Crisis, Contention, and the Possibilities of the Political

Friday, 20 July 2018: 13:00
Oral Presentation
Markus S. SCHULZ, New School for Social Research, USA
The rise of a new rhetoric of “crisis” signals a re-opening of the political horizon. How could or should sociology respond to the crisis of the present? What are the competing options, resources, and obstacles? This paper explores the social construction of selected types of recent “crises” in the context of a broader global crisis and a shifting zeitgeist. It contrasts the spectacles of corporate media and the technocratic narratives of political and economic elites with challenges to austerity and emerging alternative visions. On a theoretical level, it argues for the need to connect economic approaches to crises with studies of contentious politics and futures research. Studying stories of crises is studying futures in the making. This entails the forging of decisions points and narrative devices that broaden or narrow the choices considered to be within “reason”. The widely diagnosed decline of utopian visions had left a void. The resentments of disenchantment that seep into this void threaten institutional stability, yet without altering more fundamental power differentials. Deconstructing the enclosures of expectation can help to democratize the imagination of alternative scenarios. In this sense, a sociology of possibilities offers practical relevance for the democratization of the political.