To argue that the future was (re-)invented in the 1970s and the 1980s might seem especially puzzling in light of arguments that the optimism associated with utilitarian, modernization, and socialist theories withered at the time amidst widespread debate over a variety of “crises.” Nonetheless, it was in this peculiar constellation that ideas of the future became fundamentally renegotiated. “New risks” were juxtaposed with prevailing older ideas of social security that were predicated on individual and collective risk management. Focusing on West Germany, this article examines the various technical and political debates over “gaps” in terms of the finances, demographics, and trust in the system of social policy, which helped to put technical and political diagnoses of “new risks” squarely on the political agenda. This demographic argument is of particular interest, as it dramatized the unintended side effects of older social policy and created new, dystopian future scenarios of total systemic breakdown. At times, however, these discussions about managing the risks associated with Germany’s demographic future verged on the utopian. New concepts of governmentality and biopolitics prevailed in this context. Moreover, pragmatic and sometimes technocratic concepts of new “governance” (and thus risk management) were proposed by social scientists and politicians as a means to address anxieties about the demographic future, and new models of risk-taking and risk-managing individuals also flourished at the time. With their descriptive but also prescriptive features, these theories contributed to ongoing academic efforts to explain the present and the future in terms of risk.


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pp. 39-61
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