Anxiety about future making Germans retreat into private sphere

Anxiety about future making Germans retreat into private sphere

Anxiety about future making Germans retreat into private sphere

In view of world crises like coronavirus and climate change, a substantial majority of people in Germany have had their faith in the future shaken. According to a new study, many believe that drastic changes are coming. 

Germany facing a decline?

Two-thirds of people in Germany are anxious about the future, according to a new in-depth, representative psychological study conducted by the Rheingold Institute in Cologne, in collaboration with the Identity Foundation in Düsseldorf

In the survey, 61 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “Germany is facing a decline,” while 88 percent were in agreement with the idea, “We are facing drastic changes as a result of crises like coronavirus and climate change.” 

Crises contribute to polarisation of German society

The study also suggested that anxiety about the future could result in society becoming more divided. According to the survey, a lack of trust in the state and institutions, as well as the fear of social division, is forcing many people to retreat into the private sphere of home and family

Many people expressed the idea of finding themselves in a “feasibility dilemma”: while they recognise that major problems are threatening their future, they cannot imagine how they can be overcome. As a result, people often tend to retreat into their private lives, ignoring questions about the future or glorifying the past.

“People entrench themselves in small spheres of activity with like-minded people and try to save what can still be saved in their personal surroundings,” Rheingold founder Stephen Grünwald explained.

At the same time, however, the study did uncover a more hopeful “grassroots” mentality, with people expressing a willingness to work alone or with like-minded others to help build a better future - for instance by establishing neighbourhood initiatives, changing their eating and consumption habits, or creating post-capitalist business models.  

According to Grünwald, serious crises fundamentally shake people’s confidence in the future. “We are experiencing a turning point,” he said, adding that it was still unclear whether people would continue to retreat and cut themselves off from society, or if the forces of social convergence and the overcoming of divisions will eventually prevail.  



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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