The UCLA Center for Social Theory and Comparative History aims to encourage the development of social theory that is historically rooted and of comparative history that is theoretically informed.
The core of the Center's intellectual work is the biweekly colloquium series, which runs more or less every other Monday during the Winter and Spring quarters. Each year the colloquium series is organized around a single theme, with each session intended to build upon the previous one. The colloquia have, from the start, succeeded in attracting top scholars in the relevant fields from around the globe. In recent years, the colloquium series has focused on contemporary issues in historical context. Its themes have included: recent global social movements, the 2008 economic crisis and its after effects, and the evolving geopolitics of the post-Cold-War world.
In recent years historians and economists have revived the long-standing debate on the relationship between capitalism and slavery, as well as the character of labor markets in the post-bellum South. The emerging literature has tended to focus on theoretical and definitional disputes. But behind the scenes, historians and social scientists have been accumulating new evidence that is transforming our understanding of both free and unfree labor in the United States in the 19th century. This colloquium will be devoted to exploring that new research and to questioning many long-held assumptions concerning productiveness of free and unfree labor, the origins of Southern backwardness, and the causes of the American Civil War.
At the end of 2017, long-simmering political frustrations in Iran erupted in a wave of militant mass protest of historic scope and depth. Protesters have taken aim not only at the current administration of Hassan Rouhani, but also its conservative predecessors, as well as its current reformist opponents. Factions in Iran’s political establishment have scrambled to respond, but the post-revolutionary social contract appears to have lost its legitimacy. Our speakers will consider the political conflicts riling the established regime and how those internal dissensions have helped prepare the ground for today’s challenge from below. They will ask if we are now seeing the fraying of the regime’s project for social and economic liberalization, what might be on the agenda to replace it, and how all this might affect prospects for rapprochement with the United States and peace in the region.
The collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2008 shook the financial sector to its foundations and unleashed a cascading global economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression. Ten years later, thanks to a multi-trillion dollar bailout of the failing banks, accompanied by a rejection of parallel assistance to bankrupt homeowners, finance is still dominating the world economy. Our speakers will examine the transformations of the last decade at the national and international levels, and reveal how the Democratic and Republican Parties alike have driven the greatest upward distribution of income to the ultra-rich since the Gilded Age, enriching politicians, as well as top corporate managers. They will ask whether the skyrocketing financial bubble and stagnant real economy will combine to bring about a devastating crash accompanied by an historic depression.
The profound crisis of capitalist society today, along with the related breakdowns of interpersonal relations and the social safety net, have undermined the collective networks people have long counted on for their economic, social, and psychological support. As a result, many have been thrown back on their own resources, and have had no choice but to fashion individualist solutions to problems that previously were always dealt with by governments and social groups. On the other hand, some political thinkers and political organizations are making a virtue of necessity, and are proposing that a turn to self-help can actually be a positive way forward. The viability and desirability of self-help – and what are the alternatives – will be the subject of Professor Kelley’s presentation.