The End of Postwar (2-3 December 2015, Brussels) Conference

The Thinker’s Programme around Ian Buruma starts from the observation that an end has come to the political and social consensus that arose in Europe after the catastrophe of World War II. That consensus concerned the construction of welfare states, the belief in the strength of a united Europe and faith in a pax Americana.

The concluding two-day conference builds on two previous (closed) workshops debating on nationalism and populism, and how they help to undermine the post-war consensus. In his introduction, Ian Buruma re-examines the contours of this consensus and how it was built in Europe on the rubble of two world wars, with welfare, unification, and peace as its primary pillars. With the fall of the Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union after 1989, it looked for a while as if these pillars would be guaranteed for ever. When the communist threat disappeared, however, other forms of leftwing ideology, including social democracy, traditionally anti-communist, began to lose their appeal. In the ensuing vacuum, neoliberalism evolved into a pensée unique that, together with the revival of nationalism and populism, is eating away at the consensus and putting the role of the welfare state under increased pressure.

 This diagnosis paints a pessimistic picture. What are the alternatives for the future?

This conference is organized in the context of the Thinkers Programme of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, initiated by the Class of the Humanities and led by our Thinker-in-Residence Ian Buruma. Participation is free but registration is required.

You will find more information including the program and the registration form here.

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