The Social Question of Neoliberal Capitalism

April 1st-2nd, 2016

UCLA Department of Sociology, 279 Haines Hall (map)


The original articulation of the “social question” in 18th-19th Century Europe emerged in the wake of capitalist industrialization, proletarianization, social immiserization, and mass upheavals, even revolutions. These struggles led to national programs of labor regulation first in continental Europe and then throughout the developed world. Thanks to the uneven and combined development of capitalism on a world scale, working people in the colonized and dominated south were excluded from the benefits and progress of Northern class compromise. Today, neoliberal capitalism in the 21st Century has not just reconfigured the political economic drivers of social dislocation, exclusion, inequality and injustice, it has also erased the “social” from public discourses and imaginations with its ideology of individual responsibility and entrepreneurialism. This conference revives and repositions “the social question” and perhaps also reconstructs its meaning and politics. 

Sponsored by: UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UCLA Center for Social Theory and Comparative History, UCLA Sociology Department, and the UCLA International Institute

Friday, April 1st


Fred Block, "The End of American Exceptionalism: The Social Question in the United States" (discussant: Chris Tilly)
CK Lee, "Repressing the 'Social Question' in China: the Politics of Recognition, Regulation and Reproduction of Labor" (discussant: Mark Selden)


Coffee Break


Dennis Arnold, "The Social Question in Mekong Asia: Border Labor Regimes and Geo-Economic Ambitions" (discussant: Thu-Huong Nguyen-Vo)
Marcel van der Linden, "The Social Question in Western Europe: a Long View" (discussant: Robert Brenner)

Saturday, April 2nd


Kevan Harris, "The Social Question in the Middle East: Past and Present" (discussant: Jim Gelvin)
Don Kalb, "Theory from the East: Visions of Labor from the Rubble in Central and Eastern Europe" (discussant: Gail Kligman)
Jan Breman, "Blinkings at a Mirage of Welfare: How the Social Question in India Got Aborted" (discussant: Aaron Benanav)


Lunch Break


Ben Scully, "The Social Question in South Africa: From Settler Colonialism to Neoliberal-Era Democracy" (discussant: William Worger)
Karine Clement, "The Social Question in Russia: Not Political, Only Personal" (discussant: Anton Sobolov)
Jan Breman and Marcel van der Linden, "A Note on Capital and Labour in the Perspective of a Globalized Economy"

The final paper will be followed by a plenary discussion.

A complete schedule is also available in PDF format.