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Project D12

Sociological Diagnoses of the Period between Post-Heroism and New Figures of the Extraordinary


Prof. Dr. Ulrich Bröckling
Dr. Christian Dries
Dr. Tobias Schlechtriemen

Institute of Sociology

This project researches sociological diagnoses of the time between the First World War and the present with regard to the relationship between post-heroic orientation and heroic conceptions of the individual. This project pays special attention to the emblematic figures that are invoked in diagnoses of the present. Elementary social experiences and expectations are figuratively concentrated not only in the heroically-charged models of the "boss" and the "worker," in such deheroized or aheroic temporal forms like "employee" or "The Organization Man," but also in groups of collective individuals like "The Lonely Crowd" or the "generation of sceptics." This historically comparative analysis of social figures in diagnoses of the times will explain the contradictory problematization and replacement of the heroic in the 20th and 21st centuries. This analysis also investigates the role of the individual in society as well as socially relevant values and norms.

In the first sub-project of this study, defining social figures who appear in sociological diagnoses of the present are scrutinized. Central questions are: What characteristics distinguish the genre of sociological diagnoses of the present? What social figures appear at what time, and what social experiences do they articulate? Are these figures marked by gender, and what gender roles do they embody? Have they been heroized or do they have aheroic traits, and how can their relationship to society at large be described? Looking further into this relationship, the question is raised whether there are trends of heroization and deheroization in historical comparison. Do individual social figures have historical predecessors to whom they can relate, or antitypes from whom they differentiate themselves? What similarities and differences exist in the comparison of German and French or American diagnoses of the same time period? What rhetorical and narrative elements are found in diagnoses of the time? In what ways is sociological evidence generated about type identifications and personal figurations in relation to the diagnosis of a certain time?

A further line of discourse is characterized by debates surrounding "post-heroic societies." These debates were initially related to questions of military preparedness and management and have since been generalized to diagnoses of the times. In a further sub-project, various diagnoses of the post-heroic since the 1980s are reconstructed using discourse analytic methods, in which their collective problems are presented in detail while juxtaposing them with contemporary interpretations that contrast with new heroic trends and characteristics.