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

Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte

Berliner Colloquienzur Zeitgeschichte

Tony Judt's Legacy, or The Past and Future of Social Democracy and the Welfare StateHosted by Tim B. Müller and Susan Neiman

9 and 10 December 2011

Shortly before his death in August 2010, Tony Judt published Ill Fares the Land. It immediately became one of his most talked-about works. Its purpose—now inseparable from Judt’s legacy—was to revive political thinking and mobilize moral language in defense of social democracy: 

»Social democracy cannot just be about preserving worthy institutions as a defense against worse options. Nor must it be. Much of what is amiss in our world can be best captured in a language of classical political thought: we are intuitively familiar with issues of injustice, unfairness, inequality and immorality—we have just forgotten how to talk about them.« (p. 234)

Our December workshop considered the challenges we must face in taking up Judt’s cause. Are current ideas of »social democracy« and the »welfare state« robust enough to carry us into the coming decades? What does the »common good« mean in a world of increasingly deregulated and globalized markets? What is the relationship between freedom and security, nation and society, the public and the private spheres? Can a better understanding of these concepts’ vexed history open our minds to new political possibilities?  

To discuss these questions from a plurality of perspectives, we assembled a group of social scientists and historians from Europe and the United States together with colleagues and friends of Tony Judt.

Conference language was English.



Michael Ignatieff in Mittelweg 36 (in German)

Michael Ignatieff live at the Einstein Forum