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Futuring the Liberal Script

“Futuring the Liberal Script” is a conversation series live from the silent green. Researchers of the Cluster of Excellence Contestations of the Liberal Script – SCRIPTS and guests discuss the current crisis of liberal societies and democracies from diverse perspectives. The liberal script has to compete increasingly with alternative scripts and agendas for organizing societies, be they run by authoritarian, populist, Islamic fundamentalists, terrorist or technocratic autocracies.

Whether liberal democracies are confident, flexible and agile enough to respond to the challenges posed by contrary political systems and alternative ideas is a central matter of acute political and social concern. “Futuring” is not a variant of optimizing, but rather relates to developing a critical and creative stance in response to current contestations of liberal values and to explore possible futures of the liberal script as a” script in trouble”. The SCRIPTS conversations assemble a variety of views, concerns and actors by putting research topics and timely diagnosis up to public and ongoing debate.

#8 Russland und der Westen | 15 November 2023 | Katharina Bluhm, Sabine Fischer & Volker Wieprecht (Moderation)

Russia's relationship with the "West" can be described as a tense and constant interplay between attraction and repulsion. The recent history of alienation up to the open war against Ukraine has not been sufficiently explored in social science. Its development was not inevitable; it is based on foreign as well as domestic political causes. In her current book "Russia and the West", Katharina Bluhm explores the question of how this development can be explained and what role was played by the broad political and intellectual movement against the liberal shock therapy of the 1990s and against Western integration, from whose arsenal the Putin regime drew for its illiberal-conservative state ideology after 2012.

#7 Ukraine – Talking of War | 17 October 2022 | Gwendolyn Sasse, Kateryna Mishchenko & Jens Bisky (Moderation)

Can one understand what leads to a war? How to explain, how to classify events, backgrounds, how do you speak and write about life in an ongoing state of emergency? Political scientist and Eastern Europe expert Gwendolyn Sasse and Ukrainian writer and publisher Kateryna Mishchenko look at political and social dynamics in Ukraine's recent history. Based on Sasse's theses from her current book, they are looking for a language to think about, to „narrate “ this war. Between science and literature, analytical expertise and artistic approaches, they extend common perceptions to major political situations, everyday practices and life worlds in the midst of war. The journalist Jens Bisky will moderate the discussion.

#6 The Architect of Islamism | 12 September 2022 | Gudrun Krämer, Yassin Musharbash & Sonja Zekri (Moderation)

If Islamist currents are often discussed as the radical other to Western modernity, Gudrun Krämer's new book „Der Architekt des Islamismus - Hasan al-Banna und die Muslimbrüder” corrects this assessment. In 1928, the Arabic teacher Hasan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the first Islamist movement as we understand it today. He declared war on colonialism, Christian mission and westernisation and saw himself as anti-liberal, anti-secular and anti-colonial. Interestingly, Hasan al-Banna linked Koran, Sunna and Islamic traditions with European ideas of self-help and self-empowerment. In the 6th episode of „Futuring the Liberal Script“ Gudrun Krämer, Prof. em. of Islamic studies and journalist Yassin Musharbash discuss central theses of the book. The conversation is moderated by Sonja Zekri.

#5 Renunciation & Prohibition | 01 June 2022 | Philipp Lepenies, Ulrike Herrmann & Silke Burmester (Moderation)

Renunciation and prohibition play a central role in a sustainable social and ecological transformation. But what can the state tell us, what interference in individual liberties is allowed/acceptable when it comes, for example, to climate protection or the management of social crises and the common good? A fundamental, emotionally heated defensive attitude has developed in recent years as soon as it comes to state regulations, states the political scientist Philipp Lepenies in his most recently published book „Verbot und Verzicht. Politik aus dem Geist des Unterlassens“ (Suhrkamp 2022). For Lepenies, this is also a consequence of an “everyday neoliberalism”, which transfigures consumer sovereignty into an inalienable right to freedom and the state into a principled opponent. In the 5th episode of the series "Futuring the Liberal Script" Philipp Lepenies discusses with journalist Ulrike Herrmann, moderated by Silke Burmester.

#4 Automation and the Future of Work | 18 October 2021 | Aaron Benanav & Rebecca Ritters (Moderation)

In the age of digital transformation, many experts predict the destruction of jobs due to artificial intelligence. The risk of job destruction may pose a problem for liberal societies. After all, it is not least the workplace that enables individual self-determination — the core promise of liberal societies. An income enables people to realise their life plans and participate in social and political life. Dr. Aaron Benanav, Academic Coordinator of the SCRIPTS research unit "(Re-)Allocation", disputes this automation thesis. He argues that the real causes of the problems in the labour market are not to be found in automation, but in weak economic growth as well as low productivity growth. But what are the consequences of the economy's weak engine for the future of work and individual self-determination? Based on the findings of his book "Automation and the Future of Work" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2021), Dr. Aaron Benanav discusses these questions with Prof. Dr. Philipp Staab.

#3 Sorting Machine Border | 13 September 2021 | Steffen Mau, Nora Bossong & Yara Hoffmann

Borders are powerful sorting machines, and they continue to decide questions of belonging, mobility and immobility. Principal Investigator Steffen Mau, head of the Research Unit "Borders", investigates in this new book "Sortiermaschinen. Die Grenze im 21. Jahrhundert" (Stiftung Mercator, Verlag C.H.Beck 2021) how border systems classify our world and thereby contradict the globalisation thesis of unlimited mobility. Not only the dissolution of borders, but also the construction of digital smart borders, the expansion of border zones and the construction and militarisation of border fences go hand in hand with globalisation. Borders fulfil their separating function more effectively and more complexly than ever.

#2 The Democratic Regression | 05 July 2021 | Claus Offe, Michael Zürn & Yara Hoffmann (Moderation)

In conversation with political sociologist Claus Offe, Michael Zürn discusses the causes of the crisis of democracy and how political practice can be shaped and how democracy can be changed in real terms and renewed in order to counteract its retreat tendencies. Growing economic inequality in the wake of globalization and processes of cultural and social liberalization dominate current debates as explanations for the rise of national-authoritarian parties and the worldwide crisis of democracy. But these explanations are surprisingly apolitical. "The Democratic Regression," according to the findings and title of the recently published book by Armin Schäfer and Michael Zürn (Die demokratische Regression, Suhrkamp Verlag), is rather the consequence of a double alienation - an alienation of political processes from their democratic ideal and of the population from democratic institutions.

#1 Degrees of Freedom | 05 May 2021 | Christoph Möllers, Jan-Werner Müller & Mariam Lau (Moderation)

In the wake of new populisms, erosions of liberal values and political polarizations, the idea of freedom is one in need of theoretical and practical remapping. Christoph Möllers and political theorist Jan-Werner Müller discuss Möllers’ book “Degrees of Freedom” (Freiheitsgrade, Suhrkamp Verlag 2020). What if freedom is permanent political negotiation rather than applied political mechanics of core liberal ideas? What kind of future and resilient political scenarios for democratic societies emerge, if freedom is conceived not as an unshakable core but as a practice and open ended process of a liberalism in the making?