<wbr></wbr>.com/

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • YouTube - Grey Circle
bottom of page