Imperial Mode of Living, Democratization and Socio-Ecological Transformation

Term: 4/2016 bis 9/2016

Prof. Dr. Markus Wissen, Berlin School of Economics and Law (BSEL)


The project addressed the multiple crises of capitalism (economy, environment, democracy) and its relationship to the mode of living, i.e. the prevailing patterns of production and consumption mainly in the global North. The prevailing mode of living is “imperial” since it requires a disproportional and unlimited access to resources, sinks and labor power on a global scale. Drawing on Marx, Gramsci, regulation theory, Bourdieu and Foucault, the project addressed the question how the imperial mode of living has caused diverse crisis phenomena and at the same time contributes to regulating them, e.g. by keeping reproduction costs of the working class in the global North on a low level and thus cushioning the impact of the economic crisis. Furthermore the imperial mode of living was analyzed as structural constraint and extension of opportunities of people in the global North and the industrializing countries of the global South. The basic contradiction of the imperial mode of living is that it has been spreading to the industrializing countries of the global South, although it cannot be generalized for social and ecological reasons. Thus, the attractiveness of the imperial mode of living is undermining its very conditions of existence. Starting from this observation, the project assessed the possibility of an alternative, “solidary”, mode of living that has been appearing e.g. in struggles for energy democracy or food sovereignty and paves the way for a fundamental socio-ecological transformation. The results of the project have been published in Ulrich Brand, Markus Wissen: Imperiale Lebensweise, Zur Ausbeutung von Mensch und Natur im globalen Kapitalismus, München: oekom 2017. Forthcoming in autumn 2017 is Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen: (Re)producing the Multiple Crises: Theorizing the Imperial Mode of Living, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

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