The Juggler

he is standing there since about a week now – every time I pass, thus it means very different times. Sure, it may be by accident that he is just there – arriving short time before I do arrive, and leaving just the second i am around the corner. More likely is that he has longish working hours – where? motor highway 100, going to Hamburg … the rich cities of the former West, exit Tempelhofer Damm, turning to the right, direction Platz der Luftbruecke, once thought to be the square linking Westberlin to the so-called free West, the rich Uncle Sam bringing presents.

I do not know the juggler, only know that he is free to stand there, performing his art.

juggling – and he seems to be a cheerful nature, nearly forgetting over his play to stop, collecting money some of the drives give. The traffic light switches, he plays again – a cycle like that of the economy of the country, and that of the global economy – here it is smaller, of course, manageable.Also – I guess – the money he has at the end of the day is most likely manageable.

Also – I guess – the money he has at the end of the day is most likely manageably 


The modern building, mostly men, white, middle-aged though far from belonging to the middle ages, upper-middle class though not thinking about classes and class interests, not even thinking about nations, while far from accepting “nationality human being”,  wearing their suits to make them suit into the smooth ivory towers, though those may be of glass .. – they aren’t elephants, are they? — all spruced up though looking a bit chivy … 

… finally it is 11 c’clock, nobody to blame: not the traffic – that might change anyway when the bureaucracies do not undermine the  use of helicopters for short distance flights anymore; not the driver – finally there is public space between the gated community and the fortress of the business-tower – public space that requires accepting public rules in order …, yes, in order of maintaining law and order; not the attendant at the golf tournament which had been finally a matter of meeting business colleagues  … – some time now to be spent in the office: brief meetings with other CEO’s, with secretaries, a call “No, I have to speak the minister personally …” – at the end of the day this juggler writes on the personal flag: the day’s turnover amounts to …, well, there are amounts mores suggest it is better not to mention them; this day’s regular income …, there are figures that cannot be imagined anyway; this day’s additional income, gathered from some private consultancy work … psst, not everybody has to know, some would even say it is income gathered in the shadow economy … isn’t shadow the natural companion of the bright sun they make shining everyday?

Despite the bright light many of them look grumpy, the kind of official face matching the severity of the job …the serene mind they have to employ to set the, to their algorithms into notion.

Jugglers, one job, one society, one world — gosh, such a difference … 



it may be that superiority is in fact with the apes – not walking upright, not properly knowing about tools and still ..
Currently there is a poster campaign , run by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, celebrating the 100s anniversary of the Berufsbildungsgesetz – the Vocational Training Act. Fair enough one would say, seeing the main message:

That is what keeps our economy going ..

Still, I dare to ask, for instance:

What is this economy about? What does it mean when it is going? Are we really talking about vocations or are we talking about people just in need of a job? And aren’t those job we have to make a living, just “un-make” our living: annoying, alienating, straining …?

Pessimist? May be. Still, I dare to ask, for instance:What about job centres and regulations that make it in the first instance for so many rather cumbersome to complete forms and accept controls to avail of support (material and job search) and then, for some, so troublesome and slow to withdraw because one found income and work without the jobcentre?What about a  project application being thought through, looking at possible administrative hurdles but making all these considerations, doing all this admin work with just a vague idea of the content?What about finding a coconut, looking around, considering the ground not hard enough and looking for a stone which then is applied in a specific way to open the nut without loosing any milk from inside?  … – and whoever is behaving this way, surely knows why s/he wants to open the nut.
The last example is most likely a monkey, or some other animal acting this way. The others likely being concerned with humans’ behaviour. The question now is: which is the superior way to act? The last example with its immediate link between means and ends? Or the others where there is certain level of abstraction reached: not being hungry and thirsty here and now being the motivation to act, but the knowledge of hunger and thirst at some later time. This is still a simple one. However, there is a turning point namely when the link between means and ends is twice broken:

• The first time when some act is executed in anticipation of its need (I have to look for resources now as I will need them in the the future)

• The second time when resources are generated by means without considering their usefulness for the second-level end (I have to apply a hammer as I have one under control; it is of secondary interest for what I use it, if what I use it for is actually useful; or bluntly: I use the hammer to repair the fin watch.
Sounds absurd? AS praxis it surely is. But this is what reality looks like: economic growth for the sake of economic growth, getting a job to generate income without having any vocation that is intrinsically linked to the job’s requirement); going for projects because …, well, there is usually money or reputation in it….
Simple? Not really? Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg did not always know exactly what they were doing? And I suppose there is noting wrong in learning “because I want to know”, without further questioning, without more requirements than necessary, setting only one interest: Being really part of a process and structure that starts from reality !

Worrying …

indeed it is worrying to see the right-wing, nationalist, fascist, populist spawn, occupying so may positions, spreading their words and establishing with their deeds a kind of new system (indeed, we should be careful, not just putting all of them under the hat of populism – László Andor highlighted this in a recent article. Gabor, a Hungarian colleague, now working in Milano, recently said

I think Hungary has already exited politics as we know it, and it decided to recreate Monty Python in a horror comedy version. 

The reason for his remark: I mentioned my encounter with one of the Hungarian Ministers and his nationalist tirade. Actually is reference to Christian traditions …, somewhat subtle: we are not against anybody, we just have to protect our “great traditions”, and these are those of Christianity … – well, another fundamentalist religious states like the IS, lurking on the Hungarian horizon?

The fact with many of these crops is that they establish systems that do not allow to be reversed — even if they would loose power, the authoritarian structures will survive them at least for a long time. As sich it is not just another round, part of a regular up and down of different political strands.

Now, some rumour – even that it is thinkable is disgraceful. Alexandra Brzozowski and Sarantis Michalopolous state in their EURACTIV-BRIEF, titled

Berlaymont’s rumour mill

László Trócsányi, Viktor Orban’s right-hand man in Brussels, might get the humanitarian aid and crisis management portfolio – a move that could easily fit into Fidesz’s migration narrative that instead of receiving immigrants, “help should be given at the point that it is needed.”

As said, that this is thinkable, made possible then by the German …, yes, of course, CHRIST-demagogue, uniting with Hungarian Christian fundamentalist.

There is another news these days:

Swedish FM to Resign from Her Post

As we read in the article

“I have put everything I have into the job of making Sweden safe, respected internationally and appreciated as a partner,” Wallstrom said in a statement.

I remember Margot from those years in Brussels. And I would say that there as well she put a lot into the job, without necessarily agreeing, it still had been a pleasure to find a commissioner convinced of what she was doing and convinced that it must be about opening: opening the institutions to the European citizens had been her remit at the time.
Who would deny her the right of doing what she intends to do:

It is time for me to spend more time with my husband, my children and my grandchildren.

However, so often we talk about modernity as process if reduction (“halved modernity”), its eclipse etc. And Daniel Kehlmann came up with this most telling story about Measuring the World, taking up on the tension between exploring reality (Alexander von Humboldt, and Aimé Boland) and calculating it (Carl Friedrich Gauss). Isn’t this in some way also today the baseline when it comes to artificial intelligence – the hope set into it and the fear facing it.

Part of the structure established with this process we usually refer to as modernisation/modernity had been about individualisation, a very special and specific establishment of the individual as ultimate point of reference. But isn’t this then also the need and justification of moving between the “outer world”, a public, seemingly/supposedly hostile, at least strange, alien and this cocoon of family and perhaps few very close friends, eagerly securing the borders … The public, in tis constellation, bears two labels:


says the one


states the other


Zhouxiang – we had been sitting together for breakfast in 芜湖 – looked at me, somewhat sincere – we had been taking out some professional issues and editorial work – saying:

People of your age …

and in the following he appreciated my experience, positioning them in a positive way against the way things are done today…  I admit, my first (inner reaction) had been .., I felt a bit upset, not feeling old though this is what he openly meant by “pope of my age”. Learning Chinese means also learning to feel and appreciate the deep respect behind his words – and again and again, when we meet I feel this as such an asset of our friendship.


Our chauffeur brought us – there had been two of us – from the airport for this three to four hours drive to the congress venue. Not knowing each other we presented ourselves, just in an informal way, talking about the work and a bit about the failure of striking a balance with life. In my case it meant taking out being in different places, giving presentations, teaching at different universities, and even in different countries and continents. May I ask how old you are … “No problem” and I revealed the middle 60s. She smiled

Isn’t it great then, being still able to do all these things.

Funnily enough, during our talk I also talked about China, the respect older people experience: an appreciation of experience. And I said, I would not know about something like it in the West”. If old age is respected, it is the respect towards somebody “who did his job, deserving to retreat. It feels different than being respected – and perhaps even challenged – with the experience one gained. It is a bit the difference between a shipwreck and a windjammer.


Talking to a friend inTurkey – she was just helping her son to settle in Denmark, reading Heisenberg, what he wrote about a talk to Max Planck, being still somewhat confused by the question if there is beauty as such (I ventilated this in the Berlin Diaries) and “being on the move” again, I stumbled upon a passage in Sigfried Lenz’ “The German lesson” … – are we stuck in a non-learning curve? I will return to this but here first the quote:

Well, then, I’ll tell you why I’m on the island. Because no one dares to send the Rugbüll police station for a detox; he can stay addict, remaining  damn duty-addicted. And I’m here because he reached a certain age and age is indispensable to reeducated. Yes, I am here on his behalf, if you ask me. But maybe it will work out: maybe one day he can take over from me the progress I am making here. That is to be hoped for. But that is all there is to hope for. I cannot believe it. (translation P.H.)

Here the original, from page 554:

Na gut, dann werde ich Ihnen sagen, warum ich auf der Insel bin. Weil keiner sich traut, dem Polizeiposten Rugbüll eine Entziehungskur zu verordnen; der darf süchtig bleiben und süchtig seine verdammte Pflicht tun. Und ich bin hier, weil er ein bestimmtes Alter erreicht hat und als Alter unabkömmlich ist, um sich noch einmal umtrimmen zu lassen. Ja, ich bin stellvertretend für ihn hier, wenn Sie mich fragen. Aber vielleicht gelingt’s ja: vielleicht kann er die Fortschritte, die ich hier mache, eines Tages von mir übernehmen. Das ist zu hoffen. Aber das ist auch alles, was zu hoffen ist. Glauben kann ich es nicht.

Admittedly, it is a rather weird thought suggesting that, indeed history is not repeating itself, but actually it moved with modernity into a Procrustean bed. At least, as much as learning is about asking, (see comment on an earlier post: it has to be allowed to table some questions …, they will follow here soon.


Having been awarded membership of the Institute for International Political Economy Berlin (IPE) at the Berlin School of Economics and Law has, of course a personal dimension, and looking at the colleagues and also the history of the Institute makes such award a special honour. 

The programmatic statement on the website states that the

IPE  is concerned with the relation between the economy and political power in a globalised world, and the social implications that this raises.

In this light I see myself as member of the Institute as well as support and general encouragement of a very traditional view on economic issues: they are political questions, they are concerned with the core of what society is about and they are not “standing against the social”, the question has always been and will be “Not ‘how much’ economy, but what kind of economy do we want”?

During a recent presentation I referred to a definition of capitalism by Joe Brewer, reading:

Here is how capitalism actually works — use a legal framework of private ownership to extract value from the labor of others. The end game is a system that hoards wealth, stifles innovation, and ultimately destroys the value created by cooperation among those who seek to do things that cannot be done alone.

Leaving various problematic aspects of Brewer’s view aside, it is a fine formulation of the meaning of law. Isn’t it indeed astonishing in which way law is explicitly used tome injustice the accepted foundation and framework of living together? I find this an interesting thought, which possibility culminates in a statement suggesting that law is ideologically the equivalent to what enclosure of land and primitive accumulation are as foundational act and permanent renewal and extension of the socio-material conditions of exploitation whites the expropriation of the actual worker from his/her product? Isn’t it remarkable in which law is becoming increasingly complex and differentiated, the reflecting – and justifying – the separation not only of the worker from the means of production but also the complex mechanisms of “division of labour” and the segregation of production, consumption, distribution and exchange that find they-to-day expression in the fact that (making Marx’ formulation from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

The worker … feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it.

In the meantime this moved further, IKEA advertising now that you can book the style, though don’t need the location.

never forget: death penalty

The most severe punishment for capital is when the money it represents is used for private consumption.

Even making generous donations is more acceptable as via taxation etc., the money is not declared being private asset. Thus, there is little surprise in the mushrooming of philantrocapitalism as new form of systemic parasite-ism (see e.g. Planck, Kerstin, 2017: Philanthrocapitalism and the Hidden Power of Big U.S. Foundations; in: Momentum Quarterly; Innsbruck )