Working Paper of the BMBF Junior Research Group flumen
Working Paper flumen No 1

Eversberg, Dennis (2020): Bioökonomie als Einsatz polarisierter sozialer Konflikte? Zur Verteilung sozial-ökologischer Mentalitäten in der deutschen Bevölkerung 2018 und möglichen Unterstützungs- und Widerstandspotentialen gegenüber bio-basierten Transformationen

Using the dataset of the survey “Environmental Consciousness in Germany 2018” by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), this paper develops a typology of eleven different patterns of socio-ecological attitudes or mentalities in the German population. This is done to investigate to what extent the transformations of economy and society towards a post-fossil model that are currently being discussed under the heading of ‘bioeconomy’ may become the subject of increasing tensions or conflicts within society. In a first step, a factor analysis is deployed to identify six different dimensions of socio-ecological attitudes. These are used as input for three different cluster analyses, comparison between which yields a distinction between eleven different types of attitudinal patterns or mentalities. Using indices for respondents’ endowment in cultural and economic capital, these attitudinal patterns are then related to each other in their respective ideal-typical locations in the social space according to Bourdieu, and their mutual relationships are examined. This results in the diagnosis of a roughly tripartite division of the population into (a) an eco-social camp, which comprises around a
third of the population and actively supports far-reaching ideas of a post-fossil transformation not only of the economy, but also of the prevailing mode of living, (b) a liberal-escalatory camp of around 40 percent, which clings to ideals of continuous growth and increasing prosperity and is so far not prepared to accept such transformations if they threaten to call these goals into question, and (c) an authoritarian-fossilist camp that seems to favour a return to outdated economic and social models of the 20th century, which will be impossible to achieve on a bio-based basis. The constellation of the (still) rather latent conflict between these three camps on the eve of the Fridays for Future protests is outlined. Finally, the question is raised which concepts of a bioeconomic transformation may find support from the various mentalities and camps, but also what increasing polarizations they may lead to.

Annex: Clusterlösungen_Clusteranalyse

Working Paper flumen No 2

Eversberg, Dennis and Jana Holz. 2020. Empty Promises of Growth: The Bioeconomy and Its Multiple Reality Checks

In this paper, we want to make two arguments. Firstly, we observe that the current trend in official policy concepts and strategies of the bioeconomy is toward a moderation of the promises of economic growth that it has been associated with since the beginning of this millennium. We argue that this process of moderation is at least partly due to the effects of a series of ‘reality checks’ that the different existing strands of research on the bioeconomy have (willingly or unwillingly) subjected the promises to, forcing governments to move away from obviously unrealistic visions and adopt more humble ones. We identify four such reality checks, coming from research on (a) bioeconomy discourses and strategies, (b) actors and interests in the political economy of the bioeconomy, and (c) the economic and biophysical materialities that make up ‘the bioeconomy’. Secondly, we propose that a fourth, sociological reality check is currently being mounted, exposing the social implausibility and democratic illegitimacy of the bioeconomy’s promissory visions. Using survey data from Germany to develop a provisional analysis of the tensions and conflicts within the population that disagreements about the bioeconomy are embedded in, we suggest putting the bioeconomy in its proper political place as part of the larger societal challenge, rather than promise, of achieving a post-fossil transformation of modern societies.

Working Paper flumen No 3

With the concept of “carbon mentalities” and “carbon imaginaries” we introduce an analytical toolkit for historically informed and socially differentiated research on the interactions between pre-fossil, fossil and post-fossil energy regimes on the one hand and societal patters of perception, feelings and action on the other. What are carbon mentalities? How do they differ from pre-fossil mentalities? What can be concluded from the analysis of previous energy transformations – first and foremost the transformation towards the use of fossil resources in the context of industrialization – about the ways in which societal imaginaries change? Which mentalities have been displaced, which have persisted, and which have emerged anew? What struggles have been fought around fossil resources and mentalities? We explain what exactly we mean by mentalities and imaginaries based on arguments from the history of mentalities and sociological analyses of relational social structures and habitus. The extent to which mentalities are based on fossil resources, but conversely also enable the use of fossil resources, is discussed based on existing historical literature and through case studies. On the one hand, we analyze how mentalities of escalation and externalization were promoted or brought about by the use of fossil energy, and on the other hand, to what extent certain mentalities conditioned and contributed to the transition towards fossil energy sources. This reappraisal of debates on the societal transformation from pre-fossil, cyclical societies to fossil, extractive societies based on linear flows and the associated shift in mentalities thus complements previous sociological and historical research on energy transitions. In conclusion, we develop a set of key dimensions from these historical discussions that are central to research on the relationship between energy transformations and mentalities – including the current transformations towards a post-fossil bioeconomy.

Working Paper flumen No 4

Koch, Philip (2021): Zurück zu alten Tugenden? Der Olivenanbau in der Provinz Jaén zwischen Tradition und (bioökonomischer) Moderne

The olive sector in Jaén in the south of Spain serves as an example of what happens when a bio-based economy that has existed for centuries reaches biophysical limits. The Andalusian bioeconomy strategy tries to reform the sector by modernizing it, i.e. investing in technological innovation and an increase in efficiency in mechanization. This paper first takes a look at current demographic data on the province of Jaén, before going into details on the historic development of the olive sector and embedding this information in a section on the current state of olive cultivation. The comparison between historic development and contemporary data yields several results: First, the bioeconomy strategy can be seen in a long tradition of attempts to overcome the region’s dependence on olive cultivation by means of industrialization and mechanization. Second, since the history of olive cultivation in the province is not a typical tale of land concentration and technological modernization, but rather of a strong peasantry consisting of thousands of smallholder farmers that extensively grew in size. This historic bioeconomy is different from the one currently being implemented. Those difference result in various areas of possible conflicts that demand further research.

Working Paper flumen No 5

It is widely agreed that a post-fossil transformation towards an economy based on renewable energies and bio-based material sources is inevitable and that this will bring fundamental changes for modern societies. However, these changes are so far mostly imagined in terms of technological innovations and reconfigurations of productive processes and infrastructures. What is receiving much less attention are questions pertaining to how post-fossil transformations will (have to) affect and reshape the modes of living, or patterns of everyday practices, as well as the mentalities, or habits of perception, evaluation and action, that are no less shaped by 200 years of fossilism.
This paper introduces our approach of a relational socio-ecological research on mentalities, which we propose as a necessary addition to existing research on post-fossil transformation processes that enables a systematic focus on these two dimensions.
It discusses the concept of mentalities as our theoretical starting point, sketching its origins in the tradition of German sociology, and provides it with a more solid theoretical foundation by drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice with its concept of habitus. To (re-)introduce an ecological dimension into the Bourdieuian conceptual framework, we propose a number of extensions to it, by engaging with different strands of debate in socio-ecological research, including those on societal nature relations, the material, institutional and mental infrastructures of societies founded on fossil-driven economic growth and the dynamics of externalization and inequality underlying the modes of living enabled by that growth. As a result, we suggest a “socio-ecological update” to Bourdieu’s practice theory, linking it up to those debates through the concept of „social relations with nature“, and the construction of a „space of social relations with nature“ in analogy and addition to the space of social (class) relations.

Reported Journal Articles

Eversberg, Dennis (i.E.): Socio-Ecological Mentalities and the Trilemmas of Covid and Climate. In: The European Sociologist 46/2.

Fritz, Martin / Bohnenberger, Katharina / Mundt, Ingmar / Riousset, Pauline (i.E.): Die Vertretung ökologischer Interessen als sozialpolitische Interessen: Konflikt- oder Kooperationspotential in einer Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit? InZeitschrift für Sozialreform 67/2.


Eversberg, Dennis (2020): The social specificity of societal nature relations in a flexible capitalist society. In: Environmental Values, DOI:10.3197/096327120X15916910310581.


Eversberg, Dennis (2019): Who can challenge the imperial mode of living? The terrain of struggles for social-ecological transformation in the German population. In: Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research 33/2, 1-24.

Eversberg, Dennis (2019): The social specificity of societal nature relations in a flexible capitalist society. In: Environmental Values, online 27.06.2020, doi: 10.3197/096327120X15916910310581

Pungas, Lilian (2019): Food Self-Provisioning as an Answer to the Metabolic Rift: The Case of ‘Dacha Resilience’ in Estonia. In: Journal of Rural Studies, 68, 75-86.

Additional Articles

Holz, Jana / Godding, Sarah / Lehmann, Rosa / Wagner, Louise (2019): „Postfossile Wirtschaft – Postfossile Gesellschaft?!“ In: Blog Postwachstum, 18.11.2019. URL:

Reviews and (Scientific) Reports

Eversberg, Dennis: Die Neuverhandlung unserer Beziehungen mit Natur,, 2.10.2020, URL:

Koch, Philip / Fritz, Martin (2020): Hoffnungsträger Bioökonomie? Bericht vom Workshop “It’s the Bioeconomy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy.” Blog Postwachstum, 27.11.2020, URL:


Eversberg, Dennis (2021): Polarisiertes Klima? Der sozial-ökologische Konflikt in Deutschland und die Mentalitäten der arbeitenden Bevölkerung; DL21 Köln, 18.03.2021.

Fritz, Martin / Friedrich, T. (angenommen für 2021). The role of habitus in the energy transition: How social-ecological attitudes, values and practices shape the social acceptance of post-fossil energy systems in Germany. European Sociological Association 2021, Barcelona, RN 12 – Environment & Society.

Holz, Jana (2021): Forest-based Bioeconomy in Finland: An Extractivist Principle and Practice? Vortrag im Panel „Global Forest Bioeconomy: Continuity or a Pathway to Transformations?“ beim „Third International Forest Policy Meeting“ der Professur für Forst- und Umweltpolitik der Universität Freiburg zusammen mit der IUFRO Division 9.05, am 17.03.2021.

Holz, Jana (2021): Problematic roots and a fake crown of solutions threaten sustainability prospects of forest-based bioeconomy. Vortrag bei der „Three-Minute-Thesis-Competion (3MT)“ beim „Third International Forest Policy Meeting“ der Professur für Forst- und Umweltpolitik der Universität Freiburg zusammen mit der IUFRO Division 9.05, 17.03.2021.

Holz, Jana (2021): Leere Versprechen und selbsterfüllende Prophezeiungen. Bioökonomie (und Kreislaufwirtschaft) aus wachstumskritischer Perspektive. Keynote-Vortrag bei der Online-Workshop-Reihe „Degrowth: Zukunftspfad oder Illusion?“ veranstaltet von Degrowth Vienna und der Arbeiterkammer Wien, 24.03.2021.

Schmelzer, Matthias (2021): The Critique of Growth in Historical Context. Vortrag und Diskussion auf der „Environmental History Week“ der American Society for Environmental History (ASEH), 21.04.2020.

Schmelzer, Matthias (2021): The Critique of Growth in Historical Context. Paperdiskussion auf dem Workshop „The Ecology of Economic Thought“ des Weatherhead Center, Harvard University, 03.02.2021.


Eversberg, Dennis (2020): Vortrag im Themenforum „Polarisierte Gesellschaft“ auf der Konferenz „Die Zukunft im Blick. Konferenz für eine vorausschauende Umwelt- und Nachhaltigkeitspolitik“, veranstaltet von BMU und UBA in Berlin, 10.03.2020. [Wegen der Corona-Pandemie verschoben]

Eversberg, Dennis (2020): „Was sind und zu welchem Ende untersuchen wir Mentalitäten?“ Vortrag im Forschungskolloquium „Nachhaltigkeit und gesellschaftliche Transformationen“ an der FSU Jena, 06.02.2020.

Eversberg, Dennis (2020): Die Spannung steigt!? Sozial-ökologische Mentalitäten in Deutschland am Vorabend von Fridays for Future. Vortrag und Diskussion im Forschungskolloquium des Arbeits-bereichs „Politische Soziologie sozialer Ungleichheit“, LMU München, 24.11.2020.

Eversberg, Dennis / Holz, Jana (2020): Broken Promises of Growth: The Bioeconomy and its multiple Reality Checks. Vortrag und Diskussion bei der Tagung “It’s the (Bio)Economy, Stupid! The Future of Growth and the Promise of the Bioeconomy”, FSU Jena, 07.10.2020.

Eversberg, Dennis (2020): Spannungsprüfer: Zu einer relationalen Analytik sozial-ökologischer Trans-formationskonflikte. Vortrag im Plenum „Die soziologische Vermessung der ökologischen Krise“ der Sektionen Umweltsoziologie und Methoden der Empirischen Sozialforschung, 40. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie, 16.09.2020.

Eversberg, Dennis (2020): Degrowth Mentalities, Degrowth Ontologies. Lecture at the Summer School “Politics, Ontologies, ecologies”, Universität Pisa, 01.07.2020.

Eversberg, Dennis (2020): Toward an Ontology of Dismantlement: Concepts of Transformation within the Degrowth Spectrum. Vortrag beim Panel “Understanding transformations and the role of strategy” der Konferenz “Degrowth Vienna 2020: Strategies for Social-Ecological Transformation”, Wien, 29.05.2020.

Holz, Jana (2020): The (Non-)Conflicts around Forest Bioeconomy in Finland. Locally Rooted ‘Green Extractivism’ under Revision. Vortrag bei der „Doctoral Students‘ Annual Conference: (De)Naturalising Extractivism: Investigating its Social Orders and Resistances”, EXALT Symposium, Helsinki, 20.10.2020. 

Pungas, Lilian (2020): Ackern unter Hochspannungsleitungen und neben Ölschieferwerken in Estland. Vortrag in der Vorlesungsreihe „IPW Lectures“ des Instituts für Politikwissenschaft, Universität Wien, 26.11.2020.

Schmelzer, Matthias (2020): 2020. Wachstum über alles? Zur Geschichte des Wachstumsparadigmas, Vortrag an der TU Berlin im Seminar von Tilman Santarius, 30.11.2020.


Eversberg, Dennis (2019): „Sozial-ökologische Transformation – was kann das sein? Transformationsvorstellungen in der Degrowth-Debatte und in der Gesamtbevölkerung.“ Vortrag bei der Umweltringvorlesung an der TU Dresden, 11.11.2019.

Eversberg, Dennis / Lehmann, Rosa (2019): „Postfossile Wirtschaft – postfossile Gesellschaft? Konturen des Sozialen nach Kohle und Öl.“ Einführungsvortrag im gleichnamigen Forum auf der Konferenz „Great Transformation: Die Zukunft moderner Gesellschaften“ in Jena, 25.09.2019.

Fritz, Martin (2019): Values, knowledge and mentalities: The role of survey research for the agenda of sustainable welfare. Online-Präsentation beim Workshop „Welfare recalibration and the ecological crisis: research topics, approaches and findings for a sustainable transition” in Pisa, Italien, 11-12.11.2019

Holz, Jana (2019) “Mentalities in Flux – Social Imaginaries in Modern Circular Bio-based Societies. A Research Outline and Project Introduction” PhD Workshop: “Environmental Politics” bei der UAS Spring Campus Conference in Berlin, 01.04.2019.

Holz, Jana / Pungas, Lilian (2019): „Bioökonomie am Scheideweg – ‚Sustainable Capital‘ und ‚Eco-Retreat‘ als zwei konträre Narrative einer Bioökonomie.“ Vortrag bei der Tagung „Ressourcen in der sozialwissenschaftlichen Umweltforschung“ am Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung in Leipzig, 01.10.2019.

Holz, Jana / Pungas, Lilian (2019): „Diverse Praktiken biobasierten Wirtschaftens in Finnlands und Estlands Land- und Forstwirtschaft – Erste Impressionen aus dem Feld.“ Vortrag beim Forschungskolloquium „Nachhaltigkeit und gesellschaftliche Transformationen“ an der FSU Jena, 14.11.2019.

Koch, Philip (2019): „Gutes Leben und Bioökonomie in Ecuador?“ Vortrag beim Forschungskolloquium „Nachhaltigkeit und gesellschaftliche Transformationen“ an der FSU Jena, 12.12.2019.

Pungas, Lilian (2019): „Ackern unter Hochspannungsleitungen und neben Ölschieferwerken in Estland.“ Vortrag bei der Ringvorlesung „Ökologische Krise in Osteuropa“ an der Universität Wien, 07.11.2019.

Pungas, Lilian (2019) “Food Self-Provisioning as an answer to the metabolic rift: the case of ‘dacha resilience’ in Estonia.” Vortrag bei der European Society for Ecological Economics in Turku, Finnland, 21.06.2019.

Schmelzer, Matthias (2019): “Postfossile Wirtschaft und Wachstum.” Vortrag an der Universität der Künste in Berlin, 4.12.2019.

Moderation & Panel Participation

Fritz, Martin / Godding, Sarah (2021). “Statistische Methoden in der relationalen Mentalitätsforschung” Workshop vom 20.-21.1. an der Universität Jena.


Schmelzer, Matthias (2020): Anders Wirtschaften Jetzt. Podiumsdiskussion organisiert von der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung und Netzwerk Ökonomische Wandel, mit Christian Felber, Silke Helfrich, Friederike Habermann und Ulrike Herrmann, 11.06.2020.

Schmelzer, Matthias (2020): Anders Wirtschaften! Das Netzwerk Ökonomischer Wandel. Podiums-diskussion beim Kongress „Zukunft für alle“, mit Silke Helfrich, Christian Felber und Karin Walter, Leipzig, 27.08.2020.


Eversberg, Dennis (2019): Vorträge und Podiumsteilnahmen im Rahmen der Public Climate School der Students for Future in Leipzig, Jena und Erfurt, 25.-28.11.2019.

Holz, Jana / Pungas, Lilian / Schmelzer, Matthias (2019): „Postfossile Wirtschaft – postfossile Gesellschaft? Konturen des Sozialen nach Kohle und Öl.“ Organisation eines Panels bei der Konferenz „Great Transformation: Die Zukunft moderner Gesellschaften“ in Jena, 25.09.2019.