The Globalization and Sovereignty research cluster advances original academic research and public engagement that brings together students, scholars, artists, and actors in civil society in order to provide an intellectual and practical response to the problems that emerge from a global neoliberal world. Our assumption is that the current crisis, bringing about the rise of right-wing extremism, xenophobia, inaction on climate change and inordinate levels of inequality, stems in part from the shift in the 1970s from the welfare (Keynesian) model in the West and the development state in the Third World to neoliberalism. Going beyond economics, we understand this global shift as a deep and profound transition from a post-WWII world committed in various ways to promoting progressive human social ends, to a global society whose primary driving force is economic growth. Our goal is: First, to study this shift and its consequences in Israel and the world and to make this knowledge available for informed and engaged civil life; and Second, to promote original research and social programs that could re-invest politics, economics and culture with human social ends grounded in freedom, equality and diversity.
Broadly speaking, our research agenda assumes that any understanding of the global world in our times should pass through an understanding of neoliberalism. Through the work of research teams and research groups, we advance historical studies that trace the development of neoliberalism from the 1970s, alongside critical social research that clarifies its effects on social relations, immigration, forms of governance, different ways of life and the making of culture. When it comes to Israel, we have a special interest in advancing a complex view of history which relates political struggles, group-formation, identities and worldviews with Israel’s transition in the 1980s from a statist (Zionist) society to a neo-liberal one.
Our historical and social research forms a part of a long-term project to advance a new humanistic knowledge that caters to the needs of the 21st Century and empowers engaged civil life. This includes building global critical knowledge that brings the humanities and social sciences into conversation, and that is able to confront today’s complex social reality with creative and unconventional interdisciplinary means. This kind of new knowledge is meant to explain how our daily lives are conditioned by and connected to networks and communities all over the world that form a basis for meaningful civil life. By establishing long-term institutional infrastructure with universities in Israel and international partners in Europe, the US and the global south, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute is situating itself as a leading and innovative actor in the field of higher education that seeks to respond in a meaningful way to the educational challenges of the global world. We are building such institutional ties with leading scholars at Harvard University, the Free University of Berlin, the University of Delhi, Oxford University and others around the world. Through our book series “Global Objects” we are newly considering how to construct narratives about subjects that transcend bounded fields of knowledge.
Our social impact activities stem directly from our research and seek to work constructively towards positive alternatives to the neo-liberal order. Understanding that unleashed growth increasingly subordinates people's lives to the profit principle, deepens inequality, and harms nature, we work with civil society organizations towards alternative principles and post-capitalist practices that prioritize human flourishing, freedom, and equality. By working with environmental, Arab-Jewish, and medical NGOs as well as progressive think-tanks, we seek to embed a new “civil vocabulary" to slowly transform the way civil organizations act and the kind of goals they promote. We accompany this activity with workshops with novelists and researchers who are asked to imagine and plan out alternative futures and thus harness both the imagination and social science to promote substantial human ends beyond critique.