The State as Experiment: Visions, Voices, Margins A Centenary Symposium in Memory of Josef Popper-Lynkeus (1838-1921)

deadline for submissions: 
April 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Marcel Schmid / University of Virginia
contact email: 

The State as Experiment: Visions, Voices, Margins

A Centenary Symposium in Memory of Josef Popper-Lynkeus (1838-1921)

University of Virginia

October 6-8, 2021 (Covid-19 alternate date: April 6-8, 2022)

 From the groundbreaking social and economic transformations of the nineteenth century and the devastation of WWI to the revolutionary explosion of modernity in the early twentieth century, the state was a matter of great urgency for philosophers, social reformers, and political activists alike. The life and thought of Austrian inventor and social philosopher Josef Popper-Lynkeus epitomizes both the promises and challenges of this key period of European classical modernity. Born in 1838 in the Jewish quarter of the small Bohemian town of Kolín, Popper-Lynkeus was barred from an academic career because of both his heritage and radical opinions on religious and social questions. Having earned a modest living as an engineer and inventor for most of his life, his writings on the state’s obligation to provide a minimum of food, housing, welfare, and health care became the center of great attention only in his later years. Key ideas driving his thought include the principle of free enterprise combined with security for all, and the vision of a criminal justice system concerned with protection rather than punishment. While Popper-Lynkeus’s work is largely forgotten today, his prominent interlocutors and, indeed, admirers at the time included Albert Einstein, Bertha Pauli, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Oppenheimer, Rosa Luxemburg, Sigmund Freud, Max Brod, Edward Bellamy, Bertha von Suttner, Theodor Hertzka, August Bebel, and the founder of the pan-Europe movement Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi.

We want to take the centenary of Popper-Lynkeus’s death as a starting point to reflect on the powers and responsibilities of the modern state, which Friedrich Nietzsche had influentially dubbed the ultimate “idol” and “coldest monster.” Bringing together both mainstream and marginalized perspectives (race, gender, class), we invite papers from a variety of disciplines on the idea of the state from the angles of reform (such as social, economic, political), reimagination (such as ideal states and real utopias), and critique (such as communitarian, life-reform, theo-political, or anarchic). While our historical focus revolves around the time of Popper-Lynkeus and his contemporary visionaries of social reform, we invite papers beyond Popper-Lynkeus and his circle and encourage reflections on present-day relevance. In other words, the goal of our symposium is to put in conversation historical figures and contemporary scholars, including practitioners and non-traditional scholars. To this end, we seek a diversity of approaches and intellectual persuasions, and we value the free exchange of ideas.

We will choose papers according to the quality of the abstract and with a coherent thematic arc of the symposium in mind. Abstracts should run approximately 250 words and be sent to Jessica Peck, Program The deadline for abstracts is April 30, 2021. The University of Virginia will cover accommodation (up to three nights) and meals for accepted conference participants. Travel stipends based on need may be available. For inquiries, please contact any of the conference organizers below.

Conference Organizing Committee:


Manuela Achilles, Director, Center for German Studies and European Studies Program.

Asher Biemann, Co-Director, Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.

Marcel Schmid, Department of Germanic Languages and Cultures.