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Call for Papers: "Conservative and Center-Right Politics in Developed Democracies: Continuity And Change"

July 9, 2013

This conference will bring together a diverse group of social scientists and historians to examine continuity and change on the political right broadly construed. It will provide a forum for graduate students and faculty members to discuss new research on, among other themes, the evolution of conservative belief systems and cultural scripts, the role of historical legacies in shaping the landscape of mainstream right politics, and the diverse responses of right-wing actors to social and economic developments such as deindustrialization and growing ethnic diversity.

In recent years, the mainstream political right has faced diverse challenges and opportunities. Secular trends in social norms and demographic developments, such as mass immigration and growing ethnic diversity, have challenged these movements’ positions on cultural and social issues. The emergence of the radical right is forcing mainstream conservative actors to reconsider their positions on contentious issues such as immigration and law and order. In addition, most (though not all) mainstream conservative parties have taken the lead in championing free-market ideas linked to welfare retrenchment and austerity.

Most recent research on the transformation of contemporary western politics has focused on the predicaments of left-wing parties and programs, or the emergence of radical populist parties on the right. Center-right ideologies, movements and parties (such as conservatives, market liberals and Christian Democrats) have been somewhat neglected. Whereas a good deal of attention has been paid to the effects of these developments on Social Democratic parties, less is known about how the various traditional constituencies of the right have reacted to such developments, the tensions that have arisen between these constituencies, and how they have been addressed or resolved in various countries. How has the mainstream right responded to and facilitated socio-economic, ideational, and policy transformations in advanced industrial democracies over the past half-century? These are some of the issues this conference is designed to address under the broader rubric of understanding change on the right of the political spectrum.

We encourage graduate students in all fields of history, political science, sociology, economics and communication to apply. Empirical and theoretical works that adopt a comparative perspective, either across the advanced democracies (including the US) or over time, are especially welcome. Papers examining other political developments are welcome if they have implications for our understanding of the mainstream right.

Confirmed attendance: Bart Bonikowski (Harvard, Department of Sociology), Peter A. Hall (Harvard, Department of Government), Quinton Mayne (Harvard Kennedy School), Daniel Ziblatt (Harvard, Department of Government).

Here are some examples of topics that would be a good fit for the conference. These are just examples and we are interested in papers bearing on any aspect of mainstream right-wing politics.

• What patterns of change characterize the electoral trajectories of the mainstream right in advanced capitalist countries?

• How has the ideological shift in favor of neoliberal ideas been translated into policies such as fiscal reforms, market-deregulation and changes in taxation?

• How has the right responded to recent calls for more direct and participatory democracy? Has the ‘democratic turn’, usually associated with the left, affected the ideology or self-organization of mainstream right movements and parties?

• How has the mainstream right responded to the rise of populist right-wing parties?

• To what a degree do we see transnational networks between right-wing actors and what roles do these networks play in the diffusion of political ideas or strategies?

• Globalization often pits business interests and nationalist movements against each other. What shapes the responses of the mainstream right to these tensions?

• What is the relationship between interest groups (including business interests) and the mainstream right, and how does it vary across countries and welfare regimes?

• Have the policy preferences of voters shifted closer to the conservative position – and if so, on which dimensions (economic, cultural, immigration)?

• Some conservative groups in the UK and the US reacted to the rise of the welfare state by adopting ideas of ‘compassionate conservatism’. Where have these ideas originated? What are their implications for our understanding of the relationship between the right and the welfare state in an era of big government?

• To what a degree has the mainstream right embraced a neo-liberal ideology since the 1980s and in what respects does it resist it?

• What shapes the positions of right-wing actors regarding environmental issues?

• In an era of growing economic inequalities, how does the mainstream right deal with issues of social solidarity?

• What are the challenges and opportunities in developing the comparative study of right-wing politics?

The conference will take place on Friday, November 15th, from 9AM to 6PM at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies of Harvard University. Participants will gather on Thursday evening, November 14th, for dinner and a keynote lecture. We expect participants to attend all panels in the conference.

Submitting applications:
Submissions should be sent to and should consist of either extended abstracts of up to 1000 words or a completed paper draft with an abstract. Applications should also include a brief academic CV (max 2 pages). Funds are available to help defray transportation and lodging costs. Participants are invited to include a request for reimbursement in their application.

Deadline for application: August 15th.

For more information, please contact:

Further information and conference website >>