Death is Dancing (by Rayen Kvyeh)

The other day, Rayen Kvyeh sent me some poems – they have their own beauty and I feel sorry that the translation cannot fully transport it. I met Rayen recently – it had been an event organised together with and by Kurds – I am greatful to Orhan who invited me to join for this event.

It is this own beauty that nearly forces me to translate another of the poems (one can be already found here) – but it is also the …, well: work, engagement that is currently occupying much of my thinking. And determining my life – permanently crossing borders, making me aware of the limitations, permantly being caught in the cage of my own life, evoking to burst the chains open, crossing the borders.

And encouring me …

All this is also about the experiences made: working in Taiwan; in Australia, being so close to the question of aborigins and PNG; having been in Japan …, but also being involved in “our daily Western struggles” – for me now from Benno Ohnesorg to the fires today.

… and hopefully encouring you ….

Thank you both, Rayen and Orhan! And Thank You, the other …


Death is dancing

At the table

Of the powerful round

They applaud and remain silent,

Remain silent and applaud

In the shadow

Of White Laws


Silence is interrupted

Within the walls of bars.

The hunger strike

Is vibrating through the veins

Of the Mapuche, imprisoned on political grounds

Patricia Troncoso’s

In her black plaits

The silence ensnarls –

The silence of the voices of the ancestors


Death is Dancing

… dancing across the Christmas trees

Trees of artificial snow

And colourful light


Silence is broken

The hunger strike

Vibrates along the ways

Solidly united

Crossing borders

Breaking through barriers


The Llaima bursts.

Disrupts the silence.

Spitting the fire.


Spitting the stones.

The red bellow

Of the fervent magma

Razing the mountains.


Death is Dancing

On the Libra of justice

Of the powerful round.

The laws are dancing.

New Year.

New weapons.

Hard hand – white hand

Terrorist – white mind

Hard valuta – gain for the white.

Death is dancing.

The Laws are dancing

Drunken in champagne and wine.


Silence is broken.

The hunger strike

Is riding across captured roads

Is riding across the territory of the Mapuche


Death is dancing

At the desk

Of the powerful round

Dancing – the weapons.

Death is dancing.

The killing bullet

Aiming on the back.

Matías Catrileo is dead.


Death is dancing

On the table

Of the powerful round.

The terrorists are dancing

The last Cueca.

The laws are dancing

Singing the anthem.



Patricia Troncoso’s

In her black plaits

The silence ensnarls –

The silence of the voices of the ancestors.

The silence breaks

Through the wind’s voices

Lemun, Catrileo, Epul


From the four corners of the earth.


Matías Catrileo is falling

Kissing the soil.

The voices of the winds

Are breaking the silence

His eyes close

And illuminate

The wide and narrow paths


The voices of the ancestors

Are breaking through the silence

Matías Catrileo walks

Across the four potencies of the earth.

Again: Thank you both, Rayen and Orhan! And Thank You, …, the other.
The melancholy is just its opposite: the power gained for moving on.

The World is a Stage or Felix Krull Enlightening the View on Capitalism Today

And frequently it is suggested that the sociologist Erving Goffman coined this phrase. Without disregard: what my great colleague Erving did, is nothing more than sociologising what William Shakespeare outlined already around 1600 in his comedy As you like it, (first published in 1623).

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women, meerely Players;
They haue their Exits and their Entrances,
And one man in his time playes many parts

And before Erving Goffman presented his Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (published in 1959), Thomas Mann dedicated time to this topic, writing the Confessions of Felix Krull (the genesis of this unfinished novel spans between 1905 and the middle of the 1950s).

In some respect one may say, it is all one topic: the roles we play, the images we present – a reality that is fictive by presenting its reality in certain images as much as it is real to the extent to which it is a combination of fictions, stories we tell and combine in different ways. Own stories and our stories, interweaving with the narratives told by others.

The Seven Ages to which Shakespeare refers, in 1838 depicted by William Mulready; the confidence, which is an misleading English translation of imposture about Thomas Mann is actually talking: the mendacity of a time that at the first instance moved towards WWI, and later, when Mann took up the work again, lost itself in the emerging German post-WWII economic miracle; everyday life Erving Goffman has in mind when analysing a society that suggests its own modernity in Rostowian sense as archetype of development’s ultimate goal.

All the Same – All Being New.

The Basic Rules of Capitalism in a World of Change are surely not a novel or a play for the stage of any theatre let alone a comedy.
Nevertheless, the supposed fictive character that seems to provide the foundation of today’s economy shows exactly the withdrawal not into an illusionary world but on the contrary the establishment of a real world that follows entirely different rules: the rules not of a fictive accumulation but the rules of a real appropriation.
The theory becoming a material power (as Marx mentioned it in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right from 1843/1844) can only merge into this new realm if it fully acknowledges this seemingly small difference between accumulation and appropriation.


Bastian Kraft staged his version of Felix Krull in Munich’s Volkstheater in a masterful way, showing exactly this difference. Felix – the ‘three Felix’ – appear smart like today’s economy, likable and handsome – and they do it to such an extent that some kind of participation offers immediate conciliation. And only leaning back allows to recognise that all the camouflage is a seductive play, not allowing us to escape or forcing us to abscond completely.

There is not much that has to be added to Michael Weiser’s critique in the Kukturvollzug, a digital feuilleton for Munich:

It is Felix Self-Threesome, a Krull-trinity, that orders power onto the stage: one may say Mühlenhardt, Fritzen and Fligg embody different facets of Krull’s real character. The three do not agree in their respective version of their own history; again and again they interrupt each other and repeat scenes of the story of imposture. … . What is the essence, the true character of the human being? This is the question one poses again in the next story which probably again doesn’t lead anywhere. It may be already revealed that at the end the three show real intuition before Felix Krull’s imposture ends in a complete crash.

(Here the German original text)

Es ist ein Felix Selbdritt, eine Krullsche Dreifaltigkeit, die Kraft auf die Bühne beordert: Mühlenhardt, Fritzen und Fligg verkörpern quasi verschiedene Facetten des Krullschen Wesens. In den Variationen ihrer Geschichte sind sich die Drei durchaus nicht einig, immer wieder fallen sie sich ins Wort und spielen zur Selbstvergewisserung Szenen jener Hochstaplergeschichte nach. … . Was ist des Menschen Kern? Das fragt man sich und ist schon wieder in der nächsten Geschichte, die vermutlich wieder nirgendwo hin führt. Im Finale, so viel sei verraten, beweisen die furiosen Drei nochmals richtig Fingerspitzengefühl, bevor Felix Krulls Lügengebäude einstürzt.

This crash, its charcter and cause, are important. It is the crash of a tower, erected in a sensible way by putting block on block, changed in a seemingly reasonable way: taking one block away from the bottom and putting it onto the top and taking one block away from the bottom and putting it onto the top and taking one block away from the bottom and putting it onto the top and taking one block away from the bottom and putting it onto the top … and, yes: towers, societies and economies are not established in a way that they can survive without the foundation they stand on ….

And the performance had been nothing of a crash – and exciting adventure, the music by Arthur Fussy adding to an experience of a sociological didactic play that makes for a most pleasant …, learning.


Coming briefly back to the title of Erving Goffman’s book: The Presentation of Self ….

The Presentation, living in a world of presentation is as such not the problem. The real problem is the presentation of presentation, the duplication of the process.

And as much this is a matter of the economic development, it is also a matter of academic life today: the thinking in models, the suggesiton of blueprints as reality …. –

– … the European model worked, until it distructed its own foundation …; the liberal economy suceeded as long (well: as short) as it could claim to a reasonable extent its liberalism …; finance capitalism could maintain its profitability as long as it managed to pretend to have its foundation in the real economy ….

But fiction remains fiction – even if it develops by griping the masses.

Ode of Joy and the Tragedy of Europe

In the tragedy Fiesco, or the Genoese Conspiracy Schiller’s Moor says at the end of the fourth scene the words

The Moor has done his work – the Moor may go.

And perhaps the times we are in require to say the same to the masterpiece chosen to be the EUropean anthem.

A piece of music, bringing together the genius of Beethoven as composer and the Schiller as poet.

For Beethoven it had been the culmination of his work, for the first time bringing the human voice into the tonal language. And for the listener it is at first glance an impression of the utmost humanist idea.

Beethoven as composer made an important step in the history of music – and surely expressing a fundamental change of society: Rather than being composer to the court or to the church, he had been free composer, realising his music for a market, following his own gusto, following but as well shaping the Zeitgeist – which at the time had been surely sparked by revolutionary ideas. And it is this new freedom reflected in the ‘Ode to Joy’ – humanist in the deep understanding of the values of the time:

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Words, however, are not much more than empty notions.

Looking at those values at the time we also have to consider time – that time. And that time had been very much about the celebration of the individual, responsible to him-/herself (though she had been very much oppressed, considered as ‘not-existent), seen as rationally and morally responsible. However, this responsibility had also been founded in the idea of independence: not the relational personality as we may interpret it in the spirit of Aristotle. But the individual whose action is only later compounded by an ‘invisible hand’. We may say the hierarchy up to hitherto given ex ante by god(like beings) emerged now ex post by the new godlike law of the market. An interesting feature is developing from here, full of tensions – and looking at the Ode of Joy we can see the joy of independence, the new freedom of the artist who did not need a mediator between the self, the emotions and the world but could act immediately: express immediately the feelings. On the other hand we know too well that a new mediator came up: the unknown other, competitor on the market or customer.

But the laws that had been mentioned before had been ‘created’ not only by following the laws of the market but also by permanently creating the market: production on demand and production of demand. An endless circle, though a circle in need of overtaking itself, the production of demand coming out on top.

And then, on the formal level, we can still claim that EUrope follows this ambitious notion of  Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Translated into 2011-plain text:

Free movement of capital, goods and services and workforce – Equality of participants on the market – conspiracy of the governing bodies

No doubt, analytically each of them is a complex field, often also a minefield.

* The free movement is surely limited by ‘converse economies of scale’: though we usually discuss economies of scale as matter of an exorbitant growth of seize, reaching a level that is beyond operational scope, we find in particular the advantage of large scale operations when it comes to such ‘free movement’ …;

* of course it is not only the equality of participants o the market(s) – equality is not less relevant for the non-participants: in all countries their number grows, we find the equality amongst those in precarious situations, the equality of an increasing number of people whose basic human rights as for instance the right to organise themselves in trade unions is limited ….;

* and we find many in fact joining the conspiracy fair while claiming fundamental opposition.

And of course, we find other movements too:

* major efforts to control the freedom by way of social responsibility and even social obligations …;

* the equality amongst those who are ready to live together by way of examples of what a better life could look like …;

* and the fraternity of those who stand together: in their protest and their visions … .

At least we can be sure that today Beethoven and Schiller would be an unhappy couple, seeing what ‘their Europe’ looks like. She lost …. – he gained. She had been the Europe of vision and passion, bringing together ευρύς (width) und οψ (sight). He left a state of actual weakness – severely hurt by the one-sided orientation on a single market and single currency which became end in itself, serving the perpetuation of a system that lost its own foundation. We may of course characterise the situation as crisis of finance capitalism – and that is surely correct. However, we may also say that this is actually only the technical side. Behind this we find a more fundamental crisis of the capitalist mode of production – and we surely have to go a ling way to fully understand its meaning.


At least something from a recent mail to a colleague in England (slightly modified):

“Thank you both, your formulation is little misleading I suppose

the worst (for capitalism) is still ahead of us

Let us hope it is still ahead – the worse for capitalism is its end and that can only be good.

You are surely right, saying that we have to question existing institutions. And moreover we have to question certain ideologies. But all this means we have to be even more careful and mind thinking about bating water, endangered little children, hens and chicken …, and not least we have to look for the tap from which the water comes and the egg that surely plays a role too.

What I want to say is the following: I am frequently afraid that there is one issue that remains dealt with in a very casual way: the role of politics, polities and economics.

* Two examples. Reading in a Wagenknecht/Geissler interview in Die Zeit


This is what my world would have to look like: priority of politics over the finance world and economy. Furthermore: a global Marshall Plan by the rich countries and an international market society, based on the ethical foundation of the social, ecology and peace. (1)

I am getting alert, at least having a question, though not claiming to have the answer as well: A major progress of capitalism (an ECONOMIC formation) has to be seen in its ability to overcome arbitrariness and violence of all systems hitherto.

* The debate about Human Rights, the rights of indigenous people is in my opinion to a large extent misleading as it is very much based on the idea of individualism … . And we surely have to look for ways of defining truly social rights. This is in some respect simple: sufficient material resources etc. And of course, it is also about the right to choose the “own” productive/economic system. So far so simple. But then we are confronted with the question of how to reconcile this with communitarian oppression and ‘nationalist exclusiveness’ of the traditional systems. And there still is a question which I may put forward in a cynical  way: Talking about different life styles, modesty etc. is rather simple …. as long as we can be sure that it does not mean to die with 40 or 50 (average). Recently I had been talking to a well-known human rights activist from Turkey – and it had been so difficult to look into her face and to say: Yes you are right, you have to claim your right as a people. And nevertheless, you are wrong with all your nationalism … . A discussion, now more moderate, we have also in Ireland; and in some respect one can see it also here in Germany where apparently the difference between Ossis and Wessis is still more important (for many) then the “difference between rich and the poor” (an expression that only captures part of the surface).

May be I am too much structuralist and also too much idealist that …. – that I do not see that we actually may need a “morally different capitalism”: the “patrons of the good”, a new Gaius Cilnius Maecenas alias Bill and Melinda Gates … – this is what I mean with “fundamentally reconsidering the mode of production”. It would be too simple to mean talking about “New Princedoms” literally; but I think it is also too simple to see an Economic Leviathan. Sure, the “abnormal normality” (or normal abnormality?) is frightening and remarkable: people begging, people falling outside of health protection … . What is not less remarkable is the “new normality”: indeed, the small (“Tafeln”, soup kitchens …) and the large (B&M-Foundation …) good doers, the permanency of “sales”, closing down (and immediately opening again or not) sales, the 1-Euro-shops, discount bakeries, book-shops with permanent special offers (“returned books sale” …), “swap markets” based on lack of resources …but as well: the raise of biologic/organic food, fair trade (yes, also in the large chain shops and supermarkets) ….

Short stories if we take them on their own; I guess long stories if we take them as chapters of a book, perhaps a new volume of world history.

Questions only …, but I suppose important enough to be asked and to be answered at some stage.


And to be clear again, at least trying to be clear: I am convinced that we cannot move on by simply using the old concepts: seeing a development from liberalism to neoliberalism to ultra(neo)liberalism. I am convinced that more has changed, that we are not concerned with a “fundamental alteration” of the previous stage. I am conventionalist in so far that I think we are still facing a capitalist system. And as such, the system is – amongst others – characterised by (i) the production of surplus value, somewhat independent of the production of the production of exchange value; (ii) the need of the production of use value, which is under the conditions of  capitalist production however “added value”, not necessarily depending on exchange value (iii) and in many cases actually independent of it as it emerges in spheres outside of the market, (iv) providing the foundation of a rather fundamental division of labour (and power) within societies and between societies. And as much as these fundamental patterns remain in place as true seems to be that the relationship between them are socially dislocating their relational positions, “crossing borders” like undergoing a tectonic movement without actually breaking at their core. This is at least one of the major reasons behind the limitations of moral appeals and small-scale solutions in the search for a better world. And it is equally a major reason behind the limitations of a morally-based corporate social responsibility. The concept of an ongoing accumulation by dispossession may be one of the entrance doors for further consideration. Paul Boccara reflected on this under the heading of a modele anthroponomique. And I published some considerations in the my chapter in the book I edited under the title All the Same – all Being New and also in the chapter I wrote together with Sibel Kalaycioglu in the book we edited under the title: Precarity. More than a Challenge of Social Security. The problem remains to find a fundamental origins and shortcomings of methodological individualism of life.

In an interview with Federica Matteoni, Michael Hardt has a simple answer: The current crisis did not arise from the separation of the real economy and a fictive sphere of the finance capital as real- and finance economy are today inseparably linked. Such insight seems to be trivial and/or ignorant especially if we read further:

What seems to be new and challenging for me in connection with this crisis is that the capitalist production in general moved towards taking a a fictive character.

This sounds good and is surely in some way true – but it does not help us any further. As said, one point may be that looking at an ongoing accumulation by dispossession is sufficient to explain what is going on. The important point is that it really and fundamentally sticks to value production, thus allowing to analyse surplus value as surplus value, i.e. as moment that is inherent in the economic process, i.e. the process of production. Hardt, contrary to this, suggests to leave this area half way: fictive capital is one thing, fictive value another, and a fictive real economy will remain a hoax. Possibly it works for a while but only to fall even deeper – and here we arrive at the current crisis as it is: the separation of the real economy and a fictive sphere of the finance capital.

If we want to turn the notion of a move towards a fictive character of the economic process productively, we may speak indeed of the re-appropriation of politics by those forces who have control over economic resources rather than controlling the economic process as productive process which is based on the commodification of labour power and the with this possible production of surplus value. If we really move further down this road of interpreting the current situation as re-appropriation of politics by those forces who have control over economic resources we have to be aware of the fact that we can actually not continue with ease speaking of capitalism. At least concepts as neo-liberalism or as well the proposed shift from a fordist to a post-fordist accumulation regime, including the shift Towards a Schumpeterian Workfare State as proposed by Bob Jessop would not have sufficient power for explaining the current situation and development.

At this stage this cannot be discussed further – the aim being only to table the question in which way we can utilise Marxist analysis, be it by way of analysing the current capitalist system or by way of looking for the fundamentally new character of capitalism, focusing on the economic question, i.e. the question of value production.

A short remark may be added. Suggesting at least for some time that the thesis of re-appropriation of politics is correct, we can actually explain the hype around topics as greed, the ‘new interpretation’ with which people like Sarah Wagenknecht approach the ‘social market economy’ but also the queer developments of capitalists like Bill Gates presenting themselves as revolutionaries. Not least important as with all this we easily arrive again at claiming rights as matter of being good like god – rather than rights being derived from a society based on the production of goods, i.e. commodities.

Remains a double-A: accumulation versus appropriation. And remains the search for a triple-A: overcoming accumulation not by appropriation but by acknowledgement: the acknowledgement of

Fraternity, Equality and Liberty

or in other words

People’s Liberty – Equality – Fraternity


In this context it may also be worthwile to revisit the concepts that had been discussed at earlier times in history – and that may be especially meaningful when it comes to discussions on legislative systems. Interestingly, the French revolution introduced the principle of fraternity – and it is important to note that that it had been the last in a row, after emphasising liberty as the core value, interpreting it as a matter of equality which would lead to a ‘modern brotherhood’. In actual fact, it had been very much a brotherhood with two connotations: the one merging into the paternalism of the enterprises, the capitalist patron replacing the earlier master of the guild-system; the other merging into the solidarity based system of the working classes. Subsequently, solidarity – and it had been solidarity in the second meaning – had been seen by some as synonym for fraternity. And subsequently refers to the terminological synonymisation but also to the fact that only some used it in this way. And there had been a good reason for being split on this topic, indeed. Originally solidarity – as juridical rather than as social and political concept – had been the commitment of members of a group to cover the dept of one of their members. In other words, the new understanding based the social and political meaning on an economic concept, carried economy into the socio-political realm. This means that we are facing a radical shift, a radical approach as well to the economy.

Pierre Leroux, in his work De l’Humantié from 1840 elaborated this, positioning solidarity against the principle of charity and also against contractualist approaches as they had been put forward for instance by Hobbes and Rousseau. In his understanding he rightfully argued against the latter by highlighting their principal stance of seeing people as in principal atomised individuals; where as charity had been characterised by forcefully putting the individual under a community, continuing the view on the community as given by the almighty will of god rather than seeing it as genuinely human and humane. Following Leroux consequently to the end, we see the tyranny of the secularised individual versus the tyranny of the divine community. Tertium non datur? Leroux saw the ‘third way’ in solidarity: a just society based in genuine social existence. Taking up what had been said before (at the end of the previous paragraph), we see that solidarity in this perspective had been a germ for an ‘alternative’ economy: an economy based on common property – the germ of socialisation its its true meaning.

Surely a long way to go, from the joy, where we still ask for approval of the creator

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Leroux’ creator could only be the self-creator, the social authority emerging from true social existence.


Coming back to Europe then, and the efforts to permanently ignore this depth of the crisis it does not make a difference if He enters the stage as Iron Lady, frankly stating that

One cannot rely on the fact that things that are said in advance of elections, is maintained afterwards (Angela Merkel in 2008) (2)

and ready to claim:

that we will not allow that something being technically possible is not utilised by the state (Merkel in 2008 during a canvassing event in Osnabrueck on the topic of surveillance) (3)

But even she, i.e. Merkel knows

Democracy is not always a matter of individuals deciding but it usually is the business of opinion making by many. (4)

Occupy? Sure, but not simply by building a wall of defence. What we need is a positive outlook – a new approach to understanding

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity


People’s Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Sure, there had been the version of history where Europe appears only as victim – and this is what she was.

Fighting against this is a matter of thoroughly thinking about strategies and we all have to acknowledge what Merkel said in 2007 (mind, she is scientist and in this case she definitely knows what she is talking about)

Banging the head against a brick wall won’t work. It finally always means that the wall will win. (5 [see photo 19])

But equally sure, she had been also the one looking further and following this Europe is not least a matter of joining Frigga Haug in the debate and work on a Four-in-One-Perspective.

And surely this is well linked into the ongoing work on Social Quality

The latest step of which is the publication of Foundations 3rd Book

Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators


There remains, at the end of 2011, and looking for ways in 2012 surely also an outlook which fits well under the

Ode to Joy

And when the announcement on the website to yesterday’s performance of Beethoven’s work states

on occasion of the turn of the year it is nearly a must

we may join in it: It is a ‘must’ to look for the positive power of its suggested

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity.

It is a ‘must’ to remember these two great and idealist German thinkers.

And it is also a ‘must’ to remain alert – referring to Slavoj Zizek, writing in the New York Times – we see that

at Bar 331, the tone changes totally, and, instead of the solemn hymnic progression, the same “joy” theme is repeated in the “marcia turca” ( or Turkish march) style, a conceit borrowed from military music for wind and percussion instruments that 18th-century European armies adopted from the Turkish janissaries.

The mode then becomes one of a carnivalesque parade, a mocking spectacle — critics have even compared the sounds of the bassoons and bass drum that accompany the beginning of the marcia turca to flatulence. After this point, such critics feel, everything goes wrong, the simple solemn dignity of the first part of the movement is never recovered.

But what if these critics are only partly correct — what if things do not go wrong only with the entrance of the marcia turca? What if they go wrong from the very beginning? Perhaps one should accept that there is something of an insipid fake in the very “Ode to Joy,” so that the chaos that enters after Bar 331 is a kind of the “return of the repressed,” a symptom of what was errant from the beginning.

Sure, looking at what we (too easily) call neo-liberalism should not be underestimated – and we surely have to criticise positive historicism, its representatives as Comte, Mill, Buckle and much later Rostow for their short-sighted utilitarianism; but we should equally be aware of the dangers of metaphysical historicism, reaching from Plato over Hegel and Toynbee to … those who remain in the marcia turca of carnivalesque parades. – Comte and Plato, Mill and Hegel, Hayek and Habermas …., all shaking hand with each other.

Only when put back on its feet, when freed from all the bombastic pomp, the joy will be a real one, one for all of us and one we find in very day’s life, without the danger of turning into tyranny. Until that day we may simply enjoy such events, taking the greatness they have as animation for acknowledging the part we can take – acknowledging the claim to participate.

We may like it or not, the way leading us there will still be a stony one, overcoming the bombastic pomp depending on solidarity amongst different, overcoming the artificial divisions rather than pretending equality where it does not exist. Yes,

Be embraced, millions!

But there is still a way to go – and a question to ask:

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
when tomorrow comes…
Tomorrow comes!


(1) So müsste meine Welt aussehen: Priorität der Politik gegenüber Finanzwelt und Ökonomie. Außerdem: ein globaler Marshallplan der reichen Länder und eine internationale Marktwirtschaft, deren ethisches Fundament das Soziale, Ökologische und Friedenspolitische ist

(2) Man kann sich nicht darauf verlassen, daß das, was vor den Wahlen gesagt wird, auch wirklich nach den Wahlen gilt

(3) Wir werden nicht zulassen, dass technisch manches möglich ist, aber der Staat es nicht nutzt

(4) Aber Demokratie ist nicht immer eine Sache von einsamen Entscheidungen, sondern in der Regel ein Geschäft der Meinungsbildung vieler.”(Interview with the Berliner Zeitung (7//11/07)

(5) Mit dem Kopf durch die Wand wird nicht gehen. Da siegt zum Schluss immer die Wand.

Be aware of Europe: where there is a chicken there is a hen


Hungary: Forseeable, though still sad – a word of caution

Yesterday’s Guardian published an editorial under the Heading:

Hungary: Playing Chicken

Kind of mind-boggling, reading this at the end of 2011.

I remember when I had been for the first time visiting professor in Hungary several years ago – at Elte univesity. Part of the stay had been a public presentation. Before we started, I talked to some colleagues – also about outlining what I was going to say: very critical remarks on the EU, the danger of engaging in the EU-Lisbon strategy, striving to be the most competitive region…, which also meant for the individual countries striving for being the most competitive nation… – I had been asked to keep a little bit back with my critique, talking more about the way to success, the glorious Celtic tiger.

Something similar happened when I gave few years later a presentation to PhD-students of Economics. During the talk I had been confronted with some skeptical remarks, that had been not least referring to Peadar Kirby who apparently praised the success and not least the outstanding positive role of the “partnership-agreements”. And surely, they had been successful: in domesticating and pacifying even the slightest germ of a proactive movement of the workers. But all this had been part of a complex pattern of developing the Irish economy, the “politico-economic culture” behind it and the actual economic development, foreseeable leading to what we see now: the death of a clown, a country of which the government and even more so the people are degraded to something like string-puppets of EU/IMF/FDI and the …, well, call it greed if you want the small elite of the country itself.

Sure, two things remain to be discussed further when we look at the developments in a global perspective: the actual role of national governments and the fundamental changes of the economy, beyond what is simplified by interpreting it as neo-liberalism and austerity policies.

For the Celtic tiger: Poor beast – dead, as foreseen. For the Hungarian perspective Not nice to see that I had been right at the time, now looking at another doomed man …

The President and the Dairymaid

At least in the German language there is the saying of a calculation undertaken by a dairymaid, suggesting  a calculation is extremely simplified and important variable are left out. Sure, this extremely unjust as these people, as long as they don’t loose their common sense, are well able to take things right, much better than people who refer to a so-called academic qualification and …

– … and get things wrong even they may actually have received the most prestigious awards.

Have a look at this – it is not a laureate text but one that is so typical for today’s academic world.

The next summit of the 20 industrialised and emerging countries (G20) will take place on 3rd and 4th November next. These 20 countries represent 85% of the world’s economy and 2/3 of its population. The declared goal is to discuss the world’s economic situation and to come with joint responses. What can we expect of this?

Fondation Robert Schuman. European Interview N. 41, 31st October 2011: Editorial Introductory remark to an Interview with Jean-Paul Betbèze.

But where is the president now? Well, actually this present epistle is indeed not about the economic question (though I will briefly come back to it) but indeed about the president. And in this case, the president is Mister Murphy, current president of University College Cork, Ireland. He disrobed himself recently, talking about academia and universities today. There is only one hope (though it is not likely anything more than hope, here meaning illusion: that it had been a badly uninformed story in the Irish Examiner, reporting on the 21st of December under the title

Pressure on college resources sees flight of talent.

It is very much the usual lament – some quotes may confirm this:

UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said the price of widening third-level access was the inability of colleges to provide the best education for top students.

The UCC president said opportunities were created for the brightest students through scholarships when resources were scarce in the past. But the universities’ ability to maximise the talents of the intellectually gifted has diminished as expanding higher education has brought weaker students who need more academic support from fewer staff.

And he is directly quoted with the words

“The ICT age, the space age, the nuclear age, the Hollywood age, all were mostly sparked by those in the top 2% to 5% of academic performers, who attended schools and universities that met their needs in innovative ways.

Under the leadership of people like Mr. Murphy there is a new age coming up, indeed: a social ice age, featuring ignorance about what academia is about.


Let me shortly reflect on this in a different perspective – taking a sentence written by Theodor Mommsen, taken from his Correspondence with Wiliamowitz. It is the letter 393, dated on the 25th of February 1894. Mentioning the date is of special importance. Reading always means considering some basic facts of the context as for instance the date, i.e. time of writing; and in this case it is of special importance for another reason: the German original tells immediately that this is not written in today’s words. My exiguous translation will not tell immediately – so first the German, then the translation:

Unser Universitätsregiment ist freilich ein schlimmes Ding. Das Willkürregiment einerseits und der Mangel an innerlichem Zusammenhalten der Kollegen andererseits sind in stetigem Steigen, und beiden gegenüber ist der Einzelne machtlos. Wohl ist noch manches zu erreichen […]. Aber es ist ein drückendes Gefühl, von solcher Favoritenwirtschaft auch nur in diesem Sinn zu profitieren. . Du wirst dieselbe Erfahrung machen, Althoff wird, soweit er es kann (seine Macht zum Guten ist sehr viel geringer als sein Wille), Dir in solchen Dingen entgegenkommen, aber Freude wirst Du davon nicht haben, liebes Kind zu sein.

Now the translation:

Of course, the regime of our universities is a really nasty thing. The arbitrary regiment on the one hand and the lack of inner coherence and solidarity amongst the colleagues on the other hand are permanently increasing, and both cannot be changed by the individual. Sure, there is still something we can achieve […]. But it is an onerous feeling to profit from such red tape even in this way. You will experience this yourself, Althoff will, as far as possible (his power to do good is much more limited than his will to do good), to accommodate you in such things, but you will not be able to enjoy this by being a good boy.

I do not want to discuss Mommsen here. Nor do I want to discuss the exclusive, elitist and strangulating system of the ‘good old times’ of academia – something that never existed. Reading many (auto)biographies, looking into issues of sociology and history of science eclipsed much of the golden gleam for me. There is, however, a point one should not forget. Leaving many things aside that are not of importance here, the understanding of academic work had been substantially different to what Mr. Murphy suggests. The freedom had not been primarily defined by the narrow stance of a micro-administrative framing – the article refers to such perspective, stating:

Dr Murphy said universities needed greater freedom on how to spend limited resources and called for an end to stifling Government micro-management.

On the contrary, grant schemes had been generous in the sense of allowing for developing wide perspectives of managing tasks as they developed from the practical developments, from real life and the opportunities it can open. Let us face it, the most known, most progressive, most advanced results of science did not come from bright individuals as suggested by UCC’s president. It had not been

those in the top 2% to 5% of academic performers, who attended schools and universities that met their needs in innovative ways

as it is quoted. Rather, the noblest advances are characterised in particular by the following:

* These colleagues had been bright, indeed – real scientists by way of coming from wide and broad approaches to reality. – Try to locate Albert Einstein, Max Weber, Karl Mannheim, Bertrand Russell, Norbert Elias or today Amartya Sen, Zsuzsa Ferge, Laurent van der Maesen, Hans Zacher, Andrey Korotayev, Leonid Grinin …, and clearly classify them as …, yes, what? Surely academics, but then? Mathematicians? Philosophers? Economists? Moralists? Sociologists? Lawyers? Historians? Anthropologists?  ????

* Many of these colleagues had been or are as personalities and academics very much part of the political and social life of their time, i.e. part of real soci(et)al life. This meant very different things – and would mean even more different things if we look at others. And some of them had been surely hugely questionable when it comes to the political practice. But still … – the conservative Weber, claiming ‘value freedom’ of research, was nevertheless only able to do what he did by standing in the middle of the political movements and by committing himself to values and taking positions (there is much confusion when it comes to the debate on value freedom and we should revisit Weber, Sombart and Schmoller on this and later also Popper and Adorno for the ‘second round’ of the ‘Werturteilsstreit’ [still useful in this context mot least the work on Materialism and Empiriocriticism]; Einstein, first contributing to the disaster due to his involvement in politics, working at the end on contributing to the development of nuclear bomb, showed how he learned from his mistakes, advancing to a most engaged figure of the peace movement, condemning all nuclear weapons …

* Although we usually look at these individuals, at their high intellectual performances and excellence indeed, we should not forget that many of them had been ‘managers’, working in groups, being intellectually stimulated by disputes with others – managers who in some cases surely worked out things in egoistic ways, utilising the work individually for themselves – nevertheless not being guided by administering stuff or staff.

These colleagues mentioned above, without holding back with criticising them where appropriate, are colleagues I truly like to see as colleagues. And I am proud and humbled by knowing some of them personally. Sure, they may never bring it to such fame as Mr. Murphy, entering the history books as one of the main promoters of the social ice age. But they are surely more distinguished, more aware of what they are saying, more respectful even in the conservatism which some of them represent.

The following has to be added – though surely this short note does not in any way cover things in full nor does it want doing so. Nevertheless, the following is the most important when it comes to the self-designated applicant for the position of a president of the new ice age.

* Our universities have to face the challenge to regain openness. Specialisation, striving for excellence and dividing staff by permanent evaluation and ‘the notion of distinction’ is one of the coffin nails of academia. Real academia can only be reached by openness, a wide mind is a bright mind. – Well, that a cobbler should stick to his last is widely accepted. And cum grano salis, for medical doctors the same should apply

* Political and soci(et)al engagement is a most crucial nourishment of academic development. Many of the colleagues especially in the first half of the previous century distinguished themselves by such engagement – and many did so by engaging on the side of the ruling classes. True opening today has to consider this in a complex way: ‘Opening academia’, launching and maintaining access-project cannot be about just opening doors. It has to be about opening the way of academic thinking, making it possible to think about the real challenges we are facing today. And these are not technical by nature. They need a more fundamental shift of our thinking – Social Quality, Big History, World Systems Theory may be candidates, and I admit I only mention these because of my own specific involvement. But I could well move on, just making these days the most exciting experiences by meeting and communicating with colleagues from Kurdistan, Turkey, India, South Africa, Chile/Mapuche and Bolivia – and though many of them are academics, we meet as people. And these encounters allow me to meet myself – as stranger in my own countries (sorry, not able to speak in singular). And this is the point I want to make: All this is not about the traditional academic debates but about what we lived through, each in his/her place and each deprived in one or another way from it. Full of contradictions. Surely not easy – but not a fight, a pool of inconceivable richness, real experience of a globalising self, breathing the fresh air of different life, and inhaling the toxic elements where they are. Surely not easy – but not simplifying as the journeys of those travellers who are globalising the other, blinding the other by the dust that is dispersed by the carriers of their palanquins. Surely not easy – but more honest than the mendacity of a administered quasi-academic elite. And again, this is the point I want to make: we should be open to the huge pool of experience out there, ready to change ourselves rather than aiming on braking their will, subordinating them under the law of the ‘imagined 85’ (see below).

We need strangers – you may want to read what Georg Simmel wrote on this topic of The Stranger.

And we equally need to allow ourselves to be strangers in our own country [You may want to red what I wrote on this but for this you have to by a book ;-)].

* And we should open internally too: creating for a for collaboration rather than presentation of excellence, engaging in disputes rather than preaching from the pulpit of a new historical school of administration. – Sure, the historical school of economics did have a role to play at its time – but we should not forget that it failed in preventing two world wars. The new economic school of administration may well fail to prevent the emergence of a social ice age.

Leaving the polemical undertone for a moment aside, having stated ‘and we equally need to allow ourselves to be strangers in our own country’ is far-reaching and more meaningful than what we usually discuss and hat we usually are actually ready, able to see. the question at stake is one of ontological and epistemological in its very nature. So I actually have also some doubts when it comes to access programs, science shops, participatory research etc., but coming from another angle, suggesting that they are far too tame. Looking at the UCC’s current strategic plan (probably we find very similar plans elsewhere) we see its emphasis on ‘contributing to society’. It is surely a problem that the link between universities and society (it sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? – It is bizarre that this actually is an issue!) had been unobserved, for so many years, pushing our critique from many years ago aside, emerging as playing field in ivory towers and on silicon valleys. But the latter is the point: The link had never been rally broken – the link that really had been broken has to be seen as the link between academia and peoples’ societies. Establishing such a link is not about working for society, but in society; it is not about ranking and excellence but about real life and its contradictions. It is about the beauty of development and the power of the ordinary rather than the streamlined and purified forms.

– Let us be brave, let us for instance have a look at ‘Die Bruecke’, the path opened for the ‘Blue Rider’ (alluding to the two groups of expressionist arts in the beginning of the last century), let us have a look at the deconstruction of Cubism that allowed new construction rather then following simply the baroque – the latter surely great in working with a descant, able to elevate from there; but not able to fundamentally overcome the path defined by this descant. That elevation had been nothing more than the last judgement: like a god dividing between good and evil. What we need is the readiness to work on something new, going beyond a smart society, walking as minor partner of a smart economy. What we need is a fundamental answer to the Guernica that smartness of the 85-2/3 society produces every day.


Well, Mr. Murphy, anecdotes …. – as we learn from the article

“There is extensive anecdotal evidence of many of our brightest students emigrating after completing Leaving Certificate for overseas education and never returning,” he said.

Anecdotes …, isn’t that about story telling, our great Irish tradition?

It may be that another anecdote will be told one day, a fairy tale.

Once upon a time there had been president, a good administrator, looking for excellence but not really knowing what he meant by it, believing just in figures – like a little journalist. Reading for instance something like this:

… These 20 countries represent 85% of the world’s economy and 2/3 of its population. …

he could not even think about the triviality of a pyramid turned with its head down: these 85% and 2/3, historically able to stand for some time on the shoulders of the minority 15 and 1/3 would surely collapse sooner or later.

Well, this president had been standing well and safe and he tried to gather with his companions, giving them tid-bits, feeding them like the old lady fed the little boy in one of Grimm’s fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel) and presenting them with golden tiaras, bracelets and earrings. Only with the time all these jesters of the new ice age found themselves drawn to ground by the heavy chains that glimmered so tempting and promising. They found themselves freezing in their fur coats that only provided warmth for a short time. And the president himself, looking more and more like an old man, calling all people to meetings to measure if their fingers had been fattened had to acknowledge one day: the brightest of the people around …, they apparently disappeared, looking for new shores, for open seas to see, rather than for narrow-minded channels. And he did not live happily ever after. You want to know why? The 15 and 1/3 on which they stood looked into the mirror and saw: actually they had been the 85 and together with the many who had minor positions in the excellence centres and who really worked for excellence. Those who lost their golden chains and who now claimed the right to live in paradise – a paradise of real knowledge production rather than gathering and improving skills; a paradise …

where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critique.

a paradise just as it is mentioned in part 1 of the German Ideology, a piece of excellence written in 1845.


Sure, a fairy tale – but still, the old man did not succeed.

What remains to be said at the end?

Sorry, Mr. Murphy – there may be some points that had been misrepresented in the Examiner, there may be some points that you would qualify yourself. And there are surely also some points in what I wrote that need further elaboration, qualification and …, yes, and discussion. But at least one should be very careful in such a position as yours when it comes to speaking to

business leaders at a Cork Chamber breakfast

And another point may be added – just allow me to quote one of the great academics of history though he is more known as a writer and perhaps also pictorial artist. This great and contestable mind once said

However, we all, old Europeans, are more or less cordially evil. Our conditions are too artificial and complicated, our feeling, our way of life against nature, our social relationships lack love and benevolence. Each is fine, friendly, but no one has the courage to be honest and true, so that an honest man, with natural tendencies and emotions, ends to feel quite badly.

And of course, this ‘honest man’ may well be the dairymaid, who academia has to encourage to have the courage to be honest and true.

Europe Ancient and Present

– Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus had to climb up a hill …

…. and from the elevation he looked down on The Burning of Rome, devastating one of the cities we consider as major source of what we call today EUrope, devastating the living space for uncountable lives, and also being a factor in the crumbling away of the overcome powers. It is said that he had been satisfied, laughing by the outlook.

Today we do not have to climb up a hill to see what happens – too clear are the signs of the developments taking place on the upper echelons of society, today even literally above our heads: on the upper floors of the finance centres, in airport-lounges of the international jet-set and in the modern ‘clouds’ if we take them as metaphor of a technologically developed global society that employs these means as instruments for advancing financialisation and speculation.

Another criminal offense that provides the foundation of modern Europe can be taken from another ancient source – the country of reference now Greece.

According to the Greek myth, Zeus, the Thunder-God residing on the Olympus, in the shape of a bull abducted Europa, the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and carried her over the sea to Crete. Agenor sent his sons out to search for their sister. One of them, Kadmos, landed in Greece and was told by the oracle of Delphi that he should wander around, armed with his spear till he reached the cowherd Pelagon in the land of Phokis. He should kill Pelagon – the man of earth, “born to die” – and choose the cow with the sign of the moon on both her flanks and follow her, till she would lie down, with her horns on the ground. On this hill he should kill and sacrifice her to the earth Goddess and then found a big city on this spot, Thebes.

Kadmos followed the oracle and became the founder of Thebes. He married Harmonia, the daughter of Ares, the War God, and Aphrodite (…). It is not clear from the myths whether he killed the moon-cow, obviously his sister Europa, or not. In any case, one does not hear of her again. She, the raped and abducted woman was only the means to lead the warrior and new culture hero into the foreign land and to his greatness.

(Maria Mies: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Peter Herrmann (Ed.): Challenges for a Global Welfare System: Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.; 1999: 153-171; here: 160 f.)

Today this may be translated into a political dilemma – that between national supremacy and sovereignty and true international and global solidarity and integration. The weekend’s Financial Times (10/12/2011) states

Mr Cameron will receive plaudits from Conservative MPs when he returns to the Commons on Monday. But back in London he may reflect on former prime minister Tony Blair’s bitter observation in 2006: ‘Co-operate in Europe and you betray Britain, be unreasonable in Europe, be praised back home and be utterly without influence in Europe.

But it is not only about the farewell by and from Britain.

It is also about the behaviour shown by the German Bundesbank. Accordingly – and again with reference to the FT:

It was exactly the rhetoric used by Germany’s famously conservative Bundesbank, to which Mr. Draghi paid tribute.

As such, it not only put pressure on governments but build is credibility among Germans, many of whom remain wary of handling control of their currency to an Italian.

As much as the two latter references resonate some form of abduction – at least the abduction of responsibly choosing points of reference of politics and policies we find the reference to the Nero, his will to establish power on the debris of the past and present, reflected in another statement from the same edition of the FT (though in a different article):

Britain was ‘as isolated as somebody who refused to join the Titanic just before it sailed’, said Terry Smith, chief executive of Tullet Prebon, the interdealer broker.

Taken from here it seems to be clear: the ship is sinking. The new steps are not more than an empty promise.

At least looking at Germany, the strong and supposedly reasoning power, shows that there is indeed little reason for optimism and trusting that cointry’s ability to balanced and strategic action. ‘Cracks spreading through Europe’s banks’ we read as if attentive observers didn’t knew this already – and as if it would be new that also the ‘strong political and economic powers’ are facing a serious threat: ‘Bail-out could be on the cards for Commerzbank’ and in France ‘Moody’s downgrades lender’s credit ratings’.


In this situation surely only few are really leaning back like Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. On the contrary, new programs show up, new efforts are made public and …

… and apparently forlorn admonishers are another time turning up, vehemently claiming the right of reason – or are they claiming the reason of right?

One of these apparently forlorn admonishers is Juergen Habermas, recently called in an article in the Spiegel as ‘the last European’, and looked at in terms of ‘a Philosopher’s Mission to Save the EU’.

As such, indeed

he accused EU politicians of cynicism and turning their backs on the European ideals.

So, according to Georg Diez, author of the said article

Europe is his project. It is the project of his generation.

And surely one may approach it this way. However, there is a catch with such an assessment. At the time of Europe’s early institutionalisation Habermas and ‘his generation’, namely people like Max Horheimer and Theodor W. Adorno had been actually highly critical about the approach towards integration based upon instrumental reason. In an earlier work, Habermas states the problematique of the incremental and piecemeal capitalist reformism as

in its own terms the struggle between classes constituted itself only on the basis of the capitalist mode of production and with this it constituted the objective situation on the basis of which the class structure of the politically constituted traditional society could be recognised. Capitalism regulated by the state as it emerged as answer on the manifest class antagonism which resulted in threats for the system, leads the class conflict to a standstill.

(Habermas, Juergen, 1968: Technik und Wissenschaft als ‘Ideologie’; in: Technik und Wissenschaft als ‘Ideologie’; Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp: 48-103; here: 84)

In this way, systems are not ‘rational’ in the sense of an abstract and generally acknowledge rationality. Rather, they

exist as long as the development of the sub-systems of instrumental action remains within the realm of the legitimising virtue of cultural traditions.

(ibid.: 67)

Looking at this position we have to say that it is against this Europe to the extent to which this Europe is not at all based on what Habermas would see in a later perspective as the general principles of rationality – and it is important to note that at this stage we are dealing with an entirely different historical situation. Any rationality – limited by the self-reference of the ruling, hegemonic class – had to be historically limited to maintaining the functionality of the given system. As such it had been not least a matter which I characterised myself later by pointing out

The different involved actors have in part the same, in part different, even contradicting interests. Subsequently we find the emergence of specific criteria of success, reflecting the substantial determination by the respective position within the process of reproduction.

(Herrmann, Peter, 1995: Movements and Organisations in the Cyclical Processes of Socialisation; in: Swiss Journal of Sociology; volume 21/1 :85-106; here 97)

In 1995, Habermas himself acknowledges, pointing in the same issue of the Swiss Journal of Sociology on the tension between fundamental rights and their regulation, emphasising that

the materialisation of law shows itself in side-effects

(Habermas, Juergen, 1995: On the Internal Relationship between the State of Law and Democracy; in: Swiss Journal of Sociology; volume 21/1: 11-20; here: 18)

In principle, we are still dealing with the same pattern of distinct rationalities behind which the fact of multiple hegemonies is hidden and by which it is blurred: the ongoing principle of class interests and its expression by the reference to the nation state on the one hand and the reference to the supranational level on the other hand. Habermas indirectly addresses this issue in a contribution on the Concept of Human Dignity, referring to relevant conceptualisations as

universal legal concepts [as] facilitate[d] negotiated compromises

(Habermas, Juergen, 2010: The Concept of Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights; in: Metaphilosophy; Oxford/Malden: Blackwell: 474-480; here: 475; see also Habermas, Juergen, 2011: Wie demokratisch ist die EU? Die Krise der Europaeischen Union im Licht einer Konstitutionalisierung des Voelkerrechts; in: Blaetter fuer deutsche und internationale Politik 8/2011: 37-48; here: 37)

However, he remains caught in the irresolvable contradiction between the different claims of sovereignty. The problem can be seen in the fact that he insufficiently differentiates within the multilayered systems. Rather than clearly spelling out the various contradictions as such:

  • the contradiction between [i] the suggested people as sovereign on the one hand, [ii] the sovereignty of the actual hegemon (i.e. the ruling class) on the other hand and – as mediator – [iii] the sovereignty of the nation state as third realm
  • the contradiction between [i] the suggested people as sovereign, [ii] the actual national hegemon, [iii] the nation state as relatively independent power and [iv] the inter/supranational level
  • the contradiction between the now four suggested sovereigns ([i] national people, [ii] national ruling class, [iii] national institutional system [iv] inter/supranational level) and in addition [v] the different other relevant national systems, each of them again existing as such complex unity

Habermas escapes into a realm of abstract reason and hope. So we read in a contribution on Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights:

On the one hand, human rights could acquire the quality of enforceable rights only within a particular political community—that is, within a nation-state. On the other hand, human rights are connected with a universalistic claim to validity, which points beyond all national boundaries.20 This contradiction would find a reasonable solution only in a constitutionalized world society (not necessarily with the characteristics of a world republic).

(Habermas, Juergen, 2010: The Concept of Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights; in: Metaphilosophy; Oxford/Malden: Blackwell: 474-480; here: 475)

Again, this leaves us with a very general plea for reason – and as such Habermas shows another time what he showed over a long time already: the individualist and voluntarist shift. At the end, Habermas’ earlier orientation along the lines of class struggle and class justice moved first to a general principle of discoursivity and ends – for the time being – at the point of an absolute idea. As such it is caught in the danger of

  • being squeezed between individual responsibility, the duty if emerging as good-doer (see Michaela Haas: Es geht nicht um viel. Es geht um alles. Die Rechnung ist ganz einfach: Wenn jeder von uns nur ein bisschen was beiträgt, ist die Weltarmut so gut wie beseitigt. Also: Was hindert uns daran?; in: 09.12.2011 SZ-Magazin|Magazin: 34-38),
  • disappearing in an abstract and idealist cloud, impossible to be controlled as it can claim its value from ‘pure reason’
  • emerging as a new Herrenmensch, pleading to individual politicians and countries to behave responsible, using the power for the suposed general interest.

Finally Habermas addresses the – in a contribution in the Blaetter fuer deutsche und internationale Politik

federal government that holds in conjunction with the German-French cooperation the key to European future and it has the responsibility for the date of Europe.

(Habermas, Juergen, 2011: Wie demokratisch ist die EU? Die Krise der Europaeischen Union im Licht einer Konstitutionalisierung des Voelkerrechts; in: Blaetter fuer deutsche und internationale Politik 8/2011: 37-48; here: 37)

It is only consequent, that we then find for instance the German Die Zeit drawing a parallel between Kant and Habermas as we learn from the article by Georg Diez. However, if something like it is suggested it is probably more reasonable to highlight the affinity between Habermas’ Euro-euphoria and Kant’s three works on reason rather than the latter’s work on ‘Perpetual Peace’.

Of course, we still find in Habermas’ writing the argument against instrumental reason, reading that

that power has slipped from the hands of the people and shifted to bodies of questionable democratic legitimacy, such as the European Council. Basically, he suggests, the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d’état.

(from the article by Diez)

But point of reference is now rationality as general pattern, independent of class struggles and differences in and contradictions between interests.

Consequently, there is some truth in the sentence that

the activists of the Occupy movement refuse to formulate even a single clear demand, [and] Habermas spells out precisely why he sees Europe as a project for civilization that must not be allowed to fail, and why the “global community” is not only feasible, but also necessary to reconcile democracy with capitalism.

However, the developments over the last years in general and in particular over the last days, culminating in Friday’s decision, clearly show that dreams do not offer a solution when it comes to a clash of interests.


So at least I have to admit for myself, being younger than Habermas and perhaps in some way still the same generation:

Europe is my project. It is the project of my generation.

I write this, trying to defend myself and also with some bitterness but not least with some energy aiming on maintaining it as my project – Europe, another Europe.

Coming back to the debate on sovereignty – and on Habermas – the difference and struggle between the perspectives on sovereignty and hegemony is currently focused around a potentially fatal trinity

  • finacialised utilitarianism and in tendency decoupling of the entire economy from actual use value
  • particularising individualism and isolationalism
  • strive for hegemony of this particularising force – taking the form of re-nationalisation and re-regionalisation, commonalisation, discoursation but also appearing in the form of governancisation, communitarianism, professionalism, functionalisation and formalisation.

This seems to be a vicious circle – the Faustian ‘vitalising circle’. We are, indeed, living in this society and we simply have to start from here – suggesting ‘but I would not start from here’ may said to be the saying in which the Habermasian plea for reason can be summarised. Working in academia and having worked on EU-issues for  some time, I lived sufficiently long moving within this trinity, trying to push for an alternative. It is about looking at a time of unsettling processes and debates; it is about moving on stages of dazzlement: areas of ‘good governance’ that emerge latest in hindsight as arrays of greasy ground, giving some security by golden chains [actually in hindsight it looks better than actually being on the battlefield]; it is about distraction from and artificialisation of needs and interests and it is about the isolation in alleged power positions. I still believe there is nothing wrong with the engagement in those democratic institutions to which I refer. On the contrary: today, these institutions are more important than ever. Entering into distractions by allowing laws of liquid modernity (Bauman) taking power over seems to be more dangerous than withdrawing from any engagement.

However, while moving on these stages one has to resist the temptation of looking for a new point of departure rather than starting from the existing point. And the given point of departure is a world that is not trinitarian, nor binary. However, we have to look for the real world and its contradictions. As much as words and ideas may shape the world, as much as issues that are located on the level of the superstructure play a role in shaping decisively the organic whole of social existence, we nevertheless cannot take this as an excuse for starting the analysis from there. It is still the real economy and the real political power-process that has to be point of reference. Such perspective does not allow us to stop at rejecting greed nor does it allow us to simply look for ‘better regulation’ alone. As important as such issues are we should take the current situation as challenge to thoroughly ask ‘What is the actual change of the productive forces and the mode of production?’

This means also that it is surely correct when the taz criticizes Angela Merkel in the weekend-edition (10/11.12.2011), stating

Evidently Merkle doesn’t think in a systemic way … . For her the problem the problem is located where it becomes manifest, visible.

Indeed, the problem is not about public deficits. However, the analysis provided by the taz (and by so many others) is not really looking at the fundamentals either. It is questionable

that it is a matter of the crisis of the banks/banking system. Dubious loans had been granted without restraint – be it to poor house builders in the USA, a venturer in Spain or careless credit institutions in Ireland. Public debt exploded only subsequent to this snowball effect.

This still sounds as if responsible and circumspect approaches on the finance markets and by the finance institutions (and the governments who failed regulating them) would have fundamentally changed the situation. To some extent only one should follow this. To a larger extent it is about the fundamental change of the system and a new circle of primitive accumulation or as for instance Harvey names it: of accumulation by dispossession. At least it is a point that allows to begin asking serious questions – and also looking for serious answers as it is now about about the process of relational appropriation, i.e. what (kind of) property is appropriate for what and who is and should be the owner.

It is my Europe – even this crisis-shaken Europe, apparently in danger of braking up – to the extent to which I have to admit: I failed thoroughly engaging in such debates that had been aiming on moving further, going beyond the given framework for reason as within this framework reason will barely move beyond technicist solutions, instrumental reason. – And the same is true for allowing academic debates drifting increasingly towards short-term orientations, engaging in bean-counting and finding administrative solutions for substantial questions.

And it is my Europe – and ‘my academia’ alike – to the extent to which I still refuse to engage in certain debates and/or to which I am ready to follow the stony path of resisting the search for simple answers to difficult questions and searching for a new varnish where a new grounding is needed. – No reason to look up, following the clouds in their move nor a reason to climb on up. looking for a spot from where one can look at the devastating fire. If Diez writes on Habermas

it should be mentioned that Habermas is no malcontent, no pessimist, no prophet of doom – he’s a virtually unshakable optimist, and this is what makes him such a rare phenomenon in Germany.

I may claim that I feel myself very much like that, even on the stony path of harsh and twisted way of reality rather than on the idealist way of an absolute idea of rationality.

And stating it this way it also a self-critique not only on the personal level. Also the left should critically look at what actually happened to the own analytical approaches. Orienting on practice – the practice of others and own practice does not mean looking at reality. Practice is only emerging as matter of reality to the extent to which it is able to develop a historical perspective.


What remains? It remains the evidence that rats show empathy – a series of experiments evidenced this.

Since Wolfgang Borchert’s short-story ‘Outside, in front of the door’ we may live with the reassurance that rats are asleep at night.

And the saddening fact, seemingly completely out of context that in a small town near Hamburg an association of owners of allotment gardens decide that only 12.6 of the owners may have a non-German background.

It may be that the latter is not really so much out of context – finally Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus had not just been ‘sitting and waiting’. He is also known as one of the most pronounced persecutors of Christians. So, we see in any case that there is surely no end of history; nor is there any reason to believe that the clash of civilisations, if it exists, really comes by accidental encounters of different faiths. It still is, as it always had been, about a clash of interests.

Before I stated the focus on a potentially fatal trinity

  • finacialised utilitarianism and in tendency decoupling of the entire economy from actual use value
  • particularising individualism and isolationalism
  • strive for hegemony of this particularising force – taking the form of re-nationalisation and re-regionalisation, commonalisation, discoursation but also appearing in the form of governancisation, communitarianism, professionalism, functionalisation and formalisation.

All these and other particularisations are in the better case a withdrawal from collective responsibility; in the worse case they are the justification of particularist interests which cannot mean anything else than the survival of the fittest …

At the end, we are not dealing with any of the trinities mentioned – at the end we have to define a clear alternative. Helmut Schmidt – in his writing on Ausser Dienst (‘Out of Office’) – contends in the last chapter that today individual rights are secured, however morals do not exist (anymore) and are actually questioned (from the last chapter of the audio-book-version). There is surely some truth in it. However, there is a fundamental catch. There will be hardly any relevant – appropriate – social moral as long as we do not achieve rights that are thoroughly understood as social rights. And this surely means not least a matter of looking to advance the process of relational appropriation. If this wants to evolve as real answer it has to go much beyond looking for questions in small spaces.

Protecting the Environment – Aerlingus and Lyons Tea join forces ;-(

But of course, it is an example only – details are important, and still: they could look different, ending in the same societal detail.

Reasonably late flight from Cork: 7:00 am, still, not too late for a cup of tea (sure, the cup is not really a cup but that is one of these details …). The air hostess puts it on the little table in front of the seat next to me (have my ‘three-seater’ privilege. I hand over the 2.60 Euro (of course, 2.60 – did anybody say aerlingus is a low-fare airline?) and say friendly, pointing on the milk,

I don’t need that.

She takes it back, saying

But I will leave this for you. There is a bag for the rubbish in it.

And she points on a tiny plastic bag, containing sugar (which I do not need), a spoon/knife combination (which I do not need as I do not use the sugar and because I want to drink the tea and it is indeed not so strong that I have to cut it), and finally it contains a plastic bag, the words printed on it, clearly stating what it is:


And it says also:


And finally it contains a little napkin. I actually have to use that, drying my face which is wet from the tears shed in the light of all this waste …

Sure, now one may ask: did I have to write this, contributing to the data waste, and even more immediately: contributing to destroying the environment by using precious electrical energy; running the computer, profiting from the WLAN (won’t tell you where I use it – it is free, meaning it does not cost me more than the price of a cup of coffee), by relying on one of the many servers ….

… and another time getting aware of the fact: nothing is really easy on this world. And that is why so many people leave it: HELLO! ???

We all have to put our hands-on. Only a question to get the right match.

And finding the right people – the right I said but I meant the correct, rather than the right ….