Organizers: Martina Heßler (TU Darmstadt), Martin Krzywdzinski (HSU), Christopher Neumaier (ZZF)
Keynote speaker is Richard Sennett.
Flexibility has emerged as a key concept to explain social change since the 1970s and 1980s. Flexibilization shaped industrial and service relations as well as social relations. Examples of this process include flextime succeeding rigid workday time regulations in offices or “flexible automation” becoming the catchphrase in industrial production as the fixed automation that had shaped industrialization up to the 1970s and 1980s gradually vanished. Private life started to shift as well: new modes of life such as singles and cohabitation appeared to coexist with the traditional nuclear family. The latter represented a strict social institution while the former allowed for constant adjustments based on individual needs – a differentiation that needs to be critically analyzed from a historical perspective. Sociologist Richard Sennett pointed out in his widely received essay “The Corrosion of Character” (Sennett 1998) that flexibility had become a crucial tenet in “postmodern” societies. The title of the book’s German translation, “Der flexible Mensch,” highlighted this argument. The English title, by contrast, alluded to the negative aspects of the shift towards flexibility, which aimed to bend human beings’ actions towards the interest of management, which in turn corroded one’s character. Sociologists and historians such as Michael J. Piore, Charles F. Sabel, and Lutz Raphael further confirmed the ways in which flexibility evolved into a key concept of social change in the late 20th century have already noticed (Piore/ Sabel 1984; Raphael 2019).
Date: 17/18 November 2022
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