11 and 12 May 2012
Three quotes and one message: »In some ways, they [the Occupiers] are not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party« (Barack Obama). »Look, there’s a lot in common with the Tea Party« (Joe Biden). »Is Occupy Wall Street the Tea Party for liberal people? There’s an irresistible symmetry. Both arose on the political fringe, more or less spontaneously, in response to the financial crisis and its economic consequences. Neither has authoritative leaders or a formal hierarchical structure. Both have already earned places in the long, raucous history of ideologically promiscuous American populism« (Hendrik Hertzberg). In other words: For all their obvious differences, both movements make us wonder about the current state of American politics as well as about long-term trajectories of social and political movements in the United States. Both dimensions—the present environment of American politics and government, and its historical input—were the focus of the Berlin Colloquia on Contemporary History.
The workshop covered a variety of topics related to the growth of American plutocracy since the 1980s, the politics of emotion and the fear of decline, the two-party electoral system and its contested capacity to manage change, the lessons to be drawn from populist movements in the past and the perspectives to overcome the mix of obstructionism and nihilism characteristic of the current state of Washington affairs.
Conference language was English.