Competition and Good Society - The Eastern Model

24th-26th october 2012, UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI, FINLAND


The link between competition and good society has seldom been extensively discussed on any international academic forum. Since the 1980s there has been vivid political discussion of and rivalry among the varieties of capitalist models. The ongoing Western economic crisis with political decision-makers’ discord, a growing sense of social insecurity and global demonstrations all point out how cutting-edge this topic is. Hence, we aim to discuss competition and competitiveness not primarily in the economic context but, more importantly, in reflection to societal life. We are interested in what kind of preconditions competition creates for welfare, social justice, equality and culture, in addition to how competition affects changes on the level of mentality and ideas – subjects that have been greatly neglected.

The purpose of the 12th Aleksanteri Conference is to generate academic research and discourse on this subject. The focus of the conference is on the Eastern angle. Its aim is to discuss how people in Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, and even further in the East in Central Asia and China understand the preconditions of a good society and what role competition plays in it as well as how competition is reflected in the semantic systems and the cultural structures of these countries. Especially the area that faced the enormous task of building a new social system after the collapse of socialism had to redefine its relation to market forces, competitiveness and social well-being. What are the experiences of this societal development after twenty years? Are the Eastern models divergent or convergent with the varieties of Western capitalism? What are the norms, limitations and practices of competition in the diverse Eastern models? How has the understanding of competition changed after the Second World War? Can we find continuities of ideas, practices or mentalities rooted in the communist past and Cold War period that still affect these issues?

We call for contributions from a wide range of disciplines in social sciences and humanities since the aim is a fruitful interdisciplinary discourse. The conference organisers welcome presentations particularly on the following topics:


Competition as individual performance, rivalry, struggle or fulfillment
The merging of individual and social purposes of competition
Competition as a channel and overarching bond between the individual and community
The social appeal of competition: the attraction of Olympic games, beauty contests, song and choir contests, quizzes, survival competitions, chef contests, etc.


Influence of historical background and cultural traditions on contemporary competitiveness and the understanding of social welfare
Traces of the Cold War and state socialism
New forms of competition and new interpretations of social well-being
Impact of competitive practices on change in the political sphere, working sphere, education and gender relations


Regional, national and international differences and similarities: the notion of competition and the needs of society
Transnational, supranational and non-national aspects
Comparisons of Eastern and Western models


Spread of competition in societal life
Interaction of the political and economic spheres: integration, intervention, influence
Egalité, fraternité, liberté! Democracy and civil society from the point of view of competition
Role of the media
Individual manoeuvring space and social boundaries
Intersectional approaches: gender, class, ethnicity
Gendered competition
Competition and corruption: trust and the idea of the constitutional state


Competition, entrepreneurship, innovations
Competing ideas: theories of individualism and communality
New resistance and global phenomena
Ideology of growth and sustainable development in connection with competition


Conference Opening: Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland 2000-2012
Iván Berend
, economic history (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)
Vladimir Gel’man, political science (European University at St. Petersburg, Russia and Finland Distinguished Professor, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Andrea Petö, gender studies (Central European University, Hungary)
Colin Sparks, media research (Chinese Media Research Center, University of Westminster, UK)
Iván Szelényi, sociology (Yale University and NYUAD, USA)


Proposals for panels (500 words): May 15th, 2012
Abstracts for individual papers (300 words): May 15th, 2012
Notification of acceptance: May 31st, 2012
Publication of the conference programme: June 30th, 2012
Deadline for audience registration: October 21st, 2012
Conference: October 24-26th, 2012

For more information about the conference please send e-mail to fcree-aleksconf [at] or contact the Head of the Organising Committee Katalin Miklossy (e-mail: katalin.miklossy [at] or the Conference Co-ordinator Mila Oiva (e-mail: milaoiv [at]