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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Center for Social Theory and Comparative History was established at UCLA in the autumn of 1987. It's aim, broadly speaking is to encourage the development of social theory that is historically rooted and comparative history that is theoretically informed. The core of the Center's intellectual work is the biweekly Colloquium Series, which run more or less every other Monday during the Winter and Spring quarters. Some of the papers from this series appear below. The Executive Committee of the CSTCH is composed of: Robert Brenner, Director (History), Perry Anderson, Associate Director (History), Rogers Brubaker (Sociology), Saul Friedlander (History), Carlo Ginzburg (History), Michael Mann (Sociology), Carole Pateman (Political Science), Ivan Berend (History), Ivan Szelenyi (Sociology), and Maurice Zeitlin (Sociology).

For further information about the Center, please contact Thomas Mertes at

Cover page of A Multilateral Moment: A New US Foreign Policy?

A Multilateral Moment: A New US Foreign Policy?


Paul Schroeder presents a historical argument for the declining possibility of wars between the world’s great powers. In large part this new era of peace is generally a success story rooted in practical experience, historical knowledge and institution building since the Concert of Europe. He also contends that the history of US foreign policy has largely been successful though not as commonly asserted. The US was largely a “rent-receiving state”, in the international system, before taking on a role as a “rent-paying state” following World War II. Schroeder concludes that the US must continue to play a vital role in global affairs and not turn inward especially based on a false and myth-based history. General Wesley Clark maintains that the Obama administration has effectively deployed itself in the realm of domestic politics to begin to rebuild US social capital in the international arena. Obama’s appointment of Republican-leaning men to critical foreign policy and defense positions within his administration has squelched potential criticism from opponents. His adept policy decisions have also followed a pattern of moderate reorientation to blunt hostilities that might have emerged by taking more bold positions noting that all policy-making is a matter of politics. Clark turns to analyzing these policy changes as well as the challenges the US faces including Afghanistan, Iraq, Eastern Europe, Israel and Palestine, as well as climate change and nuclear proliferation. He finds that the 16-month-old administration has shifted from a largely unilateral to a multilateral approach of pursuing its national interest. He endorses Schroeder’s call for a continued rent paying US in the international system but also fears domestic forces that could push for a diminished US presence in global politics.

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Climate Change and Public Policy After Copenhagen


Richard Somerville argues that one of the most important factors left out of debates on policies to address climate change is population growth. He asserts that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report of 2007 probably understates the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and rising temperatures as measured and observed from a wide variety of sources: CO2 levels, melting of ice sheets, sea level rising, changing ocean temperatures et cetera. Moreover, it is clear that these phenomenon result from human activities. If anthropogenic climate change is not mitigated a whole host of threats will manifest themselves that demand policy-makers address these challenges quickly and frankly. He hopes that scientists will have a central role in crafting and negotiating new policies as well as raising the public’s scientific knowledge of the problem.

Matthew Kahn agrees with the general conclusions presented by Richard Somerville and turns to some economic questions that emerge from climate change. Thus, he considers two important approaches to the problem, mitigation through national policies and international agreements and adaptation to the consequences. He is skeptical that strong policies will be enacted in the US because of voting patterns and variable energy-consumption at the state-level. Pointing to the failure of the Copenhagen summit and the “tragedy of the commons”, he also contends that international agreements are unlikely to reduce the kinds of human activity that contribute to climate change. He suggests that it is important to consider strategies for adaptation to the inevitable. He contends that self-interest and rational behavior will drive innovation. In turn, these new technological palliatives will be disseminated through global markets.

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Trading Places: China and the US in the International System


Richard Baum does not foresee China and the US “trading places” in the near future but does not rule out this scenario in twenty to thirty years. He evaluates China’s role in the international system. China’s strong economic growth continues, though probably slowing, and it has become powerful regional actor. Yet, China also faces problems with the United States and other sovereign nations in Asia as well as its membership in WTO, World Bank and IMF. Baum considers these and other tensions for China on the international front. He includes in his discussion the different positions of various China scholars take on these developments.

Barry Naughton argues that China has become the world’s Number Two superpower following three decades of record economic growth. It is unlikely that China wants to challenge US primacy in the near term but rather seeks to improve and build upon its regional standing. The Communist Party is in the process of recalibrating its relations with the US and the world but also has domestic challenges including consolidating its power, the slowing migration from rural to urban areas and the demographic transformation from a young to a more mature society. Professor Naughton goes on suggest what this portends for the Chinese economy and society.

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The Obama Presidency After One Year


Joyce Appleby outlines the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency noting a number of his successes on the domestic front as well as some notably failures and reverses of course. She focuses on some of the future struggles that his administration faces from the electorates’ “buyer’s remorse”, to passing health care and regulatory reform, to various international problems. Unfortunately for President Obama, he must navigate these shoals within the context of economic crisis, partisan rancor, and high public discontent with government. Professor Appleby concludes by noting that it is important that a larger Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and how the president might achieve those ends.

Michael Lind places Barack Obama in the camp of New Democrats whose political platform is akin to Rockefeller Republicans and supported by the media and the finance sectors. New Democrats differ from Roosevelt Democrats in their opposition to most forms of direct government action, rather they favor private and corporate initiatives. However, Lind believes that Obama may well alter his positions and that of his party’s as his administration unfolds by suggesting that Roosevelt’s policies also changed over time.

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Cover page of What is Good for Goldman Sachs is Good for America The Origins of the Present Crisis

What is Good for Goldman Sachs is Good for America The Origins of the Present Crisis


Robert Brenner outlines the long-term causes of the present economic crisis. Rather than understanding the current downturn as merely a function of financial incompetence and miscalculation, he demonstrates that the US economy and that of the G7 has been slower growth in most of the major indices with each passing business cycle since the 1970s. In the last two cycles, asset bubbles inclined US consumers to take on more debt in order to spend and achieve limited GDP growth. Brenner outlines in detail how and why the financial sector played a key role in the creation and inflation of debt bubbles with new financial instruments. The implications for the US and the global economy are also outlined including the US current account deficit, trade imbalances, the rise of China and the East Asian economies as well as declining investment in the real economy and overcapacity in manufacturing worldwide.