CFP: The Social Sciences since 1945 in East and West

Preliminary call for papers for the international scholarly meeting under planning with the special focus on „The Social Sciences since 1945 in East and West : Continuities, Discontinuities, Institutionalization and Internationalization

The meeting is to be held in early April 2015 at the Central European University in Budapest under the auspices of Pasts Inc. Centre for Historical Research of the History Department of the CEU.
Summaries of suggested papers (less than 300 words) are demanded for the 1. June 2014 at the electronic addresses of the conveners (at the end of the page).
Board and travel expenses of selected participants are expected to be covered by the conveners.

In most countries of the European continent World War II constitutes a break and the post-war period a new start in the history of the Social Sciences. The destructions of the war concerned directly or indirectly many places of learning and research, including their staff and the intellectual paradigms they represented. The post-war reconstruction initiated both an unprecedented growth and an ongoing process of diversification and specialisation. The latter generated new sub-disciplines, new interrogations, new thematic foci, new methodological approaches, a renovated relationship with intellectual ancestry, a changing societal importance granted to the various branches of study, alterations in the relations between the various disciplines concerned, as well as new forms of ideological and/or political commitments involved in the pursuit of research in the Social Sciences. But, for that matter, the practice of social studies suffered the same division as the whole continent under the Cold War, starting as early as the very first post-war years. This introduced major discontinuities in Sovietized East-Central Europe which, very unequally, were compensated for after the regime changes in 1989-1990.
In Western democracies the post-war history of the Social Sciences is marked by the parallel expansion – especially since the 1960s – of the whole higher educational provision and the disciplinary specializations of Social studies, including the emergence of new scholarly paradigms, new institutional settings, new ways of funding investigations, new associations of scholars, the multiplication of specialists, experts, students, academics and teaching personnels of different levels. This did not apply, at least not fully, to countries with autocratic regimes or in periods of autocratic rule.

In Sovietized East Central Europe the situation was utterly different in this respect too. Sovietized regimes started, sometimes following a few years of transition, by suppressing most of the Social Science institutions (together, often, with their staff) – branded as representatives of ’bourgeois sciences’ – and replace them more or less systematically by agencies of allegedly Marxist learning, variously called ’Scientific socialism’. ’Marxism-Leninism’, ’Historical Materialism’, ’Scientific Atheism’ and the like. Relevant chairs were established in every university faculty and this sort of study was made mandatory for students throughout their curriculum in institutions of post-secondary education. Research in the field suffered a similar deformation till well into the 1960s. A turn of the tide began soon after not independently from the relaxation of political tensions due to the cold war and the intensification of intellectual exchanges between the West and the Other Europe. The change has brought to the fore, more than ever, the unequal state of intellectual development between East and West, but also the originality of societal evolutions and transformations within the very experience of ’real socialism’, which fed a new kind of interest even in Western scholarly circles. The fall of socialism in 1989-1990 produced a new situation in all these respects.
All these development can be only selectively treated at the occasion of the gathering under planning. Papers are invited thus most particularly on the following predesigned focuses.

First, processes of institutional development are expected to be studied in their context, especially on a comparative and long term basis. This would include, first, the founding and the institutional history of new agencies of learning, research, dissemination and promotion in the SS : university chairs, academic research institutes, private agencies (like those of public opinion studies), scholarly associations, disciplinary journals, prizes or other public distinctions destined to or received by scholars, agencies to fund research. Second, the recruitment pattern of practitioners of the SS should be dealt with, possibly in contrast to other disciplines of the humanities : changing number of students, degrees obtained at various levels (especially PhD or ’academic candidatures’ or ’academic doctorates’), university staff, fellows of public or private research institutions, etc. Third, the public weight, importance, impact or influence of the SS should be tested and attested. This approach could mobilize indicators of public power held by prominent scholars in the SS, the size of the readership of SS journals, major debates on SS issues with a high impact factor on public opinion, the growth or decline of demand for training in the SS as compared to other fields of science, the existence, popularity and attractivity of privately sponsored agencies of distribution of knowledge in the SS (like popular journals, ’people’s universities’, free lecture courses, etc.).
The second thematic field on which papers are expected concern the apparently ongoing process of the internationalization of SS disciplines. There has always been a degree of transnational contacts in the SS like in all modern scholarly orientations. It is worth questioning though whether and to what extent patterns of internationalization have evolved during and after the cold war. The documentation of such changes could be attempted in various ways. First, in terms of East-West but also South-North relationships the exchange of students, co-directions of PhD, expatriation of students for PhD courses or special training programs, that of scholars and academic staff (including brain drain proper, forced or strategic – ’career oriented’ – emigration), etc. could be investigated. Second, forms of organized international cooperation between scholars with various national academic ties, position and training could be studied for research projects (among them those funded by international agencies), long term teaching programs, standing international disciplinary conferences, etc. Third, empirically grounded investigations are welcome for the evaluation of the impact of contemporary intellectual authorities in the SS of various countries, especially in East Central Europe before and after the fall of Communism, like Adorno, Bourdieu, Elias, Foucault, Gramsci, Habermas, Lazarsfeld, Lévi-Strauss, Merton, Parsons, Rawls, etc. Eventually, in or out of the above context of the focus on leading professional luminaries, the local application and impact of major scholarly paradigms among those having achieved in some periods a degree of intellectual dominance or prestige could be researched – there again possibly via statistical or otherwise empirical tools (like networks of references and citations, translations, book reviews, etc.). Marxism of various species, structuralism, symbolic interactionalism, methodological individualism, functionalism, etc. or a combination of the latter could represent relevant targets here.

Finally, especially in East Central Europe, discontinuities and, occasionally, continuities of research methodologies, intellectual orientations, thematic drives as well as institutional arrangements (like the maintenance and functional transformations of the national Academies of Sciences) are worth to be studied closely in a comparative perspective, confronting pre-1945 and later developments.
The SSH disciplines liable to be involved are broadly as follows. This cannot be an exclusive list, since the very definition of the SSH disciplines is not fully standardized and sometimes even differed, historically, from one country to another :

  • Cultural and Social Anthropology, Ethnology
  • Demography
  • Economics
  • Educational Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Scientific Socialism (and the like)
  • Social and/or political history and geography

Possibly, for reasons of contrast, national literary history would be an interesting target for comparisons, as to its historical transformations in terms of institutionalization, internationalization and intellectual or institutional discontinuities.

  • Victor Karady (Central European University, Budapest), karadyv [at]
  • Peter Tibor Nagy (John Wesley College, Budapest), nagypetertibor2011 [at]
  • Balázs Trencsényi (Central European University, Budapest), trencsenyib [at]


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