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‘Fragmented Powers: Confrontation and Cooperation in the English-speaking World’

du 23 juin 2022 au 25 juin 2022

Call For Papers

International Conference hosted by the Center for Research on the English-speaking World (CREW, UR 4399)  

Any locus of power can undergo processes of fragmentation and/or centralisation, from medieval fragmentation to the nation-state to globalisation, mirrored or counteracted by processes of decentralisation and localism. Such changes are not linear, since contradictory trends may coexist, creating tensions or reinforcing each other. In recent decades, fragmentation has been seen as having positive effects, enabling shifts in power away from centralised structures towards private economic actors, citizens and consumers, as well as local authorities, thus allowing for economic innovation and progressive policies. Indeed, the Enlightenment and nineteenth century liberal view posited that checks and balances would further democracy by avoiding tyranny and abuse (see e.g. Flathman, 2005), and classical economics called for decentralisation and free market exchanges. Hence, liberal regimes reflect principles such as laissez-faire, the separation of powers, federalism, and social pluralism, which are regarded as welded to the notion of democratisation and of providing people with opportunities for autonomy, allowing for political resistance as well as economic development.

But it is also important to look at the negative effects of fragmentation, which can be a source of weakness, leading to disunity and the inability to guarantee basic rights, devise common strategies, maintain stable and functioning economies, or organise effective opposition to state power. Fragmentation in a globalised world may lead to the emergence of isolated loci of power floating on a sea of opposition and strife, requiring new models of activism (della Porta et.al, 2006; della Porta et.al, 2017) or underlining the need for regulation and State intervention (Piketty, 2013). The neoliberal rolling-back of the state and the fragmentation of providers, in order to create competition and give consumers more exit power (Hirschman, 1970), has left the UK and US with a fragmented and poorly organised system of public, private and voluntary providers in planning, education, housing and other public services (Pollitt, 1993). Deregulation in both nations is said to have opened the door to environmental disasters. The fragmentation of tasks in the workplace and administration, has led to specialisation without a global view. Thus, the fragmented structures that have valuable democratic benefits may also contribute to substantial democratic deficits because fragmentation can also lead to polarisation along new lines. The push for localism, for example, has led to disunited cities in the grip of fragmented local powers at war with one another. In the US, opposition to civil rights or reproductive rights has often, historically, been articulated in terms of “states’ rights”, that is, certain territorial units of the federal system resisting constitutional and legal obligations to accord equal respect to the rights of all categories of citizens (see e.g. McGirr, 2001; Anderson, 2018; McAdam and Kloos, 2014; Provine, Varsanyi et. al., 2016).

What one means by fragmentation is also open to debate, and depends in part on the scale at which one observes the process, whether at the individual/personal, community, generation, organisational, state or international levels. Neoliberal policies have led to fragmented lives and fragmented selves. Individualistic trends or populist ones have been viewed as eroding national cohesion and fostering the displacement of citizenship (Kamens, 2019) while regional, ethnic or racial identities may collide with the national identity (Citrin and O Sears, 2014; Modood, 2019). At the domestic scale, the fragmentation of political parties is also observed, leading to a fragmentation of consensus and coalitions (see e.g. Dunleavy, Park and Taylor, 2018). Globalisation has engendered in turn a fragmentation and restructuring of state forms (Clark, 1997). In the latest phase, COVID-19 has shown how fragmentation undermines responses to the crisis, while also accelerating the transition to a more fragmented world order, exemplified by Brexit, in which the future organising principles of the international system are as yet unclear. Will this lead to de-globalisation or re-globalisation? Can the network stand as the new organising form?

Lastly, the reality and extent of fragmentation can be put into question, as suggested by the paradox of this seemingly universal process of liberal globalisation taking place in a world of increasingly divided, fractured and powerless polities as well as groups of individual economic agents. Taking the long view, first of all, one has to decide whether polities, economies, and social groups today are really more fragmented than they were one, two or three centuries ago — long-term comparisons may lead to very different analyses of what fragmentation entails. Even within the last century or so, trends in governance (administrative, political or corporate), with increasingly rigid bureaucratisation and state control in most of Europe and the US, also rather point to a weakening of cooperative politics, of places of collective elaboration of a compromise, and of the very possibility of local and decentralised agency, particularly for individuals in the workplace (see e.g. Dejours, 2016; Chapoutot, 2020). Is fragmentation merely an optical effect, hiding deeper trends toward centralisation of economic and political power in the hands of a few? Or is it a reaction to this very centralisation, pointing to a dystopian future in which there would be war of all against all? The place granted economics is a key element here, since the same process can take very different meanings depending on the angle of observation. From a social and political point of view, the segmentation of Euro-African labour markets with the setting up of hard barriers to immigration may be seen as a process of fragmentation; from an economic point of view, one can read on the contrary this segmentation as the unifying principle governing labour force management at a variety of levels and offering increased opportunities for profit (Cross, 2013).

Multiple readings are in order also because the study of fragmented powers reveals a tension between theories of power (e.g. functionalist vs neo-functionalist) and empirical observation, as reflected in the paradox between a neo-Marxist analysis according to which the fragmentation of political power goes with economic power concentration (in which the source of political fragmentation is precisely the weakening of all counter-structures able to confront mature capitalism) and the factual observation that large capitalist firms seem to rather prefer to be serviced by political power rather than actually wielding it themselves. Historically, “capitalist” influence may work better if power is not fragmented, even when capitalists themselves apparently yearn for fragmentation, and again long-run comparisons do not necessarily point to an unambiguous process (Hirsch, 1992). The reflection on fragmented powers therefore calls for a (re)conceptualisation of the notion of “power”, going beyond the alternative between vertical pressure and co-construction. Classic views define the political field either, as in the Marxist view, as a place of more of less violent conflict between contending classes where conflicting economic interests are arbitraged (or not), or, as in the liberal view, a place of competing rather than conflicting interest groups who find a point of equilibrium. In all cases, the system is only sustainable if the political (and other) field(s), is itself co-constructed, and a meta-reading may be in order, that the study of fragmentation can help develop (Reynaud, 2000; Eymard-Duvernay, 2006).

Fragmentation could then be seen as breakdown in conventions/institutions, in the negation of the possibility of a common co-constructed political discourse without which inarticulate, direct conflict becomes the only game in town. Today, this idea of fragmented discourse is reflected in polarisation in the media, in “culture war” issues, and social media (e.g. Sunstein, 2017; Mancini, 2013; Bright, 2018). This calls for an analysis of the links between media and political or cultural polarisation. Discourse in national histories has tended to lay too much emphasis on cooperation, and not enough on confrontation, leading to the questioning of the extent to which a co-constructed political or cultural space was ever present. On one level, fragmented powers entail isolation, confrontation, dilution, atomisation, disappearance, as opposed to autonomy, sovereignty, cooperation, uniting forces. Fragmentation may be conflictive or cooperative. May the roots of the current breakdown in the English-speaking world be traced back to earlier sources? To what extent are the changes long-lasting and irreversible? Are we witnessing a real collapse or epiphenomena? Are these changes simply a continuation of the “Great Transformation”, of the upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries, and thus rooted in some structural modern capitalist anomy (Polanyi, 1944, Wood, 1999)? Or do we witness a new era with new issues, stemming from a newly financialised capitalism, for instance (Lemercier and François, 2021)?

We welcome papers from a wide range of disciplinary approaches and historical periods, be they political or societal (including political geography, international relations, public policy, political sociology), economic, cultural or discursive, among others. Papers covering any part of the English-speaking world could address the following issues (but not exclusively), either in their most recent and contemporary manifestation or through more long-term, historical analyses covering all or part of the past three centuries:

  • Fragmented ideologies (representing communities of interests; tensions between intersectionality and class struggle; the rise of populism);

  • Fragmented constitutional configurations and regimes (federal model vs unitary model; devolution; regionalism; differential regimes of civil rights, voting rights);

  • Fragmented governance (fragmented regimes of rights; public policies, welfare state approach vs fragmentation of welfare provision, management of public services, centralisation vs localism);

  • Fragmented political parties and party systems (pluralist co-existence of countervailing forces vs factional debilitating internal strife; the fragmented electoral system in the US);

  • Fragmented economic processes (segmented markets, deregulation, diffusion of economic power away from centralised state actors towards warring oligopolistic, private corporations);

  • Fragmented workplaces and labour processes (loss of workers’ control, shift towards individualised management, labour contracts and pay, rise of the independent contractors, weakened workplace solidarity and unions);

  • Fragmentation in activism (divisions within a movement vs cooperation, joining forces and coalitions);

  • Fragmented geography and cities (urban ghettos, gentrification; inter-community confrontation or cooperation);

  • Fragmented labour markets (barriers to immigration and social mobility, international management of workers’ migration, border closing and its political promotion);

  • Fragmented international system (Brexit, multipolar vs bipolar system, rising nationalisms, weakened international law; unequal and fragmented modes of development);

  • Fragmented communities, social groups and identities (the place, role and voice of indigenous cultures and racial/gender/sexual minorities, multiculturalism; intergenerational and intragenerational co-operation and tensions);

  • Fragmentation in traditional media and social media (media framing, public opinion forming vs narrow-casting and echo chambers);

  • Fragmentation in cultural circulation(s) and in cultural diplomacy (influence and supposed cooperation vs confrontation if a culture is deemed dominant).

Confirmed keynotes: Donatella della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy); Philip Golub (American University of Paris, France); Gerry Stoker (Southampton University, UK).

Please note: The conference - papers and discussions - will take place entirely in English with a view to a future publication in an English language journal or edited volume.

Please submit a one-page proposal in English of no more than 500 words followed by a short biography of each author (including institutional affiliation and any relevant publications) in a single World file (not pdf).

Send your proposals only to the conference email address:

fragmented.powers.conf@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr

Deadline for proposals: Friday 12 November 2021.

The conference will take place on 23-24-25 June 2022 at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris.

Scientific/organising committee:

Emmanuelle Avril (Sorbonne Nouvelle), Dominic Bryan (Queen’s University Belfast), Emily Clough (University of Newcastle), James Cohen (Sorbonne Nouvelle), Laurence Cossu-Beaumont (Sorbonne Nouvelle), David Fée (Sorbonne Nouvelle), Pierre Gervais (Sorbonne Nouvelle), Lauren Gutterman (University of Texas at Austin), Fabrice Mourlon (Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Sarah Pickard (Sorbonne Nouvelle).

 

 

Suggested bibliography

 

Anderson Carol (2018) One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy, London, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Badie Bertrand (2019) L’Hégémonie Contestée. Les nouvelles formes de domination internationale, Paris, Odile Jacob.

Bauman Zygmunt (2000) Liquid Modernity, Cambridge, Polity.

Bauman Zygmunt (2001) The Individualised Society, Cambridge, Polity.

Bosi Lorenzo Giugni Marco, Uba Katrin, eds (2019) The Consequences of Social Movements. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Bright Jonathan (2018) “Explaining the Emergence of Political Fragmentation on Social Media: The Role of Ideology and Extremism,,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 23 (1), 17–3.

Brown Wendy (2017) Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Citrin Jack and Sears David (2014) American Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Chapoutot, Johann (2020), Libres d'obéir. Le management, du nazisme à aujourd'hui, Paris, Gallimard.

Clark Ian (1997) Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, Hannah (2013) Migrants, Borders and Global Capitalism, Abingdon, Routledge.

Dejours, Christophe (2016) Situations du travail, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France (PUF).

della Porta, Donatella, Andretta, Massimiliano, Mosca, Lorenzo and Reiter, Herbert (2006) Globalization from Below: Transnational Activists and Protest Networks, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

della Porta, Donatella, O’Connor, Francis, Portos, Martin and Subirats Ribas, Anna (2017) Social Movements and Referendums from Below: Direct Democracy in the Neoliberal Crisis, Bristol, Policy Press.

Dunleavy Patrick, Park Alice and Taylor Ross (eds) (2018) The UK's Changing Democracy. The 2018 Democratic Audit, London, LSE Press.

Eymard-Duvernay (2006), L’Économie des conventions, 2 vol., Paris, La Découverte.

Falk Richard (2004) The Declining World Order: America’s Imperial Geopolitics, London and New York, Routledge.

Flathman, E. Richard (2005) Pluralism and Liberal Democracy, John Hopkins University Press.

Golub Philip (2010) Power, Profit & Prestige: A History of American Imperial Expansion, London, Pluto Press.

Golub Philip (2016) East Asia’s Reemergence, Cambridge, Polity.

Graeber David (2015) The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, New York, Melville House.

Giugni Marco and Grasso Maria (2019) Street Citizens: Protest Politics and Social Movement Activism in the Age of Globalization, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Hirsch, Jean-Pierre (1991) Les deux rêves du commerce: entreprise et institution dans la région lilloise, 1780-1860, Paris, Éd. de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS).

Hirschman, Albert (1970) Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Harvard, Harvard University Press.

Kamens David (2019) A New American Creed: The Eclipse of Citizenship and Rise of Populism, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Kettl Donald (2020) The Divided States of America: Why Federalism Doesn’t Work, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

McAdam Doug and Kloos Karina (2014) Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Mancini Paolo (2013) “Media Fragmentation, Party System, and Democracy”, International Journal of Press/Politics, 18 (1), 43-60.

Modood Tariq (2019) Essays on Secularism and Multiculturalism, London, European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) Press.

McGirr, Lisa (2001) Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Piketty, Thomas (2013) Le Capital au XXIe siècle, Paris, Seuil.

Polanyi, Karl (1944) The Great Transformation, New York, Farrar & Rinehart.

Pollitt Christopher (1993) Managerialism and Public Services, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Provine Doris Marie, Varsany Monica, Lewis Paul and Decker Scott (2016) Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Reynaud, Jean-Daniel (1989), Les Règles du jeu: l’action collective et la régulation sociale, Paris, Armand Colin.

Stoker, Gerry (2004), Transforming Local Governance: From Thatcherism to New Labour, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Sunstein Cass (2017) #republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Wood, Ellen Meiksins (1999) “The Politics of Capitalism”, Monthly Review, 51 (4), 12-26.

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Type :
Colloque / Journée d'étude
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mise à jour le 30 juin 2021