I am sitting here literally winging my way to Prague from Bristol on an Easyjet flight late in the evening before the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR). The last rays of the sun, high above the thick cloud and fog that had set in on Bristol, catch the wings of the plane…making them firey orange. Quite beautiful, I think to myself, and reach for the iPad to take a photo. The location for the ECPR conference this year is also a stunning setting – Prague.
I first went to Prague six months after the wall had come down in 1989 – and have returned from time to time. Strolling through the airport to reclaim my baggage, I recall my first visit to the airport and city; soldiers with guns, lots of questions, check-in desks where smoking a cigarette was sine qua non, restaurants and menus owned and determined by the state, and prices stamped on tins of food with no hint of inflation or competition. Visiting concerts and museums was very low cost; a reflection of Lenin’s view that the proletariat could and should access culture. This is a very different Prague, some things clearly better, and other things not so. Competitive market systems have their dark side, as they are also a politics of exclusion.
ECPR, located in Prague, and hosted by the famous, Charles University founded in 1348 by Charles IV, the King of Bohemia, and a Holy Roman Emperor, is an occasion for multiple kinds of reflections. So much has happened over this twenty-five year period. Thatcherism was quickly embraced in this Bohemian kingdom, just as the Internet has arrived and made the world a different place. Market liberalism has also cast its long shadow over central Europe, just as it has over the heartlands of the developed economies. English has come to dominate the language channels of the world, and Prague seems to be a place that specializes in language, particularly English. The metro stations are full of advertising. I guess why not choose one of the greatest cities in the world – itself across-roads between Central and Eastern Europe of old.
Education features in various guises at ECPR. Quite a few of GESF members are also members of the Higher Education Research and Innovation standing group that has grown in number, and now is able to generate some interesting debates around innovation, trade, regions, knowledge, markets, citizenship, competition, governance, the list goes on.
We’ll be reporting on sessions as they kick off – and take you on an interesting ride, with thoughts and reflections…. Tune in tomorrow…for more…
(with GESF contributors…. Roger, Janja, Que Anh, Maria, Tore, Aliandra…..)
Editor’s Note: Susan L. Robertson is Professor of Sociology of Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Her research is concerned with the changing nature of education as a result of transformations in the wider global, regional and local economies and societies, and the changing scales on which ideas, power and politics is negotiated. Contact: S.L.Robertson@bristol.ac.uk