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Roland Benedikter

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Roland Benedikter

Roland Benedikter
Born 1965
Occupation Political Scientist and Sociologist

Roland Benedikter is a European public intellectual, political scientist and sociologist with specialization in multidisciplinary political analysis. He is Research Scholar, in residence at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies of the University of California at Santa Barbara. After eight years in European politics, from 2009-2013 he was a Visiting Scholar / Research Affiliate at the Europe Center of Stanford University; previous academic career stages include Columbia University, Georgetown University and RMIT University Melbourne. He is Senior Affiliate at the Edmund Pellegrino Center of Georgetown University, Trustee of the Toynbee Prize Foundation Boston, Senior Research Scholar of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington DC and Full Member of the Club of Rome.


Studies and early academic work (1984-1993)

Benedikter grew up in Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen. After completing college in Bruneck (with a focus on ancient Greek, Latin, philosophy and languages, 1984) and an MA in Comparative Cultures, Languages and Literatures at the Universities of Innsbruck and a Dott. lett. Padova (1990, 1992), Benedikter worked as a researcher in the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research on "Hermeneutics of Change at the Intersection of Politics and Culture" at the Free University of Berlin (1990–1991), then as Scientific Research Collaborator at the Department of English and American Studies of the University of Innsbruck (1991–1993). He later completed 2 German doctorates in Political Science and in Sociology (both: Free University of Berlin), and an Austrian doctorate in Educational Science (University of Innsbruck).

Institution building and European cultural politics (1993-2003)

From 1993-1996, Benedikter contributed to the building up of the European Academy for Applied Scientific Research EURAC Bolzano (with focus on Languages, Ethnic Studies and Minority Rights) and the trilingual Free University of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano from the bottom up. From 1995-2003, he was active in Applied European Cultural, Ethnicity and Minority Politics as the Personal Speaker and Special Secretary (Segretario particolare) of the Minister for Culture, Science and Education of the German and Raetoroman (Ladin) Ethnic Groups of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol; of the President of the Cultural Commission of the Assembly of European Regions AER; and of the Vice President of the Federal Union of European National Minorities FUEN. In the same period, he was the speaker of many initiatives of the International Civil Society, a.o. on GATS and MAI, with focus on culturo-political and scientific issues. With respect to his parallel academic career, he never became a member of any political party, but acted as an independent expert and intellectual.

Academic research, teaching and professional affiliations (1994-present)

Since 1994, Benedikter has been a Contract Professor, Visiting Professor, Fellow and Research Scholar of Multidisciplinary Cultural and Political Analysis at universities, academies and think-tanks in the US, the UK, Australia, Peru, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria and Turkey. Institutions include Columbia University New York, Georgetown University Washington DC, Villanova University Philadelphia, RMIT University Melbourne, University of Northampton, Vienna University, Innsbruck University, Free University of Bolzano, Clemens Ohridski University Sofia, Universidad Catholica del Peru Lima and Mersin University. Benedikter has also been occasionally lecturing at various academic and para-academic institutions, among them the Diplomatic Academy of the Republic of Austria Vienna, The German-American Institute DAI Heidelberg, the Hardenberg Institute for Cultural Sciences Heidelberg, The Institute for Social Banking Bochum - an official project of the UNESCO Decade “Education for Sustainable Development” (ESD) - and the Future Center Tyrol. He has served as Board Member of Ecolnet. Civil Society Institute for Multidisciplinary Research on Sustainability and Policy Advice Bolzano, Italy (a co-project with the European Social Funds of the European Union Bruxelles, and successor of the former Institute for Transdisciplinary Research Bolzano-Innsbruck, co-founded by Benedikter in 1992); as Ordinary Member of the South Tyrolean Society of Political Science; as Ordinary Member of the Istituto di Politica Rome; as Member of the Social Sciences Expert Pool of the Technology Innovation Center Alto Adige; as Founding External Examiner and Founding External Advisor of the European Integrated Master Program (EIMP) "Social Banking and Social Finance" of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Plymouth, UK 2005-2010 (two terms); as Founding External Examiner and Founding Advisor of the European Integrated Master Program (EIMP) "Social Care and Education" of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the same University 2006-2011 (two terms); and as External Examiner and Advisor of the International Study Programme on Preschool Peace Education of the Government of Kosovo at the University of Kosovo in Pristina, Prizren and Glogovac (2009).

He is an ordinary member of the Scientific Council of the Alexander Langer Foundation for Interethnic Reconciliation and Sustainable Development Bolzano, and an ordinary member of the Award Committee of the Alexander Langer Award International. He is listed as Expert for Social and Political Sciences for programs of the Italian Government and the European Union, as well as for the Experts Pool for Project Selection and Supervision, The European Social Fund ESF Brussels, Department for European Affairs venue Bolzano. Since 2010, he has also been a Research and Teaching Associate of the European University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder, Germany.

In general, in his multiple writings on the future of the higher education sector and the social sciences (since 1996), Benedikter asserts that the interdisciplinary model of the Humboldt university is the main example to follow. While the United States and the Anglosaxon world in general have kept this model for their unprecedented success and leadership in modern academia, Europe lost it step by step after WWII and has to re-discover and re-implement it in the 21st century, a.o. through the trans-national innovation and reform process since the 1990s, the so-called "Bologna Process".


Benedikter’s research and teaching is centered around the questions 1) how culture and economics can be understood as political and societal factors in the contemporary world, and 2) how contemporary global change can be read in a systematically multi-dimensional way, including technological and demographic shifts. Most of his writings address what he calls "historically symptomatic" phenomena. They try to read them by applying a multilayered expertise of different disciplines, including elements of the history of ideas, onto them. The innovative focus of Benedikter's attention lies in his systemically seven-dimensional approach. This approach tries to include Politics, Economics, Culture, Religion, Technology and Demography as the six different, but increasingly intertwined typologies of discourse and systemic order patterns in post-1989/91 societies - as well as their sum "which is more than its parts" as the seventh dimension - into a pluridimensional and transdisciplinary methodology of analysis. Benedikter calls this approach "Systems Action Theory", because it combines elements taken from Systems theory and Action theory.

The main research and teaching focus of Benedikter’s "Systems Action Theory" - conceptualized as inclusive form of Contextual Political Analysis - is dedicated to the ongoing global change and its relation with the accompanying change of paradigms. Benedikter’s general postulate is that we live in the epoch of a "seven-dimensional global systemic shift" connected to (at least) "three epochal ends":

  1. The end of the "New World Order" (in the system sphere of Politics, see the replacement of the unilateral dominance of the US by the rise of a multipolar global order system, a.o. through the ascent of China and India);
  2. The end of Neoliberalism (in the system sphere of Economy, see the global financial and economic crisis 2007-10 and the rise of new ways of dealing with capital and money, like for example social banking and social finance);
  3. The end of Postmodernism (in the system sphere of Culture, see the rise of new Idealisms, Essentialisms and Substantialisms throughout both secular and religious global societies);
  4. A fourth force enacted parallel to these three ends is the global Renaissance of Religion (in the system sphere of Religion, see the re-Christianization of parts of the US and Europe concurring with the simultaneous schism of the Anglican church and increasing inner battles for worldview supremacy between "Thomists“ and "Schelerians“ within the Catholic Church, as well as the politicization of parts of Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism).
  5. A fifth force is Technology, which has developed its own discursive logics within - and systemic impact upon - "mature" capitalistic societies. While some observers believe that technology has become an independent dimension of societal development which is not controlled any longer by human consensus, but instead unfolds its own meta-human dynamics, thus transcending the political and cultural contexts into which it is structurally innested (including Western democracy), the debate about the evolutionary factors connected with it is open and still in the first phases of an in-depth investigation beyond the positive mystification by "modernists" (such as Alvin Toffler) and the negative mystification by "posthumanists" (such as Martin Heidegger).
  6. Eventually, a sixth core force that increasingly shapes societal development in the 21st century is Demography. Given that the sheer number of people living on earth is reaching a critical point and is growingly impacting the environment, the global migration flows and the fight for resources both on the earth and in outer space, demography is more than ever becoming a proto-political factor that is unfolding its specific pressures upon the system.

The result is - seventh - a change in the whole of global societal order structures, which has to be differentiated regarding the connections, interdependences and conflicts between the six basic discourses and their system logics.

Since the overall systemic shift follows the different and partly mutually independent, partly contradictory logics of the six respective discourses both synchronically and diachronically, their interweavement in a given space and time has to be understood. The reason for this is that an increasing number of contemporarily significant societal symptomatologies can only be understood adequately by integrating elements of all six logics, and by considering their interaction and interdependence. That implies that a transdisciplinary approach is applied, because the single disciplines seem not to be able to match the challenges of contemporary political and cultural hermeneutics alone anymore. For example, most significant phenomena of contemporary politics cannot be understood with the tools of classical Political Science alone anymore, because culture, religion, technology and demography are playing an increasingly important role in the definition and practice of politics. The interweavement of their characteristic logics (and ontologies) in a specific "reality process" must be understood primarily from the “inside”, not from the “outside”, i.e. by firstly applying their own modes and methods of thinking upon their analysis and by then criticizing them with regard to the respective consistency and validity.

In this sense, Benedikter's work is often considered that of a "classic intellectual with applied traits, concerned about a new enlightenment in the original sense, but in contemporary ways" (Hanns Fred Rathenow, Head of the Social Sciences Department and Director of the Program on Global Education and International Cooperation, TU Berlin University). This is because Benedikter's underlying concept of a truly contemporary, post-ideological intellectual implies as his/her central task not anymore to sketch ideal societies or utopias, as the intellectuals of the ideology-driven 20th century did, but rather to defend the mutual independence and autonomy between the four basic systemic discourses of politics, economics, culture and religion, and to additionally differentiate the discourses and logics of technology and demography from each of them. In this concept, the contemporary intellectual has to criticize every attempt of one of these six basic discourse patterns (or typological system logics) to interfere with, to mix up or even to usurp each other, making the defense of the borders between the discourses the most important task of intellectual analysis and intervention in the globalized, increasingly complex constellation of the 21st century. That is why the indispensable tool of the contemporary intellectual is a consistent multi- and transdisciplinary approach: Without knowledge in each of the six fields mentioned, a comprehensive (and complexity-adequate) analysis of what is happening is as impossible, as it is the defense of the boundaries between the six fields, and the critique of specific “nods” between them - like, for example, the politics of George W. Bush legitimated through and driven by religious discourse patterns, or the economization of culture in the forms of the rise of the “attention economy” or the “Neuromorphosis” of the Western (open societies) concept of the human being. The respective critique, aiming toward differentiation and mutual independence of the six fields from each other, is particularly relevant regarding the future of the existing open societies, but also of global democratization in the perspective of enlightenment, rationalism, liberalism, laicism, modernization and progressive societal differentiation.

According to Benedikter, to understand the global change of the present (i.e. the change composed of two overlapping layers of trajectory: the development caused by 1989/91 and the one since 9/11) we have to take a grip on the changes within the "cultural psychology" of "the West". To understand the recent developments within the paradigm formations of the West, which are “inscribed” into the "seven-dimensional global systemic shift", Benedikter writes extensively on a variety of contemporary topics, a.o. on the transformations issued by technological change, for example by the „new media“ and their societal and anthropological implications or by the emerging field of „Neurotechnology“, its ideological bases and predecessors. Since according to Benedikter most contemporary phenomenologies are not understandable anymore without reflecting about the media through which they are transmitted, analyzing the globalized "attention economy" and the new information and communication technologies (ICT) gets on the forefront of scientific self-reflection and awareness, increasingly influencing the theory and practice of perception, and thus of science as such. Another topic is late postmodernist philosophy, its orifices after 9/11 and its “post-postmodern” perspectives, including its - mostly unconsciously - inbuilt attempts towards the reconciliation of nominalism and realism in a “rational spirituality”.

Benedikter is also interested in the future of transcultural inclusive politics potentially arising from the postmodern heritage, and he addresses this topic with a special focus on minority and ethnicity politics. In this regard, he pays special attention to the relation between what he calls the “first generation of deconstructive Postmodernism” (1970–2004) and the “neo-idealistic” movements in “Western” civilization since the 1990s. In the face of the contemporary dialectics between the remnants of “Postmodernism” and the many forms of “Neoessentialism” emerging throughout the post-9/11 world, Benedikter searches for a third position between “postmodern” nominalism and “neo-substantialist” idealism. He calls this position sometimes a postmaterialist or neo-integral viewpoint (even if in the last years he increasingly distanced himself from such notions and definitions). The search for it in the direction of “big picture” integrations includes questions on cultural and ethnic minority politics, i.e. for the future options of "unity in differentiation" (Juergen Habermas), but also on the "new Politics of the Mind", i.e. the challenges related to the current "Neuromorphosis" of Western culture already discussed in its very beginnings in the 1970s by Sir Carl Popper and John Eccles, and the very different, to a large extent contradictory interests inbuilt into it. In general, Benedikter asserts that every field of contemporary action is structured in a plurifold, and ultimately at least dialectical way, i.e. through the implicit and explicit battle between “leftist” and “rightist” tendencies and efforts within it; and thus no field is homogenous in itself, or free from (constituent) dichotomies or paradoxies.

An important focus of Benedikter’s work in this situation is to define “limits of validity” or “boundaries of legitimacy” between the six macro-spheres of Politics, Economics, Culture, Religion, Technology and Demography and their respective discourses in addressing specific questions, examples, cases or "symptomatic phenomenologies" in the public societal debate in the sense of a "historic symptomatology". The question here is how the six spheres of discourse can remain mutually independent without interfering into each other's autonomous logics and patterns of unfolding within the always unique constellation of a concrete case, question or application. Benedikter considers this to be one decisive question for the future of the “open societies”, democracy and “democratization” on the whole, and in principle. Regarding the “global Renaissance of Religion” as an emerging political and cultural factor and its fight against the secular thought of the West, Benedikter argues that both sides have to transcend their insufficiently balanced views. According to Benedikter, the current mainstream Cultural and Social Analysis of “the West” must learn to differentiate between “regressive” and “progressive” forms of Spirituality, and to start an in-depth dialogue between them.


Benedikter is co-author of Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker’s "Report to the Club of Rome 2003: Limits to Privatization. How to Avoid too Much of a Good Thing" and of 2 Pentagon and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff White Papers: 1) of February 2013 on "Topics in the Neurobiology of Aggression: Implications for Deterrence", and 2) of April 2014 on "Leveraging Neuroscientific and Neutechnological Developments with Focus on Influence and Deterrence in a Networked World", which are both Strategic Multilayer (SMA) Publications. He is author of six books: about the "Sustainable Democratization of Iraq" (see: Post-invasion Iraq, 2003–present), about Contemporary China (two, one in English, one in German), about the US-Europe-Relationship, about "Social Banking and Social Finance: Answers to the Economic Crisis" (see: Late-2000s financial crisis), and about current Western culture as embodied in the "Attention Economy" and in Sport as mediatical and cultural phenomenons. He has authored more than 200 book chapters and essays in books (a.o. Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Springer, Routledge, Francis and Taylor) and specialized journals, a.o. Foreign Affairs, Harvard International Review, The National Interest, European Foreign Affairs, New Global Studies and Challenge: The Magazine for Economic Affairs, and writes for the German newspaper Die Welt Berlin ( . He is editor and co-author of 12 books, of 19 articles in 4 international encyclopedias, and of more than 50 essays for newspapers in Russia, Turkey, Slovenia, Germany, Austria and Italy. His writings – originally mainly in German, English and Italian - have been translated into French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Turkish, Persian, Korean and Macedonian, and re-published repeatedly. Given to their broadly accessible style and language, Benedikter's publications have been considered as "exceptionally powerful and inspiring" (Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker).

Benedikter is member of the advisory board of "Harvard International Review" and of the editorial board of "Synesis. A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy"; "Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment"; and “Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine“.

Awards and Acknowledgements

Benedikter was awarded the Dr. Otto Seibert Award for the Advancement of Scientific Publications of the

Policy advice

Benedikter is active in international policy advice since the 2000s, a.o. in the framework of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Washington DC, as well as in cooperation with European foundations and corporate consultants.

Selected bibliography


  • Global Systemic Shift. With a preface by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and an introduction by Bruce Mazlish. Springer New York 2014


  • Marquis Who Is Who in The World, Who Is Who In Science And Engineering, 10th anniversary edition London 2008 ff.
  • Cambridge Dictionary of International Biography, 34th edition ff.

External links

  • Homepage at Stanford University
  • Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education
  • Author Homepage at Passagen Verlag Vienna
  • Global Systemic Shift
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