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FAILURE: Reversing the Genealogies of Unsuccess, 16th-19th centuries

Project description

The temporary nature of failure

Failure in public debate is a stigmatising notion, often connected with stereotypes about individuals, communities, gender, race and other factors, used to explain the differentiation of paths in development. It has also been used to justify and perpetuate colonialism and inequalities. But it remains ill-defined. Today, in front of challenges posed by migrations, the need for inclusiveness and integration calls for urgent reassessing of the criteria to identify the failure. The EU-funded REVFAIL project will explore the positive aspects of failure and recovery and promote understanding of the temporary nature of failure, as well as reversing and challenging failures, based on positive psychology, engineering and philosophy.


Failure is almost everywhere, and unsuccess is deeply embedded into stereotypes about regions, nations, business, gender and race. Failure to embrace crucial philosophical ideas and scientific breakthroughs is often considered a key factor to explain differential paths of development. And historical, long-term narratives add an additional layer to notions of failure. But while failure is conspicuously referred to in public debate, and in local and global politics, it nevertheless remains an obscure and elusive notion. How is it possible that a concept often used to relegate and marginalize individuals and whole communities is so ill defined?

The dynamics between inclusiveness and the failure to integrate is a key social problem of our present, one with deep historical and philosophical roots. Discourses on failure are also present in many other aspects of contemporary societies, from the individual entrepreneur to ideas on international leadership. But quantitative approaches to development and integration need to be supplemented with critical awareness of the consequences of attributing failure to groups, individuals or even nations. Inclusiveness, and integration in all social institutions are challenges that demand reassessing the criteria used to identify failure. At the same time, it is necessary to promote a clear understanding of the temporary nature of failure and the possibilities of reversing and challenging failures. While failure is a heavy and paralyzing category, a concept crafted to perpetuate colonial dominion and legitimize inequalities, positive psychology, engineering and philosophy among other disciplines have pointed to several positive aspects of failure and recovery. REVFAIL project aims to foster widespread reflection on the topic and to provide critical tools for schools, associations and community structures to analyse and revert (auto)imposed and external narratives of failure.


Net EU contribution
€ 340 400,00
28049 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 363 400,00

Participants (5)

Partners (9)