Conference Agenda

RN06_01: Reclaiming the Left in Dystopian Times
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Angela Wigger, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Session Chair: David J. Bailey, University of Birmingham
Location: GM.332
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road


Exit Lexit, Enter Rosa: The meaning of internationalism today

Owen Worth

University of Limerick, Ireland

Recent events such as the 'nationalist' turn seen with the election of Trump & Bolsonaro, the Brexit vote and the political failure of social democracy have stressed the need to re-think the idea of left strategy in the contemporary era. One of the key concerns here is how we should understand 'internationalism', which has remained a central feature of left-wing politics. Many (such as Samir Amin before he died) called for a new 'internationalism' based on the sum and parts of national-units in the traditional manner. Others take this further and argue stress the importance in returning to the 'national' in order to distinguish it from the global, which is tied with the forces of capitalism. In responded to this, this paper urges a new way of understanding internationalism that looks to solve the spatial riddle of how best to response to economic neoliberal globalisation not by looking towards 20th century models of the sum of nation-state but by looking at forms of strategic expression that move beyond it. In particular, it looks to re-visit the classical arguments by Rosa Luxemburg in the Second International where she rejected the right of national self-determination in order to look to facilitate a dialectical approach geared towards moving 'beyond' the possible. In re-visiting this, this piece looks to engage seriously and critically with the commitments of what it means to be 'internationalist' in the current era.

Disrupting Authoritarian Populism In The European Union. Cracks And Fissures Of A Post-hegemonic Mode Of Governance

Nikolai Huke

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany

Authoritarian populist parties and movements dominated public debates and political agendas in many countries of the European Union in recent years. In government, authoritarian populist agents fight for cut backs in gender equality and anti-discriminatory regulations, restrictions of the border regime and attacks on workers’ rights. Following the works of Stuart Hall and others, the presentation in a first step outlines three main causes of the rise of authoritarian populism: 1) a systematic failure of democratic representation under capitalist conditions due to a limited fiscal and steering capacity of the state; 2) experiences of powerlessness vis a vis capitalist dynamics and an erosion of solidarity at the workplace and in everyday life 3) the persistence of ultra-conservative narratives and ideologies. In a second step, the presentation traces cracks and fissures of authoritarian populism arguing that post-migratory diversity, social protection and gender equality are in many European countries deeply anchored in everyday practice. Despite the aggressive mobilisations of conservative actors, the legitimacy of authoritarian populism is continuously undermined and subverted on a day to day basis. However, the forms of ‘invisible’ everyday progressive politics do not necessarily translate into organised resistance towards authoritarian populism. Authoritarian populist governments are therefore able to strategically isolate and attack different segments of society (‘divide and conquer’). Furthermore, the build-up of resistance is in many cases slower than the shock measures of authoritarian populist parties dismantling civil liberties and democratic rights. These theoretical considerations on authoritarian populism are exemplified in the presentation with findings from a case study on refugee solidarity in Germany that is based on qualitative interviews conducted in the research project “Welcome culture and democracy in Germany”.

What Work Capability Assessments Tell Us of the Post-2008 Conjuncture

Clemence Lucie Elise Fourton

Caen University, France

This paper offers an anatomy of one device of the British welfare regime, in order to isolate the defining features and contradictions of the post-2008 conjuncture. It first focuses on the Work Capability Assessment from a public policy perspective, and then focuses on the experience of welfare state users. The paper draws on doctoral research submitted in 2018, which includes a mixed-method inquiry targeted at anti-austerity disability activists.

As a tool of social security budget management, the WCA is part of the broad trend of welfare retrenchment and privatization which has characterized the neoliberal era. As a device of social administration, the WCA brings together long-lived dynamics of state-sanctioned suspicion towards the poor and the disabled, and neoliberal dynamics of discipline targeting the same social groups. The device is buttressed by conceptions of disability and work which uphold the rationalization and quantification of individual abilities rather than socially informed approaches of bodies at work.

As far as welfare state users are concerned, the WCA induces major material difficulties in line with the effects of austerity, as well as psychological distress. But it has also been contested both individually and collectively: welfare users have opposed in turn the existence of the WCA, its ways and means, and its results. They have resorted to legal action, protests, hacktivism, and have also formed - under the banner of Disabled People Against the Cuts or others - a network providing support, knowledge and skills to undermine the workings of the WCA.

The WCA is therefore also an object of dissent, whose politicization is characteristic of the recent trends regarding social welfare movements and their criticism of neoliberal social policy institutions.