No fool like an old fool – or old age brings wisdom

Just reading again one of these trashy books – The Poverty of Philosophy, the answer Marx gave in 1847 to the Philosophy of Poverty by M. Proudhon. – Unfortunately some still didn’t understand it, though the old sentences are well worth to be remembered, e.g.

Those who, like Sismondi, wish to return to the true proportion of production, while preserving the present basis of society, are reactionary, since, to be consistent, they must also wish to bring back all the other conditions of industry of former times.

I had been made aware another time of the deep truth by having a look here – “Manchester today” (sorry, it is in German language, showing extrem exloitation in India)


The Old and the New – Eugene Onegin

The old and the new – Eugene Onegin

May be the arrangement yesterday at the Bavarian Stateopera had been occasionally a bit over the top – incidentally I talked the afternoon with Lorena and Sylvia about appropriateness and of course lawyer, music therapist and political-economist differed substantially in finding a common ground. Anyway, without any doubt an exciting performance. In particular Ekaterina Scherbachenko in the role of Tatjana, Alisa Kolosova as Olga and Pavol Breslik performing as Lenski had been outstanding. Would have liked seeing them when visiting Eugene Onegin in the Bolshoi.

Having enjoyed the evening so much (and also the afternoon, sitting in nice company in the sun, bit outside of Munich) three things came to my mind: the visit of the theatre performance of the piece with the same title, Franz Hamburger’s article in the recent Sozialextra and a remark Lorena made, mentioning the “the seven ages” and our brief discussion of the assumed Asian understanding: the perpetuation of certain ages, the repetition on a sequence of developmental stages.

The performance in the Berlin Schaubühne characterised so much the a piece more on Pushkin than on Eugen Onegin: decadence of a society in deterioration. And with this in such a sensitive way showing the interwovenness of individual decay and social debrauchery. If there is society or if there is no such thing, there are apparently people on a stage, Simon Schama writing about Rembrandt’s times, stating that

a ‘person’ in the seventheenth century meant a persona: a guise or a role assumed by an actor.

(Schama, Simon: Rembrandt’s Eyes: 8)

Franz writing in a refreshing way on questions of social work – from where it developed over the recent decades and where it is going. He argued sharply against the loss of character, norms and responsibility in the neo-feudal era, drawing a demarcation line against the ancient régime which he sees as still being guided by a kind of moral nobility, so to say the noble moral – the noblesse oblige.

But in the strict sense we may say that Onegin’s times had been surely feudalist, but nevertheless already coined by the germs of capitalism – the seventh age of feudalism, tentatively and somewhat endearingly merging with the first age of capitalism. Surely a questionable merger, the fathers of the new system applying the Machesterian whip, the mothers ready protecting at least part if the off-spring, and the children – those who are downtrodden and those who are breastfed alike – in different ways opposing. But importantly, we are dealing with the worldliness – already to be found in chapter 4 of the Galatians:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.Social work, social policy, community work – different names, different faces and still so many things in common. The most important surely that the roots can in a twofold way be found in the very same revolution which GEBAR capitalism – and it could logically be not find any other fertile ground. And with this the ground and fruit  could only be individualism and idealism and perverse reason with its claim of morality.


a child was born

and this, according to Romans 6.18, meant also that we

have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

But exactly this made us being caught in the old story from Sezuan (NB unforgettable the performance of Therese Giese, history, the privilege of being somewhat elderly): the good-doer, often the wife of  him who makes causes disintegration; the entrepreneurs’ wife who stepped in, glazing the ground that had been stirred up and left behind by the undertaker who didn’t even briefly blinked the eyebrow; the apparent good fighting against the apparent bad, allowing exceptions on both sides, but being caught by the fact that the gods are looking for the good in society, however overlooking the crucial fact that there is no such thing as society.

There is only the perfidious self-reflexivity of repeated perversion, elevating the latter on a higher stage of development on a new age, emerging as a new moral and a new rationality. It is this the pure reason – not the one Kant had in mind, and nevertheless the one Kant had been talking about: to the extent to which he suggested such pure reason as something being based in form rather than matter, it could not be anything else than the pure rationality of the system within which it developed.

– Allowing Tatjana to speak

Nyet! Nyet!

Proshlovo ne vorotit!

Ya otdana tepyer drugomu,

Moya sudba uzh reshena,

Ya budu vyek yemu verna.*

As said in the beginning, may be the arrangement yesterday at the Bavarian Statepera had been occasionally a bit over the top. But perhaps it was not. Perhaps it had been just the visualisation, the provocation of something that seems to be hidden. Bringing to the fore what is hidden and allows so many of us to believe in contemplation, to hope for a beetter world without changing it. There cannot be any Aristotle today. And thinking properly, it is easily getting clear that hope is gonethe very same moment when paradise had been lost. And it is equally clear that only practice will allow changing the world: practice as pure, substantial rationality, replacing pure reason.


– It is about 10:35 p.m., though I am still in the whirl of Tchaikovsky’s music and his and Schilossky’s lyrics (follwoing Pushkin, of course), I briefly pass the shop where I know I can connect the phone to the Internet while standing in front of the window – sending a mail I wrote earlier to Juhani, briefly replying to Brona; also seeing a message from the Bavarian Stateopera – telling me that others followed Eugene Onegin on the internet, praised it. On the way to the train station I send a reply to a text message I received from Nuria – my thoughts wonder from Munich to Catalonia. Arriving at the station, I check the platform, get nice espresso as nightcap …. – 11:25 p.m. Time to embark: train 463, Munich to Budapest, the bed is ready, I undress …, just turn around …: but it is not the time to sleep, somebody knocks at the door, knocks sharply again, not leaving a choice; I unlock the door, see something blue in front of my eyes and hear the voice, saying, in English language

German police, your passport.

– the identity card of the guard is back in his pocket. With one hand he reaches out to me, the other hand glides into his pocekt, following the pure reason, not having a choice, nor leaving a choice …


* No, no!

The past cannot be brought back to presence!

Given to somebody else,

My fate is sealed:

And I will be his forever!

Possibilities Thrown Away

The development of the means of production would allow, the mode of production does suspend …

Spare the hand that grinds the corn, Oh, miller girls, and softly sleep. Let Chanticleer announce the morn in vain! Deo has commanded the work of the girls to be done by the Nymphs, and now they skip lightly over the wheels, so that the shaken axles revolve with their spokes and pull round the load of the revolving stones. Let us live the life of our fathers, and let us rest from work and enjoy the gifts that the Goddess sends us.

(Antipatros Sidonios, 2nd century BC)

(Taken from Karl Marx, Capital, volume I)

Rosa Luxemburg – how wheelchairs indicate that she was right

Sure, there are good reasons for privatisation of elements of economic processes – at least if we trust the advocates of the respective measures.

Now, leaving the serious central debate and its macro-perspective aside one came to my mind when I went to the grocer’s shop. But what do I say, really ‘grocer’s shop’? In actual fact, there are few real grocer’s shops left. What we may find is highly specialised shops: the ones of butchers, bakers or also those selling fruit …; and the others are not really selling foodstuff as the original term suggests. They are selling nearly everything. So I went to one of them – by the way it may be of some interest (or interest to some) that the owner had been recently crowned as one of the ten richest people in Germany – ah, no its is not the one of which every little helps. It is the one who ALl DIstributes well into the own pocket.

Anyway, most of these grocer’s shops have now a wide range of products which can be bought without showing the immediate link to groceries. The most recent offer:


Now, it surely would be unfair to say that the foodstuff they sell is such crap that eating it causes such health deterioration that it leads to its use.

It is more concerned with another dimension of the term grocer’s shop. Originally – looking at the so-called good old times – the term named shops where one could buy items that had came to these European countries from the colonies. Sure, Ireland had been itself a colony – but the Irish people had been forced to forget their language, adopt the language of the colonialiser and with this the hegemonic thinking as for instance carried about with maintaining names like the one of these shops.

But stop, what has a wheelchair to do with a product brought over from the colonies. And, of course, colonialism is by and large a thing of the past, isn’t it?

Sure, by and large it is. But now we can turn to Rosa, and in particular her writing on ‘The Accumulation of Capital’. She emphasises that capitalism depends on the exploitation of non-capitalist resources. Her approach is fundamentally different if compared with the Habermasian thesis of colonialisation of life world by system world. Whereas Habermas remains methodologically unclear between institutionalist analysis and proposing a ‘voluntarist opt-out’, emerging – in a quasi-institutionalist manner – from the logic of language, Luxemburg starts from a perspective of actors, emphasising the different interests as they emerge from the requirement of the capital accumulation itself. She draws attention on the work of Karl Marx, highlighting

the dialectical conflict that capitalism needs non-capitalist social organisations as the setting for development, that it proceeds by assimilating the very conditions which alone can ensure its own existence.

(Luxemburg, Rosa, 1913: The Accumulation of Capital. Translated from the German by Agnes Schwarzschild. With an Introduction by Joan Robinson; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,1951: 366 – see also the contribution Peter Herrmann/Hurriyet Babacan, forthcoming: The State as Mechanism of Exclusion – Nationhood, Citizenship, Ethnicity [working title]; in: Babacan/Herrmann [eds.], forthcoming: Nation State and Enthic Diversity; New York: Nova)

This had been frequently also termed ‘inner colonialisation’ – and there we are with our grocer’s shop. This goes, obviously, much beyond or better: a different way than being a matter of concentration and centralisation of capital. Luxemburg had been looking on a different level at things. Namely she had been concerned with the very process of accumulation of capital; and as such it had not least been a matter of sucking an increasing number of areas into this process: capitalisation as a core moment already outlined in depth by Karl Marx, gains in Rosa Luxemburg’s work an additional component. The capturing of ‘the entire life’ as matter that is not simply subordinated under the laws of capitalist production. Of course, All DIhese wheelchairs are not really showing anything new. They only make so very obvious the fact that everything …., no, not commodified. As true and important as this is, we are now talking about a different stance: everything is part of the productive process, here the production and reproduction of the workforce. Admittedly this is in someway an oversimplification – as may wheelchair users will not be part of or return into the productive system. Sure, many could but we won’t look at this now. Of interest is another point. The normality and centrality of health issues, treatment and remedies of different kind. Let us be honest, there is nothing wrong with it at first instance: We live longer. And we live a liveable, reasonably comfortable life even under conditions which did not allow anything like that in ‘the good old times’. However, there is another dimension to it: the technological and commodity dimension taking over and the social side being only and at most accompanying. As much as this allows professional help, it allows something else – and this is the central point here: the inclusion of the reproductive sphere – and the production of the labour power as immediate concern of the process of production. It is not a matter of ‘delivering’ the workforce but the production of workforce itself is immediate and increasingly central to the process of accumulation of capital. This difference seems to be small, at first glance even difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, it is an important one.

Much could and should be said – but working in education, i.e. a university that claims proudly to be ‘modern’ – there is one area of special interest – especially as this sector of production is in an awful state. And apologies are hopefully accepted for my cynicism. I propose to exploit the possibilities of bringing social work education even closer into the accumulation process. Tiny measures may have huge effects. Imagine, every social worker gets with his/her MA-certification …, let us say 5 “social work cases” for the first three years after the training. This should be a sufficient number to allow the social worker to develop his/her own ‘workshop’ where a pool of new raw material for permanent and enhanced accumulation can take place. Of course, the attentive reader will be well aware: raw material that is needed for social workers for ongoing accumulation are for instance poor people, drug addicts, battered and raped women as well as abused children, criminals (imagine, the latter two are produced in one act: the victims and the perpetrators) … – and aren’t all these and many more produced in an increasing number?

There seems one problem left unresolved so far: times of crisis lead to an increased number of ‘cases’ for social workers. At the same time, as much of the social work is financed by the state there develops a bottleneck as the state, due to unemployment and decreasing tax intake (logically, due to further decreasing tax income due to a lower sum of wages and firms that run bust, and increasing tax evasion*) is not in a position to answer the need. But an answer exists: making social work again more explicitly what it once had been: part of the system that produces and maintains capitalist work force. I know that this is not and had never been the full story. But we can now make it the full story. As said, give social workers with the MA-certificate some raw material to build up thair own business

– Let us face it, seriously: for many, the way out of the miserable state of Third Sector Education is a kind of prostitution, worse than it had ever been before. Worse, as it is now a mass-phenomenon and a matter of institutional prostitution rather than a matter of individual prostitutes.

I may add an additional business idea – for those social workers who are advanced then: enter an arrangement with Al DIese shops: they may even produce the raw material for you … –

You don’t believe it? Coming back to the shopping experience of the Sunday (I only arrived back the other evening, being welcomed by an empty fridge): the cashier seemed to be a nice person, to be honest I had been at some stages caught by her friendliness. May be that the slight Polish accent contributed to it …, but be it as it is, the way she greeted the guy in front of me, the way she said the amount to pay, looking up to him, the way of taking the money, returning the change … . When he left I had been busy get my stuff ready and getting myself ready for the high-speed scan and pack game. Now, my turn: I politely answered the kind

“How are you?”

I replied

– “Great day, isn’t it – even if people like us are working.”

I didn’t say that I just left the office, and would have to continue working at home. Instead I had been busy to get the stuff packed. “19.43” she smiled at me. I had been wondering how she could be so consistently friendly even if I had been …, well there had been something in the undertone. After finishing business, after I heard her saying “Have a nice evening”, I wanted to say something nice too, just like: “Have a nice evening too – it is nearly closing time.” But I couldn’t. She turned already to the next customer:

“How are you?”

she said it with the slight tiredness, the plaintiveness that allowed to carry on …, for some time, until she would not be able anymore to sell, until she would finally be sold … – or sell herself to a Social Worker Ltd.


I recently read an interview, somebody mentioning that Rosa Luxemburg had been killed on grounds of her ideas, her critical judgment. And the interviewer, comparing the interviewee with her, said: Today there are still fights, serious disputes – but nobody would be killed for not following the mainstream ideas. Let’s hope that it is true. At least it is true that critical thinking, thinking that is aiming on really questioning the foundations of the world we live in, will not arrive in such a comfort who believe in the good rather than analyse the bad. It is the captivating silencing of a creeping process, killing us softly.


* other factors could be added

in a nutshell …

About 24 hours ago: The day’s end nearing – I mean the end of the working day in the strict sense. Looking at the “official part”, it had been actually a short day only: about 6 hours meeting of attac’s scientific council, working on this very simple question:

How to change the world.

Measuring the length of the working day in this way, I disregard the correction and commenting on students’ papers before going to the venue – they are understandably anxious, facing the submission date coming up soon. Looking at the other mails received the morning and quickly answering what is necessary. And looking at the working time, I do not include the time after the meeting – the same old story: mails … – one only that really deserves special mention, congratulating me to my new job as postman, and asking

But where is the social?

Surely such a simple question in some way, and I like the proposal that is entailed in the question

Did anyone ever make a study comparing personal contacts over a week in 2012 to 1982?

It reminds me at the fact that Goethe supposedly wrote letters …, to his neighbour next door – imagine: writing letters to somebody who lives next door rather than walking the few steps there: writing, every single word thought through, thoroughly considered …, and possibly changed. And the latter meant at the time: beginning afresh – paper does ot have the simple delete option ….

After all these things that emplyed me during the day I go for a short walk, the monument of the previous day – the one in front of the German Parliament needs to be complemented. Sure, it would be most apporpriate, here in Frankfurt, to go to the Paulskirche; instead I go to a meeting I have later at the Willy–Brandt–Platz, not least as I am actually somewhat obsessed by the search for the new music I mentioned, still resisting the idea of being an iron postman.

Instead of standing in front of the famous church, I face the monumental building of the ECB, the big Euro-logo did not fade away by the recent developments, though it is accompanied by another …, well, not a logo but a camp, dwarfing if seen against the height of the ECB-high raiser, even more dwarfing in the suggested light of the reflecting glass of the two other towers with the logo of the Commerzbank. Probably one of them belonged earlier to the Dresdener Bank, the two of the large cartel of the small group of major banks in Germany merged since sometime already, moving even more to a superpower. Themselves also ‘bailed out’ at one stage, all the members of this cartel are now bailing out, like vampires sucking the blood out of what is called PIGS: Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (“oink oink” said the little pig that had not been named here, dressed himself in green and tried to hide). – Of course, vampires are not pigs, they are …. vampires. And the force of a Vampire’s Kiss may be alluring at first sight, unveiling the deadly smell only after its dazing force.


Recently I saw a photo, capturing three manager-like lads, dressed in their pinstripe suit, though walking in a somewhat military style. Somebody, posting this photo, asked: “What do they think? Can they still sleep at night? How do they explain their job when they come home to their kids in the evening? How do they think and speak about the fact that they are responsible for literally destroying the existence humans?”

For me, slowly crossing the camp, talking to some of the indignados, listening to the music gushing out of one of the tents, another question is germinating: what do these people think: those coming pinstripe-suited out of the office buildings of Frankfurt’s City, walking across the path that is cutting through the camp? Do they actually feel like humans. And doesn’t feeling like a human mean – under these conditions – to feel like a machine? Being trapped in the self–braided spider web. To paraphrase Ernst Bloch we can point on the fact that capitalism makes sick – and it makes even the capitalists sick (and surely some horded enough money to tur sickness inyto suicide)

In a nutshell all the topics we had been discussing earlier during the day’s meeting: Greece, the role of the banks, the danger of a war zone developing, spanning from Afghanistan to the states of the north of Africa – not a war by way of a regional or local conflict, but a possible new epic centre of a world conflict. … And most importantly the fact that we are not at all dealing with nation states and corporate actors in the strict sense. As much as they are that, they are even more roles, function within a system, or as Marx states in the first volume of Capital (in chapter 10, section 5)

looking at things as a whole, all this does not, indeed, depend on the good or ill will of the individual capitalist

This does not at all allow exculpation, it does in no way suggest the rejection of the urgent need for individuals to accept personal responsibility. However, it is very much a reason to try getting things right, seeing them in their complex relationships.

There is a general theme, underlying and accompanying all other issued we had been discussing during the short-ish 6 hour meeting earlier the day: The new division of the world, seemingly one between national and regional power blocks, striving for and defending their role of being a centre or being close to the centre, one of the centre-peripheries rather than peripheral-peripheries – I elaborated on the different layers of centre-periphery when revisiting globalisation [see Globalisation revisited; Society and Economy; Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 32(2010)/2: 255-275, also Globalization Revisited; in: Andreosso, Bernadette/Herrmann, Peter (eds.): The Transformation of Asia in a Global Changing Environment; New York: Nova Science, in print]. And it is actually a new division of the world in terms of determining an entirely new mode of production – redefining and reshuffling it’s elementary segments and timespace (by the way, something that is also mentioned especially in Paul’s contributions in the book “All the Same – All Beging new“).


My thoughts return to the e–mails, to students’ work – I know I am reasonably demanding, at least trying to challenge their thinking, going beyond description, taking an analytical perspective without neglecting the need to give answers – acknowledging the need for immediate change. Fernand Braudel comes to my mind, the interweaving of the three different perspectives of and on history. And the need to act – if we want to start from here or not, we surely do not have a choice. Sure

Men make their own history

Having stated this, Marx continued in his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte from 1851/52

but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.


The magic sound, the social not disappearing: drums from the occupy–camp, the chime of a tram … – after a moment silence, accompanied by people chatting with each other, the sound of the flute …, a magic flute, melodising about being captured and capturing, being occupied and occupying ….
… a seemingly never ending play – and of course, we still know from the last post – and from Schiller’s letters that it

is play which makes man complete

Train – flight – another train. More magic sounds: languages coming to me which I know, though even the English, German, French …., they sound odd, alien at times, when emerging as individual ‘cases’ within an environment to which they actually are alien. They may even sound alien to me if I am at a very particular moment not “thinking in them”. And languages which I do not understand – though sounding so familiar – queuing in the middle of a group of tourists, speaking the very same dialect as I know it from my stay in Taipei: I have to stop myself listening to what I cannot understand and turning around to one of them, speaking what I cannot speak.

Finally, St Patricks Day …, I turn the key, open the office door: I returned to the place called home – home as I can walk without a ticket, without the suitcase … . When I left for the recent journey, a little bit more than a week ago, Seamus, the taxi driver, asked me how I would like Ireland – all the travelling and then living here?

At least more relaxed he, isn’t it? Easy going, just taking life easy?

I nod, affirmatively


And I am thinking that this beautiful Ireland often makes me feeling so far away from anything like home with it irremovable stubbornness of acceptance of the loss of the postman, even chasing him away, while aiming being major participant in the rat race, aiming on taking part in a centre which, long ago, lost any right to claim being paradise. Paradise is lost, indeed.

Still, it is not the loss of the social – it is testing the resilience – re-silencing the different elements of this complex system of society of which Niklas Luhman once said that it is impossible, at least extremely unlikely to happen. But the turn we are facing, is a re-turn. A matter of finding a new balance, new ways of appropriating the environment and ourselves in it. Making sense and making thing “owned by us”, developing power: control-abilities. And with all this finding out who much we really need to control others to control ourselves. And, on the other hand, how much we can control ourselves to emerge as a new social power: new way of dealing with the huge potentials, the abilities which can so easily be developed further, multiplied if they are not used as matter of countering abilities. Surely also a matter of fostering …. – well, as small success, reading the mail of student

my brain usually doesn’t go so deep!!!

Good to see that I made it doing so – and hopefully it is not the last time – in any case: it is just the social …, here it is.

The Iron Lady and the Postman

Well, many of us complained at the time: The Iron Lady Margret Thatcher reflecting in an interview for Women’s Own that

there is no such thing as society.

There are surely different ways to look at this statement. And one perspctive came to me the other day, something of a deeper meaning getting entirely hold of me, something demonic.

So, what happened? Well, I finally got a new job: A job as postmaster. Yes, I worked the first day in “my own post office”. A green machine standing in the Student Centre at UCC. Three steps: 1) weighing the letter and saying what it actually is: a letter, a large envelope, a parcel …, 2) then choosing where it should go: country of destination. Then 3): buy a stamp (and if applicable: add airmail sticker). I completed the three steps successfully and said goodbye to the postman, looked around (checking if somebody would observe me but there had not been anybody, really – just some people holding the paper under the arm, making phone calls while walking with others through the hall …, just society around me). Feeling safe, I nodded kindly at the postman, i.e. myself: “Very kind of you …” I walked away, thinking about the next possible step: I take the letter with me the next time I travel … – and at that time it meant that I would soon travel again: I booked the flight on the internet, checked in already (leaving soon enough), booked online the train ticket for the next leg of the trip … No, at least up to now nobody stood at the door of any aircraft, handing em over the key: “you know where to go, don’t you? …, and most of it is autopilot anyway …

It is not really the technical side which I see as decisive. It is a different point: the perversion of freedom by welding it with individualism as it is in part grounded in the enlightenment.

We easily forget this side of enlightenment: it aimed on establishing the individual – and its civil society – as counteracting the feudal “state”. The goal: establishing the free individual. And as such it is actually an issue standing at the very outset of modernity – surely gaining the upper hand and not being the only option of historical development, but also surely nothing that comes as a surprise. And if we look at this development a little bit closer, we can clearly see that we may also gain an explanation for the fact that many of the complains frequently return on the agenda, though they may take different expressions – the same statements brought forward in different wordings: Goethe’s Sorrows of the Young Werther; Schiller’s Letters upon the Æsthetic Education of Man or Rousseaus social romanticism as for instance expressed in his Emile.

Part of the core standing behind the perceived and expressed loss – and the often implied longing to some form of suggested natural order – is surely the simple matter that the world seems to be entirely commodified.

However, much of today’s critique concerning the over-commodification, the alienation of consumer society sounds idealist-Aristotelean insofar as it presumes a pre-economic approach to value. Marx, in the first volume of The Capital, engaged on this topic, acknowledging:

In the first place, he (Aristotle) clearly enunciates that the money form of commodities is only the further development of the simple form of value – i.e., of the expression of the value of one commodity in some other commodity taken at random

(Marx, The Capital: Chapter 1.3)

And he quotes Aristotle – we read:

“Exchange,” he says, “cannot take place without equality, and equality not without commensurability”

But then he importantly opines:

Aristotle therefore, himself, tells us what barred the way to his further analysis; it was the absence of any concept of value. What is that equal something, that common substance, which admits of the value of the beds being expressed by a house? Such a thing, in truth, cannot exist, says Aristotle. And why not? Compared with the beds, the house does represent something equal to them, in so far as it represents what is really equal, both in the beds and the house. And that is – human labour.

With this we arrive, indeed, at what is in present context the core of the matter in question: a certain factuality of the loss of society. It is the paradox, emerging as de-valuation of actual labour by establishing under the new conditions a separate, distinct value, seemingly outside of, external to the seedbed for which it germinates. This paradox of the the manifestation of the fundamental split between the different dimensions of human activity is expressed by the frequent emphasis within Marxist theory of the distinction between use value and exchange value and already the difference between labour and work on which Engels adds in a footnote in the first chapter of The Capital

The English language has the advantage of possessing different words for the two aspects of labour here considered. The labour which creates use value, and counts qualitatively, is Work, as distinguished from Labour, that which creates Value and counts quantitatively, is Labour as distinguished from Work.

So we may go today a step further than Engels did when he suggested in his work on the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State a distinction of “the production and reproduction of the immediate essentials of life”. He opined

On the one side, the production of the means of existence, of articles of food and clothing, dwellings, and of the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of the human beings themselves, the propagation of the species.

And we may add, increasingly today, a third dimension to it: the production and industry of conscience and appearance, including the production of apparent values, manifested in un-founded money, capital that exists (so it seems) only by flotation as its very process. The essence of meaninglessness.

This paradox, which is very fundamental to capitalism in general, is today furthered to the extent to which we arrive at a stage where social labour apparently does not – or increasingly does factually not – need the technical dimension of combining with other labour, i.e. labour of others. It is combined in the unitarian act of a relationship between man and machine. And with the fetishisation of the machines it appears as the relationship between the human being to her/himself. Self-reflexivity in extenso. The Hegelian absolute idea perverted to the absolute self, being able to claim god-likeness. The complex relationality, defined by the dimensions of

  • relating to oneself – the identity in the narrow, self-reflexive sense
  • relating to the ‘general other’, unspecified as other person
  • relating to the specific other, specified as person belonging to a certain class or ‘socially relevant ‘ group
  • relating – definitely not least – to the ‘external’, ‘organic’ nature

(see e.g. Herrmann, Peter, forthcoming: Social State – Welfare State and then? Where to Move from the Welfare State? – A Cooperative State on Sustainable Sociability as Perspective for Innovation) is now entailed in one single inter-act: that between the individual and the machine. But what is more, by this new virtu-re-ality time is equally repealed. It culminates in the one act and – apparently at least – gives us the feeling of having power, the control over time in the here and now. What is wrong with it? The simple fact that the existence determines the consciousness as we know fro the Preface to Karl Marx’ Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

And as such it is twice caught in a trap: By the fact that the existence is a wrong one, one of illusion. And then by the fact that the wrongness of the consciousness actually comes to the fore latest when it is confronted with the real existence: the fact that we lost not only control over the reality – in space and time – but that in addition we lost potentially the power to change it: to total individual that has lost power over society to the extent to which s/he married it with the alienated act of work.

The matter’s roots can be found long time ago – and are from the beginning of their germination deeply ingrained in the entirety of modern societality, interpenetrating societal, social and individual development. And as such they are closely linked to a ‘positivation’ of existence, as such a matter of solidified reification, development of accountability and thus freedom – the freedom as outlined in the various definitions as for instance given by Schiller in the letters mentioned above, or to take another example: by Spinoza. In his understanding freedom is not least a matter of reaching out to the substance of things in question

Per substantiam intelligo id, quod in se est, & per se concipitur: hoc est id, cujus conceptus non indiget conceptu alterius rei, a quo formari debeat.*

(Spinoza, Baruch, 1677: Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata. et in Quinque Partes Distincta)

In abstract terms, this is surely also linked to the definition of freedom S spelled out by Frederick Engels:

Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development.

(Engels, Frederick, 1894: Anti-Dühring. Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science; in: Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works. Volume 25: Frederick Engels: Anti-Dühring. Dialectis of Nature; London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1987: 1-309; here: 106)

But it turns out to be a double-edged sword as the price to be paid should not be overlooked.We see at the same time the attempt of a fundamental separation within the process of thought.

The untamable organic processes and the linked magic of the renaissance are left to adventurers. The matter of the industrious bourgeois, emerging from craftsmanship, who requires a rational enterprise, is the manufacture. So we can state in very general terms: Economic and scientific progress are in the realm of crafts-related technology linked to the technology in manufacturing. Only when on the foundation of such crafts-related technology the real enterprise could be established, mechanisation of the entire process of production cold be established. And only when mechanisation, excluding the main natural forces, interpenetrated industry, we find the space for subordinating the natural forces under the human will: scientifically and economically.

(Borkenau, Franz: Der Übergang vom feudalen zum bürgerlichen Weltbild; Paris: Libraire Félix Also, 1934: 9)

It is not least the individual now gaining a new position as now, looking at the human being it

is play which makes man complete

as Schiller says in the XVth of his letters.

However, this freedom, the possibility of playfulness is immediately strangulated: to the extent to which the means of production are in the private hands of individuals, we find the development of a society that actually does not exist – and in this sense there is, indeed, no such thing as society. Instead there is a society that is made up of individuals.

Of course, a complex issue as we are, for instance, still dealing with class individuals. And of course, it is a complex issue as being class individual means also today the property bound control over the means of production. But it is also a complex matter as importantly the current development of the means of production allows at least on the level of establishing individualism as ground pattern – the inescapable and permanent reference of the self to himself.

But here we arrive at a further paradox, the emergence of an anthropological stance of this modernity which permanently mystifies the present existence, the existence in the presence which is shifted into eternality. In a lecture about “Men in a Civilised World” Herbert Marcuse highlighted 5 points, still highly relevant for today – points that did not loose anything of their validity by the fact that we are supposedly living in a secularised world. These are

  • seeing life as tribulation – we first have to earn it by labouring
  • suggesting the better life as gratification
  • supposing life as battle, as effort to survive, pleasure being a matter of organisational principle – this actually translates into striving for productivity in favour of “society”
  • nevertheless, leaving the “refined values”, contemplation for something that exists outside of daily existence: during leisure time after work, at weekends
  • and not least as matter of the afterlife, where spirit and soul unite and finally – Dante in his Divine Comedy so eloquently writes about the painful way to be gone before we arrive – we reach supposed “real life”, the ultimate … self in the other, in god which is nothing else than the ultimate loss of self as we finally and definitely giving up the very core of human existence: its social character.

But apparently we can get there before now, earlier and still in the here and now: The apparent production of the self by her/himself and the inescapable life in a world of appearance. – The right we have now, reaching a paradox again, seems to be the right to determine our self, the right of independence, the right to play. But actually these rights to freedom are now nothing else than the negative rights of being protected against being entirely, physically swallowed by the machine, similar to the rights Georg Jellinek talked about when – in his Contribution to the History of Modern Constitutional Law, writing about The Declaration of Human and Citizen’s Rights – looked at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century at these rights as matter of protection against the state: negative in this sense – a matter of protection, not of production – a board game: seemingly overboarding, factually following the board that determining the rules, leaving the many to string puppets. All sounds of the symphonic play centred on production, on economy – but it is not the sound that determines the existence, it is still the real life – and it is not the need to compose different songs, but the need for an entirely different music.

Hello Mr postman


As said In the beginning, I would be travelling soon – in the meantime I did. All working perfect – with e-bookings of tickets and e-check-ins. All made even easier by the fidelity cards of the different airlines, railways and hotels, which nowadays replace the fidelity-smile between Grainne at the travel agency and me, fidelity-wink by Paul … And I still am travelling – the only that actually nearly went wrong …, well the other day I looked on the ticket, saw the ten and thought I have so much time before the train leaves … – and fortunately I looked a bit later again, finding out that that ten stood for the date, the actual time had been 8:05 and all this happened at 7:58, without setting timer and alarm-clock things happen, of course.

Half-time which brought me to Berlin. I leave the train at central station, walk from there, being overtaken by a young women, from somewhere in Asia. While walking she takes the camera out of the bag, Just after she passed me, she stops, takes a photo: the Reichstag – a brief stop only, and soon she moves on, takes another photo and walks quickly towards the Brandenburger Tor. Tourists – individuals and groups … . I interrupt my walk before moving into the central quarters of the self-appointed new German Empire. A small, plain monument, erected to remind us of the individuals who had been killed by the fascist regime, reminding us of what happened between 1933 and 1945. Something that had its roots in the irresponsible individuals and an individualism – seemingly collectivist, but …, yes lacking the negative rights of being protected against being entirely, physically swallowed in the concentration camps. In front of the building of the German Parliament moment of silence for me – remembering those individuals who lived as personalities, being well aware of the relations in and by and for which they developed.

… – I have to move on now, have to go into the building, being swallowed by a small group of people, who apparently came from a meeting in another part of the complex of government buildings around.


*Translation: By substance I mean something that is in itself and that is conceived through itself, in other words something of which a conception can be formed independently of another conception.