more or less a normal thing ….

… and nevertheless something that cannot be accepted in any way: the financial crisis. A normal thing as it is

the escalation of the financial instabilities that are unavoidable in capitalist societies.

And nevertheless, these are excesses that need to be answered on the two levels: the search for immediate intervention, aiming on ways to avoid the entire burden falling on the shoulders of those who barely can cope with life with the “normal burdens” of daily life; and the search for long-term policies that require at the end a fundamental overcoming of the conditions that actually caused the crisis.

The Scientific Advisory Board of attac published a document with

Ten Arguments for Dealing with the European Financial Crisis.

the downloadable file is kindly hosted by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Annunci

Globalisation – Dissolution or consolidation of a Global Social Policy (and Security).

The following outlines a new teaching unit, organised for December at the University of Eastern Finland. The title reads as follows

Globalisation – Dissolution or consolidation of a Global Social Policy (and Security).

The unit continues from the lecture in Wismar* and is divided into four arrays of thought.

* First it will look at very basic issues not least of social policy, outlining the economic mechanisms behind the global division of labour. This is not least about the very core issues of learning about value theory.

* Second, an outline of globalisation will be provided, using the world systems theory as point of reference.

* Third, against this backdrop it will be explored what these emerging patterns mean for social policy beyond and possibly without nation states as main framework.

* Fourth, it will be explored which implications this has for law as means of regulation of social policy. Part of this is also the ventilating on some new approaches to human rights (the latter as part of work in progress together with Mehmet Okyayuz [Orta Dogu Teknik Üniversitesi, Ankara]).

______________________

* Participation in the Weimar lecture, held in September 2011 is not condition for participating in the Finland-lectures

Occupy – Occupied … . Claiming the Future by Claiming Today’s Rights

The following are some notes I made in preparation of a presentation to the Occupy Cork Camp, which I addressed on Wednesday afternoon. 

 

Perhaps it would have been better to choose another title, saying that claiming the future is not least about claiming yesterday’s rights – and of course I can only make a few points, incomplete, in danger of being misunderstood and hopefully sufficient to spark some new aspects into the debate.

First a question, marking the point of departure and also important in more general terms as point of reference: Talking about occupation has usually something negative – and surely in reality it comes along as something negative. This negativity is about the loss of independence, the loss of self-determination. Such self-determination maybe something we claim as individuals or something we claim as social group or class.

“We”, if I may say so: from the people in the US, angry about the state and development behind the walls of the street, over a more or less organised movement in many EUropean countries and not least with the alter-mondialists of attac to again people like here in Cork are occupying public spaces, in actual fact occupying also the minds of many more people who are present. People in the streets, along some walls and not least behind walls and closed doors.

NB: university walls part of this system of catacombs, places to hide and claiming to be pushing towards paradise, people – at least some of them – playing an unfortunate role in this overall game of gaining power and security for a few.

Still, we easily forget one thing: actually, the occupants are the others, those are sitting in their secure places behind the walls which they can only occupy because and as long as we allow them doing so. And they are not just occupying their pools of money, greedy and egoistically diving every morning into it like Scrooge McDuck. – By the way, is it by accident that Scrooge is Scottish-American: Scottish in going back to the country where liberal economics finds its birthplace, American by showing that economy to live up to its excesses.

They are occupying power positions which they use to develop something that goes much further than what we usually understand as neoliberal strategy. In actual fact they develop an entire new capitalist system of accumulation, if you want: a new capitalism. This is not about conspiracy. Rather it is about the simple fact that they occupy with unimaginable amounts of capital not only industrial centres, not only bank and service centres but also and increasingly public positions of sovereignty. Police as private security services; the educational system as recruitment agencies; voluntary organisations as providers of public housing … – and not least the various governance instances, from public boards to voluntary organisations as assistants of the political system: the golden bars, sweetening the confinement.

Mind the following statement on labour relations, taken from the Introduction by Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to the Consultation on the Reform of the State’s Employment Rights and Industrial Relations Structures and Procedures. He is wants to

  • improve customer service, in light of the acknowledged complexity, backlogs and delays in the resolution of grievances and disputes;
  • provide greater value for taxpayers’ money, in light of current fiscal constraints;
  • rationalise institutions in light of the Government’s public service reform agenda

(1)

Brecht, looking at some stage back on fascism and the post-war developments once wrote that the womb from which fascism emerged had still been fertile, a dangerous ground for the further development of post-war Germany. Looking at the cutbacks, the austerity policy in the country (and in other countries too) we can say: this, the spirit of private responsibility and the way in which it goes hand in hand with occupation of public spaces by the ruling class is the fertile ground, the womb which bearing the new capitalism.

Much can and has to be said – and in my view one set of two points is of special importance, often neglected in these day’s debates: Neoliberalism, as said, I think it is a rather dangerous catchword, easily distracting from the fact that we are confronted with a rather differentiated system of intervention and reregulation. And also easily overlooking the fact that we are facing not simply the redistribution between the rich and the poor – instead it is about the distribution also within the two major classes. And with this the emergence of a specific new form of capitalism.

I think this – the new capitalism and the role Ireland plays in it and is ready to play in it – is more important than the ‘fact’ of IMF-intervention, the EU-memoranda and Stefan Gerlach, a Swedish-German, being since September Deputy Governor of the Irish Central Bank

Talking about globalisation all the time we have to accept that this is not about subordination in a simple way – rather it is about the differentiated world-system in which the different countries play different roles, and accept to play them in this way. Seen in this light, austerity policies are very much not least nationally based.

Second, in this sense the actual occupants are those behind the walls of the street(s) and also behind the walls of many academic institutions. Much of it may be willy-nilly, a matter, a matter of ‘structural forces’, and here we find surely also oral irresponsibility, the acceptance of the easy way. The point I want to emphasise is a different one however. What happens right in front of our eyes is a kind of refeudalisation. To be sure, although I used the term n academic publications, we have to be careful. History may be stupid. But it is not so stupid to repeat itself. Important is however that this is a suitable metaphor, capturing well two major developments:

* the occupation of the public sphere, the capturing of the sovereign private interests;

* the increasing de-economisation and de-marketisation.

The latter point is surely provocative – but not less sure is that we easily fall into traps when we use certain terms without further qualification. So it may be seen as provocation and as warning alike: a warning against the thesis of neoliberalism as straightforward concept. Neoliberalism is a catchword, easily used to explain everything and then at the end not explaining anything. The point is that we are facing increasingly a shift towards executing power that is based on the concentration and centralisation of material resources but not on economic processes in the strict sense. Slightly overstretching the argument, one may say tat capitalism has overcome itself – not primarily by the state bailing out the banks (though this is surely also a moment) but more by privately accumulated and centralised wealth, now violently occupying the roles genuinely attributed to the sovereign. It is not by chance that the term sovereign also had been attributed to the old English coin. However, then it had been a public currency, a means of socialising production and also power. Nowadays it is the establishment of the new sovereign: the completion of the capitalist individual will.

Third, coming to the other side then it is becoming a little bit tricky – it is easy to romanticise the good old times. Also, it is too easy to go with mechanisms that had been historically important and successful but that are now out-of-date. – I will return to this issue later. In any case, leaving all limitations aside, one of the relative progressive moments that capitalism claim to have established is rights-based approaches. As such this is by far not anything like perfect. On the contrary, all the rights-talk had been simply a reply on the total disrespect of even the most basic rights to live. This is true n the national levels and also in the intentional perspective. And as well, the then capitalist system itself instrumentally needed a rule of law: an accountable, predictable system of regulation, needed not least to ensure ‘smooth utilisation of capital’. Very much the discussion we find today again.

It is not least in this context that we have to be careful when it comes to pushes from governments like Germany and France, the move of the EU towards finance transfer taxation and we should not get too excited about some big bankers etc. who ask themselves now if Marx possibly had been right.

Fourth, going beyond the trinity the final point I want to make is about …, occupy. After we, ordinary people, had been occupied by capitalism and now pushed with the back against the wall, the occupants try to move even further, and turn to violence: squeezing in the name of an apparently sportive success – reached in Croke Park – additional hours of public servants, not to talk about all the rest of it. And this is why I referred to rights. As contestable as the much of the traditional social rights, as they are known in Europe, are have to be put n the agenda now, more than ever.

This is what we have to occupy – everyone in her or his position. In the position where we are occupied: as educators, as health service providers, as workers … For instance, forms of social economy should not be something at the margins but should be further developed as central moments of a democratically and sustainably developed economy. And we also have to occupy these spaces where we are not occupied. Sure, we have curricula at universities and at schools. And those who are employed there have to stick to them – at least in principle. But it is not less sure that the value of much of those principles is less than the paper on which they are written. The values of teaching are not defined by the formulas and number of rules. The real values are determined by how well they deal with reality – and realities are made by those who occupy positions.

I may return to Scrooge – and quote something that is surely not my favourite source – Wikipedia. There we read:

Scrooge has also opined that only in fairy tales do bad people turn good, and that he is old enough to not believe in fairy tales.

I just leave it there – only asking if we trust we are living in a fairy tale or in 2011-Ireland?

New Perspectives ….

One advantage, or should I say privilege of moving around, working in different places, is that it allows to easily take up new challenges, finding new opportunities to make life difficult. Well, at least I challenged myself, and now I am allowed doing so in an official framework. For my stay in Budapest in my role as visiting professor at Faculty of Economics, Department of World Economy and also as fellow of the Balassi Institute, Budapest (late spring/summer 2012) I had been invited to give an additional course for PhD-students.

Then, accepting challenging students means to stretch things a little bit. And also thinking about globalisation and looking at the repeatedly point made in this context: gobalisation is a complex and multifaceted matter motivates to think about a different approach, providing an insight of how globalisation is actually lived. And isn’t one way of defining culture as exactly this: the way in which we live our daily life, now the life in a globalised and globalising world?

My personal interest in what is called the fine arts, developed some years ago with beginning some arts studies during a lengthy stay in Rome, and furthered by several smaller exercises over the following periods put a stumbling block into the way – to be used as stepping stone. So, having been asked for this additional course I proposed

New economic philosophies. Its reflection in 6 paintings since the Renaissance

I now got the clear way for this – and so I am thinking about six paintings … And I am sure, Flemish painters like Hals, van Rijn will be amongst them. And I am equally sure that a look into the workshops of some of the artists will tell quite a lot of what the life had been like – that life about which we learn little about textbooks like on Macroeconomics as for instance that by Abel/Bernanke/Croushore (just randomly taken, one of the books frequently used).

It would surely be exciting to develop this further: … in six paintings, six novels, six poems … – sure, this is in many cases about the fine arts, also as arts of the fine people. Still, it looks like an interesting challenge …

Before that I will try a little pre-exercise: when going with my social-policy students on a study trip during next month I will try myself in a guided tour through two arts galleries: the old and the modern Pinaktothek. On the program amongst others Duerer’s Apostles, Boucher’s Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour and Marc’s Mandrill– just an indulgence of grand narrative of history.

Max Weber wrote on the state

Every state is founded on force,’ said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of ‘state’ would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as ‘anarchy,’ in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state–nobody says that–but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions–beginning with the sib–have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that ‘territory’ is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the ‘right’ to use violence. Hence, ‘politics’ for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

Max Weber, 1919: Politics as a Vocation

And it is exactly here where Antonio Gramsci stepped in, developing this legitimacy further, elaborating from a Marxist perspective the meaning and working of hegemonic power systems. – Fine-arts – in many cases also an idol for mass-culture but also a source of fracture – have surely a role to play here. And exploring these expressive means may also mean that we can understand in a much clearer way in which way political economy is very much also a matter of the Zeitgeist: the spirit of the times.

Not an easy task, not a simple work to be accomplished – but surely more exciting as following the beaten track of downplaying lived arts as artefact.

PS: Actually, a first attempt into this direction: of bringing in fine arts as point of reflection had been undertaken in the working paper on

Rethinking Precarity in a Global–Historical Perspective

Aloof – Higher Education Authority and European Union

Good news – some money granted for some work abroad – it is financed and administered by the Irish Higher Education Authority and the European Commission, there the people ealing with all this stuff about education, research …, highly qualified….
…, apparently so high that they lost ground under the feet, are out of touch with reality.
Although we all know that air transport is in environmental terms the worst, especially when compared with rail transport the confirmation letter states:

Funding – Staff may only claim for the costs of air travel and subsistence:
Air Travel costs: Please book the most direct and cost effective flights.  You will be required to provide receipts.  Staff may only claim for air travel.  So for example if your flight departs from Dublin, and you travel to Dublin by train, please note that the train cost will be covered under subsistence.

In the present case it means:

219.657 flight instead of rail
1897.173 – flight
total km:  2,116.83

Juxtaposed with the following alternative:

1489.008 – flight
561.982 rail
total km: 2050.99

And it further means: There is actually no airport at the final destination – these are in any case 195.401 km that are not covered. Ever thought about centre-periphery in the world system? he European Commission has even its own section INFOREGIO – highly paid experts thinking about regional development ….

At least the experts on High Education, highly paid staff … – high above the ground …, aloof.

Ireland – Economy and Politics

Returning home yesterday on my two wheels I passed two roundabouts. …. – Ops, returning after about 6 month I see they are not roundabouts anymore, They are now back to ordinary junctions.

Surely a strange way of dealing with the fact that the Irish economy isn’t anymore spinning around as it did. Late recognition of the fact that we are at a junction, in need of a fundamental decision on where to go?

Surely an honest one – and not just for Ireland as we recently discussed in the Euromemorandum group.

Looking Back – Looking for an Agenda

April 5th 2011, 7:15 a.m. – a journey beginning: ORK-LHR-WRS

October 1st 2011, 5:15 p.m. – EI 837 arrives at Cork airport, over 4300 hours, about 18,702.72 km, more or less four topics that followed me the way:

(i) the fundamental changes in the economic system which we cannot grasp by simply looking at the current crisis but where we have to think about the fundamental changes of the productive forces (see in this connection also the introductory contribution in: ‘Precarity – More than a Challenge of Social Security. Or: Cynicism of EU’s Concept of Economic Freedom’ (published with Europaeische Hochschulschriften in the series Studies in Comparative Social Pedagogies and International Social Work and Social Policy)

(ii) the connected changes of the socio-political system – in earlier thinking, published in the book New Princedoms (published with Rozenberg I talked tentatively about re-feudalisation (see as well the contribution in the recently published book All the Same – All Being New. Basic Rules of Capitalism in a World of Change (published with Europaeische Hochschulschriften in the series Studies in Comparative Social Pedagogies and International Social Work and Social Policy)

(iii) the linked question of changes of the actual meaning of Human Rights which apparently deserve more thorough consideration in the perspective of the changes of the economic formation, and

(iv) the topic of the role and function of research and education in this context – but the latter more in the search of a responsible undertaking, i.e. the responsibility of researchers as potential contributors to a counter-hegemony. At least few short reflections, looking back at the 4300 hours, may be useful.

First the search for courage. Aren’t we too much complaining, not taking up the opportunities? But it is a much deeper question of course: Aren’t we in our work as academic and also in the work as politicians to much caught in an agenda of different approaches which are glued to the existing societal patterns of fundamentally individualist and capitalist (re)production? There cannot be any doubt that we always have to secure ‘anschlussfaehigkeit’: the ability to connect to existing realities. However, we should not forget with this the need to transcend these conditions, to seriously apply the dialectical principle of preserving what is needed in order to overcome it, developing something fundamentally new. This new has to start from the real understanding of the existing – going beyond the analysis of appearances. And this means not least: going beyond a moral rebuke of individual behaviour.

Second, it is the challenge to think about the reach of the existing patterns. Human Rights and the Social/Welfare State are surely valuable concepts in the development of human kind and the political development. But by simply aiming on their maintenance we easily overlook that they emerged on the basis of restrictive systems. As a kind of last resort of systems that are in their own terms totally self-destructive. This is also true for the capitalist growth model, of which we should know at this stage that the attempts of moving to pre-2007 states are not anything else than determined ways to failure. Even the recent EU-, World Bank, OECD and IMF-outlooks make clear that we arrived at a point of no return. But what they do not show and what unfortunately only few who are seriously looking for alternatives ask is: what are the actual changes of the formation that are taking place. For instance what is the overall meaning of more and more sovereign functions are actually taken over by ‘private capital’ which, however, is not the same as the capital which political economy still considers as ‘entrepreneurial’.

Third, implied is the need to critically reflect on the use of terms as neoliberalism and globalisation, catchy and increasingly empty formula. It is easier, of course, hiding behind them than it is to openly and thoroughly discuss the relevant issues.

This brings me to the fourth point – and the last major stop of my journey: the celebration of the retirement of my colleague and friend Josef Scheipl, now professor emeritus. Although we did not really have much contact over the years it had been sufficient to develop a high appreciation for his approach. Social pedagogue in the best sense, politically engaged and historian. And never isolating the different areas from each other, seeing them as essentially bound together, relational. And most fundamentally, permanently asking questions which he saw as the main task of thorough research. Yes, ASKING QUESTIONS. We should be honest to ourselves: we are in so most of the cases too much engaged in giving answers: in the form of research reports, in form of certificates … – and easily forgetting what research is really about: ASKING QUESTIONS. I am glad that I had been invited to contribute to the Festschrift which had been handed over to him during the ceremony in Graz: Anastasiadis, Maria/Heimgartner, Arno/Kittl-Satran, Helga/Wrentschur, Michael (Eds.): Sozialpädagogisches Wirken; Wien/Berlin: LITVerlag, 2011.

Sure, I didn’t mention many things tag I could enjoy during these over 4300 hours, on the way of about 18,702.72 km. Meeting friends, making new friendships, meeting people who ask, teaching students here and there, contributing to a few conferences, writing and marking the exam papers of students which ‘followed me’: scanned and demanding their right … – and I didn’t mention the joys of answers that had been given at earlier times: Don Giovanni, (a little bit of) studies of arts – continuing something I took up yesteryear in Rome) and nostalgia as the encounter with Maria Farantouri, the meetings in beer gardens, coffee shops, and surely the Simit and Türk kahvesi.