Accepted Paper:

From Nuclear States to Renewable Democracies?  

Author:

Andreas Folkers (Goethe-University Frankfurt)

Paper short abstract:

I will analyze the contestations of the democratic or authoritarian character of energy systems in West-German energy policy from the 1970s to the present as an instance of technopolitics understood not simply as „politics by other means“ but as an explicit politicization of these means.

Paper long abstract:

There is a well-established discussion about the politics of technological artifacts in STS. While this discussion mostly focuses on the question to what extent it is adequate to short circuit political agendas and technological designs, there is considerably less attention on instances where politicians or social movements themselves point out the political qualities of technologies. Here the task for researches is not only to highlight the tacit political character of technology or to emphasize that technology is "always already" politics by other means but to analyze explicit matters of technopolitics. To do so I will analyze the contestations of the democratic or authoritarian character of energy systems in West-German energy policy from the 1970s to the present. The radical ecological movements since the 1970s did not only criticize the risks of nuclear power but also the dangers of the political power structures that they believed would necessarily go along with it: the nuclear state or Atomstaat (Jungk). They apprehended the nuclear state as a dangerous meltdown of big science, big technology, big capital and big government that would only be able to contain and control the critical mass of atoms as well as the increasingly militant protests against them by implementing a permanent nuclear state of emergency. In contrast to the highly centralized nuclear energies, decentralized energy sources were deemed to be inherently democratic. But what is left of these hopes now that the German government officially decided the nuclear phase-out and promotes the transition to renewable energies?

Panel T036
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means