Opening Utopia Conference 2022: Imagination, courage and wisdom

2022-09-01 Until September 2, the Leuphana campus is open for an encounter between civil society, science and politics. Transformation researcher Maja Göpel and philosopher Richard David Precht have invited to the third Utopia Conference. Participants sounded out the "future of freedom" in discussions and lectures.

Maja Göpel and Richard David Precht at the opening of the Utopia Conference. ©Fynn Dresler/Leuphana
Maja Göpel and Richard David Precht at the opening of the Utopia Conference.

Sascha Spoun called imagination, courage and wisdom the three important cornerstones of this year's Utopia Conference: "I think a university is a good place for such a Utopia Conference, because within a society, universities stand for leisure, the courage and the depth to deal fundamentally and thus also farsightedly with what could be and what should be," said the president of Leuphana University of Lüneburg at the opening of the third Utopia Conference. This year, the philosophy festival was held for the first time again in presence on campus. Many places in and around the central building invited the numerous visitors* to exchange ideas.

Conference director Sven Prien-Ribcke found, despite all the joy about the great approval of the Utopia Conference, also thoughtful words regarding the world political situation: "The present confronts us with its problem load almost overwhelming. Times are not normal. With the Utopia Conference, we are taking a moment to communicate with each other about the future. We want to explore the future of freedom, the future of democracy together."

To get to the root of the issue, the Utopia Conference will be highlighting various political ideas such as "digital commons," "energy democracy" and "schools as inns of learning" until next Friday. More than 500 citizens and students from all over Germany are taking part in this year's experiment in democratic politics.

Conference host Maja Göpel pleaded for openness in the debate: "If we close the spaces of possibility now, how can we enter them later?" She discussed forms of freedom at the opening in the Central Building with action artist Cesy Leonard, Julia Kloiber, founder of Superrr Lab, Paulina Fröhlich of the Progressive Center and social entrepreneur Manouchehr Shamsrizi: "Stability, reliability and routine have made us wallow in a presumption of security," Maja Göpel said.

The transformation scholar is co-hosting the Utopia conference with Richard David Precht: "In recent years, a mixture of optimism and fatalism has prevailed. Optimism in the sense of many smart people developing ideas for a better future," said the philosopher and honorary professor at Leuphana. Many debates on gender or racism, for example, have seen "dizzying progress in a very short time," he said. In contrast, he said, there was a fatalism about the biggest issue of all, namely the ecological one: "Even if we do everything we have in the pipeline, it won't be enough in the end. This thinking seemed characteristic of the past five to six years. Now we're entering a period where it's almost suspicious to be optimistic. There is almost a lust for restoration," said Richard David Precht.

Among the other idea generators at the Utopia Conference are Nadja Yang, president of the Young European Engineers, the international climate activist Payal Parekh and the federal chairwoman of the Young Liberals Franziska Brandmann, as well as the net activist Kübra Gümüşay, the director of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research Stephan Lessenich, the Hamburg Senator for Culture Carsten Brosda, the political theorist Rahel Süß, the board member of the Böll Foundation and former minister Jan Philipp Albrecht, and Henrike Schlottmann, the co-director of ProjectTogether.