Tag Archives: Soviet bloc

Oxford seminar series

Our collaborative partner in the Socialism Goes Global project, Professor Paul Betts, gives details of a seminar series being held in Oxford:

Socialisms and Postsocialisms in a Global Context is intended as a forum for sharing and discussing work with colleagues working on resonant themes. We also envisage it as a shared space for intellectual conversation about the contributions the studies of socialism and postsocialism can make in and across different disciplines – anthropology, history, socio-legal studies, sociology, political science and international relations. We are particularly interested in thinking about what insights derived from studies of socialism and postsocialism can offer with regard to understanding the current historical moment.

We do not consider socialism and postsocialism to be a geographically delimited area of inquiry, but understand it as global and diverse phenomenon and therefore invite participation of faculty and students across disciplinary and regional expertise. We particularly welcome advanced DPhil students who want to share their written work in a constructive and supportive environment.

This is a new work-in-progress group for faculty and students working on themes related to socialism and postsocialism, broadly defined.The group is convened through a collaboration between faculty members affiliated with the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and the School Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, but is open to all interested faculty and graduate students. If you are interested in becoming part of this group, please send an email to Dace Dzenovska: dace.dzenovska@compas.ox.ac.uk. Please include a few words about your research in the email, and, most importantly, let us know whether you would like to present a chapter or an article during HT 2018 or shortly thereafter.

We look forward to an exciting conversation!

Nicolette Makovicky, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies

Agnieszka Kubal, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and Faculty of Law

Dace Dzenovska, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography

All sessions will take place on Thursdays at 15:30 in 61 Banbury Road.


25 January

Reflections on the Legacy of Red Globalism

Paul Betts, Professor of Modern European History, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford

08 February

Historicising African socialisms: Kenya’s African socialism, Zambian Humanism, and Communist China’s entanglements

Yuzhou Sun, DPhil student, Faculty of History, University of Oxford

While it is commonly recognised by scholars that there is not a monolithic definition of socialism, the term has also become increasingly irrelevant following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Although the great dispute regarding ‘true’ interpretations of socialism affected the Communist bloc throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Africa, considered as a test field of Western philosophies and theories, received little scholarly attention from Marxist writers who considered African societies as too underdeveloped to host any substantial proletarian revolution led by working class. The ‘derivative thesis’, which Lal has criticised, ‘denies the relative autonomy of African thinkers vis-à-vis the world.’ Rather than trying to offer an authoritative analysis, this paper aims to construct a historiography of African socialisms through a triangulation of the global Cold War, the political culture of individual African states, and their bilateral relations with Communist countries. The divergence of political ideas and polices in African countries, which was termed by Nugent as ‘Ism schisms’, suggested that indigenisation was a complex process affecting the degree to which any political ideology would take root.

01 March

How relevant was socialist ideology in Africa’s Cold War

Miles Larmer, Professor of African History, University of Oxford

The end of the British Empire in global context

In this article, Professor James Mark discusses the end of European Empires, and how they have been understood in different ways across the globe.

In the Western world, we usually refer to the end of Empire in the 1940s and 1950s as ‘decolonisation’. This is not a neutral term – as some have argued, it was invented by Western Europeans to distance themselves from the negative associations of colonialism, and to suggest that they had, magnanimously, handed over the reins of power when the time was right.

In Britain, in the early 1960s, there was still considerable debate about whether her future geopolitical role should be focussed on the Commonwealth or Europe. Some argue that this debate, forged in the era of postwar decolonisation, is still unresolved in some areas of British politics – seen most recently in debates over Britain’s future as a member of the European Union.

The formal process of ‘decolonisation’ did take place with extraordinary speed, particularly in Africa. Yet it might be misleading to assume that this was paralleled by a lack of interest in the Empire as it became part of history- see, for example, the great popularity of films such as Zulu (1964). Nevertheless, general elections did not hinge on imperial issues. Politicians seeking to project an image of modernity rarely wanted to engage explicitly with the imperial past. A few politicians on the right, most notably Enoch Powell, did mourn the loss of ‘white order’ both abroad and at home. Yet even Powell’s complicated and eccentric views on Empire cannot be seen simply as straightforward imperial nostalgia.

Elsewhere in the world, the ends of Empire were still a raging political issue. In China, the Soviet bloc, and amongst progressive movements across the ‘global South’, the very term decolonisation was rejected. Rather, the process was portrayed as the ‘anti-imperialist struggle’ – a term that gave agency to the liberated, and suggested the necessity of an ongoing battle against ‘neo-colonialism’ (that is, Western attempts to control Third World economies even after the formal end of imperial rule.)

From the late 1950s we see many attempts to ‘decolonise’ global trade too – to remake trading conditions with the interests of the decolonised and decolonising states of the so-called ‘global South’ in mind.

This process would eventually lead to the push for a ‘New International Economic Order’ in the 1970s. Some argue that the neo-liberal globalisation that now dominates our world was a defensive reaction from the West to this anti-imperialist economic challenge from the ‘global South’.

As we can see, there is no agreed way to understand, or even name, the end of European Empire, and these debates, both amongst scholars and in popular culture, continue today globally. Indeed, recently the positive sides of the British Empire are being recovered in works by Chinese scholars seeking to make sense of their own country’s global rise.

How has the end of European Empire been understood in your part of the World? Let us know!