Max-Weber-Kolleg supports „Jena Declaration on Cultural Sustainability“

In the „Jena Declaration on Cultural Sustainability“, numerous signatories call for a cultural approach to sustainability policy. The declaration is implemented in the three programme lines art, education and civil society, which are coordinated in a cooperation between the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt, the FSU Jena and the HfM Franz Liszt Weimar. The launch event on Thursday 9 September at 3pm will be broadcast live.

The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 came into force on January 1, 2016. In this Agenda, the member states committed themselves to doing everything possible over the following 15 years to achieve 17 goals for sustainable development in the world. These goals include ending poverty; education and a healthy life for all; and achieving sustainable production and consumption. Increasingly, experts are now pointing out that despite immense political, legal and financial efforts, the global community is about to miss its last chance to achieve these UN Sustainable Development Goals in time. Merely increasing existing resources does not appear to be sufficient to implement Agenda 2030.

A network of renowned international institutions, such as the Club of Rome, the World Academy of Art and Science, the Academia Europaea, and the German and Canadian UNESCO Commissions, is therefore now calling for a clear change of strategy through a new cultural approach. On the initiative of Professor Benno Werlen, UNESCO Chair on Global Understanding for Sustainability at Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Fellow at the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt, more than 30 institutions have already adopted “The Jena Declaration”, in which they define a new cultural approach through which the Sustainability Goals can still be achieved.

Speakers at the launch event at 3 p.m. on 9 September 2021 will include the Co-President of the Club of Rome, Mamphela Ramphele, the President of the World Academy of Art and Science, Garry Jacobs, as well as important co-signatories to the Declaration such as Prof. Hartmut Rosa, Secretary-General of the German UNESCO Commission, Dr Roman Luckscheiter, the President of the Leibniz Association, Prof. Matthias Kleiner, but also, the German climate activist Luisa Neubauer and artists from Afghanistan, Iran and South Africa, among others.

It will take a broad-based global social movement to change thinking and action“
Top-down measures to tackle global challenges, which have dominated so far, cannot take sufficient account of the diversity of cultural and regional differences. For example, many global programmes are poorly adapted to actual local living conditions and therefore find little acceptance. “It will take a broad-based global social movement to change thinking and action for the transition towards sustainable prosperity. This requires fine tuning to local needs and conditions,” emphasises Garry Jacobs, President of the World Academy of Art and Science and one of the first signatories to the Declaration. The primary aim is to get such a movement up and running. 

In order to accelerate and deepen the necessary societal change, the United Nations and political decision-makers must approach more directly the most important actors of change: individuals with their everyday routines and habits. The aim of “The Jena Declaration” is to draw greater attention to the way in which human activities are embedded culturally, regionally and historically. Building on this, the network is calling on everyone to develop inclusive solutions tailored to local conditions. This requires first of all a respectful appreciation of, and regard for, cultural diversity. „The fact that young people worldwide are assigned a central role in the realisation of the programme of the Jena Declaration on Sustainability is particularly noteworthy and, in my view, absolutely necessary. Without the ideas, the demands and the commitment of the generation of tomorrow, it will not be possible to overcome the great social challenges. Today’s generation is obviously finding it very difficult to do so. Therefore, young and old, hand in hand for sustainable improvement, that can be the key,“ emphasises Prof. Uwe Cantner, Vice-President for Young Researchers and Diversity Management for of Friedrich Schiller University.

World Secretariat in Jena
The Declaration’s programme accordingly aims to reach people of all ages – especially younger generations – and of diverse cultural, social and regional backgrounds, and to make it easier for them to act locally in the spirit of global sustainability.

The necessary change extends into all areas of life, as Mamphela Ramphele, Co-President of the Club of Rome, points out, using education as an example: “Humanity has the opportunity to learn from the multiplicity of interconnected planetary emergencies upon us. To learn the lesson we have to embrace nature’s wisdom reflected in indigenous knowledge. At the same time we need to break down the knowledge silos in our outdated education systems.”

Implementation of the declaration will take place along the three programme lines “Art”, “Education” and “Civil Society”. These will be coordinated by a World Secretariat established at the University of Jena in cooperation with the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies (Max-Weber-Kolleg) of the University of Erfurt and the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar. “It is a special opportunity for Thuringia and Germany to be able actively to shape future sustainability policy together with such influential partners and a broad social movement,” says Professor Benno Werlen, head of the coordination office.

Further information and access to the live stream event via the declaration website.

New publication: „Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie“

Wallstein Verlag has just published a new book by Markus Kleinert entitled „Andere Klarheit“ (Other Clarity). It is – as the subtitle promises – an attempt at transfiguration in art, religion and philosophy. The book is also Kleinert’s habilitation thesis, which was awarded the Max Weber Prize for Young Researchers.

When hearing the term „transfiguration“, one might not first think that this could be a key concept for modernity. Transfiguration is called in religious contexts the elevation of the soul into the afterlife or the exaltation of a human being to a god, but above all the term is associated with that peculiar Bible episode of Christ’s transformation on a mountain. Ideas that are not exactly familiar in modern, secularised societies. But even the everyday understanding of transfiguration in the sense of a glossing over does not seem to suggest that transfiguration could be a key concept of modernity.

This makes it all the more exciting to read the book „Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie“ by Markus Kleinert (together with Hermann Deuser, head of the Kierkegaard Research Centre at the Max Weber College), which is dedicated to the concept of transfiguration in modernity and shows, on the basis of authors such as Luther or the Baroque poet Greiffenberg, up to Goethe, Nietzsche and Leopold Ziegler, how this motif, aligned with an idea of transformation, refers to an optimistic view of man and the world. In doing so, he also shows that such religious ideas are still effective socio-culturally today – in part without direct reference to religion – as illustrated not least by a look at American and Russian history.

Kleinert’s study, which also includes the visual arts (Raphael) and music (Wagner), shows the productivity of the concept of transfiguration, with its proximity to the Enlightenment as well as to glory, for understanding our modern culture as well as our attitudes and lifestyles.

Markus Kleinert
Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie

Wallstein Verlag, 2021
ISBN 978-3-8353-3992-7
277 pages
29,90 Euro