10th Annual Historical Materialism Conference CFP

HM 2013: Making the World Working Class

7-10 November

Central London

Organised in collaboration with the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Committee and Socialist Register

‘Capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons’ – and between classes. The complex task of analysing class structures and, at the same time, transforming and transcending them is at the core of Marx’s legacy. 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of CLR James’s “The Black Jacobins” and the 50th anniversary of EP Thompson’s “The Making of the English Working Class”. Wary of all reifications of class, Thompson showed how the working class was not only made by capital, but made itself in everyday struggles and political agitation. James affirmed the need to look at the international division of labour in the context of race and imperialism, and gave voice to the revolutionary agency of the ‘black Jacobins’ and other historically neglected enemies of capitalism and colonialism.

In the wake of the new conflicts thrown up by decolonisation and more recent processes of neoliberal ‘globalisation’, research in the field of labour and working class history has acquired an increasingly global dimension, and become more attentive to the critical role played by race and gender in the formations of working classes. Social struggles and resistance – from Latin America to Eastern Europe, from the Arab-Islamic world to East Asia – continue to show that working classes worldwide have not ceased remaking themselves, at the same time as they struggle against capitalist strategies to turn class composition into class decomposition, to unmake a world working class. Significantly, in order to understand this changing reality and the roots of the crisis of the neoliberal system, a growing body of scholarship questions the representation of labour as a passive factor in production, and investigates how workers’ struggles co-determine processes of capitalist development, as well as cultural mutations and political transformations.  

Despite rising levels of class struggle – from a growing working class movement in China to the Arab uprisings and mobilisation against austerity in Southern Europe – discourses of class remain largely marginal to political debate and action. Class struggle is often recognised, namely through the language of inequality, but is being increasingly filtered, also on the left, through notions of ‘the people’ or ‘the 99%’. The tenth annual Historical Materialism aims to provide a forum for debating  the descriptive and prescriptive roles that concepts of class and class struggle can have today. More generally, we seek contributions that account for how Marxist theory, historiography and empirical research can explain and intervene in the contemporary conjuncture. We will be hosting a stream on “Race and Capital” (for which a separate call for papers is forthcoming, along with a CFP building on last year’s “Marxism and Feminism” stream), and we especially welcome papers that address the following themes:

· class, imperialism and migration

· class and gender

· Marxism and feminism

· geographies and spaces of class

· class, capitalism and environment in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)

· changing geographies of accumulation and resistance

· working class movements today

· class strategies against the crisis and ‘austerity’

· revisiting Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class

· revisiting the legacy of CLR James

· history of the international communist movement

· Marxism and theories of intersectionality

· class struggle and political organisation, party and class

· theories of class formation and class composition

· crisis, austerity, and proletarianisation

· class and the agrarian question

· class, literature and literary theory

· cultures of class

· ‘class struggle without classes’

· class, poverty, inequality

· representing class and capital in art and culture

· proletarianisation, pauperisation and precarity

We are, of course, open to proposals on other themes as well.

Abstracts (100-200 words) should be submitted at www.historicalmaterialism.org (shortly to go online). Panels can also be proposed but we reserve the right to disaggregate them and accept only some papers – they are not “package deals”. Deadline: 1 May 2013

Please note: the HM conference is not a conventional academic conference but rather a space for discussion, debate and the launching of collective projects. We therefore discourage “cameo appearances” and encourage speakers to participate in the whole of the conference. We also strongly urge all speakers to take out personal subscriptions to the journal.

For all queries: historicalmaterialism@soas.ac.uk

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