From Crisis to Uncertainty

From Crisis to Uncertainty: Social, Political, Economic, Cultural and Human Responses

Principal Investigator: Elemér HANKISS, Jim SKELLY

Human and social existence has always been confronted with uncertainty, but there are ages and periods when the feeling of uncertainty gains in strength. In the last few decades our world has entered such a period. At the current historical moment, the gathering evidence clearly indicates that human induced disasters are becoming commonplace. Whether it is the safety of the food we eat, the contamination of the water we drink, or the pollution of the air we breathe, we are now confronting chronic disasters on an unprecedented scale. Providing the context for these and other disasters such as drought, severe weather events, and acidification of the seas, are economic structures that depend on carbon based energy sources whose costs are kept artificially low through externalization to the environment.

Increasing numbers of our fellow humans are concluding that human institutions cannot be relied upon to address the challenges and consequently catastrophic disasters loom ever closer. In our age, when old mechanisms and institutions are commonly resented for lacking adequate answers, visions and solutions for the future, people are becoming increasingly anxious. They lose resilience and the capacity to determine successful life strategies - which only exacerbates the crisis they are exposed to.

A key goal of ISES is to explore how the above disorientation and loss of confidence in human institutions affect the nation-state, the European Union, the dominant economic structures and the informational and cultural flows of our globally interconnected planet. Beyond unraveling the paralytic mental and institutional structures, ISES places a special focus on the new forms of social behaviour, the new mentalities and identities, the new spaces for human agency that are appearing in reaction to today's age of uncertainty. We attempt to present grounded policy proposals to the potential disasters we face through a pro-active approach to the use of new information technologies and the development of innovative interdisciplinary pedagogies meant to engage students in addressing the challenges humans will confront in the future.

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Uncertainty has been the theme of the First European Blue Sky Conference, organized by ISES.

In this research stream, ISES works in close cooperation with the Centre on Critical Thinking.


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