Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
SP09: Social Mobilisations and the Shape of the Future: To the Left, Right, or Nowhere - with Lauren Langman and Sylvia Walby
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Tova Benski, College of Management
Session Chair: Lorenzo Bosi, Scuola Normale Superiore
Location: BS.G.27
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road

Session Abstract

organised by RN11 and RN25

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Justice or Vengeance? Capitalism, Crises and the Contemporary Social Movements

Lauren Langman

Loyola University of Chicago, American Sociological Association, International Sociological Association, Global studies Association

The first of the Internet mediated social movements, the Zapatistas of Chiapas, was one of the first social movements to garner worldwide attention and support. This was soon followed by the Battle of Seattle that marked the rise of global justice movements resisting the inequities of neoliberal globalization. These various “mobilizations for human dignity” were preparing the networking culminating in the World Social Forum as well as inspiring subsequent mobilizations such as the Arab Spring or Occupy protests against neoliberalism and its retrenchments from social spending, while corporate profits mushroomed along with growing inequality and precarity. The various crises of global capital evoke powerful emotions that dispose support for, if not participation in the various rhizomatic expressions of resistance and protest. But progressive changes in society often evoke fear and uncertainty among the more conservative segments of the society, disposing reactionary movements to thwart progressive change, limit immigration, and restore a glorious past. There is a dialectic of progressive movements seeking equality, freedom, justice, democracy and universal dignity, versus reactionary mobilizations based on fear, anger and ressentiment. These ascendant reactionary movements now threaten democracy, human rights and the rules of law which enabled Enlightenment based modernity. As will be argued, the various legitimation crises of the modern social system are evident in the dialectic between progressive social justice movements that seek a more democratic, inclusive egalitarian society versus the various authoritarian populisms that would save or restore exclusive, intolerant rulebound hierarchies. What must be noted is that both left and right mobilizations are impelled by powerful emotions.


Lauren Langman, Professor of Sociology, Loyola University of Chicago, Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, has long worked in the tradition of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, especially relationships between culture, identity and politics/political movements. He is the past President of RC36 Alienation Research Committee of the ISA, past chairman of the Marxist section of the ASA. His publications deal with globalization, alienation, identity, hegemony, global justice movements, reactionary movements, nationalism and national character. Recent publications include Trauma Promise and Millennium: The Evolution of Alienation, with Devorah Kalekin, Alienation and Carnivalization with Jerome Braun and editing a special issue with Tova Benski, of Current Sociology on Arab Spring, the Indignados and Occupy. His latest books are God, Guns, Gold and Glory and Inequality in the 21st C: Marx, Piketty and Beyond. He is on several editorial boards, including Critical Sociology, Sociopedia, and Current Perspectives in Social Theory.

Rethinking Concepts for Social Mobilisations around Brexit and the EU: Projects, Violence and the Political Economy of the World System

Sylvia Walby

City University of London, United Kingdom

Theorisation of the social mobilisations around Brexit and the European Union requires addressing three debates about concepts. First, the concept of ‘project’ is preferred to the concept of ‘identity’ to avoid a tendency to cultural essentialism. Second, the significance and distinctiveness of violence as a form of power, with its own rhythm, temporality and emotionality needs to be addressed; rather than blurring the distinction between different forms of power. Third, the significance of contesting hegemons in the political economy of the world system needs to be addressed, not only nations, nationalism and nation-states. The empirical focus of the paper concerns the competing projects active in processes of Brexit and Europeanisation. This requires the theorisation of the EU as a would-be hegemon in the world system. Understanding the EU requires theorisation of the relationship of violence to political economy. The understanding of the emotions threaded through the Brexit process requires this analysis of the relationship of violence to political economy.


Professor Sylvia Walby has worked at City University of London as Professor of Sociology and Director of the interdisciplinary Violence and Society Centre since 1 March 2019. She was previously at Lancaster University where she was Distinguished Professor of Sociology, held the UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, and was Director of the Violence and Society UNESCO Centre. Sylvia was the founding President of the European Sociological Association, elected after chairing the steering committee to establish the association. She has been President of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee RC02 on Economy and Society. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Professor Walby was awarded an OBE for services to equal opportunities and diversity. She is Chair of the REF Sub-Panel for Sociology.