DEADLINE EXTENDED! Now accepting abstracts until 8 April
The last two years have laid bare the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism. The pandemic has magnified inequalities between nations and within them. In managing Covid-19, states have demonstrated a remarkable capacity to intervene on a large scale, despite leaving their social-welfare institutions to waste. The hoarding of vaccines by rich countries at the expense of those in the Global South is the latest demonstration of the inequality produced by narrow-minded nationalism. All the while, these same wealthy governments have abnegated their responsibility to respond to the environmental crisis that is in any way adequate to its scale.
For years now, the left has declared neoliberalism dead but the viable alternatives to it remain abstract, undeveloped and politically impotent. Arguably, the left is enjoying a revival on a larger scale than any time since the 1970s as a new generation comes to realise that it can expect a future of declining living standards, political dysfunction and ecological catastrophe. Intellectually, the left still thinks through traditions, theories and movements inherited from the twentieth century. This furnishes a wealth of knowledge while raising the danger of nostalgia; the task is to situate our analysis in the specificity of our time and place.
The pandemic has further isolated Australia’s political culture, and the left here has lessons to draw from our neighbours in Aotearoa as well as further afield. The socialist movement in Chile is poised to rewrite the Pinochet-era constitution; a democratic uprising has rocked Myanmar and feminists in Argentina have won a historic battle for reproductive rights. At the same time, we must develop perspectives in solidarity with those fighting reactionary governments and oppression — for example in Palestine, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong — while also drawing attention to Australia’s coercive and exploitative role in our region and on the world stage.
In Australia, as in the majority of the developed world, the gulf between the workers’ movement and the political left remains unbridged. We need new political-economic analyses of changing work technologies, workplace conditions and the forms of union organising they necessitate. At the same time, as protest movements challenge the status quo, the left is developing a deeper and more nuanced consciousness of the dynamics of racial, gendered and sexual oppressions. There’s a specificity to these questions in Australia as we face up to the ongoing genocide of indigenous people and as the Aboriginal sovereignty movement grows and challenges the foundation of white Australia.
The pandemic has also exposed the extent to which Australia is reliant on the hyper-exploitation of precarious workers, many of whom are migrants. The degradation of working conditions and living standards has impacted younger workers and women disproportionately. As working-class incomes decline, Australia’s billionaires have increased their profits at a record rate, even in comparison to other economies like the United States. Commensurately, the long-term hollowing out of politics that began with the Prices and Incomes Accord leaves us at a political impasse whereby there is no political or social force that can articulate a social-democratic, let alone socialist, program for a more just and equal society. It is precisely this impasse and the narrowness of our society’s political and economic horizons that necessitates a re-engagement with radical history. And these questions can only be answered adequately with the aid of a broader perspective informed by radical philosophy, aesthetics, literature and cultural criticism.
These and other questions call for a pluralistic convergence of leftist activists, union organisers, writers and intellectuals. Historical Materialism Melbourne 2022 aims to be a forum within which the Australasian left can share knowledge, develop ideas and criticism, and generalise lessons from struggles and campaigns. It will take place on the 30 April and 1 May.
We welcome papers addressing these broad themes, and are particularly interested in papers examining the following issues:
• The political economy of Australia and the post-COVID world
• New technologies and their impact on work and beyond
• Climate crisis and radical ecology
• Indigenous sovereignty and struggle
• New and emerging research into Marxist feminism and trans liberation
• The political economy of care work
• The history and politics of the antipodes and the southern Pacific
• The past and future of China
• Parliamentary politics and socialist strategy
• Radical philosophy and political aesthetics
• Comparative politics and international solidarity
Abstracts should be no more than 300 words, but we welcome short ideas and sketches. Panel proposals are welcome and should have individual abstracts of no more than 200 words.
We welcome contributions from researchers and activists working outside the academy. Perspectives informed by union struggle, movement activism and other forms of non-academic theory and practice are warmly encouraged.
Please submit abstracts and panel proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 April 2022.
At this stage, panels will be held in person. However, we are open to hybrid proposals that incorporate some remote presentations.