Socialism, Capitalism and Alternatives: Critical Area Studies and Global Theories

Articulating alternatives to capitalism and socialism remains stubbornly difficult. This is a problem because the ideas of socialism and capitalism are now often seen as hardly appropriate to solve any of the novel, and often unsettling, political developments we are confronted with across the globe. Through analysis of post-socialist Russia and Central and Eastern Europe as well as of China and the West, the volume confronts the challenge we face in articulating alternatives to capitalism, socialism and the Right-wing populist regimes which have emerged in Poland and Hungary and find their reflection in Brexit and the election of Trump.

Co-editor: Pete Duncan (UCL SSEES)

Traditionally, area studies have anchored social phenomena in very specific cultural and historical contexts, thereby perpetuating set narratives of regional distinctiveness rather than reflecting upon the genealogy of geographic definitions and disciplinary narratives. An obvious example of this is a certain tradition in Kremlinology to focus a little too strongly on Russia’s uniqueness instead of, for instance, looking at other empires which have declined or fallen or seeing parallels between the Soviet Union and many developing countries in their political practices. The position of Kremlinology, overwhelming as a result of Cold War studies, has stifled the development of other disciplines and approaches.

The volume seeks to develop Critical Area Studies in two ways. First, it analyses regional developments by applying conceptual and theoretical frameworks which have traditionally been employed in different contexts. Second, it goes beyond the usual empirical approaches to draw snapshots of a range of countries. From this, the volume will make theoretical conclusions and ponder the persistence of the terms capitalism and socialism in the face of their evident insufficiency.

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Elisabeth Schimpfössl

About Elisabeth Schimpfössl

My research focuses on elites, philanthropy and social inequality as well as questions around post-Socialist media and self-censorship. I did my PhD at the University of Manchester and taught at Liverpool University, Brunel and UCL before taking up my current post as Lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. I live in London.