Intellectual Property: Social Embeddedness and functional equivalents

Intellectual Property: Social embeddedness and functional equivalents

Prof. Dr. Tilman Reitz, University of Jena, Departement of Sociology of Knowledge and Social Theory
Dr. Sebastian Sevignani, University of Jena, Department of General and Theoretical Sociology


DFG, sub-project C05 in special research area 294 “Structural Change of Property”

Marlen van den Ecker

The project sets out to understand whether ownership of the public goods of knowledge and information needs to be reorganised in the post-industrial economy. Certain access restrictions have become problematic: how are they enforced and justified? What new structures are being developed to control and utilise knowledge and information, perhaps even without the need for exclusive ownership rights? What conflicts emerge when a small number of players profit from far-reaching processes of intellectual exchange? What solutions may be feasible? During the first round of funding, the researchers intend to examine the ecologies of internet companies and online communities to generate empirically grounded, theoretical answers to these questions.

More info on the project at: link

Movements of Europe. Transnational social movements and fault lines of solidarity (MovE)

Funded by BMBF, Duration: January 2021 bis December 2023

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr. Peter Bescherer, Dr. Bue Rübner Hansen, Dr. Manuela Zechner

Project Coordinator and Doctoral Researcher: Gisela Mackenroth

Supervised by Prof. Tilman Reitz

The project analyses European political perspectives of social movements in order to get to the bottom of tensions between local, national and European levels and to develop approaches to overcome these. In cooperation with practical partners from urban politics, gender politics and climate policy, various aspects are examined: a) how local approaches try to organise and locate themselves within the European area and how they b) behave towards transnational regulatory contexts, especially towards the institutions of the EU. In addition, c) the mediation limits those movements are confronted with will be analysed, especially in those areas where criticism of European institutions and transformation processes is viewed as nationalist and right-wing populist. For this purpose, both the cross-border perspectives of the respective players and – using comparative case studies – conflicts and limits of their engagement are examined.

In order to carry out the research and utilise the results, the project plans to cooperate with practice partners from various European countries, who make lessons learned accessible and who will be offered an exchange forum. Specifically, these are initiatives within the network “European Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City”, various initiatives on the “Frauen*streik” and for organic agriculture. Overlaps between their fields of activity (e.g. in the area of communal care infrastructures) as well as possible conflicting goals and potentially common problems in mediation of local, national and transnational levels (in topics such as energy supply or conflicts between cosmopolitan and local orientations) should be dealt with.

Methods of qualitative social research and transformative action research are used for research into movement practice and the cooperative production of knowledge. The results will be processed for public debates.

For further information: link

Populism and Democracy in the City (PODESTA)

Collaborative project with the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen (www.uni-tuebingen.deExternal link)

Funded by the BMBF, 2017-2020 (www.bmbf.deExternal link)

Subproject of the University of Jena: Populism and non-normative democracy

Project staff: Dr. Peter BeschererExternal link (coordination), Dr. Robert FeustelExternal link

In the wake of the recent financial and economic crises, the trend towards social polarisation is intensifying. Growing sections of the population feel left out or excluded and are losing confidence in the procedures of representative democracy. This is where populist political proposals come in. Their basic patterns – criticism of social elites, personalisation and moralisation of politics – also apply to current problems of urban development, from gentrification and segregation to a lack of opportunities for participation. The research project will examine in an interdisciplinary way how different (institutional and non-institutional) actors in the field of urban action deal with the populist challenge. For this purpose, a perspective is chosen that both (sociologically) examines the life circumstances of the participants and (with the help of practical philosophy) takes their ethical-political self-understandings seriously. The guiding research questions are: 1) How can an improvement of crisis-ridden living conditions contribute to preventing the social division between ‘people’ and ‘elites’? 2) How can civil society urban initiatives take up criticism of political institutions in a democratising way?

The sociological-empirical basis for answering the research questions consists in: 1) a document- and media analysis that examines right-wing populism as an expression and amplifier of problems of urban development; 2) the investigation of micro-conflicts of urban development in Leipzig with various methods of qualitative social research, including interviews with actors from local politics and administration, civil society initiatives and the citizens they address. In the FSU subproject, the empirical findings will be evaluated with a focus on questions of democratic theory and processed into applicable models for practice.

The innovative significance of the research project lies in the linking of urban research with the theory of democracy on the one hand and the methodological orientation towards the – much discussed but methodologically underdeveloped – concept of public sociology on the other. The academic value of the project consists in publications, conference papers and research which document civil society responses to the rise of right-wing populism, which deal with questions of moralisation and demoralisation of political discourse and the challenge of political liberalism in the concrete context of urban conflicts (about housing/rent, large-scale building projects, participation, integration, etc.). This will stimulate the formation of academic theories and create connecting points for further research (for example, on populism in demographic-crisis-ridden rural areas). The practical application of the project’s findings takes the form of the (further) development of strategies and concepts for democratic civil society actors to deal with populism. Close cooperation with the local practice partner is itself a component of this practical application, insofar as the linear research process and the objectifying approach are disrupted in a controlled manner. In this spirit, the research findings are discussed with the practice partners in project-accompanying workshops and project results are presented in the media of civil society self-organisation groups (blogs, tenants’ magazines, newsletters or similar). A final public event and its documentation will have a mixed academic-political format. The findings and experiences gained have an exemplary character, so that they also point beyond the local contexts.

Perspectives of Co-Determination in Holistic Industrial Production Systems

Efforts to create humanised and increasingly self-responsible working conditions, which were widespread in the 1980s and 1990s, have now largely culminated in holistic industrial production systems (ganzheitliche Produktionssystemen - GPS). These systems use the new possibilities of information technology control and – emanating from the automotive industry – are increasingly regarded as the most advanced method of recording and optimising operational processes. However, the hopes of expanding the creative competences and self-responsibility of employees have only been realised to a limited extent. In many places, GPS seem to increase the pressure to perform rather than the opportunities for participation, and instead of enhancing employees’ tacit knowledge, they are designed to extract and centralise it. The research group is investigating, on the basis of the sociology of knowledge and from a practical perspective, to what extent it is possible to reassert the approach of productive co-determination in GPS.

Specifically, its objectives are:

a) to identify the current significance of GPS for employees’ design options,

b) to assess the changed status of employee knowledge and competences in the context of GPS, and

c) to develop perspectives and applicable instruments for further democratisation.

The fundamental idea is that extended workplace self-reflection always has two sides. Techniques with which work and communication can be controlled in depth could also enable employees to continuously shape their field of work, to help decide on its framework and to coordinate work demands with their lifestyle. The research project is designed to be methodologically explorative and to bring new impulses to the field under investigation. To this end, empirical research (mainly in a), theory-based analysis (especially in b) and the exploration of new practical opportunities (especially in c) are combined.

Theoretically, the junior research group will not only take up discussions on the sociology of work, but also impulses from the sociology of knowledge and the theory of democracy. At the same time, the debate on the “knowledge society”, in which perspectives of communicative self-administration as well as intelligent organisation were already a topic early on, lends itself as a basis. The research field shows the tension between these motifs: producers’ increasingly relevant knowledge of processes can be used in a participatory way, but it can also confront them as knowledge management – which often squanders the chance for employees to voluntarily contribute their incorporated and communicative knowledge. It therefore becomes useful to re-examine the assumption, put forward above all by Boltanski/Chiapello and in governmentality studies, that at its core, flexible capitalism mobilises self-responsibility for profit.

Empirically, GPS offer a good starting point to support the relativisation of a thesis that is widespread in the sociology of work: that retaylorisation and control of work performance metrics now severely restrict the programmatic (partial) autonomy of workers. This needs to be examined in individual companies. In addition, it must be ascertained to what extent and in what proportions GPS have actually taken up the new management concepts of the 1980s and 90s (such as lean production, kaizen/continuous improvement processes, flexible standardisation and semi-autonomous group work). In practical-explorative terms, this finally allows for a new look at the critical thesis that gains in workers’ autonomy merely mean new forms of “governance”. Instead, it is to be expected that centralised control and decentralised decisions, participation and top-down procedures, and the inclusion or non-inclusion of workers’ wishes collide in many cases. The techniques of company self-monitoring, auditing and standardisation offer starting points for recognising such conflicts and potentially even establishing new participatory standards. How much economic and knowledge democratisation this will make possible is the research group’s open question.

Detailed information on the working group, current events etc. can be found on the website of the junior research group: www.gpsmitbestimmung.wordpress.comExternal link

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