No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Uncontrollability & Responsivity

Hartmut Rosa’s talk "Uncontrollability, Responsivity, and Responsability" explores modernity and its relation to control, aggression, and resonance as a new mode of existence. Rosa defines modernity as a society characterized by dynamic stabilization. This means that modern societies constantly seek growth, acceleration, and innovation to maintain their structure and institutional status quo.


Modern individuals often perceive the world as something to be conquered and dominated. Action is seen as a means of control, and reality is experienced as resistance. This view is contrasted with a paradigm of sovereignty and autonomy. This modern mode of aggression has paradoxical consequences. Attempts at control result in uncontrollability, such as nuclear disasters, ecological issues, political powerlessness, populism, and high-tech society.


Rosa proposes resonance as a different mode of existence. Resonance is a medio-passive way of being in the world. Language forces individuals to be either agents or victims, active or passive, in any action, which limits our understanding of our interactions with the world. Within the mode of resonance, instead of control over outcomes, competence involves trust in one's capacity to listen and respond in transformative ways. This differs from instrumental appropriation.


Rosa outlines four axes of responsibility:

  1. social responsibility towards people,
  2. material responsibility towards objects and tools,
  3. existential responsibility towards ultimate realities, and
  4. self-responsibility within the context of resonance.


Rosa speaks about turning this concept of resonance and responsibility into a political agenda, emphasizing the importance of institution-building as a political necessity.


In conclusion, the contrasting dynamics of control and uncontrollability in modern society may necessitate an alternative way of dealing with the world, such as resonance, which emphasizes responsibility and competence over domination and control.