Conference

CAS-SEE Fellows Panel in Belgrade

CAS-SEE Fellows presented at the “Social Justice: New Perspectives, New Horizons” Conference in Belgrade (May, 4-6 2016).

Chair: Sanja Milutinović Bojanić

Dane Taleski, Dragan Tevdovski, Trajche Panov and Viktor Dimovski

Socially Impoverish and Entrap: A Strategy to Maintain a Hybrid Regime?

Some theories of democratization argue that quality of democracy and social equality are interrelated. The argument is that if the quality of democracy is higher, then inequalities will be lower because  redistribution in a democratic regime is more fair. Another argument is that if inequalities are higher, then this will increase social pressures for regime change. The idea is that people will revolt to improve their situation. The expected causal mechanism at work is that as people’s living condition worsen they will demand more democracy which, among other things, will deliver better redistribution. Why are then hybrid regimes maintained, if inequality is on the rise?

To answer the question we assume a nested research design. We first make a cross-country comparison and then we present an in-dept case study. In the cross-country comparison, we take countries in transition from East Central Europe, Southeastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent State and Russia. We measure quality of democracy using the Freedom House Nations in Transit Report from 2005 to 2015. To measure inequality we use World Bank Data for GINI coefficients and unemployment rates. The data seems to support the assumption that if the quality of democracy is higher, then inequality is lower. However, we then take a closer look at Macedonia, a case where inequality dramatically increased, but quality of democracy did not improve. In other words, Macedonia is a case where a sharp rise of inequality was accompanied with degradation of democracy.

The country introduced tax cuts which contributed toward the rise of inequality and poverty. At the same time, the government enacted policies to target benefits to different groups in society. However, the policies did not off-set the rise of inequality and poverty, but made the people more dependent on state patronage. We trace policy development and budget spending to show how policies were designed to target small portions of benefits to different groups in society, not to adjust for inequalities, but to make the people more dependent on social benefits. While democracy was deteriorating, the citizens were entrap. The outcome of the elaborate policy design was to gradually increase the serfdom of majority of the population from the elites.

Dragan Tevdovski, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Economics, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje.

Trajche Panov is a Doctoral Candidate at the European University Institute in Florence, and lecturer at the James Madison University.

Dane Taleski, PhD, is a Fellow at Centre for Advanced Studies in Southeast Europe, University of Rijeka, and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz.


Ali Emre Benli

Theorizing Justice in Asylum Here and Now: A Social Choice Approach

Mainstream theorizing of justice in asylum provides guidance in addressing actual questions by first theorizing ideal principles that govern a perfectly just refugee regime and then deriving recommendation based on ideal principles. In this presentation, I first point out that mainstream theorizing is insufficient in addressing urgent and important questions such as the current situation of asylum seekers arriving at the borders of the European Union. The difficulty lies with finding an agreement on the superior principles of justice in asylum as well as regimes that may best implement them. Moreover, in the context of such disagreement, it is hard to create the political will required for their implementation. Then, I offer an alternative method based on Amartya Sen’s work on social choice approach to theorizing justice. I argue that we can reach partial agreements regarding the particular question at hand without reaching an overall agreement on the perfectly just refugee regime. The partial agreements point to ways to improve the status quo. In addition they give us sufficient moral reason not only for choosing one alternative course of action over the others, but also for demanding that others do the same.


Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

City Partnerships as Détente from Below? Twinning Bologna and Zagreb

This talk discusses a project, a work in progress, jointly developed by Dr Eloisa Betti and Dr Vladimir Unkovski-Korica, about the twinning of Bologna and Zagreb in the Cold War. Town twinning in the interwar period of the twentieth century developed as a civic notion to promote peace and a common identity in Europe, especially in France and Germany. This paper looks at a similar attempt to create links between Italian and Yugoslav cities, following the Second World War and territorial disputes following it. Nonetheless, it also argues that Cold War questions differentiated twinning from the interwar experiment. The talk therefore interrogates to what extent the links set up between Bologna and Zagreb can be seen as an early form of détente as various actors responded to the logic of a bipolar world. It also asks whether the hope of ‘détente from below’ was in fact utopian in the context of international economic inequalities, and therefore a harbinger of what we now know as globalisation.


Nuri Ali Tahir

Fighting Injustice Through Health Care Reform: How to Understand Social Injustice and Recent Reforms in American Health Care System

Social injustice and its components are being discussed more often today where state authorities are having trouble to provide equal and fair access to the citizens for certain services. In countries where there are political actors that resist to some regulations fighting injustice, the case might lead to political polarization and eventually defend the status-quo in which injustice prevails.  Recently, with its limited accesss and high costs, US health care system became the most important topic in the American public policy. Problematic access to health care services and the lack of universal health insurance resulted with almost 50 million people having unpaid bills to the hospitals. Democrats and Republicans had huge debate regarding the Affordable Health Care Act which is also known as Obama Care. While Democrats defended state subsidy to help poor people, Republicans strictly opposed this policy and government aid to help defray health insurance costs. The sutation becomes even more complex if we include other people such as legal residents and immigrant communities. This paper will focus on the chronic problems of American health care system and its accessibility by the poor people. Democrat and Republican positions will be evaluated based on their view towards equal access to the health care services by the citizens and other immigrant communities.

HOW TO ACT TOGETHER? FROM COLLECTIVE ENGAGEMENT TO PROTEST

3rd International conference of the

Group for Social Engagement Studies, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory

Center for Advanced Studies in Southeastern Europe (CAS – SEE), University of Rijeka

How to Act together: From Collective Engagement to Protest

Belgrade, November 19-21, 2015

The conference explored the broad issue of action – in its various sociological and philosophical traditions – and the particular question of collective engagement in its contemporary forms of protest assemblies.

The question of action and human agency has been extensively debated in social theories of the 20th century. The pendulum moved many times from perspectives emphasizing social and economic determinants to those embracing human rationality, self-reflexivity and the ability to actively construct social reality. While some of the pioneer studies of action focused predominantly on micro-contexts and behavior of actors in concrete situations, the crucial question that social theory is facing today is how to once again shift the analysis from the level of individual action to the macrostructural one, i.e. the level of the ’behaviour of the social systems’ – a shift which would escape the simple structural determinism of action and offer at least a horizon of the possible synthesis of the two analytical planes. The issues that interest us most in this respect concern the prospects of articulating social critique and reconceptualizing the ’political’ from the perspective of individual and group action.

How does one conceptualize adequately the ’everyday’ action of individuals? What is the actual potential of concrete and engaged, albeit fragmented actions in bringing about general, systemic social change? Can social theory build on the actors’ own accounts of their action as the grounds for the critique of power and domination? Finally, could we say that social theory amounts to no more than a methodologically adequate description of the potential for social critique inherent in everyday social action, or can it be an independent constituent of social engagement that brings about progressive change?

The question of action and agency was given a new impetus with recent waves of popular protests ranging from the so-called Arab spring to Occupy movements to anti-austerity protests. We want to see how these acts of collective engagement could be analyzed and interpreted within different traditions of thinking about action. Reversely, we also want to explore different impacts these new forms of engagement may have on theories of action. In particular, we wishd to incite a debate on contemporary collective protests and theory of performativity, as it is advanced in Judith Butler’s forthcoming book (Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly), where it is revised to include “concerted actions of the body”. What are the ways in which physical bodies can act in politics? How are we (and are we?) transforming and influencing the public and the politics by employing embodied ways of coming together? Finally, is precarity (precarious bodies) becoming a dominant force of protest, as Butler argues, or, on the contrary, is it the very obstacle to systemic change (tantamounting to “reserve army of labour”)?

Judith Butler12232846_1114653378569033_5656336979520064092_o11057470_1114653735235664_8496587898637289661_oAdriana Zaharijević i Judith Butler