University News

Watson hosts conference exploring the ‘Next Left’

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, October 1, 2010

At the Watson Institute for International Studies’ “Next Left” conference, Professor-at-Large Ricardo Lagos spoke about working together in a “post-crisis world.”

The Watson Institute for International Studies hosted a conference, “The Next Left: Globalized Social Democracy in the North and South,” on  Wednesday and Thursday to discuss how politicians can face modern global issues and crises.

Held in the Joukowsky Forum, the conference was a follow-up to one held in the spring. The major topics of discussion included the economic strategies and the effects of globalization on the “Next Left” movement — a European movement founded by Alfred Gusenbauer, former chancellor of Austria and Watson Institute professor-at-large, which introduced a new plan for social democracy around the world.

“Traditionally, the left needs four elements,” Gusenbauer said at the conference’s opening. “The one is an idea about the world, the second is a program of change, the third is an agent of the idea and transformation and the fourth is a crisis.”

“One is to say we are quite lucky because one of the four elements which is necessary we have: the crisis,” he said as the crowd of professors chuckled.

“There is a need for an alternative not only in Europe, but in the world and that’s what we are working on, and this seminar offers an excellent intellectual opportunity to come forward with policy proposals,” Gusenbauer told The Herald.

In his opening remarks, Gusenbauer spoke of the need for economic growth on the global scale to include equal access to advanced means of production and of the inequality produced by the competitive nature of society.

Michael Kennedy, director of the Watson Institute and moderator of the conference, said “the most important thing is that these conversations have not taken place elsewhere. We are bringing social science perspectives with real policy questions that pose uncomfortable answers.”

“The nature of the conference builds on a long Watson legacy. Watson has always been concerned with development in a global sense,” he added.

The conference also featured Professor-at-Large Ricardo Lagos, president of Chile from 2000 to 2006. Lagos, known for signing free trade agreements with the United States, the European Community, China and other nations while in office, brought different experiences to the conference than those of his colleagues in Europe.

Lagos said he would discuss using new instruments in government such as the media, rethinking international institutions like the G-20 and establishing new ways of listening to the people.

“We need a better understanding of how the post-crisis world is going to be and in what direction we are going to move in,” Lagos said. “We need to learn the lessons needed so politics can influence the markets in a better way.”

After the first day of debate and discussion, Gusenbauer told The Herald, “I think it’s getting a very good overview. I am very much looking forward to tomorrow to talk about the economic rationale of the New Left agenda.”

Attributing the saying to Mao Zedong, Gusenbauer said, “Even the largest march starts with the first step.”