Call for conference papers: Parliament as a ring for elites?
The study of both elites and parliamentarianism has had a long tradition and has been conducted across various social sciences and humanities. In our conception, the parliament represents a place where political powers, embodied by various types/kinds of elites, conduct the legislative process and decide about further development of a particular state and its society, or rather societies. However, parliament also represents an imaginary ring/tiltyard, where not only participation and cooperation exist, but where sharp political conflicts and clashes of interest arise. Moreover, decisions made in parliament are subject to pressure from the executive and their proper implementation depends, in practice, on the availability of the latter, especially of the administrative elite, whose agenda is not always similar to that of the parliament. These conflicts do not occur only on the political level (between opposing parties and interest groups), but they may be viewed as conflicts of elites of a different type and character, elites who are formed in various ways and retain power by adopting diverse tactics. Contacts and conflicts of elected representatives of the society and its elites with unelected members of the executive are particularly striking in the parliamentary environment. These two groups, varied in type, but with similar social background, play an important part in the decision-making process in the parliament and determine further development of the state and its society/ies.
Executive and representative elites are formed in different processes and ways and they also retain power using different methods, but they come from the same or very similar social strata and they are connected by countless diverse links, which might not be visible on the parliamentary or political scene at all. To complicate matters further, the representatives of the parliamentary elite and those of the executive and administrative elite often play interchangeable roles, depending on the specificities of the political system. Not infrequently the ministers were members of parliament, the senior administrative officials were former and future members of parliament, while some parliamentarians were former and / or future civil servants, for whom the representative mandate served both as a prestige marker and a springboard for an office which would otherwise have been considerably more difficult to reach. Thus, it is usual for an atmosphere of conflict to be often followed by an atmosphere of purposive cooperation. At times a phase of an external conflict coincides with a phase of backstage harmony and cooperation.
The aim of the conference is not only to connect the research of both these diverse and still socially similar elites, but mainly to consider new methodological approaches, which are now
offered by the dynamic development of digital humanities tools. At the forthcoming conference, which focuses on the period 1848–1938 and the geographical area of Central Europe, we would like to cover three basic topics: