How Adaptable is our Society?


How Adaptable is our Society? – Identifying some structural barriers in our struggle for sustainability and the innovative power of social relations


Daniel Hausknost – Alpen‐Adria‐Universität Klagenfurt
Tom Kehrbaum – IG Metall Headquarters, Union Education

Panel chair:

Stefan Gara – ETA Umweltmanagement GmbH



Short description:

Daniel Hausknost: The limits to change – identifying some structural barriers in our struggle for sustainability

Sustainability science suggests that any future sustainable society will have to differ as radically from contemporary industrial societies as these differ from the agrarian societies of the past. The required transition implies radical changes also in the institutional structures of society. Historical analysis suggests that the modern state co‐evolved with the fossil energy system in a rather fundamental sense. This process suggests a structural coupling of political modernity with the unsustainable industrialism of our age that needs to be overcome if anything like ‘sustainability’ were to be achieved. The talk will empirically reconstruct the historical coupling of modern democracy with fossil energy and identify some of the structural barriers in overcoming that coupling.

Tom Kehrbaum: Achieving Together Something Completely New. The Innovative Power of Social Relations

Contemporary challenges are enormous. Climate change, migration, digitalization of the working and living environment are just three of the most pressing topics Europe and the rest of the world is
facing. These challenges will result in fundamental changes in the life of many people. Although the
entire history of mankind has been punctuated and driven by steps of social and technological
innovation which brought about diverse cultures, people are unsettled by the speed and force of present transformation processes. Fear paralyses curiosity and banishes all the positive force and magic of beginnings. However, the power of social relationships, trust and mutual learning play an important role in the context of change processes. They provide security, trust and courage to try out something new. In this speech, therefore, social and anthropological conditions of innovation processes will be discussed and their relation to current transformation processes in economy and society will be analyzed. It will be argued that new styles and forms of communal interaction and social organization go beyond limits and achieve new and human ways of sustainable development.

Organised by:

Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management