Research Programme

With a thematic focus on the formation of normative orders, the programme explores current conflicts over a just world order and their historical genesis from the perspective of different disciplines in the humanities and social sciences (philosophy, history, political science, legal studies, ethnology, economics, religious studies and sociology). In contrast to functionalist explanatory approaches which always appeal to factors external to norms and have their own scientific justification, the Cluster is concerned with the internal conflicts, processes and procedures involved in the formation of normative orders. Normative orders serve to justify claims to validity and the claims to political authority, and to a particular distribution of goods and life chances, based upon them. They are embedded in justification narratives which emerge within unique historical constellations in response to a specific pressure of problems. For the most part they are handed down, modified, institutionalized and put into practice over long periods of time. At the same time, however, every traditional justification narrative points beyond the facticity of an extant order and thus presents opportunities for criticism, rejection or resistance. It is this performative tension between narratives and claims to justification which renders the conflictual dynamic of the formation and transformation of normative orders intelligible.

The researchers participating in the Cluster of Excellence find their common ground in this internal standpoint. The use it to investigate the formation of normative orders, employing the resources of their own disciplines, while engaging in reflexive communication concerning this shared foundation. Without absolutizing the distinction between internal and external perspectives on the formation of normative orders, one can nevertheless observe in current conflicts how people give immediate expression to their experiences of injustice – with all of the attendant ambivalences, especially when these expressions are quickly broadcast across the globe by the mass media in a way that was previously unknown. Individual and collective experiences of injustice, of contempt, humiliation and lack of respect for one’s dignity, are heightened into normative claims aimed at different audiences with different reasons, if necessary also with violence. Thus we can at present only conjecture what conflicts over just normative orders will be triggered by the predicted change in the global climate, what distribution conflicts over increasingly scarce essential resources in the more seriously affected regions and what social and cultural struggles will be triggered once the predicted mass migrations to the more favourable climatic zones begin.

Those affected pay no attention to functional differentiations within global social systems or to semantic and institutional differences between law, morality and religion. While people are acting and speaking, they are certainly also anonymous points of intersection of systems of social communication and of unconscious symbolic systems – mere tokens in a strategic game over markets for raw materials and consumer goods or the mouthpieces of particular group interests who are instrumentalized by the mass media. Our aim is not to lull the humanities and the social sciences back into an anthropological slumber and to orient them to an image of human beings that denies their contextual character and tries to pass itself off as a transcendental a priori. However, we regard factual expressions of outrage over injustices – regardless of how justified, one-sided, selective or distorted they may be in particular cases – as sufficient to raise the question of how a theory of the formation of normative orders that goes beyond the dichotomy between action theory and structural or systems theory is possible today, a theory which, given the global challenges, avoids the quietism of structural theory as much as the alarmism of a theory of action


Letter of Concern and Support Regarding the Cluster of Excellence “Normative Ordnungen”

After the negative result of the DFG Excellence Strategy competition for Normative Orders, Seyla Benhabib and Charles Larmore, Members of our International Advisory Board, wrote an open letter to express their concern about the future of the Cluster and their strong support for it. More...

Leibniz-Preis für Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln

Prof. Dr. Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Professorin für Makroökonomie und Entwicklung und Principal Investigator des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen", ist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Preisträgerin 2018. Das gab die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft am 14. Dezember 2017 bekannt. Mehr...

Upcoming Events

22 February 2018, 6pm

Frankfurter Kolloquium für Internetforschung V: Linda Monsees (Normative Ordnungen, Frankfurt am Main): Fake News als Herausforderung für demokratisches Regieren. More...

1 and 2 March 2018

1st Goethe University Frankfurt-Leiden University Conference: Critical Theory Revisited: The Intertwining of Exploitation and Domination. More...

Latest Media

Sem Essa, Aranha und Belair Films: Der brasilianische Underground und das Cinema Marginal in den 1970er Jahren

Fernão Pessoa Ramos
Lecture and Film "Tropical Underground: Das brasilianische Cinema Marginal und die Revolution des Kinos"

The Politics of Migration: Testing the Boundaries of Membership

Speaker: Andreas Cassee. Comments: Caleb Yong & Anuscheh Farahat. Chair: Darrel Moellendorf
Second Annual Goethe-Göttingen Critical Exchange

New full-text Publications

Röß, Johannes (2017):

Die paradoxe Freiheit des Geldes. Eine sozialphilosophische Perspektive im Anschluss an Simmel und Marx. Normative Orders Working Paper 03/2017. More...

Forst, Rainer (2017):

The Justification of Basic Rights: A Discourse-Theoretical Approach. Normative Orders Working Paper 02/2017. More...