Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Call for Papers - New Views of Society: Robert Owen for the 21st Century

Conference date: 11-14 September 2008, New Lanark, Scotland
Deadline for proposals & papers: 30th March 2008

This major international conference will be a 2 stage event appealing to both academics from a range of disciplines and co-operative practitioners.

The first part of the conference (from the morning of Thursday 11th September to lunchtime on Saturday 13th) will consist of a series of interdisciplinary thematic sessions exploring various aspects of Owen’s ideas and their contemporary and future relevance. The second part of the event (from lunchtime on the 13th to lunchtime on the 14th) will have a practitioner focus. It will consist of invited speakers, interactive workshop sessions and the AGM and Annual Research Roundtable of the UK Society for Co-operative Studies.

While this formal call for papers is for contributions to the first part of the conference, the organisers hope that academic contributors and delegates will choose to stay on for the whole event.

The conference will include a tour of the New Lanark Mills Visitor Centre and a Dinner on the evening of Saturday 13th September. Accommodation will be available either in the New Lanark Mill Hotel, or New Lanark Youth Hostel.

This event is being organised by the UK Society for Co-operative Studies as part of a programme of events throughout 2008 to mark the 150th Anniversary of Robert Owen’s Death in co-operation with partners including the Co-operative Group, Co-operative College and New Lanark Heritage Trust.


Deadline for receipt of proposals for papers or other contributions: 30th March 2008
Papers that have been selected will be confirmed by the 31st May 2008


Robert Owen was one of the giants of social, political and economic life in the nineteenth century. He combined an intellectual critique of emerging industrial society with a remarkable capacity for practical innovation. At New Lanark Mills in Scotland, not only did he pioneer the use of new technology in the textile industry, but he combined this with radical ideas about education and management.

He was one of the guiding inspirations for the global Co-operative Movement and under his influence ‘prophets of co-operation’ travelled all over Britain and internationally. As a ‘practical utopian’, he established, inspired and lived in various community experiments in both Britain and the USA organised according to his co-operative philosophy, and while in the UK these endeavours are generally thought to have ‘failed’, in the US his descendants are still to be found living at New Harmony, and the influence of his activities there upon the development of US politics has been significant.

In considering Owen’s legacy as part of the programme of events being organised to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his death, this conference is not intended to be an exercise in historical nostalgia. Rather, it aims to use the inspiration of Owen’s thinking in a wide range of areas to consider and debate the contemporary and future relevance of his ideas in the twenty first century.


Session topics are grouped into 3 main themes. Below each theme are suggested some aspects of Owen’s thought in these areas that might be usefully explored, but this is not by any means an exhaustive list and the organisers would welcome further relevant proposals.

Part 1: Economic justice

- Ethical issues relating to trade
- Co-operative Management in theory and practise
- Trades Unions in the 21st Century
- Micro finance and Credit Unions

Part 2: Practical Utopia

- Community living and co-housing
- Time currencies
- The ‘e-commonwealth’
- ‘Socialism’ then and now

Part 3: Education for a better world

- Co-operative structures for delivering education
- Children’s Rights
- Co-operative Learning
- Adult and Continuing Education

There will also be a ‘history workshop’ style session on the Friday and Saturday exploring the impact and experiences of Co-operatives established for social change in the UK from the mid 1960s onwards. Please let us know if you have something to contribute to this theme.

Guidelines for papers and other contributions:

- 500 word proposals for papers or other contributions to sessions must be received (either by post, email, or both) by the UK SCS Secretary, Richard Bickle, no later than 31st March 2008.
- Proposed presentations should be no more than 20 minutes each in total.
- Presentations should make some reference to Owen’s work in the relevant area and show the ideas being explored relate to his thinking.
- Please include full contact details for the proposed speaker/s and clearly mark which session theme you feel your proposal fits in to.
- While we urge you to propose papers according to the session themes outlined above, if you have a proposal which does not fit into these topic areas, but which you feel is still relevant to the wider conference, please send it in anyway with a covering note explaining why you think it should be considered.
- The organisers are open to innovative or interactive formats for presentations. If this is what you are proposing, please set out exactly what you have in mind.
- The UK Society for Co-operative Studies does not have the funds to cover your attendance at the conference. However, we are negotiating a limited number of bursaries to support participation from individuals who could not otherwise afford to do so. If you are likely to require this kind of assistance, please inform the Secretary as soon as possible.

Richard Bickle (Secretary), UK Society for Co-operative Studies
Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS
Tel: 07768 184882, Email:,

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