Freiburg sociologist on the relevance of post-heroic heroism – SWR Aktuell

Are the heroes still relevant? Ulrich Bröckling of the University of Freiburg describes how these figures stand in view of the war in Ukraine.

Do democracy and heroism go together? Didn’t the “society of free and equal” rightly throw many so-called heroes off their pedestals? Yet we find them everywhere: in pop culture, in everyday life and in advertising anyway. A paradox, this fascination with heroic stories, the desire for the exceptional model.

Ulrich Bröckling is a cultural sociologist at the University of Friborg. He has been dealing with the hero character for over ten years and has written an exciting and comprehensive book on the subject. In the SWR television program “Kunscht”, he gives answers to the question of how is the modern hero, who in recent weeks has been experiencing an unexpected topicality again due to the war in Ukraine.

Admire people, yes, celebrate them as heroes, no

Heroic figures are suspect for Ulrich Bröckling. You can admire people, you can have great respect for them. But you have to be careful not to celebrate them as heroes, says the sociologist.

“They are suspicious to me because heroic figures have a lot to do with the smell of masculinity, a lot to do with a willingness to sacrifice and a lot to do with a cult of the dead. We can see that now, especially in Ukraine.”

He didn’t expect his topic to become so relevant overnight. Bröckling has been dealing with the topic “Heroes, heroism and heroism” at the University of Freiburg for ten years. He is quite skeptical not only of the old war heroes, but also of the “new heroes”. Not primarily what they do, but how we as a society respond to it.

People admire heroes, says the sociologist. This contradicts its democratic socialization, which is more oriented towards equality and equality. However, wherever heroes and heroines are on the move, what they do turns into a fight: “It can be a very important fight, very morally acceptable, but other forms of social affairs, take care of each other, do something together, then comes into play in the background. “

Cultural Sociologist: Post-heroic times need heroic stories

In his well-informed and comprehensive book, Bröckling explains why we need “heroic stories” even in so-called post-heroic times, why the struggle between good and evil continues to fascinate us: “We like, or like many people, when you see them at the cinema or at the table you can enjoy at home on the computer or in the armchair – the heroic stories. They are stories that have a high degree of attraction. The heroic stories move, often they are simply thrilling stories. much of the attraction too. and the charm of heroes “.

Heroic figures reflect society in the ideal image of themselves

Heroic figures, explains the Freiburg sociologist, are always something – especially when it comes to heroic political figures – like the ideal image that a society creates of itself. Society, as a population, would like to be like the heroic figure, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy embodies this in a very exemplary way: “Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we have seen a huge wave of speeches about heroes. The Ukrainian president is the president. celebrated as a hero, Putin is condemned as a more negative than demonic hero. ”

Influence and Powerlessness of Heroic Stories in Modern Warfare

The question of mobilizing the Ukrainian resistance is also described in words of heroism. What he is observing, says Bröckling, is at the same time the power of these heroic stories, which demonstrate that post-heroism does not mean that there can be no more heroes. The sociologist believes that the influence of these heroic stories that are fabricated there and the myths that are now created cannot be overstated. On the one hand. On the other hand – and this has to do with modern warfare – one also sees the powerlessness of such heroic stories: “The use of Molotov cocktails to thwart airstrikes on nuclear power plants and cities shows that heroism individual or collective often does little militarily “.

Concern about heroic stories on social media

“Hero” – a flexible term. What counts as good and what counts as bad is very different for different groups, for their respective followers. “One hero is another’s villain,” says Bröckling. In the current conflict, he is also concerned about the high emotional content of these “hero stories” and the importance of social media as “effect machines”: used and how powerful they are, political foundations, foundations of foreign policy “To override the foundations of security policy and engage in this logic of escalation. It is this time pressure, it is this terrible destruction that you see that creates a mood that ultimately justifies everything – at least this concern exists There are dissenting voices, this is a good thing, but there is still too little open political debate. and controversial about it “.

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