Ulrich Bröckling

Postheroic Heroes - A Survey of the Times

(German title: Postheroische Helden)
ca. 277 pages
Ulrich Bröckling
Foto: Ulrich Bröckling
© Jürgen Bauer

Ulrich Bröckling is Professor of Cultural Sociology at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. His work focuses on areas such as the sociology of technologies of society and self, historical sociology, and the sociology of war and the military.

Sold to

Spanish world rights (Alianza)

»We can be heroes just for one day.« David Bowie

»You might say that democracies need heroes, but if they need them, then they need them like a junkie needs the next fix.« Ulrich Bröckling on Postheroic Heroes


Nowadays, heroic figures are considered suspicious: too much pathos, too much oozing masculinity, too much moral superiority. We live, they say, in post-heroic times. However, the fascination with heroic stories is not simultaeneously exhausted.

Indeed, the dubiousness of exemplary heroic figures is confronted with a seemingly insatiable hunger for heroes that is generously tended to. Lifesavers are heroized just as much as climate activists and whistle blowers, superheroes populate movies and computer games and elite sports continuously provide »heroisable« personnel. With the global boom of populistic leadership figures, portrayals of heroes are ultimately returning to the political stage as well.

Ulrich Bröckling uses this concurrence of heroic and post-heroic models as an opportunity to explore the role of the heroic in contemporary society. To do so, he traces the history of the reception of heroism in modernity, visits the museum of contemporary heroes and asks about the affectual and normative dimensions of heroic stories as well as the aspects of their relativization and dismissal. His conclusion: The hero is alive. But he is not immortal! And this book shows why that is good news.


»Ever since The Entrepreneurial Self was published, Ulrich Bröckling belongs among those German sociologists who have had the greatest inspirational effect on historians particularly of the younger generation.« H-Soz-Kult

»In this stimulating and simultaneously illuminating essay Ulrich Bröckling demonstrates how one can argue intelligently and reduce dubious heroism to absurdity in an impressive way.« Michael Opitz, Deutschlandfunk Kultur 

»At the end of his inspiring survey of the times, Ulrich Bröckling suggests breaking down the heroic by thought. Because heroic stories entertain, affect and carry us off into different worlds, only other stories can subvert the power of heroic stories. De-heroization as a narratological project.« Harry Nutt, Berliner Zeitung

»Ulrich Bröckling, cultural sociologist in Freiburg and exceptionally gifted essayist, has been dedicating his time to the figure of the hero for years and has now published a study that is an extremely worthwhile read, in which the hero is portrayed as an exceptional figure.« Jürgen Nielsen-Sikora, Glanz & Elend

»Bröckling‘s study, in its connection of historic derivation and analysis of the present, is extremely enlightening and a worthwhile read.« Jens Balzer, Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik

Other publications

Das unternehmerische Selbst/The Entrepreneurial Self (2007)

Sold to:

English world rights (Sage), Spanish rights Latin America (Alberto Hurtado), Korea (Hanul)