Transition Impossible? Ambiguous Transformations and the Resilience of Unsustainability

International Research Workshop at Vienna University of Economics and Business

This international research workshop is concerned with theorising, explaining and interpreting the ambiguous transformations characterising contemporary consumer democracies: On the one hand, there is a widely articulated demand for a profound socio-ecological transformation, also referred to as sustainability transition, which is hoped to redeem modernity from its inherently unsustainable relationship with nature. On the other hand, there seems to be little evidence of any such transformation taking place. Instead, a different set of transformations seems to occur in Western societies: a transformation of modern democracy towards a more authoritarian and exclusive model of popular government; a transformation of social values towards individual responsibility, intensifying consumption and social exclusion; and indeed a dissolution of the markers of eco-political certainty, which characterises the onset of the age of the Anthropocene. Overall, contemporary societal transformations seem to further entrench rather than reconfigure the unsustainable structures of modernity. The resilience of socioeconomic unsustainability is perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon today.

Further pursuing the established research agenda of the IGN, this two-and-a-half-day expert workshop will explore the relationship of the divergent, ambiguous and inconsistent transformations in contemporary capitalist democracies. It will try to identify causal links and mechanisms and to attain a better understanding of transformative dynamics. How can contemporary transformations be conceptualised? How can they be influenced? What are the links between transformations in social values, democratic systems and material structures? Which are the forces and who are the actors involved in transformative dynamics? What are the unintended effects of transformative agency? What is the role of the capitalist democratic state?

To allow for intensive discussion, the number of participants is restricted. Some of the attendees will contribute by invitation. Participants are expected to attend the full workshop. There is no conference fee.

Further information (PDF)