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Peaks of internationalism in social engineering: a transnational history of international social reform associations and Belgian agency, 1860–1925

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Abstract
Concepts for social reform to create an ideal society model experienced several peaks of international diffusion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The article enquires into the relationship between the transnational dissemination of ideas and the key carriers of interaction in social reform associations, with a special focus on Belgian actors. Arguing that Belgian key figures in loose personal networks were important driving forces for stimulating and organizing the reform associations, the article analyses the making and development of personalized “epistemic communities” and the clashes between different orders of allegiance of the actors—knowledge and its distribution, internationalism and nationalism. Starting in the 1850s, we show how non-governmental experts springing from a close network of Belgian actors successfully shaped the social agenda transnationally until the First World War. This heyday of internationalism, in which not only the Belgian state but even more civil-society actors played an important part, declined after 1914. During the post-war era, government-oriented internationalism considered social engineering as an international administrative matter so that the former civil-society agents, especially from the “small big” countries such as Belgium, experienced a decline in influence. In this atmosphere, nationalist experiences and tensions on a political level affected the flourishing pre-war spirit of internationalism in private associations on social engineering. After the war, their role changed significantly. The private associations were used to channel and communicate social reform ideas as expert forums corresponding with the ILO and the League of Nations.
Keywords
social reform, 19th-20th century, civil society, expert communities, transnational history, international organizations

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Chicago
Van Daele, Jasmien, and Christian Müller. 2012. “Peaks of Internationalism in Social Engineering: a Transnational History of International Social Reform Associations and Belgian Agency, 1860–1925.” Ed. Daniel Laqua, Christophe Verbruggen, and Gita Deneckere. Revue Belge De Philologie Et D Histoire 90 (4): 1297–1319.
APA
Van Daele, Jasmien, & Müller, C. (2012). Peaks of internationalism in social engineering: a transnational history of international social reform associations and Belgian agency, 1860–1925. (D. Laqua, C. Verbruggen, & G. Deneckere, Eds.)REVUE BELGE DE PHILOLOGIE ET D HISTOIRE, 90(4), 1297–1319.
Vancouver
1.
Van Daele J, Müller C. Peaks of internationalism in social engineering: a transnational history of international social reform associations and Belgian agency, 1860–1925. Laqua D, Verbruggen C, Deneckere G, editors. REVUE BELGE DE PHILOLOGIE ET D HISTOIRE. Société pour le Progrès des Études Philologiques et Historiques; 2012;90(4):1297–319.
MLA
Van Daele, Jasmien, and Christian Müller. “Peaks of Internationalism in Social Engineering: a Transnational History of International Social Reform Associations and Belgian Agency, 1860–1925.” Ed. Daniel Laqua, Christophe Verbruggen, & Gita Deneckere. REVUE BELGE DE PHILOLOGIE ET D HISTOIRE 90.4 (2012): 1297–1319. Print.
@article{3229201,
  abstract     = {Concepts for social reform to create an ideal society model experienced several peaks of international diffusion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The article enquires into the relationship between the transnational dissemination of ideas and the key carriers of interaction in social reform associations, with a special focus on Belgian actors. Arguing that Belgian key figures in loose personal networks were important driving forces for stimulating and organizing the reform associations, the article analyses the making and development of personalized {\textquotedblleft}epistemic communities{\textquotedblright} and the clashes between different orders of allegiance of the actors---knowledge and its distribution, internationalism and nationalism. Starting in the 1850s, we show how non-governmental experts springing from a close network of Belgian actors successfully shaped the social agenda transnationally until the First World War. This heyday of internationalism, in which not only the Belgian state but even more civil-society actors played an important part, declined after 1914. During the post-war era, government-oriented internationalism considered social engineering as an international administrative matter so that the former civil-society agents, especially from the {\textquotedblleft}small big{\textquotedblright} countries such as Belgium, experienced a decline in influence. In this atmosphere, nationalist experiences and tensions on a political level affected the flourishing pre-war spirit of internationalism in private associations on social engineering. After the war, their role changed significantly. The private associations were used to channel and communicate social reform ideas as expert forums corresponding with the ILO and the League of Nations.},
  author       = {Van Daele, Jasmien and M{\"u}ller, Christian},
  editor       = {Laqua, Daniel and Verbruggen, Christophe and Deneckere, Gita},
  issn         = {0035-0818},
  journal      = {REVUE BELGE DE PHILOLOGIE ET D HISTOIRE},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {4},
  pages        = {1297--1319},
  publisher    = {Soci{\'e}t{\'e} pour le Progr{\`e}s des {\'E}tudes Philologiques et Historiques},
  title        = {Peaks of internationalism in social engineering: a transnational history of international social reform associations and Belgian agency, 1860--1925},
  volume       = {90},
  year         = {2012},
}

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