KWI – Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Kulturwissenschaftliches Intitut Essen, KWI)


Project Freedom and Responsibility. Transformation Processes of Liberalism

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Ludger Heidbrink

Freedom and responsibility are seen as core values of liberal societies. Since the 1990s it has been observed that, as a result of trends towards greater individualization, economization and pluralization, the expectations of social actors, to bring greater social freedoms into harmony with the commensurate demands for responsibility have risen. Analyses of the contemporary situation seem to confirm the trend that increasing numbers of social actors have difficulties meeting the greater expectations for a lifestyle governed by a sense of responsibility. However, it often remains unclear, to what extent the increasing demands for responsibility entail a particular burden, or possibly even unjustified demands on the members of liberal societies.

Against the backdrop of current transformation processes, this project will investigate, to what extent an increase in problems relating to freedom and responsibility, as suggested by a diagnosis and analysis of the contemporary situation, is observable and how the mutual tension between freedom and responsibility can be managed in an individually and socially acceptable manner. Taking examples of problem areas from the fields of social and cultural sciences, this project will make a differentiated assessment of the extended social freedoms and growing demands for responsibility. In the process of doing this, one of the main aims of the project is to develop a catalogue of criteria that will make it possible to distinguish justified and unjustified restrictions to freedom or demands for responsibility, in order to achieve more precise standards for evaluation for the transformation processes in liberal societies.