June, 21st 2004

Prof. Dr. Sighard Neckel

The Tragedy of success.

Homepage (german)

CV ° Prof. Neckel was born in 1956. He holds a chair on general sociology at the university of Gießen. He is a member of the head of the Frankfurt "Institut für Sozialforschung" (institute for sociological research). Among others, he is publisher of "Leviathan", a magazine on sociological research. The emphasis of his work is the symbolical order of social inequality, sociology of the economical, cultural change in modern market societies. Publications (in excerpts): Status und Scham. Zur symbolischen Reproduktion sozialer Ungleichheit, Frankfurt/New York 1991; Waldleben. Eine ostdeutsche Stadt im Wandel seit 1989, Frankfurt/New York 1999; Die Macht der Unterscheidung. Essays zur Kultursoziologie der modernen Gesellschaft, Frankfurt/New York 2000 (2. Aufl.).

Abstract ° Among other ideals which the modern age carries towards the individual belief in success has a unique evidence. Unlike other current desires "being successful" became an overall concept which in equal measure concerns individuals, programs, and organisations. However, the hope for success is deceptive: success and failure determine and increase each other. The more addictive a society gathers for success the more compete its competitor, causing an increasing number of disappointed aspirants. Besides, success must be regarded as relative. Since success only becomes apparent in relation to competitors or earlier successes of oneself, it is disposed on repetition and constant increase. Its measure of time is the permanently present because past events quickly lose regard. Therefore, the individual is constantly caught in rushing ahead in its desire for success which apparently is damned to fail in a long run.

Lecture (.pdf, german)