Qualification project

Entry Points for and Obstacles to a Transformation Towards a Degrowth Society Common Sense Imaginations of the Good Life in the Conflict Over the German Coal Phase-out

Research Department: Institutional Change and Regional Public Goods

Project Leader within IRS: Dr. Timmo Nils Krüger

Duration: 10/2019 - 09/2023


The challenges of the socio-ecological crisis require far-reaching transformation processes, which, in scalar terms, presuppose a change in modes of living both at the micro level (of subjects and practices) and at the macro level (of social structures). This assumption is the starting point for the project that is part of the habilitation process (post-doctoral thesis for senior researchers). The analytical focus is on (de-)politicization processes (especially of the growth paradigm) and conflicts (especially over exnovations). The term exnovation refers to the intended elimination (or dismantling) of practices, products, technologies, and infrastructures. This perspective differs from dominant approaches within the transformation research that aim at technical or social innovations – but is shared by large parts of the degrowth research in which the project is to be located.

The notion of the imperial mode of living is chosen as a conceptual framework for understanding the socio-ecological crisis, as it systematically focuses on the co-constitution of everyday practices and societal structures in order to explain the inertia forces of growth societies – their attractiveness and normality despite escalating problems and crisis. The imperial mode of living and its (de-)politicization is traced by a spatial analysis of the conflict over the German coal phase-out. For this purpose, group discussions with different conflict parties will be conducted. On this basis, common sense imaginations of 'the good life' will be reconstructed. Thereby, the research interest focuses on possible entry points for and obstacles to social-ecological transformation efforts.

The habilitation process is accompanied by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brand at the Institute for Political Science at the University of Vienna.


A new special issue of the journal “Innovation” guest-edited by Timmo Krüger (IRS) and Victoria Pellicer-Sifres (Universitat Politècnica de València) addresses power and conflict in societal responses to ecologic crises, particularly in efforts to transform energy systems, as well as approaches to study said responses. Ironically, given the remit of their publication outlet, the editors make clear from the outset that they believe innovation, more precisely social innovation, is not a concept that helps in understanding or advancing the necessary social and ecological transformations. Instead they point at alternative economic logics, such as degrowth, which do not promise alternative paths towards modernization and development, but rather alternatives to modernisation. The collection of eight articles emerged from encounters fostered by the Leibniz Research Alliance on Energy Transitions, and reflects the growing interest of transformation research, carried out at the IRS and elsewhere, in the idea of degrowth or postgrowth economies. more info


Krüger, T. (2020). Identifying Strategic Entry Points for Transformative Politics Towards a Degrowth Society: How to Operationalize the Concept of the “imperial mode of living” for Empirical Research. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 33(2), 257-275. DOI: 10.1080/13511610.2020.1732196
Krüger, T. Entry Points for Transformative Politics: The Power of Unstated Premises
Krüger, T. (2020). Wider den Innovationsimperativ! Eine Kritik am Konzept der sozialen Innovation aus Postwachstumsperspektive. In A. Brokow-Loga, & F. Eckardt (Eds.), Postwachstumsstadt: Konturen einer solidarischen Stadtpolitik (pp. 120-137). München: Oekom.
Krüger, T. (2020). Gemeinwohlkonflikte in der Energiewende: Eine radikaldemokratische Perspektive auf Energiekonflikte und die Grenzen der Deliberation. (Discussion Paper; Vol. SP III 2020–602, No. April 2020). Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.
Krüger, T., & Pellicer-Sifres, V. (2020). Analysing the Ecological Crisis: Conflicts, (De-)Politicization, and Power Relations. (Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, Special Issue; Vol. 33, No. 2). Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/13511610.2020.1733936
Krüger, T., & Pellicer-Sifres, V. (2020). From Innovations to Exnovations: Conflicts, (De-)Politicization Processes, and Power Relations are Key in Analysing the Ecological Crisis. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 33(2), 115-123. DOI: 10.1080/13511610.2020.1733936