Occasion and Aim of the Conference
The downfall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 was a world-historical event. After half a century of Communism in Central East Europe, which also implied a deep-going break-up of formerly very close relationships between the countries and peoples of central and southeast Europe, the former state-socialist countries became western-style market economies and adopted democratic political constitutions. This was a revolutionary transition which in some cases implied heavy costs but which also opened up major new opportunities. The aim of this conference is to investigate the societal consequences which this transition had on both sides of the former Iron Curtain. For Austria, it implied that its eastern provinces turned from peripheral areas into central zones between West and East Europe; for its entrepreneurs and bankers huge investment opportunities opened up. For all former state socialist countries it implied a painful restructuring, for some of the successor states of Yugoslavia, in the first decade a terrible war. But later on, in the wake of economic reforms and the access of many to the European Union, it led to an economic recovery, new opportunities for work in the west and a relative consolidation of the new political systems. Twenty-five years seem to be a period long enough to draw a balance about the achievements, but also about the negative concomitants of this processes, such as the emergence of new inequalities.
Austrian sociologists have had scientific relations with sociologists in South and Eastern Europe already before 1989 and they have been very attentive about the events and their consequences since then. This applies particularly to sociologists in Graz which is located centrally in this area. By the late 1980s, the Austrian Sociological Association, with Max Haller as president at that time, hold its biannual assembly as an international conference at the University of Graz with the title “Societies at Borders. Social Structure and Social Consciousness in East and West Europe.” It was attended by hundreds of sociologists from Austria, but also from east and southeast neighbour countries and western Europe. In June 1988, a symposium on the distinguished Polish-Austrian sociologist Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838-1909) was organized, coordinated by Gerald Angermann-Mozetic. Several members of the department of sociology gave visiting lectures at the universities of Maribor and Ljubljana; Max Haller and Helmut Kuzmics directed a common course with colleagues of the University of Ljubljana. In October 2012, the members of the sociological department of Graz visited the sister department of the University of Maribor. Recently, a Joint Study Master Programme „Cultural Sociology“ was launched as a cooperation between the Universities of Graz, Brno, Trento and Zadar with Manfred Prisching and Katharina Scherke (Graz) and Mirko Petric and Inga Tomic-Koludrovic (University of Zadar) as coordinators.
The aim of this conference is to renew and enlarge the contacts between sociologists in Austria and Central, East and Southeast Europe, also as a counter-weight to the predominant orientation toward Germany and the United States, and to explore new possibilities for scientific exchanges and cooperation. The contributions take stock of significant social changes that have been going on since 1989 and present new studies and findings from important areas of sociological research.
Max Haller (Coordinator), Christian Fleck, Klaus Kraemer, Stephan Moebius, Manfred Prisching, Katharina Scherke (Graz); Alberto Gasparini (Gorizia); Hadeja Iglic (Ljubljana); Mirko Petric (Zadar); Rudolf Richter (Vienna); Helmut Staubmann (Innsbruck)