Legacies of the Cold War

Legacies of the Cold War. Eighth international conference in the series “Between ‘Total War’ and ‘Small Wars’: Studies in the Societal History of the Cold War”

Hambourg, 24-26 août 2011

Date limite : 15 janvier 2011

Since it began in 2003, the conference series “Between ‘Total War’ and ‘Small Wars’: Studies in the Societal History of the Cold War” has successfully re-charted the historical coordinates of the Cold War, surveyed recent international research, and introduced new approaches and issues in Cold War studies to German discussions. This eighth and final conference will bring together retrospective and prospective analysis of the political, social, economic, and cultural continuities that persist after the end of the Cold War, the legacies and aftereffects that continue to shape the world of the twenty-first century, whether directly or in a different guise. Which of these aftereffects are genuine products of the Cold War; which are related to longer-term continuities but were altered or reconstituted in decisive ways during the Cold War? Our aim is, first, to identify significant legacies of the Cold War at the level of a “holistic” societal history and, second, pay equal attention to examining such phenomena in the West, the East, and the Third World.

We would like to suggest the following questions and conjectures as a basis for investigating the societal history of the legacies of the Cold War.

1. Political cultures

a. Has a key characteristic of the Cold War, namely, the global polarization of political models, simply disappeared? What has become of the ideological energies of the period? Is global capitalism now the dominant political model; that is, is the West the undisputed “victor”?  Or can we retrace the transformation of Cold War ideological energies into a variety of ideological concepts-the “end of history” and “democratic peace”, the “battle of cultures”, Islamo-fascism and “rogue states”, or political concepts promoted by the anti-globalization movement or by political forces rooted in protest movements denouncing the Cold War order (such as opposition to nuclear testing and weapons, to the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Prague, or NATO missile deployment in Europe in the 1980s)?

b. The culture of security: The discourses and rhetoric of security became the centerpiece of political debate during the Cold War. Security was a promise that extended far beyond the realm of the military. In an age marked by the greatest military threat in history, the aim was to use planning and regulation to ensure the highest possible degree of security. A variety of different processes converged in the context of the Cold War: responses to the economic crisis and the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s and to National Socialism; the projects pursued by technocratic elites; the widespread conviction, in the East as well as the West and the Third World, that unharnessed capitalism was failing; and finally and most importantly, the competition between the two systems and their rival paths to achieving modernization and social security. The Cold War fused these processes to form a comprehensive (military, societal, political, and economic) culture of security and allocate huge resources to create and maintain it. What remains of this culture of security, which, according to Eric Hobsbawm, coincided with a “golden age”? Was this a historic “state of emergency”? Or did it constitute the most successful framework for modern political action ever created, as demonstrated most clearly in times of crisis? Are state interventions and state regulation now, after the end of the Cold War, delegitimated, or do security regimes continue to prove their usefulness? How did the promise of security influence mentalities and political cultures that have emerged since the end of the Cold War? How did the concept of security change during and after the Cold War? How is security functionalized politically? These questions reveal the ambivalent aspects of the culture of security: to what extent did this culture have a lasting effect on political modalities, especially by confirming the logic of inherent necessity and the dominant position of technocratic elites? Does the legacy of the security mindset mean that perceived threats to security are still confronted within the conceptual framework of the Cold War? Is the logic of suspicion that has shaped policy-making in diverse societies and contexts after 9/11 in fact a legacy of this promise of security?

c. Security institutions: The culture of security has also left its mark on political institutions. Among the most conspicuous legacies are the creation of huge security bureaucracies; the concept of national security; the “national security state”; the “politics of secrecy”, the linkage of party apparatuses, intelligence services, and the armament complex; and a psychology of power that is underpinned by the mass media. What are the ongoing effects of these institutional structures, and what transformations are they subject to? Have they caused long-term changes in policymaking and political practices? Have they promoted or impeded learning processes in society, for example, in dealing with new threats? Does the institutional framework contribute to creating monolithic concepts of the enemy that proved to be an inadequate basis for policy making? How are security institutions influenced by the public and by domestic controversies, and to what extent can they avoid these pressures and develop schemes for managing threat scenarios professionally?

d. Autocratic tendencies within the executive branches of government are one result of the politics of security during and after the Cold War; an important examples is the imperial presidency in the U.S., which was generally legitimated by security discourses and determined structurally by the inner dynamics of security institutions. Did the Cold War conserve and revitalize preexisting traditions of autocracy and extra-legality or did it contribute significantly to creating such tendencies? Are these specific answers to challenges that did not surface until after the end of the Cold War but drew on ways of thinking and political styles typical of that era? Did the global East-West confrontation delay political and social liberalization processes or accelerate them?

e. These tendencies correspond to political rituals, old and new forms of ruler cults. Among the phenomena that may deserve further attention in this context are the position of the Communist Party in China and the heritage of Stalin in Russia.

f. The ambivalence of the relationship between violence and politics as a legacy of the Cold War also warrants study. Did the Cold War pave the way to a pacification of politics in Europe? While war has been discredited in parts of the Western world, in many areas of the Third World-now often called the Global South-violence is an accepted and established means of political confrontation. This is best understood as the result of a shift promoted by the Cold War, in which specific forms of violence that were not only tolerated in the geostrategic wake of the bloc confrontation, from Indonesia to Colombia, but indeed fueled by the East and the West, to the point where they could escalate almost unchecked. Have autochthonal potentials for violence been ignited and multiplied by Cold War energies? In what ways do societies continue to suffer from the Cold War’s dynamic of violence, and what are the political consequences of these phenomena?

2. Military Resources

a. Prominent legacies of the Cold War are the economies of armament and the political, military, and academic complexes to which they are linked. The “militarization of the economy” with its structures, self-mobilization, internal dynamics, and self-interests played a significant role in perpetuating the Cold War and, in particular, the nuclear stand-off as the unique manifestation of the bloc confrontation.  Do these structures continue to exist under changing geostrategic conditions? Why has the “peace dividend” never been cashed in?

b. Is there a link between today’s global arms trade and the armament economy generated by the Cold War? Other factors to be considered are global terrorism and how states are dealing with the existing nuclear weapons arsenal, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the risk of nuclear terrorism.

c. Armed forces and strategies: Has a military revolution that has overcome the Cold War really occurred? Or do Cold War concepts continue to determine the military’s strategic horizon as well as, for all practical purposes, its practices and armament priorities ? Is there evidence of a disarmament process that goes beyond the logic of the Cold War? Has the doctrine of “permanent preparedness” ever really been abandoned?

d. Are there indications of a shift in images of the military marked by enhanced recognition of what was formerly deprecated? What images of soldiers, of masculinity, and of the war of the future predominate in the military itself and in the mass media? Do these images reflect concepts that perpetuate Cold War military traditions-clandestine commando operations and “counterinsurgency”, which occur within a framework marked by a minimum of institutional legitimacy or democratic control?

e. Military rituals: Can we enhance our understanding of the aftereffects of the Cold War-as opposed to and at the same time drawing on pre-dated traditions of military symbolism-by investigating rituals such as memorial services for soldiers killed in action or military salutes? What do such practices reveal about how a specific society relates to the military? What lines of continuity and discontinuity, what transformations and reconfigurations emerge?

3. Ecology and economy

a. Some of the most enduring effects of the Cold War can be discerned in the environmental realm. To what extent are environmental disasters, famine, the destruction of people’s livelihood, or the impacts of climate change consequences of the Cold War? What are the social and economic effects of the dissemination of weapons such as land mines?

b. How is the ongoing proliferation of poverty connected to the dynamics of the East-West conflict, either directly or indirectly, by virtue of the way it shapes public perception and thus, for example, marginalizes problems like poverty or the environment? And what are the long-term demographic effects of the Cold War in the Third World?

c. Is the emergence of elites in the Third World connected to the Cold War? To what extent did new patterns in the formation of elites appear after the Cold War ended? What are the structural impacts on societies when Cold War armament aid is discontinued?

d. In what ways is the Cold War linked to the emergence of transnational advocacy networks that bridged the East-West and North-South divides of the Cold War? What is their legacy for the post-Cold War world? Has it resulted in the formation of a global civil society?

e. Can we find evidence of the ongoing existence of dominant developmental models that are adhered to by various actors? Does the Cold War still have an impact on today’s relations between Third World countries and the states of the former Western and Eastern blocs? Are new cooperative relations or new strategic rivalries (such as the role of China on the African continent) manifestations of such continuities?  Has the end of the Cold War brought a loss of self-regulation among economic actors, because capitalism’s opponent has disappeared? Does global market liberalism now believe that it must no longer fear the consequences of excesses and crises, because it does not have to take the political limits into account that were once set by its global competitor? Despite the deregulation tendencies that surfaced in the 1970s and 1980s, risk-adverse economic behavior remained a key characteristic of the Cold War. If the radical abandonment of economic restraint was therefore only possible after the bloc confrontation ended, what does this imply for our understanding of the relationship between economic activities and the competition between the two political systems? If it is true that the combination of “consumer capitalism”, “welfare democracy”, and “socially-committed markets”-and not the radical market model-was the winning formula in the Cold War, as Melvyn Leffler, a leading historian of the Cold War has argued, then what are the global consequences if the “victor” forgets that formula and loses his allure?

The conference language is English. The Hamburg Institute for Social Research will reimburse travel expenses (second-class train fare or economy-class air fare for long-distance travel) and provide accommodations during the conference for all invited participants.

Please send proposals (one to two pages) and a brief c.v. by 15 January 2011 to the Hamburg Institute for Social Research at coldwar@his-online.de

Organizer: Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, Bernd Greiner, Tim B.  Müller, Dierk Walter, Claudia Weber, Hamburg

Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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