Socialism Workshop

Call for papers
 
Constitutional Conversation on Socialism
Jointly Organized by Policy Research Institute and Nepal Open University
28 -30 June 2019/ 13 -15 Asar 2076
Kathmandu, Nepal
 
            Policy Research Institute [Niti Anusandhan Pratisthan] and Nepal Open University have conceived a workshop foremost as a conversation about the meaning of socialism in the context of the constitution of Nepal. The workshop aims to bring together academics, politicians, bureaucrats, policy analysts and civil society members in order to interpret and elaborate the foundational principles of the constitution and to further public education in these matters. The workshop also aims to identify specific indicators and benchmarks of the foundational principles with a view to suggesting to the government to insert key benchmarks and indicators in future programming of state affairs, e.g. in laws, policies, programs, budgetary allocation, etc. as well as in periodically assessing such programming. Viewed thus, even as the workshop seeks to connect specific foundational principles to its broader intellectual, historical, theoretical, i.e. “universalistic,” lineage and to learn from it, the emphasis firmly remains on public education and state affairs, e.g. on the political, economic, policy and “practical” domains. Principles, including constitutional principles need not necessarily be destined to remain abstract and theoretical. Principles, in specific contexts, can and should be dissected, rendered concrete and actionable as well as measurable.    
            As such, our conversation on socialism aims principally to elaborate and interpret socialism – and to identify indicators and benchmarks – by honoring the inflexions flagged in the constitution. Thus, it is not socialism as such and in abstract that we seek to explore and examine but a specific “socialism” of the variety that has found a place as one of the foundational principles of the constitution. This does not at all imply that socialisms elaborated and implemented across the expanse of history and society are outside the scope of our conversation. In fact, we are keen on exploring interpretive possibilities, limits and programmatic orientation that the preamble of the constitution hints at when it expresses a commitment to socialism. Authors and workshop participants are fully encouraged to write about various socialisms (or even a more “universalistic” socialism – if there is one anymore) as long as the “socialism” identified and characterized in the constitution remains their point of reference.
            More specifically, the constitution of Nepal characterizes the socialism it seeks to imbibe and implement as one that is fundamentally wedded to democratic values and norms. It also characterizes the state and calls upon it to develop and prosper in a “socialism-oriented” manner. One could surely make credible arguments against these inflexions. Authors and participants, however, are encouraged to do so not to negate the value of the inflexions but to enrich, refine, and add precision to the inflexions.
            These specific considerations and emphases do render the present initiative relatively circumscribed. In terms of a sharper focus and added value, however, and given the very many deliberations on socialism as such and in abstract – the present initiative can potentially become a winner. In addition, it can become more creative inasmuch as this initiative: (a) seeks to unpack and elaborate key concepts – e.g. “socialism,” “socialism-oriented,” “socialism founded upon democratic values and norms,” “inclusion,” etc., and identify actionable indicators and benchmarks of such concepts.  
            In the above spirit, the organizers of the conference ask academics, administrators, policy researchers and other scholars whose research area is social and political thought to submit a 500-word abstract of their article along with a recent CV to us by April 30, 2019. The organizing committee will evaluate all submissions based on merit. A few papers are also being commissioned to writers in Nepal who have previously explored the idea of socialism. In addition, individuals who played an important role in the making of the constitution will be invited as speakers in the workshop. Selected participants will be notified by e-mail no later than May 7, 2019. Once selected, all participants are required to submit an article of 5000+ words no later than June 15, 2019. Articles should be written either in Nepali or translated into Nepali from another language. We will not accept articles that have been published before.
            At the workshop, the authors will have the opportunity to present their key ideas from the papers followed by moderated responses from panelists and participants. Contributors will receive an honorarium in return for submitting an article for the workshop. Eventually, we plan to publish the articles as part of a reference work under the PRI – NOU joint imprint.
Prompts for paper writers:
  • What is the content or character of socialism in the current Nepali context? Can we imagine a pragmatic socialist policy or program with Nepalese characteristics?  
  • What does the term “socialism-oriented” really mean in the context of Nepal’s constitution?
  • What are the precise indicators, or benchmarks, of socialism in different developmental or economic sectors? The sectors may include health, education, employment, land reform, transportation, energy and power.
  • How do socialist programs and policies mesh with or clash with the empowerment of regional, ethnic, gender and caste identities (Madhesi, Dalit, women and so forth)? What can a socialist polity do to empower these groups and vice versa?
  • How can we make socialism compatible with the goals of loktantra or representative democracy? How can we make them function as a coherent ideological unit? How can we navigate potential contradictions?
  • What might be the role, place and function of Nepal’s aspiration for socialism in a late capitalist global order? How can the two projects get along? How could we resolve the contradictions that are inherent in them?
  • What is the place of meritocracy, professionalism and a competence-based work culture in a socialist-oriented economy and bureaucracy? Or what is the place of meritocracy in socialist policies and programs?
  • What is the best way to make the agenda of equity compatible with inclusion and meritocracy? How should we balance all three?
  • How could socialism be made compatible with the promotion of public interest and national interest? How can we ensure the primacy of public interest when we pass laws and regulations? Can we develop a precise set of parameters by which to evaluate government initiatives in favor of public interest?
  • Additional themes: traversing socialism across history; traversing socialism across the world today; socialism and India; socialism and China; socialism as a practical goal; socialism’s promise; locating socialism in the constitution; political indicators of socialism; economic indicators of socialism; cultural indicators of socialism; legal indicators of socialism; gender and socialism; caste, ethnicity and socialism; Madhesh, Pahad and socialism; women and socialism; Dalits and socialism; class structure and socialism; socialism in the education sector; socialism in the health sector; socialism and land reform; socialism and economic growth; socialism and inclusion; challenges and opportunities for implementing socialism.
 
Please send a 500-word abstract of your paper along with a short CV on or before April 30, 2019 to socialismworkshop@gmail.com.
For further inquiries about the workshop, please call Nepal Open University at +97715008047/ +97715008048 (Prof. Giri) or write to the previous email.
 

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