Normative Conflicts and Transformations

Outline (in brief) :

Principles and norms meant to guide social inter- action, to permit coordination and to establish order have been critically scrutinized and modified with increasing frequency throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in South Asia and Europe. Issues under dis- pute concern both the contents of norms and normative regimes (concepts of order) as well as the modes of justification and validation (mechanisms of instantiation). India in particular stands out for the prominence given to ethical norms during the national movement and after independence, while modern German history has been marked by fierce conflicts over fundamental values.


  • Prof. Martin Fuchs (Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt)
  • Prof. Rajeev Bhargava, CSDS, New Delhi


Latest Workshop             Photos                 Module members (see below)

Participants at the TM 4 Workshop at CSDS (October 2016)

organisers of the event (V.Verma, A.Linkenbach, S.Kumar and  A.Pettenkofer)


Fellows (2016 and 2017):

  • Dr. Siddharth Sareen (1.6. – 30.12.2016); with follow-up fellowship at MWK Erfurt
  • Dr. Juhi Tyagi (1.6. – 30.11.2016 and 1.1.-31.3. 2017);
  • Dr. Rimi Tadu  (15.8. – 15.11.), with follow-up fellowship at MWK Erfurt (2018)


Workshops 2016:

Nature, Object, Subject: Semantics and Politics of Human-Nature-Relationships (with focus on natural resources)
Date: 3 – 4 October 2016  (at CSDS, New Delhi)      Programme (in pdf)

Internal Workshop and Business Meeting: Semantics of Inequality and Plurality and their Political Consequences.

Date: February 24-26 2016  (IEG, Delhi)   Programme (in pdf)


Module Outline (in detail):

This module attempts to understand the direction and the processes as well as the agencies of normative change. Thereby it will pay attention to the positive and especially to the negative effects of norm regimes (e.g. effects of discrimination and humiliation). The module starts from the following assumptions: Firstly, norms do not denote stasis, but are constantly in flux. Consequently, the concepts of order, structure and change need to be re-visited. Secondly, societies are commonly characterised by competing (hegemonic and alternative) norms that regularly trigger conflict. We need to better understand the dynamics of articulation and translation, refutation and combat as well as the modes of validation and justification of norms. Thirdly, normative imperatives do no longer have only local validity or are linked to only one particular societal and cultural order. Rather, an increasing number of norms in nearly all spheres of life – examples stretch from human rights via notions of governance and participation to the principles designed to regulate financial markets – are of a globalizing character. While transcending cultural contexts they inevitably meet with norm-saturated local environments, the articulations of both we still have to properly comprehend.

Focussing on competing and conflicting normativities, the modes and mechanisms of struggle and mediation, and the processes of norm transformation, the module addresses four core problem areas: (1) social inequality, justice and recognition (caste, gender); (2) social, cultural and religious diversity (“ethnicity“, religious belonging, normativity of secularism); (3) appropriation of nature and definition and practices of development (incl. population movements and displacements); (4) governance, participation, and (state, social) accountability. Crucial norm conflicts in these fields comprise conflicts between hierarchisation and equality; between pressures for homogeneity and the respect for difference; between (accelerated) economic growth and sustainability and de-growth, as well as (deriving from the Indian, esp. Gandhian context) self-restraint und self-transcendence; between vertical organizational structures and participatory modes of decision-making. The modes and mechanisms of politicization, struggle and mediation include (i) strategies of mobilization, social and political movements; (ii) cultural imaginaries and interpretive schemes; (iii) forms of conflict management and conflict resolution as well as new and old modalities of reconciliation (setting new standards, new legal practices, constitutional jurisdiction, legal pluralism, new modalities of everyday interaction, new publics).


Module Committee (in alphabetic order):