Increasing options through productive self-restraint?

Increasing options through productive self-restraint?

Resilient experimental institutionalization structures

Dr. Stefan May
PD Dr. Stefan Böschen
Roman Thurn, M.A. (since 01.04.2016)
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Institut für Soziologie

Modern societies are characterized by increased options for action and at the same time an increasing pressure to make decisions. Legislation institutionalizes procedures that can be used to respond to the exponential rise in problems with making decisions. This research project examines potential changes to the legal structure to regulate these decisional conflicts in order to determine whether potential "reserves of resilience" in the law are lost during this process of change. Or whether it leads to new legal structures.

Under the heading "legal self-regulating mechanisms", the research project analyses changing decision-making procedures in modern societies.

Institutions may be action-oriented. They either establish specific programming and institutionalization (ethics committees) or formulate abstract principles (precautionary principle), which open up new decision-making options for those concerned. What can be observed is that stakeholders are increasingly obliged to react in an ad hoc manner, without being able to draw on experience. This is because new decision-making situations are less and less likely to draw on experience-based knowledge.

This means new forms of responsibility, transparency and participation are called for. The "solutions" that are presented often turn out to be ambivalent. This is because too much transparency may further reduce the ability to make decisions and too much participation may lead to a disinterest in political processes. This research project is an empirical examination of the changes to the legal structures that relate to ethics committees (with a focus on the biomedical field) and current changes to risk management legislation (with a focus on the regulation of chemicals).