Conference. Conservatism and Reaction in Contemporary Politics

Monday, February 11, 2019 to Tuesday, February 12, 2019
2/11: Columbia University; 2/12: State University of New York Global Center

Please join us for a conference organized by the Andrew Gagarin Center for Civil Society and Human Rights of St. Petersburg State University, the Bard College Center for Civic Engagement, and the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

Recent developments in electoral politics throughout the world tend to be associated with the victory of populism or the "new right." These newly-popular politicians and parties (Trump, Putin, Front National, Basic Finns, Alternative for Germany, etc.) usually have a dominant ideology, even if it is eclectic and hybrid. The traditional name of this ideology is "conservatism." It argues for exclusive and identitarian nationalism, a higher role for family and church, authoritarian structures of power, the need to defend against subversives—the rest is dependent on national tradition. Its more pejorative analogon, going back to the counter-revolutionary resistance to the French Revolution, is "reactionism." 

How did this ideology evolve in the late 20th-early 21st century? What are its main principles? What makes it attractive? What classes/groups does it represent?  How can one argue against it/for it? Is an ideological analysis still valid at all? These and other questions will be at the core of discussion with special focus on conservatism in contemporary Russia (where it has in fact become a ruling ideology).

The conference is free and open to the public, no registration is required. For more information email Bryan Billings

Monday, February 11th

Columbia University
Room 1512 International Affairs Building
420 West 118th Street
9:15-9:25 a.m.            Welcome

Alexander Cooley, Director Harriman Institute

Jonathan Becker, Director Center for Civic Engagement

9:25–11:05 a.m.         Comparative Conservatism I

Moderator: Alexander Cooley, Barnard College & Harriman Institute

  • Marlene Laruelle, George Washington University
    “Conservatism” in Russia and in Europe. Gaps and Overlaps
  • Sean McMeekin, Bard College
    Paranoia and Reaction in the Ex-Communist East and the Ex-Capitalist West: Some Thoughts
  • Maria Snegovaya, University of Maryland
    Post-Communist Transition and the Conservative Turn in Russia and Hungary
  • Karine Clement,  École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
    Reaction to Reaction : the Russian “Vatniki” and the French “Yellow Vests”
11:05-11:15 a.m.        Coffee Break
11:15–1:00 p.m.         Preserving What? Reacting Against What?

 Moderator: Katerina Vrablikova, Columbia University 

  • Aleksey Gilev, St. Petersburg State University
    Sources of Support of State Institutions in Russia
  • Yana Gorokhovskaia, Columbia University
    What It Takes to Win When the Game is Rigged: The Evolution of Opposition Electoral Strategies in Moscow, 2012-2017 
  • Pavel Kononenko, St. Petersburg State University
    Is There Anything “Conservative” in Conservatism? Reaction and Formal Institutions. Evidence from the Russian Regions
  • Medet Tiulegenov, American University of Central Asia
    A Decade of Protests in Kyrgyzstan: Conservative Turnarounds in Contentious Claim Making
1:00–2:30 p.m.           Lunch Break
2:30–4:15 p.m.           Conserving the Past

Moderator: Elise Giuliano, Columbia University

  • Ilya Kalinin, St. Petersburg State University
    The Politics of Secondary Style: Re-action as Re-flex
  • Yitzhak Brudny, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Political Conservatism and National Identity in Post-Communist Russia
  • Kevin Platt, University of Pennsylvania
    Reaction as Reactive: History, Memory War, and Complementary Occlusions in the Baltic Region
  • Denis Skopin, St. Petersburg State University
    Perception of Stalinism in Contemporary Russia


Tuesday, February 12th

State University of New York Global Center
Global Classroom
116 East 55th St.
2:30–4:00 p.m.           Conservatism Pro et Contra

Moderator: Samantha Hill, Bard College

  • Artemy Magun, European University at St. Petersburg
    Ideological Hybridity in the North
  • Roger Berkowitz, Bard College
    Public Education: The Challenge of Educational Authority in a World Without Authority
  • David Ost, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
    Normalizing Fascism, and Why Many Workers Go Along
4:00-4:15 p.m.            Coffee Break
4:15–6:00 p.m.           Comparative Conservatism II

Moderator: Jonathan Becker, Bard College

  • Hadas Aron, New York University
    Transformative Populism: A Central European Comparison
  • Szabolcs Pogonyi, Central European University
    Nationalist Populism in Central Europe
  • Camille Robcis, Columbia University
    Populism and National Reproduction in the French Gay Marriage Debates
  • Boris Vormann, Bard College Berlin [via video-feed]
    Failed Promises, True Grievances: Comparing Trumpism across the Atlantic
6:00-6:15 p.m.            Coffee Break
6:15–8:00 p.m.           Roundtable: Conservatism and Populism in Europe and Beyond

ModeratorMalia Du Mont, Bard College

  • Ian Buruma, Bard College
  • Walter Russell Mead, Bard College
  • Adam Shatz, Bard College
  • Allison Stanger, Middlebury College