The State As Experiment: A Centenary Symposium in Memory of Josef Popper-Lynkeus (1838-1921)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 to Friday, April 8, 2022
Event Location: 
University of Virginia

This conference takes the centenary of the death of the Austrian Jewish social philosopher Josef Popper-Lynkeus as a starting point to re-examine the powers and responsibilities of the modern state. Popper-Lynkeus’s writings on the state’s obligation to provide a minimum of food, housing, welfare, and health care became the center of great attention only in his later years and after the collapse of empires. Among his admirers and interlocutors were prominent figures such as Albert Einstein, Bertha Pauli, Sigmund Freud, Franz Oppenheimer, and Rosa Luxemburg. Key ideas driving Popper- Lynkeus’s thought included the principle of free enterprise combined with security for all, and the vision of a criminal justice system concerned with protection rather than punishment. Today, these ideas resonate in intense debates about the role of government—in everything from equity and social justice to infrastructure and public services, especially in light of a pandemic and of repeated violence against marginalized groups. The conference brings together voices from a variety of perspectives to explore the state—famously dubbed by Nietzsche the ultimate “idol” and “coldest monster”—through the lens of social, economic or political reform; ideal and utopian re-imagination; and communitarian, anarchic, and other forms of critique.

Program of Events

Wednesday, April 6

5:00PM, Solarium Room (Colonnade Club):
Opening Keynote: George Steinmetz (University of Michigan):
“The Fall and Rise of Empires and States: Theory and Research in the Human Sciences”

Thursday, April 7:
All panels will take place in New Cabell Hall 236.

9:00-10:30AM: Opening Session: “Imperial States: The Waning of Empires and the Idea of the State. A Conversation with George Steinmetz”
Chair: Erik Linstrum (UVA); Panelists: Emily Burrill (History), Kevin Duong (Politics), Isaac Reed (Sociology), Jeff Olick (Sociology)

10:45AM-Noon: Panel 1: “Critical States: Visions and Voices from the Margins”
Chair: Asher Biemann (UVA); Panelists: Malachi Hacohen (Duke): “Lynkeus and fin-de-siècle Viennese Progressivism: Centennial Reassessment;” Louise Hecht (Vienna/Katz Center): “Jewish intellectuals in Bohemia. The peer group of Popper-Lynkeus”

2:00-3:15PM: Panel 2: Alternate States: Reforming Life, Imagining Community
Chair: Marcel Schmid (UVA); Panelists: Eva Barlösius (University of Hannover): “Life Reform as Critique of the State;” Steven Press (Stanford, via zoom): “European States and the Case of Neutral Moresnet, 1815-1919"

3:30-5:00PM: Panel 3: “Ideal States: Utopian Visions at the Limits of the Political”
Chair: Caroline Kahlenberg (UVA); Panelists: Claudia Willms (Goethe University, Frankfurt, via zoom): “Franz Oppenheimer’s Utopian State;” Emma Davis (Northwestern, via zoom): “Rejecting a ‘Political Surplus’: Brit Shalom’s Anti-Statist Zionism;” Dieter Hecht (Vienna/Katz Center): “Popper Lynkeus and Zionists in Vienna”

Friday, April 8:
Morning panel will take place in New Cabell Hall 236.

9:00-10:15AM: Panel 4: “Social States: Welfare and Experimental Economies”
Chair: Manuela Achilles (UVA); Panelists: Sarah Jacobson (University of Tennessee, Knoxville): “Challenging the Modern Welfare State: South Italian Migrants and Housing Activism in 1970s Italy and West Germany;” Anton Korinek (UVA): “Preparing for the (Non-Existent?) Future of Work”

10:30AM: Tour of University Grounds for Conference Participants

12:00-1:00PM, Garrett Hall (Batten School): Public Event with Austrian Ambassador His Excellency Martin Weiss Followed by Reception