Futures of Social Confrontations and Effects on European Democracies 2040

Bereich: Institut

Social confrontations signify the struggle about how we want to shape our futures. Rooted in different narratives represented by different social groups they are often competing for the sovereignty of interpretation of what a particular future may look like and how we are to achieve it. These diverging perspectives are usually rooted in past collective experiences and value systems and their interpretations and constitute a point of reference for a personal identity that reinforces a person belonging to a certain group. Social confrontations are not a singular phenomenon; instead, we live in a world of multiple social confrontations, and they co-exist, overlap, and compete. The divides social confrontations create can go across all spheres of life: education, care, health, nutrition, energy, mobility, communication, race, gender, political power, migration, etc.

This policy brief explores how these developments have been perceived in science and society and how they are likely to impact the futures of democracy in Europe. To this end, we present four scenarios that chart diverging pathways on how social confrontations could evolve in the next 15 years under various drivers and trends and what role they could play for the democratic development in the EU. Finally, the policy brief presents conclusions implications for R&I policymaking from the scenarios.

The four scenarios discuss various development paths - they are intended to explore divergent possibilities and do not constitute a normative position. They do not always depict a preferable future. From our view, scenario 1 (“A Resilient and Consensual European Confederation”) is the most positive one of the four and it is helpful to filter the preferable developments that can be influenced by R&I policy making. But also, for the other three, less preferable scenarios (“European Democracy defending itself against totalitarian tendencies”, “The European Fortress”, “Cultural Hegemony Through Global Capitalism”) it is necessary to identify negative developments that could be contained or prevented by R&I policy making. Each scenario is equally important, however, in that it explores alternatives.

In concluding we present implications for R&I policy making in four categories. The first category raises the question how R&I policy on the macro-level can have an impact toward more equity and equality and can shift the benefits of R&I investment more towards society as a whole. This part discusses option on how to apply social criteria for public R&I funds, such as human dignity, solidarity and justice, environmental sustainability, transparency and co-decision-making and their relevance for projects and companies. A further option is to combine social innovations with technological innovation in order to give marginalized groups a chance of participating from the benefit of innovation outputs.

The second part is dedicated to the notion of more democratisation and participation in the process of R&I priority setting and how different social groups can be involved. This includes, for example, structures that prepare decision making on R&I investments. New approaches to democratize the decision-making processes on how investments in R&I are taken may lead the way forward. Tu such end, it might be important to include employees and other social groups in the decision-making process, so to have a better representation of people who will be affected by the consequences in the future, e.g. the younger generation. An additional set of suggested changes involves the governance structures of decision-making processes as such: new procedures need to be learned and taught to achieve results that are acceptable for society as a whole and for social groups in particular.

How R&I policy could be geared towards the stimulation of more socio-ecological transformation is the focus of the third part, discussing the point on how to limit the footprint of R&I outcomes. The climate crisis will be a major cause of adversity and desperation in our society in the future. It will bring about more inequity, more inequality and more social confrontation. Accordingly, containing and mitigating the effects of the climate crisis needs to be the focus of socially responsible R&I policy that gives answers to the question if ecological transformation and economic growth are contradictions or if they can be reconciled.

The fourth and final part of the policy implications looks into some future European R&I focus areas of relevance to the four scenarios, especially on artificial intelligence and technology platforms as well as on the future of housing and living. The latter one is discussing options of affordable housing that respond to the changing lifestyles and climate change paradigm. Topics for Artificial Intelligence and Information Technology include new approaches to assess the quality and reliability of information and sources as well as socially responsible products that pay tribute to our diverse populations and cultures.

This brief is the result of one of eight Deep Dive Foresight Studies in the project ‘European R&I Foresight and Public Engagement for Horizon Europe’ conducted by the Foresight on Demand’ consortium for the European Commission. During the spring of 2023, an expert team identified factors of change and organised two scenario and one policy implications workshops also engaging experts from academia, business and public administration around Europe. The process was also supported by discussions in the Horizon Europe Foresight Network. Further information and room for interactive discussion is provided on the project’s website:

Suggested citation:

Susanne Giesecke, Sergiu Mișcoiu, Masafumi Nishi, Klaus Schuch, Richard Wilkinson, Sohail Inayatullah (2023). Futures of Social Confrontations
and Effects on European Democracies 2040 - Scenarios and Policy Implications. Futures4Europe Policy Brief 2/2023. Foresight on Demand Project.

AutorInnen: Schuch, K., Susanne Giesecke, Sergiu Mișcoiu, Masafumi Nishi, Klaus Schuch, Richard Wilkinson, Sohail Inayatullah


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Kategorie: Projektberichte

Publikations Datum: 2023

Bezug: Online (download)