Call for Proposals: A New Social Compact

Constructing the New Social Compact: A Public Forum on Empowering the Post-Pandemic Working Class event poster

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The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University is convening a major public virtual gathering April 28 – May 1, 2021, to envision, define, and lay the groundwork for a new social compact. The conference invites participants who can contribute to the exploration of ideas about the social compact, through scholarship and / or activism.  

As the United States embarks on a transition in presidential leadership, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the world’s economy, and thrown into sharp relief the systemic racial, gender and class inequalities that were embedded in the New Deal-based social compact. That social compact is now fast eroding. At this crucial juncture, working people face five interrelated crises of historic proportions: dysfunctional systems of health and care; racial and gender injustice; climate emergency; economic disaster; and an ongoing weakening of democracy.  History reveals that such moments of upheaval are transformative, offering a window of opportunity that is ripe for large-scale, innovative structural change. The current political and socioeconomic system has profound shortcomings. The pandemic, alongside ongoing changes in capitalism, has created a unique moment to envision and advance a bold new social compact for the 21st century that centers working people’s security and needs over calls for austerity.

The gathering will bring together activists, academics, faith leaders, policy experts, global labor activists, workers, philanthropists, labor organizations, elected leaders and others to analyze, evaluate, and propose next-gen solutions for the intersectional issues affecting working people’s lives in a post-pandemic world including, though not limited to: wealth distribution; social reproduction;  equal pay; living wages; student debt; immigration policies; universal health care; fair housing; just scheduling; access to quality child and elder care; safe jobs; sustainable climate; data democracy; gender, racial and LGBTQ justice; labor law; criminal justice reform; constitutional reform; and the future of workers. 

For forty years, workers and their allies have fought to hold their ground or to win incremental changes that would do little to address structural economic, racial and gender injustices. The next few years will be determinative ones. We call on activists, scholars, non-profits, policy organizations, allies, philanthropic organizations, elected leaders and others to join the dialogue on a new social  compact and building a more just and inclusive world.

In particular, the project committee seeks historians and other academics to help infuse the discussion with historical context about the last social compact’s creation and shortcomings.  We also seek activists and practitioners who can offer a unique perspective on the conference topic. We seek global perspectives on the social contract, including from a range of perspectives from non-Western nations, and proposals that center issues of immigration and migration.  We also particularly encourage young people and students to bring their vision and voices to the gathering.

The committee accepts proposals for panels, workshops, presentations, individual talks or papers, cultural offerings, videos, or other proposals for conveying ideas around themes including:  

The Crisis of Health and Care: 

  • The boundaries of state responsibility in the realm of health security and care; 
  • The role and impact of paid and unpaid social reproductive labor/care in a new social compact; 
  • The best policies for supporting working people’s health care in a new era of marginal, informal, or unreliable employment, both on and off the job;
  • The intersection of race, gender, immigration status, class, and sexual orientation with issues of health and care;
  • Disability in the workplace.  

Inclusion and Equity in a New Social Compact: 

  • The impact of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation on the social compact’s formation, reach and limitations;
  • The role of a just migration and immigration policy in a new social compact;  
  • The long-term impacts of the “shecession” sparked by the pandemic;
  • The connection between big data, surveillance, and race and gender;
  • Carceral and policing systems. 

The Climate Crisis:

  • Building a global Green New Deal for workers, communities, and the environment; 
  • Interrogating growth and climate change; 
  • The role of investment, divestment and reinvestment strategies; 
  • Environmental racism, and the disproportionate impact of climate change on working-class communities of color and indigenous communities; 
  • An equitable and inclusive post-pandemic just transition.

The Post-Pandemic Economy:  

  • Building power for all working people in a post-pandemic economy; 
  • The parameters of a social compact that is not based on employment (including a re-envisioning of unemployment); 
  • Next-gen solutions for building back a resilient economy for working people, including innovative policies on anti-trust, taxes, and incorporating measurements beyond GDP; 
  • The role of debt, debt forgiveness, the wealth gap, and financialization;
  • Creating an equitable economy that eliminates gaps based on race, gender and sexual orientation; 
  • Reimagining collective bargaining to address common good issues like housing and education costs;
  • Rethinking the economy, what it is for, and who it serves;
  • The role of public goods, public options and public power. 

The Future of Democracy and Workers:

  • The relationship between historic levels of global economic inequality and democracy;
  • The role and form of unions, collective bargaining, cooperatives, nonprofits and other worker organizations in a new social compact;
  • Control over working people’s data and digital information, and the shape of data democracy and a democratic internet; 
  • The relationship between equity and inclusion and democracy, including at work; 
  • The future of the freedom of association and work; 
  • Worker rights, voting rights, and the role of democracy in today’s evolving capitalism. 

Please submit a proposal that is no more than a page to this submission form. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2021. Please contact with any questions.

We plan to disseminate the ideas generated by the conference as appropriate, such as through a special section of a journal, edited collection, blog posts, podcasts and other digital media, and other formats.