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.
Trump’s bombing of Syria has won the enthusiastic backing of both the Republican and Democratic leaderships, putting the question of regime change in that country back on the table and helping to detonate another round of stepped-up US warfare across the region. This attack finds its counterparts in US military assaults on Afghanistan, employing the Massive Ordnance Air Blast; on Yemen, where the Saudi regime is seeking to obliterate the Houthi militias who had expelled its puppet government there via dramatic popular rebellion; and on Iraq, where the effort to crush ISIS is pursued with little concern for the skyrocketing civilian death toll. More than a decade since the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq put an end to the stability of the region, the prospects for a new order in the Middle East seem further away than ever. Rump client regimes of the region’s powers hold onto the reins of government in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, but are obliged to watch their fates decided by global and regional forces beyond themselves. Yet the underlying interests and goals of the dominant states appear more obscure than ever. The likelihood of clear-cut military victory or the possibility of a peaceful settlement seem close to non-existent. Can any rational pattern be discerned amidst the criss-crossing conflicts, fragmentation, and immanent chaos that grip today’s Middle East?
The European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund continue to twist the screws, imposing harsh regimes of austerity and immiserating populations across the Continent in the interests of the great banks and big business. An economic catastrophe of a depth not seen since the 1930s continues to unfold, with no end in sight. In the eurozone peripheries, one after another Centrist government has fallen by the wayside while attempting to carry out the neo-liberal terms set by Berlin and Brussels. Left-wing forces have made some tenuous gains at the level of parliaments. But it is the populist right that, up till now, has been the big political winner out of the global crisis – in France, Hungary, the UK, and Germany, not to mention the United States. Our speakers will discuss the dynamism of the far right in Europe, as well as the prospects for a left-wing response, against the backdrop of a threatened decomposition of the EU.
The election of Donald Trump has stunned the establishments of both major U.S. political parties and upended the predictions of journalists, pundits and pollsters. What may be expected in the new Age of Trump? Will we see a break with the neo-liberal politics of the last forty years and a lurch toward a populism of the right? Or is a return to rightwing Republicanism, with its tax cuts for the rich, de-regulation, and militarism actually more likely? Does the historic women’s march herald a breakthrough to a new era of radicalization or signal a fall back to the politics of Obama and Clinton? Our speakers will explore the conditions that gave rise to Trump and to Sanders and ask what political parties and movements will benefit from the historic shakeups that they have detonated.
Basing himself on his new book, titled The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke University Press, 2016), Gavin Walker will examine the Japanese debate about capitalism from the 1920s to 1950s, using it as his point of departure to consider current discussions of uneven development and contemporary topics in Marxist theory and historiography. Walker locates the debate’s culmination in the work of Uno Kozo, whose investigations into the development of capitalism and the commodification of labor power are essential for rethinking Marxism today. Walker’s analysis of the Japanese debate shows how Marxist thought was globalized from the start