From Impossible to Possible

Aug 5, 2019 by

The lecture given by Daniel Hausknost on Friday, July 26, 2019, was titled Systemic Change. This stimulating lecture educated us on how our institutions and politics have coevolved but furthermore the natural world coexists with our institutions , which suggests that nature is a prominent part of our economy.

In the first part of the lecture we learned how materialist social constructivism which they defined as the overlapping between nature in the material world and culture in the human society to create society’s biophysics structure. An example of this is how money has transformed the shape of our planet and environment. This further explains how society and nature’s interactions have a symbiotic relationship meaning that society needs nature in order for such institutions to succeed. Our democratic institutions depend on this interaction, for example agriculture, which determines the structure, thus changes the interaction between society and nature. Further, there are many barriers to change. The lecture introduced us to the transformation of socio-ecological systems and how the progression of controlled solar energy, using technology and mechanical ways to produce goods and services, has heavily increased from hunter-gatherers to today’s times. The industrial revolution is the only transition that has not stabilised, as it is still exponentially growing 200 years after its onset. This vertically growing line needs to be reduced to help stabilise the increasing usage of fossil energy sources. The social metabolism, the flow of energy and materials between nature and society, is highly dependent on the resources, from buildings to our life stock.

The theory of Fossil democracy and the reactive state implies problems with political legitimacy that consisted of two mode of legitimation: active and passive. Active legitimation is what the world should look like as normative view and once implemented it is automatically a defence mechanism. Active legitimation should be avoided at all costs. Passive legitimation minimising the scope of reality for active legitimation for example it constructs a limited scope of what a king can rule. North Korea and other authoritarian governments are examples of this type of construct. Passive legitimation also requires limited accountability for the reality. Once implemented it becomes a self-sustaining resource for example, the fluctuation in prices and stocks demonstrates how the market can fix itself by having a minimal accountability.

The most fascinating part of the lecture was The Theory of Transformation, which means through the use of grammar, the language used such as alternating facts, and the way one can utilise framing one has the power to change their perception. This can turn something impossible into something possible. Some examples of this are the recent ban of smoking in certain cities throughout the United States and the awareness of the climate crisis. This proved a major point in the lecture. Daniel Hausknost then introduced the boundary between possible and impossible. The first boundary discussed was unintelligible which they defined as not a mainstream way of rational thinking, for example Greek gods causing natural disasters, due to the fact there is no evidence to justify ones beliefs. Another boundary was intelligible which is possible and many people can justify this way of rational thinking, such as the carbon tax.

We strongly agree with the theory of transformation due to the several tipping points throughout our history which as a result lead to a change in perceptions. For example, it has been shown with planned parenthood and how abortion is now more accepted as part of a woman’s choice. Women and people of colour have also been given a voice through history, meaning they now take an active role in governments.


Written by: Jacqueline Kianpour & Isha Paliah

Based on the lecture “Systemic change” held by Daniel Hausknost during AEMS 2019.