Socialism, Socialists and the state in Western Europe from 1914 to the present: a complex and ambiguous relationship

Mathieu Fulla will present the outline of a forthcoming edited volume, dealing with the complex relationship between socialism and the state that took hold in a number of Western European countries. His book questions the widespread popular belief, still frequently conveyed by the medias, that socialism simply means “statism”. In fact, a scientific approach based on historical, sociological and political science methods could dispel this misunderstanding and display a more complex history. In order to shed light on what largely remains a blind spot in the existing scientific literature, the contributors aim at connecting two key historical perspectives: the history of the Labour movement, on the one hand, and the history of the contemporary state in Western Europe, on the other. From the 20th century to the present, the Western European socialist organisations – political parties, trade unions and associations – maintained an ambiguous relationship with the state. Some of their leaders argued that the socialist organisations should aim at “conquering” the state, for this allow them to reform or transform capitalist society. In other cases, the social-democratic parties’ grassroots as well as the trade unions fiercely disapproved any regulations aiming to bolster state powers, notably in the realm of the economy. The perspective adopted is transnational and comparative, and the essays collected deal with various case studies, from the three historical cradles of European Socialism (Germany, England and France) to less-known cases (Austria, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Belgium), most of them having played a prominent role as a “vanguard model” over the 20th century.

Mathieu Fulla is a faculty member in the Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po (CHSP). His principal research interests are concerned with the economic and political history of the West European Left in the 20th-21st centuries in a comparative and transnational perspective. His current research focuses on the complex and ambiguous relationships between the West European Socialists and the State, from the Great War to present time, and on economic experts working for the British Labour Party and the French Socialist Party from the 1970s to the present.