Mentalities in flux (flumen) — Imaginaries in modern circular bio-based societies

Institution: Institut für Soziologie, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany

Project Coordinator: Dr. Dennis Eversberg

In the BMBF junior research group Mentalities in flux (flumen) we combine sociological and historical research to explore how people’s mentalities change in post-fossil transformations and how this change is reflected in the occupational structure of society.

Today, there is broad agreement that fossil fuels, due to their limited availability and damaging effects for the climate, will need to be phased out within the coming decades. One proposed alternative is the idea of a bioeconomy, in which raw materials and energy are gained from renewable sources of plant and animal origin. But this implies more than just a shift to renewable resources.

In fact, the whole way modern economies are organized will have to change: Fossil-fueled economies rely on a constantly accelerating linear throughput of materials, from extraction through production and distribution to consumption and waste disposal. In contrast, bio-based economies draw on materials and energy sources that regenerate cyclically. Their production cannot be increased at will, but is subject to the natural limitations of these circular flows of matter and energy.

The historical emergence of economies based on linear flows of fossil resources radically transformed human work and was closely linked to basic mindsets, attitudes and shared imaginations compatible with the logic of constant growth. These mentalities differ between social groups, and they will undergo far-reaching change once again in the transformation toward bio-based economies. In short, mentalities evolve in parallel with the transformations of societies’ material and energetic basis – they are: Mentalities in flux.