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Annual Report 2012

A Good Start

The DFG Research Group 'Landnahme, Acceleration, Activation. Dynamics and (De)stabilization of modern growth societies' started work on 1 October 2011, based in the Institute of Sociology at Jena's Friedrich Schiller University. The first months of the project until the end of 2011 were dedicated to creating a proper basis to successfully launch the Research Group's work: finding and appointing the research team, setting up the Research Group's rooms in Humboldtstrasse 34, and establishing the necessary technical and spatial infrastructure.

The Research Group opened the New Year with a two-day inaugural conference on its work. Under the title ''Post-growth societies' - a future perspective?', the first day brought together Birgit Mahnkopf, Meinhard Miegel, Karl-Heinz Paqué and Hans-Jürgen Urban for a lively debate, moderated by Stephan Lessenich, on whether it is sensible, desirable and feasible for societies to relinquish the economic logic of growth. On the second day, the Directors, research team and others interested met in the new Research Group's rooms at Humboldtstrasse 34 to jointly consider the group's research issues and topics, and discuss the plan for research over the coming years.


The Issue: Stability beyond Growth

By introducing 'Landnahme', 'acceleration' and 'activation' into debate, Klaus Dörre, Stephan Lessenich and Hartmut Rosa, the three Directors of the Jena-based Research Group, have provided key concepts to analyze modern capitalism. These three logics of social dynamization were comprehensively described and discussed in their book entitled Sociology - Capitalism - Critique (Dörre/Lessenich/Rosa 2009). However, this discussion also left open some basic questions, such as the relationship of these principles to one another, or the borders of social growth processes. The Research Group's aim is to systematically address and close these gaps, working together to elaborate an understanding of contemporary transformation processes. With regard to the current economic, social and ecological crises, one of the Research Group's key questions is: Can modern societies be stabilized in a different way than by economic growth?

Implementation: Intensive and Provocative Debate

The Research Group is concerned to debate these questions in a constructive dialogue, both within the research team through the protagonist-antagonist moderator model as well as in a lively exchange with national and international scholars invited to participate for a specific period as Senior or Junior Fellows in the Research Group. In 2012, we invited a total of 22 Fellows to Jena for periods of research and a scholarly exchange of views. During their time in Jena, the Fellows gave lectures in the Research Group's colloquia, met with the research team for workshop debates, took part in workshops as discussion partners and, through their contributions, introduced their own research interests into the Research Group's discussions. The results from these meetings and discussions have been integrated in some of the Research Group's series of Working Papers.

Heiner Ganßmann   Adelheid Biesecker   Beverly Silver

A series of public colloquia and workshops in the first year supported the aim of giving the start of the research a visible profile and creating an awareness of the Jena Research Group's topics among the scholarly audience. Here too, in addition to the Directors and research team, the Fellows contributed in a variety of different ways. For example, Beverly Silver was the keynote speaker at our 'From Crisis to Crisis?' conference, Robert Castel discussed his theory of a precariat, while Charles Taylor, Frank Deppe, Elisabeth von Thadden and others gave lectures in the Research Group's colloquia.

'Landnahme' Research Focus

Klaus DoerreTo facilitate a systemic critique, the Research Group is focussing on the three concepts of 'Landnahme', 'acceleration', and 'activation' successively. In 2012, 'Landnahme' was at the center of research concerns and, as a result, the series of Senior Fellows that year were invited to further develop the 'Landnahme' concept in dialogue with Klaus Dörre. These scholars were primarily specialized in industrial and economic sociology and included, for example, Frank Deppe, Heiner Ganßmann, Birgit Mahnkopf, Werner Rammert, Uwe Schimank, Franz Schultheis and Beverly Silver. The concept of 'Landnahme' was then discussed with them at a variety of events and workshops.

The various events as well as the Fellows contributed, in various ways, to evolving the 'Landnahme' hypothesis. This debate, which in the meantime has stimulated a lively critical discussion, examined and examines whether and how far the concept can be appropriately used as a point of orientation for a political economy which, as a social theory of contemporary capitalism, is to be reformulated.

A key step in this process was to systematically relate the 'Landnahme' concept to work, employment and reproductive work. Here, the book entitled 'The Theory of Capitalism and Work' (Kapitalismtheorie und Arbeit) now published, as well as the joint contribution in it by Klaus Dörre and Tine Haubner, are especially important. Prior to publication, various texts in this volume were discussed in the workshop 'Theories of capitalism, growth and work' by the Research Group members together with the Fellows Brigitte Aulenbacher, Christoph Deutschmann and Uwe Schimank.

The objective was, in addition, to systematically relate the 'Landnahme' concept to the problematic nature of growth and crises. In this context, several peer-reviewed articles have appeared including, for example, Klaus Dörre's paper ''Landnahme', the dilemma of growth and the 'axis of inequality'', published in the Berlin Journal of Sociology.

Last but not least, the concept of social acid tests has been taken to analytically address the micro-macro problem inherent in the 'Landnahme' concept. In 2012, a prime example here was the integration of this approach in the discussion of precarity in an exchange of views with, among others, Robert Castel and at an international conference in South Africa.

The findings from this research field are being published in 2013 in the form of two monographs and a number of peer-reviewed articles. Moreover, in the course of this work, it has proved possible to establish an international network which has set itself the goal of conducting comparative research into precarity in the global North and South.

'Activation' and 'Acceleration': The Next Main Research Topics

Even if the Research Group will only primarily focus on further developing the concepts of 'activation' and 'acceleration' in the coming years, ideas for such developments have already been collected and the first steps taken in this process.

Stephan LessenichDuring the first funded research phase, Stephan Lessenich's work has been directed to identifying, within the context of post-growth themes, elements capable of answering the question of how a welfare state distribution policy would have to be structured under the conditions of zero economic growth (or as a condition of zero growth) and how this could be achieved socially. In 2012, a number of Fellows working on social change, including Michael Greven, Sighard Neckel and Lothar Peter, were invited to Jena to stimulate discussion on these issues. The longer-term stays or short visits by Jens Borchert, Richard Münch, Claus Offe and Douglas Voigt were planned to initiate a more intensive work phase from fall 2013 intended to culminate in, among other things, an up-dated continuation of Claus Offe's theory of late capitalism as a relational analysis of present-day society. In particular, the workshop 'Crisis - Capitalism - Critique' with Nancy Fraser and the attempt to apply the activation concept to Polanyi's interpretation of the 'Great Transformation' to high capitalism proved fruitful in the project of elaborating the activation theory in terms of a sociology of domination.

Hartmut Rosa

Hartmut Rosa is presently working on identifying a new indicator for life quality or well-being capable of defining these concepts independently of movements to growth and progress. The opposition between 'alienated' and 'resonant' relations to the world served as the initial idea here, though such relations still need to be defined more specifically, both conceptually and empirically, in the course of the project. Even though this project was not the main focus of research during the first year, significant progress has nonetheless been made on two decisive points. At colloquia and workshops (first and foremost, 'Crisis - Capitalism - Critique'), as well as in two English publications and one publication in German, the alienation process was investigated and further defined conceptually in the context of labor relations and work experiences. In an exchange of views with our Fellow Charles Taylor, the concept of resonance was discussed and honed - and defined for the first time in, among other places, a French language publication. The exchange with other Fellows, such as Rahel Jaeggi and Elisabeth von Thadden, who are working on alienation, acceleration and resonance also proved to be very fruitful.

Knowledge Transfer and Public Image: Lectures, Interviews, Articles

Aside from the colloquia and workshops organized by the Research Group, the Directors and academic staff were active in 2012, giving numerous lectures as well as participating in podium discussions and public interventions. A few examples will illustrate the broad interest in the topic of 'post-growth', both within and outside of academia.

Klaus Dörre, for example, presented a lecture as part of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) 'Prosperity without Growth' lecture series at the TU Berlin. In addition, at the invitation of students and with support provided by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, he gave a lecture on ''Landnahme' and the Constraint of Growth. On the Limits of a Capitalist Dynamic' in the series 'MarxExpeditionen 2012. Orientation in Capitalism' at the University of Leipzig. In South Africa, he joined fellow international scholars in discussing issues relating to the precariat and precarity at the conference 'Politics of Precarious Society: A comparative perspective on the Global South'.

Hartmut Rosa has presented his thoughts on acceleration and resonance in, for instance, lectures at the Graduate School of North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and the Justus Liebig University Giessen, as well as in France, Argentina and Denmark. At the taz.lab, he joined politician Sahra Wagenknecht to discuss ways out of the trap of incessant progress.

In addition to contributions as part of the 'Capitalism and Democracy' Graduate School and to a conference organized by the Denkwerk Zukunft - Foundation for Cultural Renewal in Berlin, Stephan Lessenich also gave a lecture entitled 'Fear of Post-Growth?' as part of the 'After Progress' discussion series at the Schauspiel Frankfurt Theater, and took part in the '13 Kurze mit...' series on 'Capitalism' at the Theaterhaus Jena.

There were also many requests from newspapers and radio stations, as well TV broadcasters, for interviews and background discussions. For example, the three Directors appeared answering questions on growth, acceleration and the future of the social state in a wide range of media, from broadcasters such as SWR, MDR, 3sat and Deutschlandfunk to newspapers including the Neues Deutschland and the Thüringer Allgemeine.

Outlook 2013

In 2013, we will intensively discuss our 'Landnahme' research focus at our Research Group meeting in April, and present the initial findings in the fall. During the April meeting, we will also be preparing the second main focus of 'acceleration', which will be the main topic in the Research Group's third year. This year we will also be welcoming a series of Senior and Junior Fellows, including guests from Australia, Egypt and Switzerland.

Research Strategies and Issues 2013-2015

The Underlying Idea

Hartmut RosaThe 'Post-Growth' Research Group is convinced that the constraints of incessant progress in modern, capitalist societies can only be overcome by a complex, simultaneous and multi-dimensional transformation (or revolution) which, at the same time, entails concrete economic, political and cultural changes. Hence, one of the Research Group's key tasks consists of identifying what has to change as precisely as possible to render inoperative the 'self-perpetuating' imperatives of progress systemic in the economic, political and cultural spheres. This, however, assumes that the particular mechanisms of and constraints to progress are understood precisely, together with their particular institutional entrenchments. In addition, the Research Group intends to open up perspectives on how each of the specific constraints to progress can be overcome. The Research Group's second work phase (October 2013 - September 2015) focuses on the cultural dimension (i.e., on the subjects' senses, conduct of life and perspectives), with Hartmut Rosa as the main protagonist.

The research planned for this period starts from the insight that growth and progress provides the explicit and - even more so - implicit definition of happiness, well-being and the good life in modern western societies. In other words, growth rates are always taken as the measure of (life, as well as political) quality. In late modernity in particular, this leads to ever increasing constraints to optimize. In contrast, the Research Group is attempting to elaborate a different definition of life quality, characterized 'negatively' by overcoming and avoiding contexts of alienation, and 'positively' by establishing and securing spaces for and experiences of resonance.

Hence, over the coming two years, the Research Group will be primarily focused on the challenge of defining 'resonance' and 'alienation' more precisely and, in this process, also enable them, as far as possible, to be understood empirically. In addition, the task is to consider how far these concepts can serve to define a new benchmark of life quality, or, if necessary, to identify the elements needed to supplement it. In this context, the objective is also to analyze the economic and political implications for other research fields, and identify 'interdependencies' with them. Finally, this research task entails a discussion of which actors and social movements would be compatible with such a cultural change.

Research Issues and Approach

The application to the DFG (German Research Foundation) for funding the Research Group defines the key questions in research into 'Acceleration' as: "Can there be social welfare without the systemic imperative of growth? Is non-growth compatible with an enhanced life quality for the majority of society?"

To answer these questions, the aim is to analyze how the logic of increasing growth, acceleration and the consolidation of innovation shapes the subject's relationship, cultural and otherwise, to the world. As a fundamentally new element, research is to be conducted into the sources, forms and consequences of disturbances in such a relationship.

Here, the concept of alienation provides a key starting point for the research, whereby alienation is be understood as a disturbance in the appropriation of things, activities and people, and in the relationship to space, time, society and one's own body. For such a concept of alienation to be empirically fruitful as well, a positive counter-concept also needs to be developed describing a successful (i.e., non-alienated) relationship to the world. During these two years of research, the primary objective is thus to elaborate and establish the counter-concept of a resonance relationship. This builds on the assumption that individuals always regard their relations to their world, life, agency, or social relations as successful or fulfilling when they experience resonance. Through such experiences, they attempt to assure themselves of a harmony between themselves and 'the world' (social relations, things, natural world, own body, feelings). Developing the concepts of 'alienation' and 'resonance' further as planned is designed to enable the essentially optimistic view of progress embedded in modernity since the Enlightenment to be separated from the modern principles of dynamization, so that promoting human well-being can not only be retained as a political and structural goal, but potentially taken into account, or at least problematized, specifically against the systemic and capitalist imperatives of progress.

Here, we arrive at one of the first major challenges over the next two years of research: the attempt to define the concepts of resonance and alienation positively raises a series of questions which will need to be discussed over the coming years. Moreover, it will be necessary to clarify, for example, how the concepts of resonance and autonomy are related, as well how both of these relate to the imperatives of progress in modern societies. To drive such a clarification forwards, central spheres of life are to be investigated in terms of resonance experiences: for example, not only looking at work and family as 'spheres of resonance', but also examining issues around the crisis in democracy as well as the ecological crisis as 'crises of alienation'.

This inevitably raises the question of whether and how such considerations can be supported by empirical research. On closer inspection, there is certainly a variety of data available, though here too a need for further research is evident: e.g. investigating whether there is a connection between lack of time/stress and life satisfaction. If there is a connection, research would then have to establish if and how this changes when one also includes the degree of a society's equality/inequality? A different question which suggests itself here is whether illnesses related to burnout are purely caused by stress (from too much work) or whether the lack or impossibility of resonance experiences (e.g. in one's job) also plays a role. Moreover, research is to be directed to considering which (conscious and unconscious) strategies people follow to experience resonance (creating 'oases', e.g., gardening, singing in a choir, going to football matches or rave parties, or snowboarding…) and avoid contexts of alienation. This question can certainly be followed up with data that is more qualitative than standardized.

Hence, the research over the next two years intends to focus on intensively discussing and critically evaluating a multiplicity of hypotheses and open questions in both the theoretical as well as the empirical areas. In addition to Hartmut Rosa as protagonist, Klaus Dörre will be acting as the antagonist in this period, and providing a critique from the perspective of the Landnahme theory.

As in previous practice, we intend to discuss these theories and issues with guest researchers and scholars. We hope that a series of Fellows, who visited the Research Group for discussions in the past, will also continue to accompany this research process. Here, for example, Rahel Jaeggi would be a key discussion partner to further elaborate the concept of alienation and the resonance/autonomy relationship. Christoph Deutschmann's idea of relations to the world being mediated by money is also an interesting notion and offers many points for further discussion. Elisabeth von Thadden is working on 'resonance', and will continue to be exchanging views with Hartmut Rosa on this concept. The Research Group also intends to invite other guests as visiting Fellows.

Events: Initial Plans and Ideas

The initial planning already includes a major, four-day international conference with the working title: "The Good Life Beyond Growth - From Eudaimonia to Buen Vivir: Philosophical Conceptions, Social Practices and Political Claims". Together with philosophers, sociologists, economists, and psychologists, we intend to debate and discuss ideas of the 'good life' (including historical and empirical ideas), and additionally review the social movements and practices dealing with these subjects.

A workshop on 'resonance' is also definitely planned to enable the concept, together with the theoretical and empirical challenges it entails, to be thoroughly discussed in a small group.

research proposal

In order to understand the goals and methods of the Research Group, we present the research proposal in several languages.

revised english version 2015

revised german version 2015

english version

german version

french version

spanish version


spanish version

portuguese version

russian version

chinese version