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Scientific paper


Who can challenge the imperial mode of living? The terrain of struggles for social-ecological transformation in the German population

Dennis Eversberg

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Scientific paper

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Taylor & Francis Online


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This contribution draws on empirical evidence from the 2016 wave of the survey “Environmental Consciousness in Germany” to identify the potential social bases of both support for and resistance to attempts to overcome the current socio-ecological crisis by way of a broad social-ecological transformation. Firstly, the results of factor and cluster analyses of the survey’s items on attitudes are presented in the form of a typology of ten “syndromes” of discernibly different basic attitudes toward questions of sustainability and change. Basic sociodemographic information on each cluster is given, and each type is scrutinised more closely concerning its attitudes and reported practices in matters related to energy and the German energy transition (Energiewende), as a proxy for their respective stances concerning a broader, more fundamental transformation. By locating the clusters within Bourdieu’s two-dimensional model of social space (on a vertical “power axis” and a horizontal “modernisation axis”), it is then possible to reconstruct the current constellation of struggles between pro- and anti-transformation forces in the German population. Results indicate that resistance to transformation is not simply a matter of attitudes, but indeed deeply rooted in the infrastructures of the “imperial mode of living” and the specific ways social groups are integrated into them. Instead of “raising consciousness”, transformational strategies should therefore focus on leading the struggles that will be necessary to change those infrastructures themselves, and their proponents ought to acknowledge that significant segments of the populace will not be won over to support such change, but have to be politically defeated.

Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, October 2019

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