1989 was a momentous year in the history of the twentieth century. A revolutionary wave that started in Poland, and continued in Hungary, East Germany and elsewhere, led to the end of Soviet domination in Central and Eastern Europe and ultimately the collapse, in 1991, of the Soviet Union itself. 30 years later, the Global Studies Conference meets in Krakow, one of the main centres of the 1980s civil society resistance against the communist regime, to consider, in a multidimensional way, the nature of the post-Cold war period and the contrast between the current volatile world and the accelerated globalization of the 1990s. While in the aftermath of communism’s defeat, the discourse of capitalist triumphalism prevailed – with Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 “end of history” thesis as its most influential example – three decades on, more cautious assessments are in order. Although capitalism, especially of a particular, neoliberal kind, may have established its domination over almost the entire globe, the obituaries written in the early 1990s – for social democracy, the state, the nation, sometimes modernity itself – now seem utterly premature. Far from homogenizing the world, the processes of globalization have clashed with tendencies towards fragmentation, globalism has been undermined by nationalism, and neoliberal hegemony is often described as zombie-like, exhausted by challenges both on the right and the left. The questions addressed by this conference concern:
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