Legitimacy in Crisis: The Genealogy of an Insoluble Problem

Start of project: March 2014

Competence in dealing with future challenges is a key resource for ensuring legitimacy in modern politics. But currently the political production of the future appears to be in crisis. On the national level, we can observe the decline of a broad postwar consensus based on mass loyalty, conflict mediation, and a general perception of beneficial development. On the global level, the sensitivity for crises of legitimacy is drifting significantly towards climate change. Global warming replaces the paradigm of a time to come with that of a time that has passed. Because prognostic certainty is lacking at the same time that irreversible effects may be generated, the entire ensemble of producing the future by relying on political solutions is called into question. In the sphere of climate change, we can observe how policy making experiments with the future, even though collapse is one of the options.

The research project investigates the opportunities and limitations of emerging negotiations about the future on three levels. First, under the heading of problem perception, it explores which arenas of conflict are opened up by the climate debate. As prognostic scenarios become inconclusive, surprising alliances of actors and unexpected conflict potential emerge. Second, the project examines how the future can be mobilized under the sign of passing time, and where programmed temporalities are drawn into crisis. Third, the project seeks to reconstruct which practices of interaction arise when a privileged perspective for intervention is lost.

(Last modified March 2014)