A Project of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research in Cooperation with the Einstein Forum, Potsdam

Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte

Berliner Colloquienzur Zeitgeschichte

The Return of Political Economy into Contemporary HistoryHosted by Jens Hacke and Tim B. Müller

28 and 29 September 2012

Is the economy our destiny? Today Walther Rathenau’s well-worn phrase has gained a new lease on life. Debates concerning economic issues are no longer the sole purview of groups whose professional destiny is indeed tied to the economy. Ever since the »crisis« of the last years the relationship between politics and economics has been discussed with renewed intensity. What in fact binds democracy and capitalism together? Is democracy endangered when the welfare state collapses—when guarantees of social justice vanish?

The Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte focused on the question as to how these public, intellectual, and scholarly discussions impact contemporary history—and what contribution historical research can make to these debates. It was not a matter of placing economic history at the center of contemporary history but to discover whether a focus on »political economy« can offer a sharper disciplinary as well as social contour where contemporary history is concerned.

Identity and generation, memory and remembering, representation and performance—in the last years these have all become cutting-edge concepts in historical studies. How can a contemporary history—without ignoring cultural-historical approaches—direct its attention to questions of power and inequality; to the apportionment of power and prosperity; to the economic guarantees for political order and the political regulation of socio-economic structures; to the paradoxes and pathologies of democracy and capitalism? Are there certain political-economic spheres where culture and society as well as individuals and identities can unfold? Are there increasing indicators of a process of disciplinary rethinking, of the privileging of an interest in greater political-economic knowledge? How did it happen that in contemporary history the political economy has been »forgotten,« and how can such questions be reformulated? What can be learned in this regard from other disciplines such as sociology? How much technical knowledge of economics is necessary without losing sight of those looming political questions of integration and legitimacy? Can recent historical diagnoses and analyses such as those by Wolfgang Streeck, Pierre Rosanvallon, and Daniel Rodgers serve as points of entry into these questions? And to what degree does one’s own unfiltered experience of the immediate present impact its scholarly examination?     

Conference language was German.  



Interview with Tim B. Müller

Adam Tooze in Mittelweg 36 (in German)

Charles Maier in Mittelweg 36 (in German)