9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN08 Disaster and Social Crisis

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mass Urban Phenomena in Europe: Riots or Social Protests? Building AA, AA.226

Exterminism or Utopia: E. P. ThompsonĀ“s pacifist strategy

The paper aims to scrutiny pieces of E. P. Thompson?s writings. It primarily focuses the analytical categories of class and experience, both considered the axis of ThompsonĀ“s work, as well his sense of realism. The arguments proceed systematizing and discussing aspects related to Thompson?s practice and thought and his engagement and role as an European pacifist, especially from the early eighties on. In this context, the paper states the theoretical and political debates in which Thompson was involved and summarizes their most important issues: topics related to his conception of socialist humanism and protest as a mode of struggle; his criticism towards the concept of market, and its place within any approach of capitalism; the category of exterminism and the idea of disaster it conveyed and his concern to build alternatives to cold war?s diplomacy and rhetoric in order to advocate disarmament as well. Although characterized by a profound pessimism and an apocalyptic perspective, unusual in his work, Thompson?s essays on exterminism actually end up with a more optimistic view and submit an (antiexterminst) agenda to change the scenario and revert such risk situation. Thus Thompson insisted on creating a new consciousness: class struggle was still a fundamental issue, but the most pressing matter had become the salvation of humanity itself, for the antagonistic nexus between utopia and exterminism redefined the whole cause. So Thompson?s most significant contribution to the Cold War debate and against the arms race, the nuclear threat and for the organization of peace groups and movements was his 1980 pamphlet Protest and Survive. Thompson foresees Europe not as a war theatre, but as a peace theatre achieved through popular democratic pressure. Finally, the paper reassures Thompson?s confidence on reason in the name of utopia and freedom, and assesses their political and contemporary relevance.