Generationen in der Erbengesellschaft

Prof. Dr. Sigrid Weigel, Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin
Prof. Dr. Peter Breitschmid, Universität Zürich, Rechtswissenschaftliches Institut
Prof. Dr. Martin Kohli, European University Institute, Florenz, Department of Social and Political Sciences

Starting out from the prevailing conceptualisation of socio-cultural changes as “demographic change,” this project explores such phenomena with the help of discourse analysis, empirical-qualitative methodology, and reflections on the history of concepts, science, and culture. Such an investigation of the epistemic and conceptual presuppositions of the debate on demograpy addresses in particular those fundamental changes that largely elude established demographic analysis.

The project focuses on two semantically ambiguous concepts – “generation” and “inheritance” – since these are central to the interrelation between various discursive fields, spheres of action, and registers. Even more fundamentally, these concepts constitute both the interface and interstice between socio-cultural development and biological reproduction. They are indispensable to capturing socio-cultural phenomena as demographic data. These concepts and their current place, significance, and function in contemporary debate are examined with regard to their theoretical, historical, and disciplinary implications. The focus is on the manifold interpretations, forms, and practices of intergenerational transfer shaping the interplay between the economic, legal, social, and cultural aspects underlying the current negotiations on the restructuring of the welfare state, the redistribution of old-age provision and care among the family and state, the ongoing redefinitions of working lives, and the debates on “generational justice” and the “intergenerational contract.”
The interdisciplinary approach adopted here spans various fields of scholarship (social sciences, law, cultural studies) and hence facilitates the pursuit of a rich array of questions, ranging from the significance of intergenerationality for the “cultural heritage” agenda over the generationalising of economics and related disciplines in the twentieth century to the category of the “age group,” the effects of changing kinship relations and lifestyles on inheritance law and family business succession, the shifting of intergenerational relations and concerns about age in literature, a literary demographics of sorts, and finally to the development of a cultural studies perspective on bioethical questions and their relationship with biodemography. In employing a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary approach, the project associates four strands of previous research with current changes and their (often heated) discussion to obtain new insights for the benefit of society at large.