Table Topics “Social Movements and Cultural Icons”
At the table Social Movements and Cultural Icons, hosted by Beata Hock (Universität Leipzig) and James Mark (University of Exeter), we will consider the extent to which the socialist world was part of broader processes of political, cultural and economic globalisation that shaped the modern world and how cultural production deployed as salient battlefields in the global Cold War.
Beata Hock: We will explore the conditions of cultural production and inter-cultural exchange in the Cold War period when international relations were defined by conflicting worldviews and when the domain of culture was heavily drawn into the sphere of political strategizing. We will regard culture as a site of contestation both in a transnational and national framing. On the one hand, culture will be regarded as a terrain of transnational competition between superpowers and their allies on different continents. From this perspective, mainstream forms of cultural expression and the role of cultural politics and propaganda will be worth revisiting. On the other hand, culture is viewed as the interface where individual states’ dominant ideologies and their counter-cultures collide. Cold War policies and fears had repercussions on many levels, including those of daily life, artistic expression and radicalized social identities. Here deviant lifestyles, cultural dissent and emerging trans-continental social activism offer a fertile ground for discussion.
‘Globalisation’ in contemporary common parlance is the globalisation of neo-liberalism, says James Mark. In everyday conversation, people will think of deregulation and finance capitalism. Read or hear of ‘globalisation’ in the news and you may be sure that journalists refer to the post-Bretton Woods world economy from the early 1970s, to monetarism, the dwindling efficacy of the nation state, the erosion of welfare and social security. In these accounts, Western capitalism is presented as the only engine of globalisation. Yet should we include the ‘socialist world’ in this story? Has the established western-centric account left us with a distorted view of socialist and Third World states as inward-looking, isolated and cut off from globalising trends until the capitalist take-over in the late 1980s?
We should note, for example, that at the height of its expansion around 1980, the ‘socialist world’ encompassed roughly one third of the world’s population. Socialist states were part of all major global conflicts and developments in the second half of the twentieth century; many of them were founding members of important international organisations. Some have even argued that socialist states in fact helped to produce many of the ideas – from neo-liberalism to rights-based cultures – that became central to the post-1989 globalisation. This ‘table’ will consider the extent to which the socialist world was part of broader processes of political, cultural and economic globalisation that shaped the modern world, and left legacies that are still with us today.