From October 23rd to October 24th, the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute hosted the Inequalities, economic models and Russia’s October 1917 revolution in historical perspective conference.
The aim of the conference was to examine why capitalism has been competitive over the last 500 years, why it failed in the 20th century and was replaced by socialism across the world, and why socialist societies transitioned back to capitalism.
Ten speakers from various countries also discussed the impact of globalisation and on societies today.
Levels of inequality were identified and analysed by the DOC’s Research Director in Economics & Political Sciences, Vladimir Popov. Popov said that inequalities are unfortunately seen as irrelevant in contemporary economic theory. Economics, which studies equilibrium and Pareto efficiency, does not deal with questions like the historical evolution of social systems, how these systems are born, reach maturity, and die.
Vladislav Zubok, a historian at the London School of Economics, spoke about the 1917 Russian October Revolution, collectivisation, and industrialisation in the late 1920s and the 1930s, asking whether there were alternatives to these events and what a counterfactual scenario to World War Two would look like.
Ruslan Grinberg, research director at the Russian Academy of Sciences‘ Institute of Economics, highlighted that between the 1950s and the 1970s, capitalism developed an almost socialist approach to welfare programs. Now, middle classes appear to be shrinking in Western societies as well as in Russia.
Domenico Nuti, an economics professor at the University of Rome, pointed out that inequality has always characterised social systems, and there is an inherent conflict between efficiency and equality, while sociologist Georgi Derluguian, of NYU Abu Dhabi, raised the fact that revolutions have always ended up with a ‘revolutionary emperor’ regime that has been necessary to preserve the achievements of these revolutions.
Michael Ellman, a professor of economics at the University of Amsterdam, discussed the development of inequality in non-market economies. While low levels of economic inequality have characterised socialist societies, other forms of inequality were based on the bureaucratic and political status ascribed by dominant classes.
Sociologist Beverly J. Silver, the director of the Arrighi Center for Global Studies at Johns Hopkins University, argued that historically capitalism has been characterised by a contradiction between profitability and legitimacy resulting from conflict between labour and capital, and that there is a long-term cycle of national income redistribution associated with the changing balance of forces between labour and capital.
Andres Solimano, chairman of the International Center for Globalization and Development in Santiago, Chile, examined the mobility of the very wealthy and the movement of international capital. There are pull and push factors for individuals which may differ from the pull and push factors for global capital, he explained.
UCLA sociologist Kevan Harris presented an in-depth analysis of the different models of Arab socialism and examined their differences with socialism in Europe.
Another regional example was given by University of Perugia economist Milica Uvalic, who analysed socialism in Yugoslavia and its successor states. While Slovenia has carried out a gradual process of privatisation but retained worker profit sharing and participation in management, other Yugoslav republics seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
A detailed analysis of the conference will be published in the coming days.