Sociologist on Climate Change: "Everybody can formulate goals"

Sociologist on climate change

How can you stop the earth heating? Some believe in Greta, others in the market. The sociologist Armin Nassehi has a better idea.

Armin Nassehi

Sociologist Nassehi in black on green Photo: Jörg Koopmann

Germany's most important contemporary analyst arrives at the taz-Kantine in Berlin-Kreuzberg at 10 o'clock in the morning. The colleague of the service says: "And what would you like?" Armin Nassehi does not hesitate and orders. He is the son of a Swabian and an Iranian, Schalke fan, always wears black and hairless. Nassehi flew in from Munich for a ridiculous price, that's just the way it is. In the afternoon he meets a top politician, in the evening he goes to the classical concert. Now he's supposed to explain why the future does not decide whether Green-Red-Red or Green-Black rules.

taz on the weekend: Mr. Nassehi, some consider you an insecure cantonist, because you have overcome the right-left thinking.

Armin Nassehi: And because I do not agree that there is a clear, or simply feasible, or even revolutionary solution to our problems. There is not any. We have to solve the problems with the on-board resources of this society, because we do not have others.

This is vehemently denied by the theory-conscious leftists that the middle of bourgeois society would or could advance something for all.

What does the "middle of bourgeois society" mean? To think of this middle only as a mid-life or something like that is boring. First of all, with the engine running, you can not make a revolution without shutting it down. I want to say that the resistance of society, its structure, its inertia and its unimaginability are enormous. You just have to see how difficult it is to interfere with systems, habits and life practice in a structurally complex world. That is the crucial question, which, however, hardly arises in political discussions: How do strategies work?

The Federal Government has co-decided the Paris climate targets – but does nothing to keep them and to promote the necessary socio-ecological transformation.

Armin Nassehi

You have to think outside the box. Only the clever ones can do that.

The problem is that we only have goals. Everyone can formulate goals. I recently gave a lecture to the assembled German-speaking climate researchers, 400 people who said that they always told the politicians: You have the CO2-Extance by as many percent lower or rely on this or that technology. And they then sign climate protection goals, sometimes with the best of their knowledge and conscience – but it does not succeed because it already holds the target for the way. Who sets an exact goal, may fail because the goal already looks like the solution. It's the way to do it. This also applies to other operative questions: If someone should lower his blood pressure from 170/110 to 120/70, the information of the desirable goal is downright simple compared to the question of how to get there. And if you do not ask, every little step in the right direction seems ridiculous compared to the goal.

Do you have another example?

Armin Nassehi was born in Tübingen in 1960 and since 1998 has been holding the Chair of Sociology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. With the "Münchner Theory Talks" he contributes sociological topics to society in public lectures. Since 2012 he is editor of the magazine class book and repeatedly takes position on current issues. Last appeared by him "Was there 1968? A search for traces "(Kursbuch edition, 200 pages, 20 euros).

When you say about a 3-liter car: That consumes exactly three liters too much. The big goals are characterized by a very high hubris and ignore the operational and the current possible. But there is also a devaluation by recognition. Take Fridays for Future: They can hardly save themselves from recognition, because the goals are so great and formulated as the last things of humanity. This recognition invalidates the commitment because it demonstrates how shiny some concepts are.


Because politics, parties, public opinion and companies praise the goal, but hardly provide concrete solutions, Thus, with regard to Fridays for Future, there is only agreement or disagreement, but neither solves the problem. The Unspeakables of the AfD simply reverse the tables. So they do not have climate change at all.

When it comes to the way: Do you have one?

The classical industrial society was built around two axes: the ownership of the means of production and the relationship between cultural conservatism and liberal openness. Today it is about the complexities of modernity that can no longer be dealt with politically with the old party differentiation.

So the decision is not between green-black, green-red-red or Jamaican?

The tazze, the logo of the taz

Are we radical enough? This question is being asked by the young activists of Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and the End of the World – a report in the taz on the weekend of 15/16. June. The sociologist Armin Nassehi also thinks about how to stop climate change. Help prohibitions? In addition: Insect burgers in the test. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or in the practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter,

Politically, but politics is just a system of many and trapped in its own logic. There is also a legal logic, technical logic, economic logic, scientific logic. It's not about uniting certain parties or similar ticking milieus, it's about alliances between the mindsets of different systems and functional logics. And you should not fool yourself: Solutions for climate change, for example, are already being worked on meticulously outside parliaments, in scientific laboratories, in companies, in urban planning, in architecture. Much of it remains amazingly invisible.

Many think: The systems have to change just for the good of the big and the whole.

That's nice, a strong sentence that looks like the solution, but rather describes the problem. If one can learn something from a socio-theoretical perspective, then this: the well-being of the big and the whole appears always only from the perspective of concrete action patterns and perspectives. The whole thing is just not addressable and unreachable. That's bitter, but unfortunately the unavoidable initial condition. The functions of the systems are hard to change, but you can use their resources quite differently. It's about tapping the competences within the systems and not turning them off. It's more about concrete updates than total solutions.

What does that mean?

None of these systems can override its own logic in order to commit itself to the good of the whole. You have to be able to make money in business. As a politician you have to be re-elected to exercise power. Legal standards must be valid. Media need to report something every day. Some of these logics work against each other and can not be causally controlled from one place. What matters is how the different logics can be translated into each other. And it is true that without economic performance and political stability it will be tight, not only with climate change.

The However, the moralist will continue to say that in order to limit global warming, we need to radically change our lives and our societies.

On the climate issue, however, one can see exactly the problem: A society knows no total solution. The idea of ​​the total solution is a paradoxical form in a differentiated system. Actually, even democratic politics can hardly adjust to ecological dangers, because those whose behavior should change are voting. Not a few people therefore dream of quite authoritarian forms of prohibition, regulation and centralized steering. It sometimes blows a Chinese wind. The tragedy is: The biggest goals can only be achieved with the smallest steps. Like in real life.

A banner is on the ground

Is the traffic change on the ground? Photo: Karsten Thielker

Now we have a pseudo-political discourse in which it is said that the Greens are again left, the Union is right again – depending on the perspective good or bad? What do you do with it?

They are both wrong movements. It's not about being left, not being right, because in principle, these movements lead away from the problem we're talking about here. You hardly have to talk about rights. Ethnic issues and cultural differences are not our main problem, it is a bagged story for which there are solutions, also very restrictive, but not necessarily right. That forms of justice have to be organized on the other side, especially when digital jobs create new jobs, but many fall out or many have a job they can not live from – that's something you have to solve, that's not a question.

But the solutions are not radical enough again?

Okay, you can want the radical solution, you can say you have to ban everything right now, and you'll find some people who like it. But that is of course not a majority. In the end, politics always breaks down on this one question, that you have to organize majorities with it. That's the only political criterion that works.

But can I bear the thought of being a profane part of a majority? That is culturally not practiced.

The luxury of belonging to the minority requires great trust in the majority.

You mean, in the end it was just fine with Schmidt and Kohl and Schröder and Merkel?

This is the key scene in Brian's Life. The Judean Popular Front sits and wonders who the enemy really is. And then they say: The Romans? No, the direct competition, the Popular Front of Judea. And then they count on what the Romans brought them: sewerage, social security, order on the streets and all these things.

Could you justify again why classic people's parties can not cope with the problems of the present?

"Solutions for climate change are already being worked on meticulously outside the parliaments, in laboratories, companies, urban planning, and architecture. Much of it remains invisible "

The idea of ​​the classic People's Party was that a certain interest was reasonably identical to a milieu. Capital and labor, Union and Soci. This was a stable distinction with parts that were directly dependent on each other in a stable distinction. And that is not there anymore. You can not build any people's parties today. One can only do that today if one appropriately relates the different social logics and systems.

Nevertheless, the SPD wants to be left again, the Union more conservative?

The Godesberg Program of the SPD of 1959 had the idea to correlate the political system and the dynamic economy and the legal system in such a way that new connections are created. This made Social Democracy much bigger and interesting not only for workers but also for intellectuals. The left-liberal teacher was always SPD, the Latin teacher in the Philologists Association was always CDU. We still have these basic forms in mind, and there are few politicians who go beyond that. But exactly these figures are crucial. Angela Merkel here is perhaps the paradigmatic case, connected, incidentally, with the tragedy of the SPD, that her undeniable achievements in Groko are not attributed to her own.

Who can break the old boundaries in federal politics?

It is no coincidence that the attribution of competence of the indicated kind is currently not necessarily concentrated in the old people's parties, but rather in the Greens, which is reflected in election results and poll numbers. The aggression that they are currently reaping in some right-wing conservatives is a kind of diversion of the aggression against Merkel, who has taken this competence of thinking across the camps there resented. That somebody like Robert Habeck is obviously succeeding at the moment is impressive.

It is true that you have developed your concept of the new alliances for the Greens. Why?

"The art of elites is to tell people things that they think they have themselves said"

Well, I've been working on translation issues for a long time, and that has nothing to do with the Greens at first. But I was talking about it with Robert Habeck, also with Katrin Göring-Eckardt. My suggestion is: Think about alliances of actors of different system logics. Founds places for that, forums in which the different logics can mutually confuse each other and where the translation conflicts can be fiercely fought. And we know that the distribution of the clever does not stick to party boundaries. But here somebody has to take over the opinion leadership and confront the conflicts.

The society has just begun to see the federal greens by Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck new, some media attention is already too much.

The complimenting gesture of many media on the person of Habeck is embarrassing and an expression of the loss of judgment in a large part of the commenting class. That does not change his thinking across camps. Almost even more impressive is how Annalena Baerbock manages to succeed in front of business representatives and build content bridges into other logics. This is obviously the incipient competence to relate the different logics of society to each other. Structurally similar to the post-Godesberg SPD, but in a very different historical situation. And in terms of logic, it would be different from the idea of ​​the left-wing majority with polarization potential, as Katja Kipping stands for.

Is the idea of ​​the left majority dead?

It is unknown.

I mean content.

Content already. There is also a milieu that would only choose green if it were not for R2G.

What is the problem?

This is not the old Leftist criticism, there are enough reasonable people. Probably a political force has to face at least a political paradigm shift. It is no longer about the left-right axis, but rather about the question of whether political and economic dynamics, scientific knowledge and legal forms can be correlated. Strictly speaking, this has always been the central theme of capitalism and its consequences – but the classical actor constellation has dissolved this into milieus. Today, there will be no alternative but economic actors to get the economy on board, as we like to say. I fear that a left-wing majority tends to prolong the classic lines of conflict.

The socio-ecological movement and also the green party have been outlined by their opponents as bourgeois postal materialists looking for meaning. Now we have a youth on the street demanding that their material basis, the earth, not be destroyed and their future burned.

That's what it's all about: not just the usual milieu-differentiating issues, but an external problem. In all other things one can interpret: loss of freedom? There is not any. Justice? We already have. But earth heating can not be interpreted away. So far, environment has been more of an internal issue, how we distribute it. The Marxists had an idea of ​​material environment, but it was only a question of the productive forces, whether one can exploit that and then distribute it fairly. Now the productive forces are the problem and not the solution. There is the question: Does one have to get rid of the productive forces in order to solve the problem, do you have to change them or even increase them? This challenge can not be solved with the traditional on-board resources. Therefore, the classic milieus do not work and the classic conflicts also not.


The CO2Problem will be solved neither as a problem of justice nor with the more bourgeois idea of ​​voluntary renunciation and certainly not with state control and prohibitions. But there are already very different environmental energy consumption patterns. A CO2Tax would certainly set meaningful incentives for the industry, for the individual behavior it is rather meaningless in the socially weak milieus, because there is less energy consumed anyway. It would even come to relief there. And among the higher earners, the price of gas or a CO2Taxes prevent people from driving or flying, a perfect infrastructure but maybe already, such as the ICE Berlin-Munich. Incidentally, would also be a nice investment program. Such concepts are possible but under-tracked, creating a great deal of mistrust in the political problem-solving capacities. Why is Fridays for Future triggers an entire generation?

Climate Academy in Hannover

FridaysForFuture in hanover: Pupils against climate change Photo: dpa

How does the generational protest become a serious climate policy?

Richard David Precht, for example, says people wanted bans. I would rather speak of practicable, clear rules. But the question is how and who can benefit from it. It's all about this. If you take something away from people, you have to give them something else. By that I do not mean money, but solutions for what they should not do anymore. In mobility, eating meat and so on. It works like in markets – and maybe you should lose the fear of market logic. I can think of enough areas of society where market logic fails and even has more harmful consequences. But when it comes to concrete behavior, nothing is possible about incentive structures.

Even about industrial meat reduction can not speak reasonably so far.

The challenges are so great that we have no choice but to lead the big conversation, as Willy Brandt has called it. We've gotten the Western bond, then the Ostpolitik, the social advancement policy with its ideological debates, always connected with the warnings that the land is going down and it ultimately benefited infinitely.

Ironically, the Greens are to advance this new Willy conversation? A common assumption is still that the Greens are a self-centered milieu of decent-earning world citizens.

The Greens are so far a modern party in that they no longer like people's parties of industrial society, the problems of their milieus depicted and processed. But it's not about the environment, there are contradictory research results. I am now concerned with the dispersion in the functional systems. There are scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, lawyers, technicians, trade unionists plus female forms of course. It can not be said that this is a party that is more on the side of capital or work that wants more social justice or preservation.


That's one thing standing in the middle of it, which was always resented by the left. Incidentally, they are much more alike to the Union than to Social Democracy, because they too must work on similar referential problems there. I think that the crucial strategic partnership for experimenting with a policy of covenants with different logics is most likely to be possible with the Union, also because that would be the very subject of modern conservatism. Let's see if there is appropriate staff. It just does not look like that, but I have some names in mind. The Greens want a radical transformation without a radical revolution. And they believe in technical solutions. They are both close to the economy and close to protest.

Is that an advantage now?

It goes without saying that I do not want capitalism at all, but that does not invalidate its logic. You have to use the market logic in such a way that it brings the matter forward. We have to help them to make a profit with the right things, as Ralf Fücks outlined his liberal idea. Contractual models between state and economy, a completely new relationship with the unions, which are also geared to transformations, not least the question of intelligent control through technical, legal and economic forms of incentives – only with this one can make long-term policy. Translating the different logics into each other and not canceling them out in one central idea – that would be the transformation that the tradition of the liberal idea of ​​separation of powers from the political sphere into society wants to bring. This translation – that would be a good strategy for me. Maybe the Greens do not have to be leftist and not more conservative, but more liberal perhaps in the sense that they have to find docking points to very different system logics. With the liberal there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Kretschmann, Habeck, Al-Wazir have been trying this translation for years. But for many officials, is it a radical contradiction to what they have learned, what they feel, how they grew up?

Yes, but not only for the Greens, that is a contradiction for all. Somehow they have to leave all their feathers so that they can grow new ones. We see it in the Union, which has no idea what it wants to preserve there. We see it with the Liberals, for whom wedding should actually be. We see it in the Social Democrats, who have completely lost their focus. And we see it with the leftists who have an interesting learning process behind them. But it is no longer with the hubris of a control logic. A complex system can not be gagged.

How are you?

It's about intelligent control, about the kindling of momentum.


We have enough examples. If you build protection for workers, the Occident always goes under, we know that. Protection against dismissal, maternity protection, minimum wage, always say economic actors: is not. Two years later, they get used to it. You can not believe that people do what they say. They do what proves to be successful. I am illusion-free that it is about education. You have to get used to certain arguments and practices.

The more comfortable way of thinking goes the other way around: with to those that does not work.

It is structurally similar to what I call alliances of the different logics: one would have to work with those who are rather different at most than at most similar. That would be the basic logic, the translation logic that I propose.

That would have to be.

I know that sounds incredibly naïve, but it's the only way. It is about the equivalent of what is called interdisciplinarity in science. Of course, people each have their own interests. But it must be clear that they can only be achieved in strategic partnerships. You have to think outside the box. Only the clever ones can do that. And this is not just a political program, it must also be thought entrepreneurial, trade union, scientific, legal and not least technical.

This is elitist, so the stupid will not be happy.

Of course this is elitist, it has always been elitist. The pedagogical and political art of elites is to tell people things that they think they have themselves said. Unfortunately that is also the art of the unspeakable. The AfD manages to produce resentment in people who previously did not even get the idea. But the crucial thing is the translation services. I first came to questions that I would not have come to with my own resources. You have to do more of that. That is competence. That's what elites need to do – translate. And if I may make a comment to the beginning of the conversation: The charge of the insecure cantonist is of course already devastating for me as a committed choir singer.


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