Attachment – Detachment: What work is about

….  elles font bien tout ce qui est en leur pouvoir pour se rendre la fortune favorable en cette vie, mais néanmoins elles l’estiment si peu, au regard de l’éternité, qu’elles n’en considèrent quasi les événements que comme nous faisons ceux des comédies.

(… they do everything what is in their power to make fortune turning out in their own favour in their present life but they nevertheless think little of it in relation to eternity that they consider the worldly things like that of play.)

Correspondance avec Élisabeth – Descartes à Élisabeth – Egmond, 18 mai 1645 (Translation P.H.)

Joerg Huffschmid Prize in Political Economy of Finance Markets

Joerg Huffschmid had been one of the most prolific German economists – bringing political economy to the forefront and maintaining in academic life: teaching and research and also in politics a perspective that had been frequently countered by hostility or at least lack of understanding. He worked in various fields.

In respect of political challenges he can be seen as one of the core founders of a Group of academics that published annually an expertise, challenging mainstream economics and elaborating answers favouring the interests of workers and a wider societal interest (surely not the general interest as it usually meant not least to stand against the interest of the minorities of the mainstream.

—————

On an anecdotal level I remember the work on of these alternative expertises – some long time ago. The work on these alternatives had been always also answering official documents and forecasts. And as it goes, such views in standard analysis may actually be good in terms of pure calculation, but it applies a strange rule: Ceteris paribus (meaning something like “what we say applies only under the condition that nothing changes”) but with this clause they protect themselves from any notion of reality as reality permanently changes. In consequence the official predictions usually had been wrong, but …

Well, one year it happened that the forecast actually performed pretty well, had been correct. This actually needed some special explanation – and at least one year later it had been clear: “correct by accident”.

(it has to be mentioned that such official analysis is of course not only limited by not taken reality sufficiently into account but also by a total neglect of the complexity of realities – something that is currently for instance discussed as matter of “Going Beyond GDP” (a debate that has in itself a very limited outlook).

————–

Although working as political economist – in Germany and also on the European level – in a variety of fields Joerg’s focus can be seen in the political economy of financial markets.

His death and of last year leaves us with a major loss.

The Scientific Council of ATTAC, the Working Group for Alternative Economic Policies, the EuroMemo group and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation advertised this week a prize of 2,000 EURO. It will be awarded every two years and applicants who finalised their thesis (in German language) with a relevant scientific orientation in 2011 can apply for this round.

You may contact Stefan Thimmel (beirat [at] attac.de] or myself (herrmann[at]esosc.eu] as member of the jury.

Fascinating

It is indeed fascinating in which – and easily overlooked – ways claims of superiority prevail. It took a long time to overcome slavery in the US. And if we take it as overcome by now, there had been still the – outspoken or not – claim of superiority – to mention but one example: the Parsonian AGIL(Adaptation, Goal Attainment, Integration, Latency)-scheme and its further development and ‘translation’ into an especially anti-communist strategy of modernisation, not least inspired by Walt Whitman Rostow’s submission of A Non-Communist Manifesto on The Stages of Economic Growth which proposed and subordinated development as necessarily following one way, namely that of ‘capitalist modernisation’ and with this the measurement of progress as measuring GDP-growth.

And while there is now some consideration on going Beyond GDP (an article I wrote on some perspectives of this discussion will be published in the International Journal of Social Quality), the pattern of superiority of the American’s is maintained and lurks in some hidden corners. E-bay’s “Human remains and body parts policy” has something to tell. we read under “allowed items”

  • Items that contain human scalp hair (such as lockets or wigs)

  • Clean, articulated (jointed), non-Native American skulls and skeletons used for medical research

Well, one may try positive thinking: don’t engage in buying/selling part of a people that sold itself and had been sold to the devil. But as that has for me personally a link too close to Christianity (no devil without that) I leave it simply by looking at the American Dream – it remains being obviously a true nightmare.

We Tend To Forget

Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real life process.

Karl Marx: Grundrisse. Notebook VII

Slippery Ground: Committee Society

Addiction searching for never-ending reflection, undermining in an equivocal way practice, leaves, as Kierkegaard sees it, in a fatal danger. If nobody takes a decision anymore and thus nobody emerges with such decision as self, nobody is distinct from anybody else in a true way; we face a dreary leveling. Togetherness of human beings emerges as ‘public’, being an impalpable, anonymous ‘publicity’. Its characteristic is ‘babble’; every responsible speech drowns in ‘ramblings’. “Nobody decides anymore him/herself; one is content with setting up committees; at the end the entire era emerges as committee.” “But the mass is the falsehood.”

(WILHELM WEISCHEDEL: Die philosophische Hintertreppe 34 große Philosophen in Alltag und Denken – from audio book – my transcript and translation)

Glass – perhaps stronger as metal

OR: PHOTOS NOT TO BE TAKEN
Already on the previous occasion when I had been in the city centre, I had been somewhat surprised by the amount of police around – sure it is the time before elections, the candidates just nominated; there had been demonstrations too … – and as I do not understand the language to the degree that would allow me to know what the demonstrations had been about, I feel a little bit surprised of my spontaneous disagreement, rejection. Though I am not really Hegelian, didn’t he see in his Philosophy of Right the police as particularly important in representing the even the universal?

In any case, this day I felt very much tempted to make a photo of the young women, standing next to the police bus, holding the machine gun at the ready. – But I know from a similar occasion in Ireland – a colleague from Slovakia wanted to take a photo of the guards protecting the money transport from BOI – that such photo shots are not the best idea (not in Ireland, not in Turkey and not in any other place – I have the vague feeling I know why, not least as I heard the other day that the office of the German headquarter of attac had been visited by these people in green*: they had been looking for some documents which the office could obtain and containing some information relevant with some finance market stuff ).

Another photo not taken: I am sitting already in the minibus, going back back to ODTU. The driver is first – while managing driving through the dense traffic in the centre and at the same time dealing with the money – moving the rosary through his fingers; then, after the traffic ceased a bit, he is frequently moving his fist against somebody whom he considers being in the way, or he is symbolically pushing somebody out of the minibus while stopping at one of these non-existing bus stops, thus asking by this gesture the words he doesn’t say: “Can’t you move faster?”

Or perhaps should I have taken the photo from the young woman who enters the minibus: made-up and smartened, showing with every movement, every look and with every gesture her discomfort: “This is not the place where I should be. A private limousine would be much more appropriate.” The driver is now driving most appropriate for a training session for a formula 1 competition – and the young woman’s real fear – an accident – seem to mingle with the fear of loss of status.

Well, no imagery of pretended, self-nominated nobility – finally I didn’t (even feel tempted to) take a photo of one of the many shoe polishers – some of them surely cleaning the shoes of those people who – though possibly only metaphorically – give them a kick in the …, well, a kick somewhere with the same shoe they get cleaned.

But the photos are not really my concern. Nor the deep impression the situations left behind.

It is more the road marks I mentioned in a recent post and the question they evoked: “Where is the energy of the Turkish people going to harmonise/ maintain incompatibility of the contradictoriness or to move to modernisation, the road-markings you mentioned?”

Yes, as I answered then – while making reference to army-helicopters, so frequently flying across the campus and mushrooming shopping centres – I will come back to it – and I will make another reference, one that may seem far-fetched, bizarre and it is surely not comprehendible at first sight: the reference to three of my current ‘projects’: (1) editing a book on social policy and religion, (2) preparing the workshop on Human Rights in the framework of the Forum “Human Rights in a Globalized World – Challenges to The Media” (Human Rights, a topic that will also be the focus of my later work at the MPI and (3) editing another book, looking at the question of precarity.

What all this is about is a frequent topic here – coming up when talking to colleagues and friends: hegemony, integration, control. The mode of regulation can definitely show different forms – and while writing these lines some ideas come up on how to tackle this topic later academically (I promised in Munich to link the question of “human rights beginning at the breakfast table” as Féilim apparently emphasises with the much more fundamental question of how is the breakfast table actually defined by existing accumulation regimes as there is surely a difference between the full Irish, the continental and South American etc.).

As offensive, mind-bugling it is to look after so many years again in the barrel of a riffle, it is somewhat similar offensive and mind-bugling to walk through shopping malls, seeing people who are not able to cross the glass ceilings of political institutions, hierarchies in business and go beyond the glass walls erected between affluence and poverty, put up in front of them as mirror in which they, the poor or at least not well-off, see their alleged failure, standing upright as spur to contribute to a suggested growth of the Wealth of the Nation.

In the first case Moral Sentiments are added as possible tools to clean up after the bloodshed, in the second case these very same Moral Sentiments as as reminder, aiming on evoking incitement: consumo ergo sum as moral quality of the bourgeois, suggesting ethical life by hoping for Hegel’s Sittlichkeit for the citoyen.

As said it is a topic frequently coming up, and I said for a couple of times: oppression, disguised as free market, should not be underestimated – a strong hegemonic power – not using weapons of physical violence, even if it is only by showing the potentiality of the use; not using the call of commandments: a multitude of norms reduced on ten simple rules. Instead it is using the expostulation: you are point of departure and point of destiny of all your acts – if there is any practice left it is only the aggregation of a multitude of individuals.

– It is surely a slippery ground, possibly belittling the brute violence, still bringing people into arrest in this country: people who are democratically saying their opinion, aiming on contributing to a debate and facing the odd reality: a country that does not provide space for debate, does not provide space for debaters either. And still, what is the answer on my statement: “Don’t underestimate the opressive side of the market as hegemon. A power in every day life we are not aware of, just following the flow, without considering what it actually does to our entire thinking – taking the energy out of everybody and anything we do.” You can imagine the answer of the colleagues and friends here? Well, after surely saying something like: “We know what oppression, what brute force is about.” a little surprise follows: “You say in your countries you do not mention the violence, the force of strict control. When we are there we definitely mention it … – we as foreigners.”

It is a surprise, distraction from what I mean and confirmation nevertheless too: follow the rule, be one of us – and it also asks: be ONE of us, do not be any kind of group: just an individual: behaving rationally with all the information you are given (but don’t ask for more, for really complete information) and behave to achieve your own happiness – this then will bring happiness for all. The foreigner is possibly foreigner also because s/he is not just ONE, not (yet) reducible on the one utilitarian being. And is seems simple then: if the one control mechanism doesn’t work, the other has to be used.

There is another dimension to some parts of these little excerpts from life: from beautification to militant oppression. This kind of beautification: the strive for the “Western look”, the imitation of a mirage surely contributes to an increase of GDP and looking at the armed forces and administrative units of the country we surely find the same: GDP in excess … . At least in terms of simple calculation these are all activities, part of a process of production, that cont as contribution marble, bricks and iron. If we look at the armed forces alone, this must add up to a huge amount. And if we look at the glass and concrete of the new buildings, the mirrors of the shops in the malls there are more contributions to the raise of that figure: artificially boosted figures, though only abstract, on paper and not translating into the life of the many. So the other bricks, moved by the people themselves, the polish that emerges from people’s hand, delivered on the streets remain artificial too although this is true in an entirely different way: they remain outside of the calculation of the GDP, and they remain outside as well as they will not translate into purchases of the goods of the posh high street.

Driving home, for a short second only, the question appears why the shields of the modern armed forces, though not made from glass, look like it: transparent, clean and …, repelling: you will not see any blood on them, not for long at least: who on the public would like to see private victims taken from the partners? But perhaps there is still a way: not allowing to be captured but to capture: PPP, suggested as public private partnership, and frequently being an instrument to lull citizens may then also be understood as People – Power – Participation.

I am back in the apartment, boot the computer – the humming of the machine, taking a few seconds only – mingles with the chant coming from the Mosque located off-campus. A lasting chant – a call. Excluded? Being at the ready for a conservative come back?

Contradictions, tensions. Diversity in unity, unity in diversity, naivety – sheepish

– At the end, back from the little excursion, entering the campus again, showing my card. I take my UCC-staff card now as I am sitting very close to the door through which security staff enters. And indeed, he looks closely …, and understands. It is not in any way a valid record. But why bother – he pats me on the back, knowing, and also knowing that I know … – sure there is hegemony; and not less sure: there is – even and at least – in small things some kind of resistance – reminiscence !?.

I remember words Antonio Gramsci said, something like:

One has to educate sober, patient – people who do ot despair when facing the bold terror, people ahow are not getting exciting by every stupidity. Pessimism of mind, optimism of volition.

* colour of uniforms of German police force