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German Historical Institute Seminar on "Cultures of Conservatism"


  • German Historical Institute London United Kingdom (map)

Conveners: Martina Steber (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin), Anna von der Goltz (Georgetown University, Washington, DC) and Tobias Becker (German Historical Institute London).

The event is co-funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, the GHIL, the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University and the Institute for Contemporary History Munich.

Venue: German Historical Institute London

The decades from the 1970s to the 1990s are often seen as a time of revolutionary change triggered by economic crises, in which the parameters and conditions for our present times were set. Conservatism looms large in this narrative; after all, the Reagan and Thatcher governments in the United States and in Britain implemented economic and social policies that fundamentally changed the welfare state economies of the boom years. Conservatism is therefore often interpreted as neoliberalism in conservative guise, as the defining political ideology of finance capitalism. However, conservatism was a much more diverse phenomenon than these interpretations suggest. While economics and politics were certainly crucial in the fashioning of a new conservatism in Western Europe and the United States, conservatism was also a diverse cultural phenomenon, which is not adequately reflected in historical research to date.

The conference “Cultures of Conservatism in the United States and Western Europe (1970s-1990s)” seeks to fill this historiographical gap by questioning the primacy of economics and debating alternative interpretations of this age of change. Focusing on cultures of conservatism, the conference rethinks the general contours of conservatism. It pays close attention to the intersection of culture, politics and economics, in order to broaden our understanding of the processes of change that have unfolded since the 1970s.