The Descent Society
by Oliver Nachtwey
A society of social descent, precariousness and polarization has emerged out of the society of ascent and social integration. For a long while, the pillars of social integration have been eroding and crashes and descents have increased below the surface of the seemingly stable society. Literature is a sensitive seismograph for this change. The modern age continues developing but backward.
The social state was the institutional form of the counter-movement. The social state is a de-commodifying institution since it socializes risks.
The possibility of social ascent was one of the central promises of the “old” Germany – and was often fulfilled. An Audi came out of the beetle; an academic came out of a skilled worker’s child. Sometimes the social elevator was stuck. University degrees do not automatically mean status and security anymore. Employees receive less and less of the big cake. Oliver Nachtwey analyzes the causes of this rupture and focuses on the conflict potential that is arising. Even if Germany escapes the crisis relatively lightly, social conflicts began here and are now shaking all Europe: new left movements, work struggles and parties on one side and anti-foreigner protests and right-wing populism on the other side.
Oliver Nachtwey, born in 1975, is a fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. He has taught and researched inequality, protest and democracy at the Universities of Jena, Trier, Darmstadt and Frankfurt on Main. This reading sample is translated from the German on the Internet.