One-Day Workshop: The Social Contract in an Era of (Post-)Neoliberalism and Populism
21st of June 2019, Department of Anthropology, UCL
Keynote speaker: Dr Sian Lazar (University of Cambridge)
Organisers: Miranda Sheild Johansson (UCL), Gwen Burnyeat (UCL)
We invite papers that contemplate the social contract through themes such as political change, the public good, bureaucracy, good governance, public policy, crime, social movements, state-society negotiations and fiscal relations, among others. We are open to exploratory papers in early stages of linking existing ethnographic data and analysis to a discussion of the social contract. This is an excellent opportunity for PhD and early career researchers to meet each other and receive feedback from our discussants and keynote speaker, and we anticipate that the workshop will result in a special issue proposal to a political anthropology journal.
The workshop will take place on Friday 21st of June and consist of three panels. Dr Sian Lazar will give a keynote at the end of the day. To participate please submit a title, abstract (max 250 words) and short bio or CV to Miranda [email protected] and Gwen [email protected] by Mon the 20th of May. We will inform all applicants of the outcome of their submissions by Friday the 24th of May. Lunch, tea/coffee will be provided and there is some funding for travel.
While 20th century contractarians, e.g. John Rawls, agree that state-society relations are not the result of actual contracts, but rather conquest, usurpation or gradual shifts in institutions that do not require a conscious opt-in, the social contract as a metaphor, or a set of mutual and varied expectations remains a powerful way for people, governments and social scientists to conceptualise state-society relations and assess political legitimacy. From notions of reciprocity (a citizen perceiving paying tax as a productive exchange with the state, Bjӧrklund Larsen 2018), and rejections of ‘the public’ under neoliberalism (citizens that prefer autonomy to state protection, Abelin 2012), to culture clashes brought on by competing logics of bureaucracy and everyday life (Mathur 2014), and contradictory affects and expectations towards states in conflict regions (Ramírez 2011), social contract theory is ever present in anthropological analysis. Today, in the context of global political transformations toward post-neoliberal and populist models, the concept has gained further traction. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together recent ethnographic research on state-society engagements to analyse the utility and meaning of the social contract today, both as an everyday emic category employed by research participants, and as a political philosophy category within anthropology.