CFP: The State as Experiment: Visions, Voices, Margins

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The State as Experiment: Visions, Voices, Margins

A Centenary Symposium in Memory of Josef Popper-Lynkeus (1838-1921)

New Date: April 6-8, 2022


From the groundbreaking social and economic transformations of the nineteenth century and the devastation of WWI to the revolutionary explosion of modernity in the early twentieth century, the state was a matter of great urgency for philosophers, social reformers, and political activists alike. The life and thought of Austrian inventor and social philosopher Josef Popper-Lynkeus epitomizes both the promises and challenges of this key period of European classical modernity. Born in 1838 in the Jewish quarter of the small Bohemian town of Kolín, Popper-Lynkeus was barred from an academic career because of both his heritage and radical opinions on religious and social questions. Having earned a modest living as an engineer and inventor for most of his life, his 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. Key ideas driving his thought include the principle of free enterprise combined with security for all, and the vision of a criminal justice system concerned with protection rather than punishment. While Popper-Lynkeus’s work is largely forgotten today, his prominent interlocutors and, indeed, admirers at the time included Albert Einstein, Bertha Pauli, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Oppenheimer, Rosa Luxemburg, Sigmund Freud, Max Brod, Edward Bellamy, Bertha von Suttner, Theodor Hertzka, August Bebel, and the founder of the pan-Europe movement Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi.

We wish to take the centenary of Popper-Lynkeus’s death as a starting point to reflect on the powers and responsibilities of the modern state, which Friedrich Nietzsche had influentially dubbed the ultimate “idol” and “coldest monster,” but which also became a pillar of social democracies after the collapse of empires. Bringing together both mainstream and marginalized perspectives (race, gender, class), we invite papers from a variety of disciplines (including non-traditional scholars) on the idea of the state from the angles of reform (such as social, economic, political), reimagination (such as ideal states and real utopias), and critique (such as communitarian, life-reform, theo-political, or anarchic).


The symposium will take place in hybrid (in-person/zoom) form at the University of Virginia. We will choose papers according to the quality of the abstract and with a coherent thematic arc of the symposium in mind. Abstracts should run approximately 250 words and be sent to Quintin Jepson, Program Assistant of European Studies ( The deadline for abstracts is November 1, 2021. The University of Virginia will cover accommodation (up to three nights) and meals for accepted conference participants. Travel stipends based on need may be available. Please indicate your preference whether you would like to participate in person or via Zoom.

Conference Organizers:


Manuela Achilles, Director, European Studies Program & Center for German Studies.

Asher Biemann, Co-Director, Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.

Marcel Schmid, Department of Germanic Languages and Cultures.


Categories: Announcement, CFP
Keywords: CFP