Workshop: Depoliticization before Neoliberalism: Contesting the Limits of the Political in Modern Europe

Date: April 1, 9-18 hrs, April 2, 9-15 hrs
Location: Vergader- en conferentiecentrum Soeterbeeck, Elleboogstraat 2, 5352 LP Deursen-Dennenburg or at home via livestream
Organiser(s): Adriejan van Veen (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) and Theo Jung (Universität Freiburg)

The boundaries between what is considered ‘political’ and what is not, are constantly moving. Recent debates on combating the corona crisis, on cancel culture, and on the transfer of democratic competences to international institutions have, once more, made this clear. Yet, the debate about the boundaries of the political has a long history.

On this two-day workshop, historians from the Netherlands and abroad will discuss this subject. They will present their research on struggles for the boundaries of ‘the political’ in various European countries from about 1800 until the present.

The emphasis is on depoliticization. How did individuals and groups in the past manage to move issues off the political agenda? Which strategies did they use to declare contested subjects ‘not political’? What explains the political abstention of citizens? And in which cases were non-participation and silence forms of political protest?

This workshop is organized as a part of the research project Passive citizenship? Civil society and political abstention in the Netherlands, 1780-1860, executed at the Radboud Institute for History and Culture, and financed by the KNAW Fonds Staatsman Thorbecke. The goal of this project is to explain why the Netherlands in the first half of the nineteenth century saw relatively little political activity and organization in comparison with neighbouring countries.

The speakers will discuss, among other subjects, the use of religion and arts as opposites of politics, political abstention, technocracy and functionalism as purported alternatives to politics, depoliticization in authoritarian systems, and the boundaries between economics and politics. The keynote will be presented by Prof. Ido de Haan (Utrecht University).

For more information about the program and – until March 24 – attendance (it is possible to attend online via Zoom), please inquire via