Ordering Dynamics

The Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt (MWK) for Advanced Social and Cultural Studies is home to an interdisciplinary research centre with a thematic focus on ‘ordering dynamics’. Drawing from the fields of economics, political science, religious studies, history and law, this research centre pursues comparative scholarly investigations concerning specific systems of order, characterized by principles of dynamic growth (‘dynamic stabilisation’). The researchers hope to explore what kinds of processes and dynamics contribute to the development, transformation and, at times, (de-) stabilisation of such systems.

The research centre for ‘ordering dynamics’ is funded by the initiative for excellence introduced by the state of Thuringia as part of a wider push for the establishment of so-called ‘centres of competence’. On a strategic level the initiative aims to create stronger and more extensive research links between different research institutions in Thuringia on a large scale. In particular, the research group helps intensify collaborative efforts between the Max-Weber Kolleg (MWK) and researchers from the University of Erfurt, the Research Centre in Gotha and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, here especially the research group on post-growth societies.

Start of Project 01.01.2015

Research programme

The terms order and dynamics refer to basic categories of socio-cultural reality. Generally, the notion of order is used to denote those structures that provide stability and regularity in an otherwise dynamic and constantly transforming environment.  However, ordering structures of all kinds, especially those that impact the socio-cultural universe, eventually have to evolve in a dynamic manner. In other words orders have to respond to exogenous and endogenous changes (such as environmental impacts), react to challenges and, eventually, adapt to new conditions. Thus, order and dynamics should not be seen as polar opposites. In fact, order allows for purposeful dynamic motion in a variety of contexts, while, simultaneously, order itself is often transformed and reinvented through dynamic processes. Since the 18th century scholars have observed a new type of order, which exclusively reproduces itself though dynamic activities in the form of growth, innovation, acceleration, expansion and universalization. This particular kind of order was first noted in the context of so-called modern Western society. The unique mode of dynamic stabilisation detectable in this setting is neither simply characterised by occasional moments of adaptation to contingent and/or exogenous developments, nor through a linear progression that results in the improvement of the (stable) status quo. Instead it is defined through a necessity for a process of endogenous dynamicisation for the preservation and reproduction of the status quo. 

Against the backdrop of a thorough investigation into various kinds of processes of dynamic stabilization, the interdisciplinary research centre hopes to shed light on four different sets of questions:

a) questions regarding the spheres and environments in which scholars are able to observe the aforementioned processes if dynamic stabilization

b) questions concerning the types of norms (and/or normative orders) that enable to encumber processes of dynamic stabilization

c) questions about alternative mechanisms of stabilization

d) questions concerning the consequences and interplay of dynamic stabilization.

The research centre has placed special emphasis on the adoption of a comparative perspective. According to the participating scholars such a perspective allows for the identification of similarities and differences in the patterns and frameworks, which allow for the social enhancement of dynamically stabilizing orders.

Furthermore, members of the research team focus on the role processes of dynamic stabilization play in the realms of economics, politics, religion and law. We can assume that such processes depend on specific existential conditions (moments of stabilisation as baseline requirements) and also bring along with them a particular set of consequences in the form of unique problems and crisis trends.  By zooming in at the form dynamically constituted forms of order take in different spheres and realms, the researchers are bale to use comparative analysis in order to draw comprehensive and sophisticated conclusions about the conditions, consequences and unique mechanisms of dynamic stabilisation.

The research group pays particular attention to those dynamics of growth that are stimulated and promoted through normative patterns. Attempting to disprove the common assumption that normative orders have a stagnating effect, the researchers identify and explore such dynamics of stabilisation that are, in fact, promoted by normative patterns.

In addition, the research group employs a contrastive analytical perspective when investigating all those mechanisms and elements of order that are currently not taking the route of dynamic stabilisation, and also surveys counter-currents to processes of dynamic stabilisation (eg. immobilisation, deceleration, institutionalisation and rhythmitisation).

In order to adequately and comprehensively grasp the mode of dynamic stabilisation in its socio-cultural and historical range, the research group tries to pinpoint the de-stabilising ramifications of the creation and maintenance of these kinds of orders. When and where does dynamic stabilisation actually themselves become a threat to stability? Where do such processes begin to undermine the conditions for their own existence? Finally, the researchers ask how the observable forms of the stabilisation of orders relate to, and interact with, each other.