Global Capitalism and the Worlds of Socialism

We are well into a second decade in the global crisis of capitalism. This has prompted a widespread revival of the category within and beyond academia, and a series of ongoing debates about what capitalism was and therefore is. Nothing as thrilling seems to be happening in the study of capitalism’s other: the historical experience of really-existing socialism. This is peculiar, given the extent to which historical socialism has been understood for so long in implicit and often explicit relation to capitalism.

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This conference proposes a critical look. Firstly, it affirms that the study really-existing socialism has to be carried out with a political economy in mind that does not replicate the triumphalism of the 1990s, i.e. the myth of a failing system outside of, antithetical to, and paradoxically subverted by the world of irrepressible global capitalism. Secondly, it questions the capitalism/socialism binaries that have sustained so much of our analyses. What was actually existing socialism in light of its engagement with capitalist markets and finance? How should we understand the development of systems of seemingly capitalist reform? What kinds of subjectivities were created in a socialist world of ubiquitous commoditization? Can categories of the analysis of capitalism be useful in the study of the socialist system and vice versa? Can traditional binary signifiers of socialist politics and identities (plan vs. market, collectivism vs. individualism, solidarity vs. exploitation, inefficiency vs. efficiency, etc.) be used productively in the study of socialism or should they be rejected altogether?

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The presentations of this conference propose analyses of socialist life and the socialist system that do not merely reproduce the oppositional narrative of capitalism’s “anti,” but rather look at the ways in which socialist projects reproduced, intersected or compared with global capitalism.

In the password-protected workshop space you may watch the video presentations of the papers as they come in. This will be followed by two live roundtable conversations over Zoom on April 26 and April 28, 10:00pm-11:30pm (HKT / UTC+8). You can join the conversation by registering below.

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Registration / Inquiries




Conference Organizer

Dr. Oscar Sanchez-Sibony

Webmaster / Technical Support
Ms. Wilhelmina Ko

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Supported by

Louis Cha Fund for Chinese Studies and East/West Studies in the Faculty of Arts, HKULouis Cha Fund for Chinese Studies and East/West Studies
in the Faculty of Arts, HKU
Faculty of Arts, HKU
School of Humanities, The Faculty of Arts, HKU

Department of History, SoH, Faculty of Arts, HKU

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