FONTE:  Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 53 (2013): Demokratie und Sozialismus

Call for Papers
Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 53, 2013

Democracy and Socialism.
Left-wing Parties in Germany and Europe since 1860

In 2013, Social Democracy will celebrate its 150th anniversary as a political party. The journal “Archiv für Sozialgeschichte” uses this as an occasion to reassess the history of left-wing parties in Germany and Europe since 1860 in an international, comparative perspective. The planned volume will focus on the political arenas, milieus, forms of organisation, functionaries and societal utopian visions of these parties. We welcome contributions which approach these key topics and illuminate the tensions between democracy and Socialism, in the perspective of questions and conceptual approaches derived from social history and the ‘new political history’, based on insights of the cultural turn.

The following threads and aspects can be considered for a more detailed analysis. Articles may take up one or more of these perspectives and combine them:

– It is insufficient to analyse political parties, which have emerged since the second half of the nineteenth century, only by interpreting programmatic documents and official organisational statutes. Political parties rather originated from social and economic cleavages in countries across Europe. Particularly with regard to the labour movement, they were closely linked to relatively closed and tightly-knit socio-moral milieus and to collective frames of expectations for the future. We especially invite researchers who propose diachronic studies and explore to what extent these milieus structured everyday life and offered emotional cohesion and values for politics, consumption and leisure across periods of political upheaval and other caesuras. In such a perspective, the shaping of communities and the process of mutual exclusion between Social Democracy and Communism in the twentieth century come to the fore, as well as the respective organisational networks with their ritu!
als, medias and symbols. At the same time, the functionaries, who carried sociability and politics and who shaped the organisational and intellectual cores of the Socialist parties, have to be considered.

– Furthermore, it should be explored in which way these milieus were historically significant for mass and catch-all parties. In this context, the link between party preference and social structure, which remained remarkably strong until well into the twentieth century even in view of several drives towards modernisation, marks a starting point.
For segregated working-class communities, political parties such as the SPD functioned as political action committees, able to assert collective identities and thus increasing ideological competition over long periods of time. This prevalence of ideological competition raises a number of
questions: when and under which conditions were left-wing movements able to evolve into mass or catch-all parties, and what was the role played by minor parties in this context. To what extent could milieu structures be overcome and maintained at the same time? How did parties succeed in appealing to an – in social terms basically heterogeneous – target group on several policy fields when it came to elections or to the recruitment of new members? And, finally, what actually did the sometimes colourful attribute “left” mean in that context?

– Such a perspective highlights the successes, failures and learning processes of those political parties which were committed to democracy and Socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth century. It also allows to take into account different forms of participation within the parties, as well as their interventions in policy-making. Contributions to the volume may offer an in-depth investigation of developments in Germany, without excluding those in other European countries. By way of contrast, analysing the Swedish “Folkhemmet” (people’s home), the Dutch model of party organisation or the British Labour Party, for instance, seems to be very promising. We also welcome articles which focus both on the emergence of ‘left-wing’ catch-all and mass parties and on contrary phenomena in other European countries, including South and Eastern Europe.

– During the 1960s and 1970s, unambiguous party political values and preferences still dominated the electoral behaviour of the people in Western Europe. However, the increasing differentiation and pluralisation of society started to affect voting decisions. The planned AfS volume will give ample opportunity to explore this profound process which was accompanied by the erosion of the classic milieus, and which led to a crisis of catch-all parties as pillars of parliamentary democracy despite their openness towards new supporters and voters.
Structural change in industrial societies, in particular the shift from manufacturing to the services sector, as well as increasing individualisation, dissolved collective orientations and undermined the cohesion of traditional communities which had been based on shared values. How is the trend towards increasing societal fragmentation and highly volatile party preferences best described? Was it a history of decline, or does such a perspective rather reflect the self-perception of party activists? What underlying concepts of “progress” and “growth”
informed these perceptions? Does political mass integration have to rely on a minimum requirement of shared moral attitudes, worldviews and religious beliefs in order to counteract hedonistic life styles? As the ties between milieu cohesion, political parties and traditional voters lost strength, the hegemonic position of major mass parties declined.
They lost many members, activists and core voters. A considerable drop in turnout and a latent disenchantment with politics made it even more difficult to win over voters of a younger age. Those groups apparently do not want to get involved with the stereotypical ‘back room’-culture of political parties such as the SPD. Rather, they prefer more flexible forms of political expression and organisation. Where can we identify the historical roots of these difficulties in recruiting younger generations, and of a dwindling public acceptance of parties? To what extent has negative coverage by the mass media and their narrative of decline contributed to the weakening of the catch-all parties? Which alternative forms of political participation are competing with them, and when did forms of party-political engagement change?

– The loss of hegemony over public interpretations of important political debates and the tension between different political arenas, vacillating between loyalty to the basic political programme, parliamentary work and acting as a governing party was a development typical in most European countries during the post-war period. As a result, it damaged the core identity of left-wing parties, even though they implemented modern forms of political participation and opened up towards new coalition partners. Apparently, strategic political formulas such as “New Middle” and “Third Way” could mobilise additional voters only temporarily and to some extent at the cost of traditional voters who were rooted in the milieu. Despite the party’s willingness to embrace reform, long-term ties and loyalty rarely developed. The emergence of competing left-wing parties such as the PDS, WASG and “The Left” in Germany exacerbated the situation. It is debatable whether the concept of catch-all parti!
es according to a traditional understanding still makes sense in Europe. However, it should also be discussed if these ‘good old times’ had actually existed. The implementation of target-driven political programmes and the existence of charismatic party leaders are the hallmarks of this alleged ‘golden era’, which basically serves as a normative point of reference and marks – in the contemporary perception – the beginning of a downside trend. The outlined development might even be better described as a transformation process than as a symptom of decline. In terms of democratic theory it still has to be discussed whether major catch-all parties are to be preferred over streamlined voters’ parties.

On 22/23 November 2012, an authors’ workshop will take place at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Bonn to prepare this volume of the “Archiv für Sozialgeschichte”. The conference will be held German, English and French, and abstracts can be submitted in these languages. We ask contributors to submit their proposals until 16 March 2012. Summaries may have up to 3,000 characters. We especially welcome empirical case studies referring to one country as well as articles which compare two or more European countries.

Members of the editorial board of the “Archiv für Sozialgeschichte” are Beatrix Bouvier, Dieter Dowe, Anja Kruke, Friedrich Lenger, Patrik von zur Mühlen, Ute Planert, Dietmar Süß, Meik Woyke (managing editor) and Benjamin Ziemann.


Archiv für Sozialgeschichte
Dr. Meik Woyke
Godesberger Allee 149
53175 Bonn
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