9-11 July 2022
University of Amsterdam – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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2022 – Amsterdam

Fractious Connections: Anarchy, Activism, Coordination, and Control

Conference Theme Overview

Being “well connected” has traditionally been associated with having influential friends or relatives in “high places”. Privileged levels of social and economic capital differentiate them from the “poorly connected” in diverse, economically poor, but potentially socially rich communities. In the digital age, the implicitly positive association of being “well connected” implies being “plugged in”, “on the scene”, informed and involved with “what’s happening”.

However, a growing critique of being “over connected” or “disconnected” from mainstream economic and political life is forcefully apparent in the recent Ken Loach films: I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You. We are increasingly becoming aware of public, policy and academic debates about the “right to disconnect” or movements to increase “connectivity” for dislocated communities. But a closer examination of the concept of “connectedness” is needed to understand how strong and weak connections unfold at different levels and across different societies for disparate communities.

In “The Strength of Weak Ties” Granovetter wrote, “the personal experience of individuals is closely bound up with larger-scale aspects of social structure, well beyond the purview or control of particular individuals. Linkage of micro and macro levels is thus no luxury but of central importance to the development of sociological theory. Such linkages generate paradoxes: weak ties, often denounced as generative of alienation are here seen as indispensable to individuals’ opportunities and to their integration into communities; strong ties, breeding local cohesion, lead to overall fragmentation. Paradoxes are a welcome antidote to theories which explain everything all too neatly.” (1973:1377-8).

The paradoxical experience of connectedness has been poignantly evident on political stages around the world. The heated, and deadly, debates surrounding Brexit, Black Lives Matters and the storming of the US Capitol in 2021 illustrate the very fractious climate where these connections are being vociferously, and sometimes violently, contested.

The overarching theme of the SASE 2022 conference will be to explore the paradox of Fractious Connections. This will be done through the lens of four key concepts that have received varying degrees of attention in comparative political economy: Anarchism, Activism, Coordination, and Control.

The concept of Coordination in comparative political economy has received considerable attention in relation to debates around the Varieties of Capitalism. But has digital disruption undermined this coordination?

The concept of Control has been used to understand the labor process; but how is this evolving in relation to digital surveillance at work and in politics?

The concepts of Anarchy and Activism have, relatively speaking, received much less attention within the SASE community.

Activism is frequently discussed within an Industrial Relations framework. While traditional male, manufacturing union membership has declined; a plethora of new forms of organizing for an emergent “gig” workforce has included the voices of younger, female, and ethnically diverse communities. We need to know more about these developments evolving outside established organizations.

Anarchy is not often discussed in comparative political economy, although there is a vibrant discourse in international relations (Hedley Bull 1977), and in the work of Chomsky (1994). Understanding how disruptive digital practices have emerged anarchically exposes new structures and organization of power, opportunity, and oppression.

Re-examining these concepts and developments relates back to the work of Granovetter in connecting the individual experiences with global societal structures to understand the paradoxical way fractious connections are evolving.

While these concepts will inform the overall theme of the 34th SASE annual conference, a wide range of contributions are encouraged to participate in one of the 18 vibrant networks, or submit proposals to host a mini-conference.

SASE provides a platform for creative empirical and theoretical research on key social problems. We are committed to supporting a diverse international membership encouraging lively intellectual and interdisciplinary debates. So whether you are new to SASE, or a seasoned aficionado, we look forward to seeing you in Amsterdam!

President: Jacqueline O’Reilly (j.o-reilly@sussex.ac.uk)