Social and Political Change

Social and Political Change

The concept of change is typically associated with, and a catchword of, progressive theorists and practitioners of politics with left-wing agendas. However, conservative thinkers since Edmund Burke have emphasized that change is the crucial means of governments to facilitate the preservation of the social order, and neoconservatives in the US – but also in Europe and China – appear to advocate rather radical transformations of social life as we know it. On the other hand, many progressive scholars frequently display a backward-looking attitude today by calling for the restoration of crumbling institutions such as the social-democratic welfare state (think for instance of Colin Crouch’s Post-democracy), or by claiming to demand only a more thorough implementation of values long shared by the community (think of Langston Hughes’s poem turned into an election slogan Let America be America again).

Do progressives and conservatives, then, while pursuing different goals, share the same conception of social and political change? Is change just a means for the realization of a desired state of affairs (be it identified in the past or envisioned for the future), or might it also be thought of as an end itself? Can political change be “real change” if it aims at the preservation of what already is or the restoration of what once already was? And what about political inaction? Is “doing nothing” a mode of political change as well, given that social life is never in stasis, but permanently transformed by extrapolitical (economic, technological, ecological, etc.) developments?

Paper proposals (max. 500 words) that address the concept of change in political theory and practice are welcome. Possible subjects include (but are not limited to):

–          the metaphysics of change;

–          logical perspectives on change;

–          typologies of social and political change (forms, criteria for differentiation);

–          conceptions of change in the history of political thought;

–          the comparative analysis of the status attributed to social and political change in reactionary, conservative, and progressive ideologies;

–          philosophical justifications of political change.

Please send your abstract by 17 May 2013 to the address below.

Panel Convenor:

Martin Beckstein (University of Zurich)



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