Universität Mannheim / PhilFak / RSC / Forschergruppen / Cultures of Sustainability / Project 1: The Justification of Sustainable Institutions (Dr. des. Vuko Andric)

Project 1: The Justification of Sustainable Institutions

Project Director: Prof. Dr. Bernward Gesang
Research Associate: Dr. Vuko Andric

This project scrutinizes the widely accepted diagnose that our federal institutions are part of the climate crisis. According to the Economic Theory of Democracy (cf. Stein 1998), the political measures adopted in democracies aim at short-term improvements. Politicians are motivated by the prospect of being re-elected after four years. The voters’ incentives consist in job security and fewer taxes. With such structures, a policy for the next centuries, as it is required by climate change, is not feasible. Political philosophers talk about “political presentism” (see esp. Stein 1998, Tremmel 2005, Thompson 2010). Many scientists, including the German Advisory Council on Global Change for the Federal Government (WBGU), think that advocates of future generations are needed in political decision-making bodies and the economy so as to include the perspective of the neglected “stakeholders’ future”.


Another model is pursued by C. Leggewie and H. Welzer of the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) in Essen. They argue that systematically extended civic participation is the way to go (Leggewie/Welzer 2009). However, if the Economic Theory of Democracy is correct, then incentives for citizens are limited to short-term self-regarding interests. Moreover, doubts are raised by the example of Switzerland, which displays structures that are relatively grassroots democratic but not very ecological. Then again, advocates of the future are required for genuine grassroots democracy in the first place. For through them an otherwise unnoticed part of the grassroots becomes recognisable at all.

So there are different models of institutional change that give rise to the following questions:

a) normative: how can advocates of the future promote the grassroots democracy and nonetheless be justified as an institution that is allowed to think and act beyond the interests of the current members of the grassroots? How can objections, such as worries about an “eco-dictatorship”, be addressed?

b) normative/descriptive: is it possible to frame the discourse in such a way that misunderstandings will be avoided in the first place? The solution is to give better explanations and more emphasis on advantages than in the past. Project Two will deal at length with the advantages and disadvantages, respectively, of past public discourse.

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