Bo Stråth


Bo Stråth (Curriculum Vitae) was 2007-2014 Finnish Academy Distinguished Professor in Nordic, European and World History and Director of Research at the Department of World Cultures / Centre of Nordic Studies (CENS), University of Helsinki. 1997-2007 he was Professor of Contemporary History at the European University Institute in Florence, and 1991-1996 Professor in History at the University of Gothenburg. He is a member of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

To the Question of a Social Europe and the Economy as a Polity

by | Feb 27, 2006 | Conferences, Curriculum vitae

European Solidarity

First meeting with the authors of a book project European Solidarity directed by Lars Magnusson and Bo Stråth

Date: 27-28/02/2006

Place: Villa La Fonte, primo piano


Programme (pdf)

The workshop resulted in the edited volume European Solidarities

The Economy as a Polity: The Political Construction of Modern Capitalism in Interdisciplinary Perspective

A workshop organised by Bo Stråth 16-17 April 2004, Sala 4, Badia

The relation of ‚the economy‘ to other aspects of social life, in particular to ‚politics‘, ’society‘ and ‚culture‘, is a key theme of the social and historical sciences. It has been so ever since the argument for the beneficial logic of market exchange was raised in Europe in the eighteenth century and ever since laws about the freedom of commerce were introduced in European states, mostly during the nineteenth century. The very separation of economics from the other social sciences is an intellectual outcome of those interconnected legal, political and economic transformations and has persistently been raised as a problématique from Max Weber’s time onwards.
                In the current situation, ‚globalisation‘ is often seen as the effective creation of a world market subjected to the laws of neo-classical economics. Political and legal regulation could then have only one of two purposes: either to facilitate the emergence of global market exchange or to deal with any undesired consequences of such exchange in a compensating fashion. If that were an appropriate analytical perspective, the intellectual controversies within and between the social sciences as well as the historical struggles over the political forms of modern societies, both of which characterised the past two centuries, would finally have been overcome.
                However, the point of departure of this workshop is that any ‚economic‘ theorising resides on presuppositions of legal and political philosophy and thus cannot achieve separation from those concerns. And any historically and empirically existing ‚market‘ always shows analysable socio-cultural forms of what has been – somewhat infelicitously – called ‚embeddedness‘. The processes of European integration and ‚Europeanisation‘ then, rather than merely modernising European political and economic life with a view to a global market era, are exactly the site at which issues of legal and political philosophy and of socio-cultural forms are at stake and re-emerge in a new guise.

This workshop is the continuity of a seminar series and a workshop in the academic year of 2002-2003. The aim of it is a book.


              Friday, 16 April 2004

Part I
                The economy as a polity: renewing a debate

9.30 a.m.
                Chapter one: Feriel Kandil (Ecole normale supérieure de Cachan, France)
                Theorising the economy as a polity: the point of view of contemporary economics

10.15 a.m.
                Chapter two: Peter Wagner (EUI and University of Warwick, UK)
                The problématique of economic modernity:
                Critical theory, political philosophy and the analysis of capitalism


11 a.m.: Coffee break


11.30 a.m.
                Chapter three: Johann Arnason (LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
                Civilizational perspectives on capitalism

12.15 p.m.
                Chapter four: Fred Block (University of California, Davis, US)
                One world or three? : Globalization and the future of welfare capitalism

1 p.m.
                Short summarizing discussion about part I


1.30 p.m.: lunch at EUI


3 p.m.

Part II
                Capitalism, co-ordination, constitution

3 p.m.
                Chapter five: Pepper Culpepper (Harvard University, Cambridge, US)
                Capitalism, coordination, and economic change:
                Lessons from the French political economy

3.45 p.m.
                Chapter six: Peter Lindseth (University of Connecticut, Hartford, US), presented by Peter Wagner
                ‚Always embedded‘ administration? :
                Administrative justice as an aspect of political modernity between state and society


4.15 p.m.: Coffee break


4.45 p.m.
                Chapter seven: Christian Joerges (EUI and University of Bremen, Germany), presented by Michelle Everson (Birkbeck College, London)
                The turn to governance and the problématique of constitutionalism

5.30 p.m.
                Short general discussion summarizing the state of chapters that far

              Saturday, 17 April 2004

10 a.m.
                Chapter eight: Giuseppe Bronzini (judge, Rome, Italy)
                The European social model and the constitution-giving process in the European Union

10.45 a.m.
                Part III
                Markets, mobility, monetary regulation

10.45 a.m.
                Chapter nine: David Andrews (EUI and Scripps College, Claremont, US)
                The Bretton Woods Agreement as an Invitation to Struggle


11.30 a.m.: Coffee break


12 noon
                Chapter ten: Bo Stråth (EUI)
                Monetary regulation and European economic policy in historical perspective

12.45 p.m.
                Concluding discussion

2004 The Economy as a Polity. The Political Construction of Modern Capitalism in Interdisciplinary and Comparative Perspective

The workshop resulted in the edited volume The Economy As a Polity.

Trade Unions in the Transnational Sphere

The Robert Schuman Centre, the Department of History and Civilisation and the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute 
Workshop organised by Maud Bracke, Roland Erne, Thomas Fetzer and Bo Stråth

Cappella of Villa Schifanoia, 25/26 October 2002

Scope and analytical frame of the Workshop

With this Workshop we aim at providing a forum where recent theoretical and historical scholarship concerning trade unions can be brought together and confronted. One of the motivations for organising it, is the assessment that if there is to be a transnationalisation (or Europeanisation) of organised labour, it must take place not only within EU-level structures of organised labour, but also within the respective national, local and firm level trade unions organisations and traditions. Therefore, we should study all levels of (European) trade union politics. In order to understand these national and local trade union structures, we should look back at the longue duree European history of trade unions as (political, economic and cultural) actors in their societies. The tension between national and ideological diversity, on the one hand, and economic and political processes of integration, on the other, will be the focus of attention at our meeting.

The contributions to our workshop should not simply provide narratives of several cases but confront the empirical findings with conflicting hypotheses concerning the success or failure of European trade union cooperation. Have existing European institutions favoured transnational trade union cooperation and collective action? How far is the transnational coordination of collective action hindered by „national“ reflexes? What is the impact of cultural and linguistic diversity in this respect?

All EUI researchers are most welcome to attend the workshop. The papers will be distributed among the workshop participants from mid-October onwards. If you are interested in receiving these, please get in touch with us.

Friday October 25th, 9.00 – 13.00

General introduction to the meeting
Bo Stråth, EUI, Department of History and Civilisation

I. Methodology and the longue duree

Methodology: How to study trade unions in the transnational context? 
Stefano Bartolini, EUI

The longue duree: The politics of the International Transport Federation between 1890 and 1945: An early example for transnational union activities 
Sigrid Koch-Baumgarten, Freie Universität Berlin

Discussant: Colin Crouch, EUI, Department of Political and Social Sciences

II. Trade unions and the East-West conflict 
Friday October 25th, 14.30 – 18.30
Chair: Thomas Fetzer, EUI, Department of History and Civilisation

The ideological division of the trade union movement in the 1950s-1960s. The case of France 
Jean-Marie Pernot, IRES, Paris

The case of Italy 
Maud Bracke, EUI, Department of History and Civilisation

The impact of international networks for trade union‘ democratisation projects in the 1970s and 1980s: A comparison between Poland and Spain
Pjotr Pykel and Antonio Munos, EUI, Department of History and Civilisation

Discussant: n.n.

20.00 Workshop dinner 

III. Trade unions and European integration. The economic dimension
Saturday, October 26th, 9.00 – 13.00
Chair: Maud Bracke, EUI

Trade union politics in Multinational Companies: A British-German Comparison (1960-1990)
Thomas Fetzer, EUI, Department of History and Civilisation

Trade unions and the European Monetary Union 
Martin Rhodes, EUI, Department of Political and Social Sciences

European trade unions and labour migration 
Judith Roosblad, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Discussant: Philippe Schmitter, EUI, Department of Political and Social Sciences

IV. Trade unions and European integration: the political dimension 
Saturday, October 26th, 14.30 – 18.30
Chair: Roland Erne, EUI

How to explain the conflicting trade union strategies concerning the EU-integration process? 
Roland Erne, EUI, Department of Political and Social Sciences

Has European integration led to Europeanisation or rather to re-nationalisation of the trade union movement? 
Patrick Pasture, KU Leuven

Discussant: Silvana Sciarra, EUI, Law department

V. Conclusions


Aliens, Strangers and Monsters

A live video conference Boston-Florence
organised by James Kaye (IUE), Richard Kearney (BC), Bo Stråth (IUE) and Anna Triandafyllidou (IUE) in the framework of the Stranger Seminar in sala Triaria of Villa Schifanoia and Boston College18
March 2002 17.00-19.00 (+01.00)

At border checkpoints, political and military power merge and the state monopoly of violence is made evident to those who intend to pass as well as those just standing by. There, territory is demarcated and this demarcation enforced, enlightenment ideas of universal freedom and equality are shattered and there is little rational justification of why the jurisdiction of one state should end and another begin. Why not one or twenty meters to the right or left? Border checkpoints are limits between who is in and who is out; they separate citizens, giving them certain rights and duties, such as to enter, remain, vote, work, or serve in the armed services, from „strangers“, „aliens“ even „monsters“ who are compelled to submit to duties and restrictions of the state without an institutional role in its government or eliminated from its space. Borders also spatially limit the power of states and their right to implement policy. Passports and identity cards reify those who belong to a state, and sometimes national, „community of destiny“ and deny membership in a community of communities to those who do not possess them. These phenomena, as we are familiar with them today, emerged from the developing system of nation states in nineteenth-century Europe and were internationally implemented and standardised during and in the aftermath of the First World War. Their experience was both personal and constructed, narrated as stories in media for masses, for the masses gained a new importance.

This can be related to a shift in the justification of power based on divine right to the people. The idea of democracy, insofar as it signifies that power and the justification of power lie in and emanate from people, required an object that differentiated significantly from the subject of divine right. People, no longer subjects to a god or gods become the reason of state. This „Western“nineteenth-century transformation of the state’s justification, where it took place, generally paralleled the development of industrial capitalism and enlightenment-based plans for the optimum government of people. It can be argued that systems were created partially based upon the value of individuals‘ services, and this value increased when the individual became a citizen, both as a soldier and worker. This was at the core of a universally imagined and emergent nationally implemented liberal order. The idea of nation-state demarcation was reinforced during the inter-war crisis of liberalism, a crisis to which the political response was national resource mobilisation. Central to this mobilisation was and is the control of information.

Information, time, space, narration and the role of the social scientist or liberal artist in our world (a place where academics can confer in real time although they are thousands of kilometres away) are questions that this conference hopes to address in form and content. Its point of departure is a DVD Created by a team under the guidance of the philosopher Richard Kearney in Boston entitled „Aliens, Strangers and Monsters“ and separate discussions of the DVD in Boston and Florence. Our discussion should address both the medium of the DVD as a representational possibility for academics and the DVD’s problematic, the phenomenon and construction of the Other and the transformation of narration ideas and how this relates to said phenomenon. We hope, with this transatlantic dialogue, to stimulate intelligent and critical thought at a time when division can be seen as expanding the world over and that this experience is to a large extent the product of contemporary communicative media.

All are welcome to participate in the video conference, particularly those who viewed the DVD and contributed to the videotaped discussion we sent to Boston. If you have not seen the DVD, it is available upon request. For organisational reasons, we would very much appreciate a send a short mail expressing interest in attending the conference

A European Political Economy in Historical Light: From the Werner Plan to the EMU

in cooperation with The National Institute for Working-Life, Stockholm
in the framework of the European Forum 1999-2000
Villa La Fonte 22 June 2000 9.00-13.00 (via delle Fontanelle 20- San Domenico di Fiesole)

Workshop Professor Bo Stråth

Organisers: Silvana Sciarra and Bo Stråth

This workshop focuses on the fact that the full employment convention established in the 1930s broke down in the 1970s-1980s. What happened to the established state guarantee and responsibility in the wake of the emergence of mass unemployment? Who was charged with new responsibility? How did the language shift to motivate the shift of responsibility towards the individual? How were concepts like coordination, harmonisation, and mutual recognition — in Europe, in the USA, probably other concepts were used to establish federal responsibility and the break-up from this — used to motivate legislation and regulation?

A key question is how the whole flexibility discourse emerged and how the concept was linked to its opposite rigidity. The point of departure is the established state (in the USA federal) responsibility. This key question will be discussed from a more historical-sociological-discursive view and a normative-legislative-regulative point of departure.

Contributions by Fred Block, Karl Klare, Silvana Sciarra and Bo Stråth.

This was the first of a series of workshops that resulted in the edited volume From the Werner Plan to the EMU.

Social Democracy and Economic Management 2000: Can the Primacy of the Political be Regained

Professor Bo Stråth

European University Institute/Robert Schuman Centre in cooperation with
The National Institute for Working-Life, Stockholm
 in the framework of European Forum 1999-2000 and the research project: A European Political Economy in Historical Light: From the Werner Plan to the EMU
 Villa La Fonte 31 May 2000 (via delle Fontanelle 20- San Domenico di Fiesole)


Organisers: Jos de Beus and Ton Notermans

 While having been widely hailed as the solution to Europe«s economic malaise in the 1980s, neoliberal strategies, at the beginning of the 21st century rapidly seem to lose their popular appeal. As mass unemployment, sluggish growth, uncertain employment relations, welfare cutbacks and increasing income inequality continue to hold sway in a large majority of EU countries, European electorates call upon politicians to reassert the primacy of the political. The most salient manifestation of this change in ideological climate has been the spectacular recovery of European social democracy. Yet, at the same time extremist right-wing parties are gathering force with the promise to protect the electorate from an allegedly ruthless global capitalism by means of protectionist and xenophobic programmes. In this framework it will be crucial not only for the European economy but also for the future shape of democracy and social integration how the Social Democrats are going to employ their new strength to rearrange the relations between state and markets. In this context, the workshop seeks to address three main questions:

1. Is, in the age of global capitalism, a reassertion of the primacy of the political feasible at all, or has the growing geographical scope of markets irrevocably forced political management to become subservient to economics?

2. Are the strategies of Third Way Social Democrats an adequate response to reassert the primacy of the political in a globalised economy, or, are they, as e g the French PS suggests, variants of neoliberalism and hence unable to address the main concerns of the electorate?

3. Is a reassertion of the political under the rule of Third Way Social Democrats compatible with further economic and political integration in Europe or is it likely to lead first of all to the reassertion of the role of the nation-state?

9.00-11.00 Jos de Beus, Third Way Social Democrats: Friends or Enemies of European Integration?

11.00 Coffee

11.15-13.15 Ton Notermans, The Werner Plan as a Blueprint for EMU?

13.15 Buffet lunch

              Please report participation in the lunch to Sylvie Pascucci not later than 26 May.

This was a workshop in a series of workshops that resulted in the edited volume From the Werner Plan to the EMU.

Exploration in Economic Sociology: Economics, Institutions and Culture

European University Institute/Robert Schuman Centre
in cooperation with The National Institute for Working-Life, Stockholm
in the framework of European Forum 1999-2000 and the research project A European Political Economy in Historical Light: From the Werner Plan to the EMU

Workshop Professor Bo Stråth

Villa La Fonte 24 May 2000 (via delle Fontanelle 20- San Domenico di Fiesole)

Organisers: Willfried Spohn and Bo Stråth

The aim of the workshop is the theoretical and methodological discussion of the interrelationships between economics, institutions and cultures on the basis of the rising new economic sociology and an exemplary comparative exploration of these issues in selected case studies. The new economic sociology has developed important new approaches to economics by emphasising institutional and cultural impact on economic processes. From this view economic processes are not shaped by economic laws, but by the institutions and the cultures in which they are embedded. This approach offers an alternative to main stream economic analyses which still follow a kind of economic-deterministic approach neglecting specific institutional and cultural settings.

The core questions of the workshop can be formulated on this fundament: Do processes of economic modernisation, Europeanisation and globalisation impose tendentially a basic structural similarity on national and regional economies, economic institutions and economic cultures, or are these processes systematically influenced by the historical, institutional and cultural environments in which they emerge? Are there converging economic pressures towards universal economic homogenisation in one modern or global economy or are there diverging institutional and cultural settings developing towards multiple economic modernities? A key question to address is: How should we understand contested concepts like modernisation, Europeanisation and globalisation, and what values and images do they carry?


14.00 Bo Stråth, Opening remarks

14.30 Richard Swedberg, The New Economic Sociology: Economics, Institutions and Culture

15.30 Thomas Heller, The Interrelationships between Globalisation and National Economies. The United States and Japan

16.30 Coffee

17.00 Willfried Spohn, Globalisation and Capitalist Industrialisation in Historical Perspective: Great Britain, Germany and Russia in the 19th Century

Future Policies on Income, Employment and Pensions in Historical Perspective

European Forum 1998-1999 
A workshop 3-4 May, 1999

Organised by Alan Milward (EUI), Bo Stråth (EUI), Paul Johnson (LSE) and Frances Lynch (University of Westminster)

This workshop will study the links between employment, taxation and pensions in the rewriting of the social contract in a comparative perspective using historical long-term data in order to discern major trends. The workshop will focus on the following questions: How large are the differences between tax and pension systems faced by similar individuals in different European countries (and how have they changed over the past five decades)? How have the changes in the personal tax and pension structure affected, or been related to, electoral outcomes? To what extent are employee social security benefits directly linked to payroll taxes? What are the implications of such arrangements for employment and unemployment? What has been the impact of changes in the pattern and structure of employment on taxation and pensions and what predictions can be made about this? What are in this respect the possible future effects of Economic and Monetary Union and the Stability Pact? Will European integration lead to a convergence of tax and social protection systems?

Most work on these issues has so far remained theoretical and the purpose of the workshop is to encourage a more empirical and more comparative study of these questions. The workshop will constitute an exploration of the degree to which comparative empirical work on separate countries can produce, for example, European-wide conclusions or policy recommendations.


Monday, May 3 
9.00 Prof. Richard Rose (Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Strathclyde):Employment, Welfare and Pensions: An Overview

10.45 Prof. A.B. Atkinson (Nuffield, Oxford): Changes in the Distribution of Income in Western Europe Since 1950

12.15 Lunch

14.00 Prof. Robert Haveman (La Follette Institute, University of Wisconsin):
Employment Trends in Western Europe and the USA

15.30 Prof. Walter Korpi (Swedish Institute for Social Research, University of Stockholm):Gender, Class and Inequalities in Different Types of Welfare States: A Comparative Study of 18 Countries

17.00 Prof. Robert Salais (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Cachan): The Transformation of Labour Markets, Capabilities, and Employment: New Problems for European Welfare Conceptions?

Tuesday, May 4 
9.15 Dr. Paul Johnson (London School of Economics and All Souls College Oxford): The Pensions Problem in Historical Perspective Since 1950

10.45 Dr. Christian Toft (Robert Schuman Centre/University of Birmingham):
Taxation and Social Security Reforms in Northern European Welfare State Developments

12.00 Lunch

13.30 Prof. John Myles (Robert Schuman Centre/Florida State University, Tallahassee):Pension Reform in the Rich Democracies Since 1980

15.00 Prof. Bruno Palier (Robert Schuman Centre/Institut d’études politiques de Paris): Social Contribution and Employment in France; The Problem of „les charges sociales“

16.00 Dr. Frances Lynch (University of Westminster): European Fiscal Harmonisation in Historical Perspective

17.30 Conclusions

Flexibility Between Risk and Security

Research Project „From Full Employment to the Flexibility Discourse“

Workshop directed by Bo Stråth

Organized by Veronika Tacke

Friday, 2.10.1998, 9.30- 13.00, Badia Fiesolana, Seminar Room 4

The concepts of „risk“ and „flexibility“ have been raising significant attention, both in the public sphere and the social sciences, since the early 1980s. The concepts hint at fundamental changes in contemporary society. This is exhibited in the conception of contemporary society as a risk society (Ulrich Beck). The concept of „risk“ started its career, primarily as a response to perceptions of technological and ecological complexity. Beyond this, economic globalization and subsequent experiences of insecurity have underpinned the risk problem. Almost simultaneously, and particularly in reference to the restructuring of labour markets and economic organization, the idea of flexibility has become a complimentary concept. The scope and importance of flexibility is, however, not limited to the economic sphere, it has far more general implications for current society.

This workshop is planned, as a primary attempt, to establish a relationship between „risk“ and „flexibility“ and explore their interaction in emerging views on society.

9.30 Opening, Bo Stråth (EUI)

Veronika Tacke (RSC/EUI and University of Bielefeld): Strange Connections: Flexibility Meets Risk.

Comment: Nils Brunsson (SCORE, Stockholm)


Coffee Break

11.15 Klaus P. Japp (University of Bielefeld):How Flexible is Flexible Enough?: Rationality Meets Risk.

Comment: Nils Brunsson (SCORE, Stockholm)

Concluding Discussion

The workshop was one in a series that resulted in the edited volume After Full Employment.

From the Idea of Full Employment to the Flexibility Discourse

European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre 
The Flexibility Project

Workshop, Florence 15 May 1998

Villa Schifanoia, Sala Europa

Organiser: Bo Stråth

The scope of the project on the „Transformation of the Idea of a Full Employment to the Flexibility Discourse in European Comparison“ is the transformation of the full employment convention to the flexibility discourse. Questions addressed are what role the historical and cultural heritage of the full employment convention has played in different national settings. Other questions deal with how the roles of the state, the employer organisations and the trade unions have changed. The period under consideration is the 1960s to the 1980s. Of particular interest is the variation in terms of full employment conventions and in flexibility among the European countries. The extent to which a European level of problem resolution has been sought is considered, and whether – given the variation among the European countries – a kind of European pattern exists in demarcation to particularly US labour market organisation.

The purpose of this workshop is to discuss texts for the publication of the first report from the project.


Friday, 15 May 1998

09.30 Welcome

10.00 Bo Stråth:Work in the Construction of Community
Discussant: Willfried Spohn

11.30 Noel Whiteside: Flexibility in Britain and France in Comparison
Discussant: Robert Salais

13.00 Lunch, Sala Bandiere, Villa Schifanoia

14.30 Angelo Pichierri: Flexibility and Regionalism
Discussant: Veronika Tacke

16.00 Peter Wagner, Flexibility and the Search for New Social Coherence

17.00 Mats Kumlien, Flexibility and Labour Law in Historical Perspective: Presentation of a Research Project

20.00 Dinner in Studium CISL, via Piazzola 71

Saturday, 16 May 1998

Morning reserved for project internal discussion

For more details on the workshop please contact : 
Sylvie Pascucci (fax: +39-55-4685744 and e-mail:

The workshop was one in a series that resulted in the edited volume After Full Employment.


  • Monographs
  • Anthologies
Creating Community and Ordering the World
A European Memory
A European Memory?
European Solidarities
European Solidarities
Reflections on Europe
Reflections on Europe
The Economy as a Polity
The Economy As a Polity
A European Social Citizenship
A European Social Citizenship?
Representations of Europe and the Nation in Current and Prospective Member States
States and Citizens History Theory Prospects
States and Citizens
The Meaning of Europe
The Meaning of Europe
From the Werner Plan to the EMU
From the Werner Plan to the EMU
Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other
Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other
Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community
Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community
AFTER FULL EMPLOYMENT European Discources on Work and Flexibility
After Full Employment
Enlightenment and Genocide Contradictions of Modernity
Enlightenment and Genocide, Contradictions of Modernity
Department of History and Civilization Nationalism and Modernity EUI Working Papers
Nationalism and Modernity
The Postmodern Challenge Perspectives East and West
The Postmodern Challenge
The Cultural Construction of Norden
The Cultural Construction of Norden
Comparativ Wohnungsbau im Internationalen Vergleich Heft 3-1996
Wohnungsbau im internationalen Vergleich
Language and the Construction of Class Identities
Language and the Construction of Class Identities
Idylle oder Aufbruch
Idylle oder Aufbruch?
Democratisation in Scandinavia in Comparison