Sie sind hier: FRIAS School of History Veranstaltungen The crisis of Socialist modernity

The crisis of Socialist modernity

Wann 19.03.2009 um 20:00 bis
22.03.2009 um 17:00
Wo FRIAS Seminarraum, EG, Albertstr. 19
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Conference Report (PDF)

The Communist states experienced rapid economic and social developments in the first decades after the Second World War. The launch of “Sputnik“ at the end of the 1950s appeared to signal the ascendancy of the state-socialist system, tempting Khrushchev into the euphoric pronouncement that the Soviet Union would overtake the USA within ten years. By the mid-1970s the process of catch-up had stagnated: planning crises and economic blockades, the oil shock and the debt trap, social decline and new nationalism signalled a profound crisis in the Communist world. This led at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s to the collapse of Communist domination in eastern Europe; meanwhile, although the system changed in China after the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Communist party was able to retain its grip.

Thus we can observe in the comparison of the Soviet Union and China a paradoxical situation in the 1970s: although the political and socio-economic development of the two countries was never synchronised and even in the 1950s when China was retarded by its attempts to ape the Russian processes of the 1930s (collectivisation), it restructured in its own context, nevertheless the 1970s appeared to be a period of far-reaching consequences. Trans-socialist processes began in both countries and while they led to different outcomes - to collapse in the Soviet Union, to consolidation on a new basis in China - in term of convergence, it is still the case that the two states came closer to each other in the 1980s.

From the starting point of the 1970s, the conference asks how far we can understand this crucial period as a period of epochal change for the Communist states, in which trans-systemic phenomena emerged and in which the course was set for later systemic change. In this way developments in the communist countries will be considered in relation to the processes of change taking place in western industrial nations: what is the relationship between western and socialist modernity? What remained of the original socialist vision of the future? Which trans-systemic changes came to the surface in the Communist world? How far did process of change established in western industrial states (liberalisation, critiques of progress technological change, the consumer and service society, ecological change) reach into communist states: can this be understood in the sense of a convergence of transnational phenomena? If so, how did people react to these tendencies in their respective countries?


The Crisis of
Socialist Modernity

China, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia in the


19 – 21 March 2009


Thursday, 19 March

8pm Opening Lecture:

  • Lutz Niethammer, Jena:
The 1970s as a caesura?
Friday, 20 March

9am Section 1:

Economic crisis and reflections on crisis management and progress

  • Nicola Spakowski, Bremen:
Economic reorientation in China in the 1970s: overall goals and conflicting approaches
  • Stephan Merl, Bielefeld:
The ‘Little Deal’ between the regime and the Soviet People: how Brezhnev attempted to avoid a radical reform of the command economy and the political system in the 1970s
  • Klaus Gestwa, Tübingen:
The limits of growth and reform:
technological progress and environmental crisis in the Soviet Union
  • Susan Woodward, New York:
Adjustment to global economic crisis:
how different was Yugoslavia in the1970s?

Commentary: Vladimir Gligorov, Vienna


1pm Section 2:
Power and decision-making structures
  • Flemming Christiansen, Leeds:
Explaining Chinese politics in the 1970s: do we need a new sociology of political practice?
  • Klaus von Beyme, Heidelberg:
The political decision-makers in the decline of ‘Socialism’: the discovery of citizens and political culture in the Soviet Union
  • Dejan Jović, Stirling, Scotland:
Post-titoism with Tito still alive: The Yugoslav political elite in the 1970s

Commentary: Martin Geyer, Munich


4pm Section 3:

After the boom: convergence, - divergence, perception of "the West" and the western orientation of culture and everday life

  • Xiaowei Zang, Sheffield
From Maoism to the Bejing Spring: Chinese society in the 1970s
  • Sergei Zhuk, Muncie:
The ‘closed society’ and the West: consumption of the western cultural products, youth and identity in Soviet Ukraine during the 1970s
  • Predrag Marković, Belgrad:
Flowers in the autumn:
cultural liberalization versus political dogmatization in 1970’s Yugoslavia
Commentary: Julia Obertreis, Freiburg
9am Section 4:
The international environment and reciprocal effects
  • Sören Urbansky, Frankfurt/O.:
Sino-Soviet split – a local perspective
  • Ragna Boden, Bochum:
Between regional and global: Soviet world policy in the 1970s
  • Nataša Mišković, Zürich:
The old dictator´s last domain: Yugoslav foreign policy in the 1970s
Commentary: Dietmar Neutatz, Freiburg
1pm Section 5:
Ethnic identities and the nation-state
  • Elisabeth Allès, Paris:
The status of "nationality" (minzu) in the Chinese context and the case of the Hui nationality during the 1970s and 1980s
  • Gerhard Simon, Köln:
Brezhnev's definitive solution of the nationalities problems during the 1970s:
“There are no nationalities problems in the Soviet Union”
  • Aleksandar Jakir, Split:
The status of "nationality" in a "self-managed" economy during the 1970s in socialist Yugoslavia
Commentary: Jörn Leonhard, Freiburg
4pm Final discussion
Gerd Koenen,Freiburg/Frankfurt a. M.
Manfred Hildermeier, Göttingen