Perspectives

Having ended the recent section with looking at everyday’s culture of a migrant in Budapest – multi-expat, belonging to a multi-diaspora and being in some way home, settled in any multi-cultural setting, being multi-cultural, it is time now to return to the ‘classical occurrences’ of multiculturalism. Finally, as much as all these paintings and other products of arts had been heavily coined by national developments and traditions, they had been equally part of a permanent exchange of elites, an emerging and altering hegemonic system. This, at the very end, does not mean anything else than the exploration of spaces, timespaces and spacetime. As said on another occasion, Peter Paul Rubens surely had been a master of the art of space – and perhaps the development of consciously capturing space, the conscious delving into and use of space makes some of the pictures attractive.

The Drunken Hercules himself is surely not somebody who is attractive by flaunting beauty, not even of balance – so different to Donatello’s David – we looked at the young man before. Looking at Rubens’ work we see on the contrary: the ‘personification of imbalance’. First it is a matter of the depiction itself: a heavy man, in this case nearly a contradiction in terms as his weight does not only not translate to strength but what we see is actually the contrary: weak from drunkenness. To some extent it is probably this contradiction that stands behind the attraction: the strong, moreover the incarnation of strength per se is suddenly completely weakened – torn between concrete evil of the worldly evil of allurement on the one side and the general evil on the other side. It is, however, not simply a coexistence of the three forces, but their presentation in space: the secular, the temporary decay, being drawn into the depth of eternal decay. And paradoxically this eternal abyss is actually positioned on a higher level, outshines even the god. Isn’t the question obvious that Rubens confronts us with a very fundamental question, one that is frequently asked today again, and that is concerned with the god, the good and the evil? Put in other words: the question if and to which extent we can trust a ‘pure’ good? Any god: the god of strength, the one of pure reason, or that of pure wealth is easily victim of the seduction by mundane cravings.

And actually this is very much an important point of dispute already at the time – as it seems to be a point that tears the different actors apart, be it the economic agent, the politicians in the economic field in the area and those who are involved as academics. And although we may go as far back as to the rebuke of chrematiske by Aristotle, the real contentious issue emerges with capitalism and the emergence of the pure commodity form, separating use and exchange value. Aristotle could still claim with some justification that money-making is too unimportant to look at in any depth. He talks in his part XI of the first book of Politics (written in 350 B.C.E.) of ‘wealth-getting’:

Of the other, which consists in exchange, the first and most important division is commerce (of which there are three kinds – the provision of a ship, the conveyance of goods, exposure for sale – these again differing as they are safer or more profitable), the second is usury, the third, service for hire – of this, one kind is employed in the mechanical arts, the other in unskilled and bodily labor.

And then he concludes that

a minute consideration of them might be useful in practice, but it would be tiresome to dwell upon them at greater length now.

For Aristotle the consideration of and hope for moral and intellectual virtues, namely

  1. prudence, justice, fortitude, courage, liberality, magnificence, magnanimity, temperance and
  2. justice, perseverance, empathy, integrity, intellectual courage, confidence in reason, autonomy

had been sufficient. And he could actually even be confident about this although Sophocles lamented already much earlier

‘Money! Nothing worse in our lives, so current, rampant, so corrupting. Money – you demolish cities, rot men from their homes, you train and twist good minds and set them on to the most atrocious schemes. No limit, you make them adept at every kind of outrage, every godless crime – money.’

At that time, the bonum commune, as outlined by Thomas of Aquino in his Summa, had been still reasnably dominant:

Firmiter nihil constat per rationem practicam, nisi per ordinationem ad ultimum finem, qui est bonum commune. Quod autem hoc modo ratione constat, legis rationem habet.

With capitalism, however, the pure money-making had not only be a matter of permanent presence – one might say a matter of a modern Cattulusian odi et amo – the classical verses reading

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.

I hate and I love. How could I do this, perhaps you ask?I do not know, but I feel it happening, and I am tortured.

Moreover it had now been a fundamentally justified, structurally firmly anchored feature of the modern capitalist system.

The greatest happiness of all as matter of utilitarianism, though utilities could be also non-material, ‘social’ matters too. But utilities had been part of the exchange system, not of the productive system: the production of use value. And furthermore, it is consequentally very much an essential, an elementary aspect of the entire hegemonic system. Stating this aims also on developing a clear understanding of what hegemony actually is and also aiming on developing the conceptualisation a little bt further – though in a brief note only.

* Probably it is fair to say that he light, as we defined it as point of departure, did not really need to issue this: obviously light and shadow belonged to each other – and as long as this had been an ‘accepted’ natural order, there had not been any reason to reflect on the order of things: it had been a given order. Basis equalled superstructure and vice versa. This can be clearly seen in the political-economic structure. The political sphere seemed to be dominant, the economic sphere had been very much the sphere that reflected immediately, actually equalled the moral sphere – as said, Sophocles’ lament about this

nothing worse in our lives, so current, rampant, so corrupting

apparently issued  something that was widely seen as breach, not even a perversion – doesn’t the latter always suggest a strong persisting link to ‘normality’, even a firm normality itself?

Although the following painting School of Athens is from a much later era – a work by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, widely known as Raphael from 1509/10 – it nicely depicts the meaning of such social harmony, presenting the Greek scholars.

In support of this harmony we find two technical features – frequently to be found in other works by the artist:

* The arc as stylistic element allows a presentation of coherence and makes sure that the perspective does not open into an entirely open space of social unrest: Anthropocentrism complements the view of the Ptolemaic System, both expression of a supposed guaranteed, since god-given social order.

* The importance of blocking the escape route in this way is not least necessary as depicting the perspective is based on a rather simple principle which goes apparently back to Giotto di Bondone – living still during the Middle Ages he can surely be considered to be an avantgardist who levelled the ground for the Renaissance. One important moment of this levelling the ground has to be seen in the opening up of perspective. The means for this had been very much a matter of arithmetic’s.

A very simple visualisation of the principle can be shown in a sober graphical presentation.

With these two elements we find a very simple opening up of space – and at the same time its allotment: the definition of borders. Within this framework the next elements for defining space can be found:

  • the centring: the two individuals in the middle, under the highest archway
  • the strict line in the middle – as pretension of ‘movement’
  • the two opposing movements on the middle floor
  • the triangle at the bottom, suggesting a peculiar ‘floor’
  • the actual contradiction between dynamic and movement – later we will come back to this, in a comparative view.

The suggested harmony is achieved by presenting various contradictions, however, keeping them under control by way of only pretending movement – before a real inter-action, a real engagement of the different elements emerges we are caught by another feature and so on – all kept and even forced together by the overarching vault.

The two historically important moments are (i) the delving into space, and (ii) the strict and ongoing hierarchical ordering. – And of course, it is not least the inner contest of the time: equality versus separation, inclusion versus difference, movement versus indifference – sure, this kind of dichotomies are not those that are usually suggested – we are used to simple, even mechanical negations: equality and inequality; inclusion and exclusion; movement and standstill …. – the time, the development of the productive forces however, required a new search: the dialectical juxtaposition: the necessary, the wanted, the possible, and the hoped for. As such, it may well be taken as reminder of what we saw already earlier, when reference had been made to Ernst Bloch’s remarks.

Also, it may well be that we can actually see this harmony only from an ‘external position’, looking back, utilising the advantage of being a stranger, glorified to the extent to which s/he is in a position to glorify.[1]

* We see this morality evolving into a highly immoral system: violence, open oppression as predominant system of tributary societies. The good still claims to be exactly that: good. But it claims to be good by way of superiority. As much as we can detect this in the secular features of the feudal societies – there are good reasons for speaking of the medieval dark ages – the contradiction manifests itself even more in the system of the church powers: the crusades as open burst of humiliation in the name of a claimed natural universal order – the grasp of space, the understanding of space and perspective during this period did not need to develop. –  An extreme example of relevant ‘painting without depth’ can be seen particularly in Egyptian paintings from the Amarna era [though the lack of perspective deserves some special contemplation].

* However, the criteria for such order did not really exist – a somewhat arbitrary rule, primarily being established on …, well, surely an economic foundation, however this economic foundation being itself erected on strength. Physical strength, the in many cases violent control of resources, in particular acreage and the rules of tributary dependency. The question of basis and superstructure became violent. We may actually present it by another three dimensional presentation; the depiction of the extremes: religion and court, the simple life – between poverties and industriousness, and the violence of wars and conquest. This could be maintained for some time, an interim phase which had been needed to establish what Marx the presented in the famous Preface to the Critique of Political Economy in the words which surely belong to the most quoted passages:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

We can understand the meaning only by looking closely at the interwoveness, no: the actual entity of this political-economic sphere. Courage then … Frederick Engels wrote on the 21st of September 1890 in a famous Letter to Bloch about the understanding of basis-superstructure, using the words

According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure — political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas — also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible), the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.

Later, this approach had been contested, not least by Max Weber – at least he is commonly put forward as contestant of the Marxist approach, actually emphasising different religious patterns as more as cause than of consequence and complement of economic processes.

A long debate – academic and political – emerged, some times also aiming on merging the two positions.

We can say with some certainty that the new system indeed set into place a new perspective of economic steering mechanisms. The following mechanisms can be made out capturing in a nutshell the new system:

  • the perfection of the commodity form as universal feature of relations
  • the furthering of individualism, now on a new stage and as matter claiming validity even for the most excluded, marginalised people of society
  • on this basis, the provision of a – formally at least – highly inclusive society, based on equality in terms of a legal system
  • it is exactly this structural equality that guarantees the factually increasing inequality
  • finally this system is ateucturally not least stabilised by the inherent alienation

This means as well that at least to some extent the split of the economic sphere from the superstructure emerges – and here we find two important characteristics: (i) the irresolvable question of a split between the two and the suggested independence of the superstructure; (ii) the most important practical consequence in terms of socio-political integration: an area which later becomes well known in a distorted form as social policy. Though this area had never been independent, it claimed independence. And it could claim independence because …. . Well, because it had been entirely dependent on ‘economic performance’. The two approaches are as such well known: the one is about the liberal view and we immediately think of Adam Smith: the circle under the invisible hand of liberal choreography of a suggested natural law: individual and societal performance in interdependence. The other – John Maynard Keynes springs to mind – is about a seemingly rather different approach, suggesting a choreographer that draws a bow across the dancers, a bow guaranteeing the balance by offering an antipode. Smith and Keynes, merging in accepting modest responsibility of the state, more or less visible, in any case not normal in terms of the advocate. In terms of both of them the normal pattern is an equilibrium. In the one – liberal – case a double equilibrium: between individual and social and between economic growth and well-being. In the other – interventionist – approach the equilibrium between economic growth and well-being, one or the other temporarily in need of a boost in order to re-establish the natural conditions. – Of course, this is a truncated presentation, but this doesn’t make it a ‘wrong’ presentation.

Tertium non datur? At least this had been suggested by those who usually celebrate the holy trinity, not missing any opportunity to refer to the holy separation.  However, looking a little bit closer, we arrive actually at a dual system, the twofold binarisation of (i) nature versus culture and (ii) This-Worldliness and Otherworldliness, both merging by suggesting an irresolvable dichotomy of material and ideal/spiritual sphere.

Taking this as background we remain caught in the two-dimensionality of the canvas. And we have essential difficulties to resolve the conflict as long as we remain caught in juxtaposing naturalism and humanism. It had been left to Marx to point out – and to Lucy to remind me in her e-mail:

23 April 2012 23:12:44 GMT+01:00

“Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution”.

This is of course the quote that provides exactly the answer to the present question as well, and we may even take her wording of the question:

Can you explain this to me because I thought that Marx didn’t believe in naturalism as in natural law??

So my answer follows this way:

24 April 2012 06:58:30 GMT+01:00

Sorry for late reply, Lucy; can only be in the office (and its internet) from 6:00 to 22:00 and the first thing this morning: I had been confronted with other mails – and from there wondering about stupidity in academia. And still find it somewhat hard to digest … – well, yesterday I looked for something on the UCC-site. And still saw this news “tickered”: ….

Well, some basic code of conduct asks me to omit a passage here – though I have to admit that I would frequently appreciate to see even half of this kind of respect when comes to meeting me. Although the omitted part is actually only a polemic version of a substantially well thought through comment.

So, in a way you may turn it also in part-answering your question. Marx doesn’t really speak of naturalism in the commonly understood way. Nor does he

believe in naturalism as put forward in natural law.

That is at least my reading. The crucial point [see Herrmann … ;-)] is that what he suggests is very much a matter of relationality (you find the relevant definitions in the recent blogpost: Culture – Spacetime

So, our naturalism (i.e. Karl’s and mine) is about not the human him/herself (and returning to him/herself) but the human that consciously engages in and shapes the ‘environment’ of which s/he is part … – as you see from the part you quote:

a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development

So, the real challenge is to understand the dialectics of it: naturalism as generally understood is a static concept, retarded too. Our understanding of naturalism is dynamic, more a matter of the control of the material conditions. Well, usually we speak of materialism, don’t we …, not of naturalism.

With this we arrive at the open door for a reinterpretation of the basis-superstructure challenge. I may take the formulation from the forthcoming publication

Rights – Developing Ownership by Linking Control over Space and Time

where I elaborate the following:

… this development which led at the very same time – and as its essential part – to the differentiation of what became known as distinct civil society. Looking at the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and later Karl Marx, but also coming from an entirely different perspective the work of Alexis de Tocqueville we see that the original civil society is far from what we understand as it today. It is far from the ‘third’ force, complementing state and market. Rather, it is the culmination of the economy in the ‘economic citizen’. Taking the words from Hegel ‘Civil society is the tremendous power which draws men into itself and claims from them that they work for it, owe everything to it, and do everything by its means’ (Hegel, Philosophy of Right Addition to § 238)

This is still important when we look at the civil society today, now indeed complementing state and market, political and economic sphere. It is from this origin that, even as opposing force, it remains within the realm of the capitalist society, not being able and not even being willing to transcend the structural individualism and moreover fatally stipulating the appearance of the political as distinctive sphere. This implies in turn and most importantly the depolitisation of the economic sphere. It should not be forgotten that this is not more than a veil, concealing the political force of this, i.e. the capitalist economy.

Going hand in hand with this differentiation we find the Holy Trinity, that is generally underlying Western thought, shifting away from a magical-headstrong absurdum of idealist seduction and stultification – the father, the son and the holy spirit, used as means of obfuscation. This shift towards a new pattern of integration follows the new holy trinity of market, state and civil society – disentangled and established on the foundation of a (temporarily) stable ambiguity – it had been only the dissipation that allowed reducing the inherent conflicts by externalisation through the establishment of different spheres. The ‘new’ civil society provides a mechanism that cushions the fundamental contradictions of the economy by suggesting that they can be resolved outside of the sphere in which they emerge. In short: as much as the economic process puts forward a reduced understanding of the value basis, replacing virtues by exchange values, another instance had to be defined to deal with those aspects that had been expelled from the socio-economic system. And as much as this needed to be a mandatory and regulative system, this role could not be fully maintained by the church. Furthermore, as much as the state as political instance could fulfil this authoritative role, it had been also an exclusionary structuration – not only because of its class character but also because of its fundamentally institutionalist nature which could only be maintained and brought into practical effect by the acceptance of a ‘bylaw’: the civil society as array of the war of position, aiming on developing and maintaining consensus or counter-hegemony, complementing the array of the war of manoeuvre,[2] but that relies mainly on ordinary means of institutional, bureaucratic power during ‘times of peace’ – it is about the very ‘normal absurdities’ of institutionalist governmentality as for instance spelled out by Foucault.

There is the crucial element expressed in these words: the relative independence of the superstructure is far from being any mechanical, ex-post relationship. Instead, we are fundamentally concerned with the essential unit of relationality. At the centre of this stands the very specific determination of value – and value cannot be thought of in a either-or dichotomisation. At the very same moment at which we leave the realm of simple reproduction behind we enter the area of ‘questionable value’. It emerges to the same extent as relative to which the actors’ action is not identical with the basic natural process of instinctive behaviour, in the same vein in which the actor enters the stage – the freedom of play, or borrowing the sociological perspective as Ferdinand Toennies introduced it, the arbitrary will (Kuerwille) gains the upper hand: independent of necessities but also somewhat detached from being immediately intermingled with the social – though it will never replace the essential will (Wesenwille), it refines it in its peculiar way, with it’s own determination.

Here we can return to The Drunken Hercules, stumbling through the third dimension that he gained, that he is forced to explore and to beset. The previously clear guides and anchors are lost – and moreover: applying the old principles of the unreported believe system actually leads directly into decay. In this light we may even see Rubens as an early critique of the emerging capitalist system, showing at least some intuition for the second expulsion – the primitive accumulation which

presupposes surplus value; surplus value presupposes capitalistic production; capitalistic production presupposes the pre- existence of considerable masses of capital and of labour power in the hands of producers of commodities. The whole movement, therefore, seems to turn in a vicious circle, out of which we can only get by supposing a primitive accumulation (previous accumulation of Adam Smith) preceding capitalistic accumulation; an accumulation not the result of the capitalistic mode of production, but its starting point.

And Marx continues dealing in chapter 26 of the first volume of Capital with The Secret of Primitive Accumulation

This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race.

Giving it the form of a poem

Die ich rief, dei Geister

Werd ich nun nicht los.

In die Ecke,

Besen! Besen!

Seids gewesen!

Denn als Geister

Ruft euch nur, zu

seinem Zwecke,

Erst hervor der alte

Meister.

Sir, my need is sore.

Spirits that I’ve cited

My commands ignore.

To the lonely

Corner, broom!

Hear your doom.

As a spirit

When he wills, your master only

Calls you, then ‘tis time to hear it.

(Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: Zauberlehrling [The Sorcerer’s Apprentice]; translation by Edwin Zeydel)

A fundamental challenge may actually be the matter of balance – without pleading for any historical relativism we may see this as a general historical pattern and challenge:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem to be engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle-cries, and costumes in order to present this new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and this borrowed language.

(Marx, Karl, 1851-52: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1851-52; in: Karl Marx. Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 11. Marx and Engels: 1851-53; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1997; 99-197; 104)

And actually as soon as they begin they face the other overarching fact – taking the words from the Communist Manifesto

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

————

This finds it’s very own aesthetic expression – which I experience the one day while standing at the shore of the Danube, enjoying end mildness of the evening in the middle of April. While looking forward to a presentation and concert in the Ceremonial Hall of the Magyar Tudományos Akadémiáról, I take a deep breath of the air from the water of the river – a pleasant day, fulfilling by finalising the work on an edited book and satisfying by engaging with discussions with students, the day now waiting to be crowned by the music of Bartók, Koscár and others.

I look across the river, my eyes flick along the Chain Bridge. Turning a bit to the left I see the massive Budapest Castle, on the right the Convent. My attention is soon caught by the houses erected along the waterfront. They are unflashy. Nice, even beautiful? One may say so – though unobtrusive is probably the most appropriate characterisation. The only thing that makes them somewhat remarkable is actually a house that is outstanding by … its ugliness. Taking some time, I am wondering: The ugliness may well be not more than the fact of disturbing the strict uniformity of the buildings of the forgoing period. It is an impression I have had frequently during my Paris-years: buildings looking neat, long rows of sameness, or similariness (I know linguistics and those native English speakers who lost playfulness of language would suggest similarity). And looking everyday at them, the long rows of massive buildings could not really maintain their appeal for a long time. But at the very same time they could enduringly gain a new appeal: the newness of details, the fascination by each showing an own tiny detail which remains hidden to the birds eye.

I am thinking about this also on another occasion, during and after a brief jaunt to Vienna. Without any doubt it is a stunning place – and at least while wandering around the centre – I have the impression of …, may be the right way to say, well … Strolling along the Court Gardens I thought it is a little bit like moving into Gugong in Bejing. – I can only assume it is like loving prostitute: satisfaction of harsh bodily lust, but not allowing to understand

[t]he pleasures of love

as they are captured by Umberto Eco in The Island of the Day Before:

pains that become desirable, where sweetness and torment blend, and so love is voluntary insanity, infernal paradise, and celestial hell – in short, harmony of opposite yearnings, sorrowful laughter, soft diamond.

I turn around, walk the short way across the street to the MTA and enter the building, enter another world: suggesting harmony – this impression lasts until just before the beginning of the presentation on Széchenyi István – a presentation showing the massive conflicts for which the Academy provided a stage and on which it performed itself as actor; and I can maintain this impression of harmony as long as I do not think about the conflicts of which Zsuzsa spoke the other evening when we met for dinner.

So for where do we get the balance if not from a glorifying prospect on the past? The return to the higher order – this is at least what we can derive as suggestion by Peter Paul Rubens, now looking The Last Judgment.

The painting is a work undertaken in 1617. In the Old Pinacotheca in Munich we see the large version as a colossal work – having made the many steps, to the upper floor, standing in quite a distance: looking at the work while standing in the little arc we still have to look up … don’t we? Actually this is only one part of the perspective. we see a truly multidimensional capturing of perspective going hand in and with this work. The sheer seize has to capture our attention. And the fact that the focus, the optical focus, is actually located somewhere in the centre of the upper third. And as even if we stand in some distance we feel easily drawn into it: a maelstrom capturing us – not just our attention, but in some way drawing our self into this a massive movement; in some way inescapable. We may even feel the three-dimensional space now as something coming up. Real space: the felt danger of being physically drawn into it.

It had already been said that in technical terms the capturing of multi-dimensional space is a rather simple matter. It is achieved by applying especially transverse division of space which means at the very same time the provision of a point of intersection, and to a lesser extent circular division of space on the canvas. In particular the latter can be used in a very peculiar way: division of space, segregation of subjects and at the very same time – seemingly paradoxically – the conflation of groups, different subjects and matters being brought together. With this, we find something entirely new: the emergence of movement in the history of painting.

So, at least a brief outline can be given.

  • The upper diagonal, underlined by the two flashes of lightening, highlights a figure that actually does not need support – the ordering of bright and dark colours allow for the fascinating result of a somewhat modest, small figure being paramount in the meaning.
  • The circularity as particular addition, juxtaposition to the commonly dominant diagonal (linear) view – slightly turned to the left and as such possibly suggesting a specific imbalance, also retrogression – moving on the narrow arête of history, development as matter of possible gain and loss.
  • The calming third dimension – as it had been mentioned by Balázs: the cross.

The latter may simply be seen as symbol taken from Christianity. And as such it offers a not least pole of rest, balance: the settlement offered by the saviour. Of course, from here there is still a long way to go: the opening up perspective at its early stage to the much later exclamation by Pottier as we know it already

Il n’est pas de sauveurs suprêmes

Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun

There are no supreme saviours

Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.

* An additional moment can be seen in the masterful depiction of movement. We come back to an earlier remark, made in connection with Raphael’s The School of Athens. Let us no look at a detail of this painting and a detail of Rubens’ The Last Judgement – In both cases, we find two ‘eminent people’ in the centre – posture and gesture alike suggest this exceptional position. And as much as it expresses superiority, we can easily detect the other side, perhaps even othersidedness, as Otherworldliness. But the point that seems to me of much more interest is another: movement.

It had been already stated in context of the circular division of space on the canvas. It had been presented as

division of space, segregation of subjects and at the very same time – seemingly paradoxically – the conflation of groups, different subjects and matters being brought together. With this, we find something entirely new: the emergence of movement in the history of painting.

Comparing the details of the two paintings, the finesse of Rubens is getting obvious, applying a superior technique that allows to express what had been behind the surface – not essence but at least emotions, tensions, some kind of movement emerging in the details. – It can also be seen as emotional movement, in particular expressed in the individuals that are drawn to the height where the final judgement may show mercy or may end in the final condemnation.

– It may be devious, it may be not; looking at the history it surely is a strong argument for the following interpretation of space: For Raphael space – perspective as relating to space – had been limited to literally moving within a given space: to the left or to the right, to the back or to the front, and hardly allowing the crossing even of internal borders. This had been entirely different for the Rubens’ ‘new age’. Space is unfolding before him. A matter of depth, a matter of spacetime. And depth, during this transitional period, surely meant also the emergence of debt: getting aware of the new original sin as it had been already mentioned. And this may well be a reason for an apparent contradiction in this monumental work by Rubens: a reminder of the beginning: as light and darkness is objectively, i.e. in the process of relational appropriation, loosing ground, i.e. the regulation by natural laws is increasingly overcome (as said Rubens painted his oeuvre in 1617) the painting may not least be considered as a reminder: the inexplicable remainder of existence had been in its very own terms also a reminder of the inescapability of the last judgement. As master of depth, Rubens actually looked not least for an explanation of the depth of values. Being frequently presented as a kind of pacifist, it is his particular interest in the counter-play: so many paintings dealing with violence. Being concerned with realism, he had been also very much concerned with the search for the underlying patterns of the inexplicable.

This surely expresses not least the tension of the time – and one may say, an ongoing tension of belief systems that claim eternal truth: striving for emancipation and being caught in the overcome structures. Searching for a de-centration – the need to accept the Copernican turn and the frantic traditionalism.

Actually we may see an example of it prevailing today: the sculpture that can be seen in the Vatican.

It is called Sphere, a piece of art by A. Pomodoro. – In this context it is worth to insert a nota bene: the Vatican revised only in 1992 the verdict against Galileo Galilei – surely a sign of the hesitation of the catholic church when it comes to the difficult decision between simple factual truth and the imagined truth of faith. The inner, the essence is searched – but clearly as matter of something that is encapsulated – a world that exists independent of human action. The sphere is the innermost existence and as such it is the centre. We may go a step further, asking if it is pure chance that this innermost sphere takes the shape of a globe.

————–

This quest for respect is surely comparable with the quest for respect certain paintings ask for. In particular the monumental ones are signs, DESIGNATA of power: offering and demanding at the very same time. It is the attempt of presenting something that is itself currently not materialised, or me say that the designatum is the ‘artificial’ attempt to making something present although it is absent. This is also the fascination of the presentation of devotedness: the claimed superiority hidden behind the suggested equality before god. Taken together, the design, Vasari mentions as something that panting and sculpture have in common, is also a matter of setting signs and designing, modelling a world: carving out what is seen as essential and setting a pointer for an envisaged future, a future that is wanted by the

people who make their own history.

Art, seen in this light is surely not least a specific language that claims a voice also on the stage of establishing and contesting hegemonies. It is – be it affirmative or opposing – a player that evokes fascination by putting a coat over or a shield forward to the different patterns of power and counter-power, an expression of the different forces in terms of designata.

——-

It is pure chance that one of these days I had been asked to give a presentation on ‘social models’? In any case the focus had been, of course, a slightly different one: the presentation of the Asian model of social policy. But how can one discuss that without touching at least briefly upon the general question of what “social models” are actually about? Without actually considering the different dimensions of modelling?

Well, as comfortable as I feel being back in Debrecen, meeting colleagues that became over the many years friends, as uncomfortable I feel looking at the topic. I know from the experience I gained over the years, and in a fair number of places about the stubbornness of academia, the search for confirmation of prejudices easily pushing the research aside. The perception being not directed on a complex, permanently changing relationality but instead re-defining perception as matter of juggling with given categories, and moreover taking easily forms of appearance as categories – frequently forgetting the most fundamental work that tried to find categories.

Here is not the place to further contemplate on this question. Only this: There remains the feeling that sometimes these debates are similar to a performance of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra: of course we are living in a globalised capitalist economy. And of course this means as well that we find a little bit of this widespread image of the global village: every office an intel/microsoft computer,[3] sitting around an IKEA coffee table, drinking their Coke and reading more or less the same books: the list of best-sellers is one indicator, another and more telling the fact of only some books being translated in multiple languages even without possibly justifying it on grounds of outstanding quality; and at least on an anecdotal level, seen by the occasional traveller who occasionally roams through the RELAY-airport shops, it seems that only few authors can be found in translation, advertsied in a massive, bone-crashig way. This reflects already a little bit the problem: the access to sophisticated technology, the really designed (rather than designer) furniture and a drink that had been produced by following a complex purity requirement are surely not available for everybody. – Today’s extreme figures show only the tip of the iceberg:

The Extent of the Global Social Challenge

1.4 billion people are still living on less than US$ 1.25 a day

1.75 people experience multidimensional poverty with deprivation in health, economic opportunities, education and living standards

925 million suffer from chronic huger

2.6 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation and 884 million people do not have access to improved sources of drinking water

882 million people in developing countries live in slums with no or inadequate infrastructure such as all-weather roads, drains, piped water supplies and electricity or sewers

796 million adults are illiterate

8.8 million children under the age of five die every year from largely preventable health problems

About 75 per cent of the population is not covered by adequate social security

150 million people suffer financial catastrophe annually, and 100 million are pushed below the poverty line when compelled to pay for health care.

(from: Report of the Advisory Group Chaired by Michelle Bachelet: Social Protection Floor For a Fair and Inclusive Globalization; convened by the ILO with the Collaboration of the WHO; Geneva: ILO, 2011: 53; differentiated internal referencing her omitted)

But it reflects only one part of the entire story – as said: the part we know from The Phantom of the Opera:

Je suis sûr, bien sûr, d’avoir prié sur son cadavre, l’autre jour quand on l’a sorti de la terre, à l’endroit même où l’on enterrait les voix vivantes ; c’était son squelette. Ce n’est point á la laideur de la tête que je l’ai reconnu, car lorsqu’ils sont morts depuis si longtemps, tous les hommes sont laids, mais á l’anneau d’or qu’il portait et que Christine Daaé était certainement venue lui glisser au doigt, avant de l’ensevelir, comme elle le lui avait promis

(Leroux, Gaston, 1910: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra; Édition du groupe « Ebooks libres et gratuits »; 2004: 412 – http://www.ebooksgratuits.com/pdf/leroux_fantome_opera.pdf [sorry, have to check how to get the accents right])

– Historically true, it is something that cannot return – and is only illusiveness – and seen retrospectively it had never been anything else.

The real issue at stake is the re-ordering of the global economy, with it’s distinctive national and regional capitalisms, the variety also in terms of centre and periphery: where is exactly what produced, where is what consumed: the increasing number of pound-shops, Lidles – autocorrected into lidos, though they can be hardly imagined as the white beeches of paradisiacal life. What is this model then about?

————

– History surely does not repeat itself. Nevertheless it is worthwhile to look back, just with a brief snipping from the great book of history. So we look at the cathedral in Florence, the cupola supposedly still an enigma even for architects today and the palazzo.

It may be a rumour, but one that withe the same certainty nurtured by reality: one way of explaining the building of the cupola is slightly simplified as follows. We find at the very bottom of it a model, erected from sand. The actual building had been established as pallium, a coat that had been supported, moreover made possible by the ground of sand. One remaining question: How to clean the place after completion? The answer seems simple: hide a sufficient number of coins in the sand, tell the poor and they will come to dig them out, for lack of an alternative. And while doing so they will move the sand out of the cathedral …

Unfortunately a well proven historical truth. Where we can now venerate the palazzo we found before the living space of the poor. They had been brutally relinquished, expelled – before Georg Buechner would call in 1834 – in his political treatise The Hessian Courier for

Friede den Hütten! Krieg den Palästen!

Peace to the shacks! War on the palaces!

we saw just the opposite: A brutal war against the poor.

No, history does not repeat itself. But history is an excellent teacher: expressed metaphorically, we can conclude that empires erect on sand and also those who had to walk across corpses cannot be expected to be stable over time.

The beauty will persist – and if you ever saw the magnificent ceiling fresco of the Duomo from the distance, and if walked up the arduous path, allowing you to walk closely along it, if you ever will have the privilege as I could enjoy: being guided by a friend like Michele into the areas of the palace that remain hidden to the ordinary visitor you will know what I mean – and as much as parts of the palace is still hidden, much of that world had been about enigmas of the time, about the mapping of the world and its alchemy. But if you are serious about play, the freedom it entails and expresses not least as matter of responsibility, you will never forget that real freedom can only follow the outlook we know already:

Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.

————

Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that natural law does not provide as foundation it is also questionable that the positive law is sufficient. However, his answer is questionable. On the one hand he doesn’t allow to go really further, stating in the chapter on the Notion of Rights in the United States of his book on Democracy of America:

After the idea of virtue, I know no higher principle than that of right; or, to speak more accurately, these two ideas are commingled in one. The idea of right is simply that of virtue introduced into the political world. It is the idea of right which enabled men to define anarchy and tyranny; and which taught them to remain independent without arrogance, as well as to obey without servility.

(de Tocqueville, Alexis, 1835: Democracy in America, Volumes One and Two by , trans. Henry Reeve; Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University, 2002)

However, were he is somewhat different is in the emphasis of property which he actually sees as essentially natural right, though it is for him not a matter of human nature but a matter of natural human refinement.

I am persuaded that the only means which we possess at the present time of inculcating the notion of rights, and of rendering it, as it were, palpable to the senses, is to invest all the members of the community with the peaceful exercise of certain rights: this is very clearly seen in children, who are men without the strength and the experience of manhood. When a child begins to move in the midst of the objects which surround him, he is instinctively led to turn everything which he can lay his hands upon to his own purposes; he has no notion of the property of others; but as he gradually learns the value of things, and begins to perceive that he may in his turn be deprived of his possessions, he becomes more circumspect, and he observes those rights in others which he wishes to have respected in himself. The principle which the child derives from the possession of his toys is taught to the man by the objects which he may call his own. In America those complaints against property in general which are so frequent in Europe are never heard, because in America there are no paupers; and as everyone has property of his own to defend, everyone recognizes the principle upon which he holds it.

Typologies or models are, then, the search for the last reason – though not by way of evading into a completely idealist world like divine law, an absolute idea or similar. Rather, modelling considers a reflexive reasoning: emerging from itself it is the perpetuation of itself, the ultimate (relevant) justification.

Let us briefly look at some moments of the modelling-issue – surely very much a matter of social policy debates today, though surely underestimated as issue that is of general interest not least in connection with historical comparison (and its failures).[4]

  • The debate that has with today’s stance apparently only emerged in the 1990s, goes at least back to the late 1950s when Harold Wilenski and Charles Lebaux published their work on Industrial Society and Social Welfare (Wilensky, Harold L./Lebeaux, Charles N.: Industrial Society and Social Welfare. The Impact of Industrialization on the Supply and Organization of Social Welfare Services in the United States 1958: 138, 140).[5] It is a fundamental work and little recognised – work.
  • Later, Gøsta Esping-Andersen did not go much further than delivering a poor imitation, adapted and tapered in the light of daily politics – carpe diem, a European policy theatre taking up on anything that possibly could help answering a manifest identity crisis. Sure, there had been several issues in his work that surely deserve attention – but they go hardly beyond a set of statements of heuristic value: theoretically they showed a load draft that is comparable with a fleet of rubber dinghies. Some are still caught in the respect of eminence, see it as groundbreaking – actually failing to see what had been groundbreaking: the changes in reality. One may say without much exaggeration that Harold Wilenski and Charles Lebaux – and with them Richard Titmuss and others – had been employed by the question of what a new world should and could look like. However, politicians had not being interested in their work – they had not been interested in a new world but in the continuation of the old world – a telling example is Walt Whitman Rostow’s Manifesto on ‘Stages of Economic Growth’. And this had been also later the interest: guaranteeing stability, outwitting fundamental change – leaving aside the fact that the EU had been in a rather bad shape:

First, the previously existing fundamental division between east and west could not serve as line of reference for policy making and ‘comparative consideration’ in terms of the competition between systems.Second, a need for some fine-tuning materialised on the agenda – now within the system which had been before standing as reasonably homogenous block against another system. Also, the differentiation within the capitalist block gained relevance as some countries which had been peripheral within the block emerged now on the centre – for instance the real effects of enlargement in the early 1970s took some time to enter in this way the realm of EUropean policy making.Third, a new player emerged on the capitalist stage – the ‘original east’. Due to the new patterns and prevalence of globalisation of particular and increasing importance: The so-called Asian Tigers and China deserve special mention. This had been very much seen as economic challenge but also – following the tradition of Orientalism as analysed by Edward Said – interpreted in the light of analytical apotheosis and mystification.Fourth, the internal insecurity of the west, namely the EU requires close consideration – a certain strength has been closely accompanied by an increasing insecurity: (i) increasing inequality, (ii) lack of sustainability, (iii) emerging EUroscepticism and EUrosclerosis, going hand in hand with efforts of establishing a EUropean ‘social policy’ for which, however, a legal basis did not exist, (iv) the effort of tightening unity, not least by the constitutional endeavours.

Politicians of different couleur got very fond of modelling proposals as they had been suggested by the mainstream debate. But the actual reason had been their avoidance of accepting the fundamental challenge:

Those who want to exist in a sustainable way need to change occasionally. (Manfred Baierl)

And this is exactly what the modelling debate of Esping-Andersian provenience fears as the devil fears the holy water. Although he actually claims in the title of the book, with which he gained ground for playing this outstanding role as eminence grise, to speak of Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, he speaks in actual fact more about three welfare worlds within capitalism. There is not really much analysis of capitalism as mode of production in it. Instead, it is[6] about the justification of the central fairway of traditional social policies:

Paid employment remains, as always, the basic foundation of household welfare and it is hardly surprising that more jobs are seen as sine qua non n the pursuit of an inclusive society.

(Esping-Andersen, G. (2002): Towards the Good Society, Once Again?. In: Esping-Andersen, G.; Gallie, D.; Hemerijck, A. & Myles, J. (2002): Why we Need a New Welfare State. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-25; here: 21)

It translates into an approach of social and welfare policies that is strictly based in productivism:

Welfare as Social Investment

(ibid.: 9)

With this – éminence grise that he supposedly is – all ends where others of that colour end as well: La nuit, tous les chats sont gris. For really providing a light that shines against the darkness of affirmative politics, a brighter light is needed …

————

Of course, we see this very much as matter of the previously presented issue: the modelling as depicting time – past, present and future, the work on a painting as designatum: the attempt of presenting something that is itself currently not materialised, or me say that the designatum is the ‘artificial’ attempt to making something present although it is absent. A good social scientist should be very much like a good artist: not presenting a photography as simply mirror of reality – a mirror that presents perspective only in a linear, mechanical form – similar to what had been said about Raphael’s painting – but, using the words from above, showing the finesse of Rubens is getting obvious, applying a superior technique that allows to express what had been behind the surface – not essence but at least emotions, tensions, some kind of movement emerging in the details.

———————

Sure, some arts gains its fascination from detachment: the existence getting independent from itself. It is similar to the Cartesian idealism of the disembodied existence – existence defined by nothing else than thinking as it had been mentioned in previous considerations. This had been part and parcel of a complex process, characterised by multiple processes of detachment, not least the development of the state in its modern form, a seemingly external force. At least one option of this development can be seen in the form of the absolute idea as pretend by Hegel, or it can be seen n the surfacing of the Hobbesian Leviathan.

In this context we come across a fascinating development not least of applied technique in art works – leaving aside the question if and to which extent this can be claimed to be a general development or not. At least there is a doubtless shift within renaissance[7] towards the so-called high renaissance and Baroque. It is a turn towards purity and transcendence. The Assumption of the Virgin, which you can now see in Madrid’s Museo del Prado is a telling example, not by way of the presented subject. Instead, relevant is a marked shift in Annibale Carracci’s style. Andrew-Graham Dixon, in his biography Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane (Dixon, Andrew-Graham, 2011: Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane, New York/London: W.W. Norton&Company), points this out, writing

[p]ainting the Assumption of the Virgin, Carracci reverted to the pure, sweet style of the High Renaissance. He brightened and softened his colours and ruthlessly eliminated any hint of real life.

(212)

And he continues

[t]he painting is airless and spaceless, all its figures pushed up to the picture plane as if to a sheet of glass. There is no suggestion of the sacred erupting into the world of the everyday. It is a dream of pure transcendence.

(213)

All this shows very much a principle tension in which art workers are caught. At the one end we find the simple presentation – by no means without substance but leaving it more to the viewer to find the meaning, to indulge into the reality itself. At the other end we see such pure transcendence – reality, we may say, is a confounder and at the very same time itself an artefact, striving towards the higher reality, detached from lust and any temptation of a fictive world, distant from even the slightest flaunt. Simon Schama, though with reference to other artworks and with a different slant, also comments on this. He looks at the brawling between Flemish and Italian masters.

Vasari’s slight echoed the remark attributed to Michelangelo by Franceso da Holanda that Flemish painting was concerned primarily with ‘external exactness. … [T]hey paint stuffs and masonry, the green grass of the fields, the shadow of trees and rivers and bridges which they call landscapes … and all this , though it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion, without skilful choice or boldness, and finally without substance or vision.’

(Schama, Simon, 1999: Rembrandt’s Eyes; London et altera: Penguin: 83 – with reference to Francesco da Hollanda, 1571 [?]: Four Dialogues on Paintings; trans. A.F.G. Bell; Oxford and London, 1928: 16)

Of course, such bold statement as that of da Holanda had to provoke a sturdy reaction. Illustrating this, Schama quotes Lampsonius.

Turning defense into offense, Lampsonius own biographies of northern painters, the Effigies, rejected the arrogant assumptions that only history paintings truly counted; that landscapes were so yeoman infill. Such rigid categories, he argued, might be all very well for Italians, steeped n the classical tradition, Lampsonius responded, but it had led to scholarly aridity, a loss of naturalness, which the Netherlands, with their greater devotion to capturing the freshness of living forms, were better placed to supply. The very genres that Vasari and Michelangelo had written off as trivial – landscapes and portraiture – genres that the Italians claimed called for the skills not of true pittori but of mere artifici, were those that Lampsonius insisted the Netherlanders had most reason to boast of.

(ibid., with a general reference earlier: On Lampsonius’s writings and influence, see the discussion in Walter S. Melion: Shaping the Netherlandish Canon; Karel van Mander’s ‘Schilder-boek’; Chicago/London, 1991: 143-72)

Of course, all these classifications and confrontations are highly problematic – not least because a vivid exchange between countries and influence across borders had been highly influential for a long time – one may consider arts as the earliest globaliser: strong nationalist traditions going hand in hand with cross-border trade of artworks and intercultural cross-fertilisation. But if we dare to accept the confrontation between Italian and Flemish painters as Schama brings it to the fore, we may add at least two other schools: the Dutch Pragmatism and the German Religiosity and Reformism. We then arrive at the following:[8]

Flemish Realism

Italian Historicism

Dutch Pragmatism

German Religiosity and Reformism

This reflects very much different torrents of thinking – we may even say of ‘historical ontologies, or to use a more common term, Zeitgeist:

Flemish Realism

Empiricism/Naturalism

Italian Historicism

Transcend-enceialism

Dutch Pragmatism

Naturalism

German Religiosity and Reformism

Realism

And we may continue, by looking at different economic schools of thought, that then played a role in the history of economics. Some tentative aspects are outlined in the following.

Flemish Realism

Empiri-cism/Na-turalism

Subsisten-cialism

Italian Historicism

Transcen-denceialism

Merkantilism

Dutch Pragmatism

Naturalism

Mercantilism

German Religiosity and Reformism

Realism

Industrialism

Of course, the national references, if they can be seen at any historical stage as relevant, are soon loosing ground – globalisation at least of the Zeitgeist – is already at a very early point in time a well known moment at least among some core nations, competing hegemons in a more or less limited regional space. But at least for heuristic reasons the said may be used for an outline. Of special importance is that we can develop against this background a feeling for the fact that we are in history dealing with complex relationships: the fundamental dominance of the economic basis translates into a hegemonic system where even fundamental critique is permanently in danger of reproducing nothing else than its own failure.


[1]            We see this also as something that is for many times a ‘safe misguide’ of social science, showing the greener grass on the other side, allowing to fade out some of the bitterness of daily realities.

[2]            This is in the extreme case the use of violence – the reader may remind Max Weber’s definition of the state.

[3]            Anecdotic evidence says that the Gates Foundation once suggested to supply computers to the most remote areas on the African continent, arguing that this would allow even people living in huts, even under the material minimum needed to exist, to be included.

[4]        I reflected on this topic in the contribution ‘Social State – Welfare State and then? Where to Move from the Welfare State? – A Cooperative State on Sustainable Sociability as Perspective for Innovation’, forthcoming; see also my publication on Social Professional Activities and the State; New York: Nova

[5]            Of course, reading this one can interpret as well the basic document of catholic social thinking and its emphasis of subsidiarity (see Rerum Novarum Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Capital and Labor [1891]; and Quadragesimo Anno [1931] as a matter of welfare regime challenge and proposition.

[6]           As I pointed out in the contribution: The Lifespan Perspective in Comparative Social Policy Research: a Critique of Gøsta Esping-Andersen’s Model of Three Welfare States and its Implications for European Comparisons in Social Pedagogy; in: Social Pedagogy for the Entire Lifespan, vol. I; eds.: Jacob Kornbeck / Niels Rosendal Jensen; Bremen: Europaeische Hochschulschriften, 2011: 29-49

[7]        though we may without doubt also question the entire issue of periodisation, even speak possibly of history of as permanent renaissance

[8]            Mind, the terms are not reflecting the common use in a strict sense.

Annunci

Revolução dos Cravos

The Carnation Revolution

History: a matter of the past, a matter that should be present as it will be shaping the future.

The 25th of April 1974 is one of the days in history clearly showing how time merges and how time emerges from itself: from history, from people understanding ‘reacting’ as a highly active process, as matter of accepting to be resonsible for what is going to happen here and now and in the future.

Take the time, those who can: the time to remember, those who are too young to look at what happened, and us together to take responsibility for us today – and for time …

The Portuguese Revolution in 1974 –

Grândola vila morena,
Terra da fraternidade,
O povo é quem mais ordena,
Dentro de ti ó cidade.

Dentro de ti ó cidade,
O povo é quem mais ordena,
Terra da fraternidade,
Grândola vila morena.

Em cada esquina um amigo,
Em cada rosto igualdade,
Grândola vila morena,
Terra da fraternidade.

Terra da fraternidade,
Grândola vila morena,
Em cada rosto igualdade,
O povo é quem mais ordena.

À sombra de uma azinheira,
Que já não sabia a idade,
Jurei ter por companheira,
Grândola a tua vontade.

Grândola a tua vontade,
Jurei ter por companheira,
À sombra de uma azinheira,
Que já não sabia a idade.

Translation from the web:

Grândola, swarthy town*
Land of fraternity
It is the people who command
Inside of you, oh city
Inside of you, oh city
It is the people who command
Land of fraternity
Grândola, swarthy town
On each corner, a friend
In each face, equality
Grândola, swarthy town
Land of fraternity
Land of fraternity
Grândola, swarthy town
In each face, equality
It is the people who command
In the shadow of a holm oak
Which no longer knew its age
I swore to have your will
as my companion, Grândola
I swore to have your will
as my companion, Grândola.
In the shadow of a holm oak
Which no longer knew its age

Culture – Spacetime

You may call it the day of culture – if there is such thing. Or to put the question in its correct light your may ask if there is any day without culture. Is not the day, the fact of a day in today’s understanding very much itself ‘culture’, a social construct? Of course, in the beginning stood the light, i.e. the very natural process of the change of daylight and darkness, the change of temperatures, activity levels …, day after day and year after year. And as natural as this development had been, it remained so as something that had been accepted in its own right, but surely not questioned, not artificialised. In the beginning stood the word – and even if taking out of the reference in which Adam Smith used it, the word has to be seen as the word of the powerful:

Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation therefore is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.

(Smith, Adam, 1776: Wealth of Nations [An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations]; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993/1998:143)

Interestingly, he blames a little later in the same paragraph, the ‘private bond agreement’ of the masters against the workmen, making it for instance possible to pay lower wages.

And we may add: it had not been just the law of wages, etc., but equally the new law of time, defined by the word rather than a matter of time.

It is, the remark may usefully be made en passent, interesting that this issue had been frequently been made by the ‘virtuous citoyen’, idealistically maintaining a politically liberalist outlook against the reality of the ‘greedy bourgeois’ who insisted on the liberalist economic reality. Adam Smith himself embodying in some way the Faustian divisiveness, feeling the diabolical two souls in his breast. And in a somewhat naïve way Alexis de Tocqueville also highlights this issue in his work on Democracy in America, contending.

Civil laws are only familiarly known to legal men, whose direct interest it is to maintain them as they are, whether good or bad, simply because they themselves are conversant with them. The body of the nation is scarcely acquainted with them; it merely perceives their action in particular cases; but it has some difficulty in seizing their tendency, and obeys them without premeditation. I have quoted one instance where it would have been easy to adduce a great number of others. The surface of American society is, if I may use the expression, covered with a layer of democracy, from beneath which the old aristocratic colors sometimes peep.

(Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1835: Democracy in America; Translator – Henry Reeve; The Pennsylvania State University, 2002: 64)

The original property had been linked to the appropriation of nature pure: hunting and gathering, soon followed by …, yes we may say: the emergence of culture. The appropriation of the products of the soil. The ‘word’, first spoken by simple violence – the word of execution, the verdict over – gained a new form: it emerged as communication between man and nature – as we know it today under the term agriculture: the cultivation of the land.

But it emerged also in a different meaning – we can refer to Ulrich Oeverman who underlines that the emergence of language is an important aspect of man’s transcendence of nature: language is the seedbed of the differentiation between what is represented and the presentation (see Oevermann, Ulrich, 1995: Ein Modell der Struktur von Religiosität. Zugleich ein Strukturmodell von Lebenspraxis und Sozialer Zeit; in: Wohrab-Sahr [ed.], 1995: Biographie und Religion Frankfurt/M.; New York: Campus: 27-102). This is also the emergence of distinctive time by way of allowing presence to be stored, to re-emerge at a later point in time as re-presentation. Consequently this second word had been followed by sentences, the telling of stories. This schilderen, this kind of story-telling had not least been a matter of systematically taking stock: perceiving reality, systematically describing it – or you may say: evaluating it, arriving with this at criteria for relevant groups and groupings as process of categorisation. The sentence had been the interpretation, categories developed from observing reality and making use of it: the active play with appropriation: Le pouvoir de la propriété – or to use the words of Linguet:

L’esprit des lois, c’est la propriété

And to the extent to which this property had been more a matter of legal property rights rather than being a matter of rustic, technical and skilful control, its art became also a matter of the use of this new mode of regulation: (i) the word of nobility and clergy a skilful means of infatuation of the people, (ii) the presentation of power and (iii) equally the laying down of laws: legal provisions, in the most pronounced form as positive law, complementing and later even replacing the law of nature and law of god.

In which ever way we turn it, it is the matter of power.

Undoubtedly, nature will never be overcome in any strict sense, but it is to some extent subordinated, a sub-order, submitted under the control of those who know about the laws and who are able to apply them – and we know increasingly the limits of the subordination, then getting manifest when supposed knowledge actually transcends into ignorance. And with this latter reference we also see the suggested ongoing meaning of god: some divine and spiritual orders left for those parts of life that remain inexplicable, that keep their fascination …. – or actually gain a new fascination. And it surely not least the instrumentalisation of arts – instrumentalisation not in a mechanical way but as one building block in a complex system of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic communication: PEMAM as Production, Establishment, Maintenance and Adaptation of Meaning.

Here we find, indeed, the word in the beginning, spoken, and understood as part of a specific context of soci(et)al practice; but soon loosing its meaning – the spoken word alienated from itself by being extended to the written word. Actually it is another paradox of development: on the one hand, this written word is more universalised than the spoken word. The latter is part of the immediate context, depending on agency and act – and there is only very limited space for asking somebody else to speak in one’s name. It will always remain the representative as part-owned other. This is different with the written word: the written word can not only be carried around, it can also be stored, it is universal at least within the circle of those who speak this language – hic et nunc or ibi et postea; here and now and equally there and later. But this universal character had been depending on those who had been actually able to read, a small number, even smaller than the number of those who had been able to speak the supposed universal language: Latin as lingua franca. Still, at the very same time it had been a large number, outnumbering those who would be reached by the spoken word. Written language implied a certain inherent impulse to be multiplied, copied …, and to aim at least to some extent at those who had been illiterate or semi-literate. From a means of carrying a simple message – as we find it in carve-paintings – we move towards a new form of written language: abstract and concrete at the same time; a means of communication between individuals and/or the members of an elite of selected man (of course man, also meaning unquestioned the male personification of this creature) and at the same time a means of mass communication. Before the invention of the printing press (in the Western hemisphere around1440) this had been a laborious process: the manual copying of writings, the writing itself in no way as simple as it is in today’s fully alphabetised form.

And this meant – in historical perspective – indeed mass production. Everly S.Welch in her book Art in Renaissance Italy 1350-1500 (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1997: 75) points out that this had also been an entrance for women into the sphere of this craft: though mainly undertaken by monks, the copying and skilful ‘illustration’ had been also undertaken by women. And we should not forget that this new means of relative mass communication: the book probably did carry some technical fascination as this little story on the Introduction of the Book shows.

*****

Looking seriously now at the Book of Kells, may allow us to have a glimpse into the new art – at least from today’s perspective a mixture between a simple means of shelving and communicating information and consideration on the one hand and on the other hand a means of presentation: presenting beauty and presenting information in a colourful and artistic way – perfectly balancing the overall impression of a page as it presents a fascinating beauty of the details of the individual letters.

In this way the truth of Vasari’s statement in the masterpiece Le Vite De’ Piú Eccellenti Architetti, Pittori, et Scultori Italiani, Da Cimabue Insino A’ Tempi Nostri, first published in 1550, can surely be considered to be correct. He looked at sculptures and paintings and contends:

I say, then, that sculpture and painting are in truth sisters, born from one father, that is, design, at one and the same birth, and have no precedence one over the other, save insomuch as the worth and the strength of those who maintain them make one craftsman surpass another, and not by reason of any difference or degree of nobility that is in truth to be found between them.

(Vasari, Giorgio, 1550: Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects ; here quoted from the Internet-version)

And like any sculpture: to be a good piece, it needs to consider all the different dimensions, begs for veneration from all sides, any skilful writing of the kind of the Book of the Kells will ask for attention on the different levels of detail. – The fact that we are nevertheless dealing with a highly standardised structure should, of course not be forgotten.

The beauty, surely, had been a means of communication and at the same time a means of awe-inspiring determent: beauty as quest for respect. However, as much as this language developed further, emerged as something that is in tendency independent of the speaker, reproducible, it had been underlying similar mechanisms as Max Weber discussed by way of pointing on the disenchantment of the world. The perfection of the rules as loss of the wordplay, dangerously moving to the loss of playwords. – Civilisation – De-Civilisation – Barbarism … – I still do not see any reason to end such statement with an exclamation mark.

*****

Schilderen – it has been said to be to be a process during and by which something is described, lively presented. As such it has to be seen as multi-layered process: the presentation, or even description of what had been seen as fact; and at the same time painting as matter of pointing on something, pointing something out, setting a pointer towards the future – designation of past, present and future time. As such, the telling of stories had also been a matter of exploration, the presentation of the Zeitgeist: now demanding the good life from the subservient had been an act that had been clearly separated from the immediate management of the good life itself.

An example par example for such zeitgeist-paintings are the works of Peter Paul Rubens.

*****

But before we really come to this, we may start with what I suggest to be the sculptural dimension of painting: for Rubens the understanding of space, the possibility to use the canvas as a means for depicting space rather than remaining in the limitation of a surface had been well known and developed. And we may even say that especially Rubens had been a master of space.

Before looking at his work, we may briefly turn our attention to the topic of space and its exploration in the arts. Gian Lorenzo Bernini for instance needed sculpture to present space – and with the use of this means he showed perfection: space emerged as emotional space, the apparently cold material of stone (even if it had been the noble stone: marble) presents itself with all the emotions of human existence. If you ever looked at Il Ratto di Proserpina, The Rape of Persephone, a work made in 1621/22, if you stood next to it you will understand what I mean: the pain in the twofold sense of physical pain and the very same time as matter of the debasement, humilation. As such the pain of the woman stands a representative of the pain of women. It is in this way hugely a ‘social statue’, an impeachment against the mail injustice. – I remember how moved I had been when I saw this masterpiece the first time: the admiration of Bernini’s craftsmanship, merging with the feeling of being asked by this women to help her, as individual, but also the prompt to fight against the arrogance of a world where men claim a superiority, where pure violence prevails – and where at a much later stage it still reigns, though taking an entirely different shape: the form of pure reason, and as such necessarily eclipsing. This is what Max Horkheimer must have had in mind, stating that

the positivists seem to forget that natural science as they conceive it is above all an auxiliary means of production, one element among many in the social process. Hence, it is impossible to de-termine a priori what role science plays in the actual advancement or retrogression of society. Its effect in this respect is as positive or negative as is the function it assumes in the general trend of the economic process.

(Horkheimer, Max, 1947: Zur Kritik der instrumentellen Vernunft; Frankfurt/M.: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1967: 59)

Actually the appreciation and defence of arts in our times has something of this anti-instrumentalist notion. Surely always being in danger of elitist debauchery, but equally a matter of acknowledging the right not only to explore something new, but moreover to walk even entirely new ways in the search for respect.

That in many cases those who broke new ground did so in most arrogant ways: individuals which had been themselves highly exploitative, sexist, violent is a question that may be taken up on another occasion.

And indeed, again another question is the role of beauty. At that time, would I have had the same feeling looking at Persephone depicted as ugly woman? Would we feel the same quest? And beyond this, it is the question that goes much further: The question of the beauty that is ‘created’ by paintings, that is suggested and the question of reality – as realist reflection and as defining what reality actually is, how it is historically and socially defined.

*****

Coming back to Bernini’s work, I can quote what I wrote in the forthcoming book titled God, Rights, Law and a Good Society:

This statue is so impressive because it captures the third dimension in a unique way – and if you stand in front of it, if you walk around it, there is something else opening up in front of your eyes: an entirely new responsibility – understood in terms of engaging, of responding to the world. Actually, a rather complex feature is emerging; a new response – but required and at the same time only possibleby a new way of capturing reality: The third dimension – you can also see them in the most exciting way when looking at the fresco by Tommaso Maria Conca and the decorations by Giovanni Battista Marchetti – is not only the opening of space as being perfectly reproducible. With this, two other moments come into play: time and feeling.

Let us briefly look at two other pieces – unquestioned masterpieces, also in their perfection somewhat unforgeable. The one is, of course, Donatello’s David. The pure beauty of a youth – the harmony of the body, the balance which is expressed in and expresses the beauty also as content, i.e. being content with somebody else: with the ego. And one may get the impression he can only can be content in this way due to be strongly convinced of the position in space, and because of this also somewhat playful, whimsical. And this may well be confirmed by what we learn from Paul Strathern who importantly notes that

[o]nce again, there was a major scientific aspect to this works of art. It was the first free-standing bronze sculpture to be produced in over a millennium, and as such represented the discovery of a lost knowledge; its casting alone was a technical achievement. Previously statues had been created for niches in buildings, or as architectural embellishments, rather than as complete objects in themselves; and the fact that this sculpture is to be seen in the round also required further scientific understanding. Donatello’s David is a work of great anatomical precision, requiring more than a passing knowledge of this subject. The adolescent podginess softening line of the rib bones, the slightly protuberant stomach, the swivel of the hips and the lined skin on the forefinger clutching the sword all indicate an eye for physiological detail. Yet at the same time there is no denying that this is the statue of a particular individual. (Strathern, Paul: The Medici. Godfathers of the Renaissance; London: Pimlico; 2005: 110 f.)

Probably one of the most remarkable moments behind the spatial appeal of this work is given by its own force: itself is space, itself attracts. It surely does so by the beauty of the young man, but also by the perfect balance. Perhaps it had been really the first statute of its kind: standing alone, and standing on its own, not depending on external support as it had been in harmony with the space, the environment.

The other sculpture I want to present is again from Bernini, namely his Estasi di santa Teresa d’Avila in the Sana Maria della Vittoria in Rome: another masterpiece, looked ar as large entity and equally seen in its details.

Presenting space means here something entirely different, perhaps even standing counter to the two previous examples. Rather than being space, presenting itself as space, we see now an example of filling space, occupying and at the same time making use of space.

Depicting space on the canvas, the capturing of perspective can be seen as invention of the late medieval ages, i.e. the late 15th century. Still, Giorgio Vasari, in the Preface to his impressive overview, still wrote correctly

Moreover, they lay very great stress on the fact that things are more noble and more perfect in proportion as they approach more nearly to the truth, and they say that sculpture imitates the true form and shows its works on every side and from every point of view, whereas painting, being laid on flat with most simple strokes of the brush and having but one light, shows but one aspect

(Vasari, Giorgio, 1550: Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects ; here quoted from the Internet-version)

As we will see later, the ability to included space into painting is part of a true revolutionary of thinking of the entire mindset – and we will see later as well that it had been re-volutionary: bringing an ability back that existed a long time before but was lost. As much as the world had been flat until – in the West – Pythagorean thinking challenged this image, the thinking had been shallow: limited in abstraction. And equally limited in depth. Economic life had been dominated by only rudimentary forms of exchange; relationships had been of limited complexity: immediate and direct and violent, hic et nunc, a matter of presence. And as such it had been presented: hic et nunc had been the slogan of the time, the ibi et postea emerged only slowly. But nevertheless, here and now and equally there and later it developed – and a leap in the development can be seen around 1300: a new era of integration emerged from the new view on space and time, i.e. by …., well: by dissolving an apparently irresolvable entity. Mind, the previous worldview is not about something that is strongly bound together. Rather it is about an entity, the eens: something that is element rather the exiting of elements. As such it had been extremely exclusionary. The later slogan If you are not with us, you are against us, in a frightening way applied by the Bush administration in the aggression against Iraq, had been even more radical: If you are not us (i.e. identical with us), you do not exist. This, of course, did not even need to think about any market economy, any production for the market – at least not in terms of an anonymous institution. The thinking in entities can already be seen by looking at the political system of ancient Greece. Of course, we find already then different spheres: the private and the public.

The distinction between private and public sphere is of ancient origin; it goes back to the Greek oikos, the household, and ecclesia, the site of politics, where matters affecting all members of the polis are tackled and settled. But between oikos and ecclesia the Greeks situated one more sphere, that of communication between the two, the sphere whose major role was not keeping the private ad the public apart and guarding the territorial integrity of each, but assuring a smooth and constant traffic between them. That third and intermediate sphere, the agora (the private/public sphere as Castoriadis put it) bound the two extremes and held them together. Its role was crucial for the maintenance of the truly autonomous polis resting on the true autonomy of its members. Without it, neither the polis nor its members could gain, let alone retain, their freedom to decide the meaning of their common good and what was to be done to attain it. But the private/public sphere, like any ambivalent setting or any no-man’s land (or, rather, a land of too many owners and disputed ownership), is a territory of constant tension and tug-of-war as much as it is the site of dialogue, cooperation or compromise.

(Bauman, Zygmunt, 1999: In Search of Politics; Stanford: Stanford University Press: 87)

And in actual fact we find already in ancient times the knowledge of perspective – and its depiction. But it faded easily away – as much as the open communication as discursive process had been replaced by hierarchical structures. One reason can be seen in the fact that rather than truly relating with each other, we are asked to see them as distinct spheres: the private is the private and the public is the public, not even allowing to put the claim forward that stands for the more or less recent feminist movement, saying that the personal is political.

Now, in the outgoing Middle Ages things changed dramatically: most importantly, the economic sphere claimed the right of independence, not submitted, not annexed to the political system. This formulation seems to stand in contradiction to what had been said before: the closed worldview, the suggested entity. To some extent it does, indeed. However, as the previous relationships had been strictly hierarchical, tributary, authoritarian ‘relationality’ at that stage had not been a matter of independent variables to each other. This independence had been only now entering the agenda, in brief:

  • as claim of actors to take things up according to their own will: act independently, in their own risk and gain, the early modern undertaker. The entrepreneur, and even if the risk would be to dig the own grave – undertaker,
  • as possibility to leave the limited spacetime: the new Copernican worldview allowed to think ‘the other’
  • more importantly it required to reconsider the self. Much later, in 1871, it would be put by Eugène Pottier into the words

Il n’est pas de sauveurs suprêmes

Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun

—-

There are no supreme saviours

Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.

  • it encouraged explorations of entirely new kinds: the immense wealth that existed, the new challenges, and the new technologies, all this inviting at least parts of society to look for a supreme saviour – and to take up the search in the here an now. Sure, another paradox of history: the exploration of the there and then meant equally the new view on and evaluation of the here and now; it had been much later explored in particular in connection with Protestantism;
  • and finally this is also the context in which another new art developed: the art of government. In general, history gained new interest, Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) apparently being one of the first highlighting the distinctiveness of the new age which would become known as renaissance. And his idea of this new age had been strongly influenced by somebody who then had been already a figure of long bygone history: Titus Livius Patavinus, who lived between 59 BC and AD 17.

Is it then surprising if we see the second main work presented by Niccolò Machiavelli – today he would be probably classified as the first political scientist – dedicated to Livio? In his Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio from 1531 he writes (at the same time when writing Il Principe) in chapter XXXIX

Whoever considers the past and the present will readily observe that all cities and all peoples are and ever have been animated by the same desires and the same passions; so that it is easy, by diligent study of the past, to foresee what is likely to happen in the future in any republic, and to apply those remedies that were used by the ancients, or, not finding any that were employed by them, to devise new ones from the similarity of the events.

(Machiavell, Niccolò, 1513: Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius; here quoted from a website)

The important point here is the emergence of an entirely new understanding of history, the early reference to the fact that

[m]en make their own history, 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.

(Marx, Karl: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 1852; here quoted from the internet-version)

Looking at these different perspectives – even from Machiavelli to Marx – and surely not creating a Marxian Machiavelli nor a Machiavellian Marx, the decisive development is: Development. Rather than understanding history as recurrence (as G.W. Trompf seems to suggest [see G.W. Trompf, 1979: The Idea of Historical Recurrence in Western Thought. From Antiquity to Reformation; Berkeley et altera: University of California Press]) the truly new moment is that history is now seen as something man-made, development not a matter of chance but a matter of ‘design’. As said before

There are no supreme saviours

Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.

Against this background we may say that the third dimension could now be understood in its abstractness. It could be truly imagined and grasped without being immediately ‘there’, without being present space, let alone that there had been the need for present spacetime. For us today these issues are so present that of course even such terms as spacetime are difficult. Actually it had been funny – for me – reading an editor commenting on a sentence of my article. The words in question had been the following:

understood as a process of relational appropriation.

The editor’s note – and as it is clear from other comments that it concerned in particular the matter of relationality – read

?????WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

Sure, Bill Gates and his crew still underline the term relationality in the spell check and of course they do not propose a definition. Ask my students, ask Lucy for instance but I am sure, Brona … all others will also know what it is. Perhaps it is a little bit of missionary element of my work: travelling, teaching in different places and countries – and teaching different subjects – to spread the word. To be honest, I am not really serious about it. But I am serious about the fact that we frequently take things too simple, and that we are for instance not sufficiently ready to challenge readers, and this means also: to challenge our own thinking. As the world of capitalist exchange-relationships systematically undermines relationality, reduces everything on simple contractual relationships our entire thinking is ready to follow and to face out the fact these relationships are only a very part of an actually complex structure. – The term relationality is, of course, not my personal ‘invention’ [though Treasa, former student in Cork and in her ‘leisure time’ teaching English as foreign language, liked my occasional inventions of new words 😉 ]. The first time I came across it in a text by Brent D. Slife. He begins with

[r]elationships and practices [that] are reciprocal exchanges of information among essentially self-contained organisms, … [remaining] ultimately a type of individualism or atomism.

(Slife, Brent F., 2004: Taking Practice Seriously: Toward a Relational Ontology; in: Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology; 24.2; 157-178; here: 158)

Then he continues a little later

Strong relationality, by contrast, is an ontological relationality. Relationships are not just the interactions of what was originally nonrelational; relationships are relational ‘all the way down.’ Things are not first self-contained entities and then interactive. Each thing, including each person, is first and always a nexus of relations.

(ibid.: 159)

Well, dear editor … – I have to say that the actual editor, not the language editor, had been smart enough to understand what I meant. And there may be something that deserves mention in a side-remark. Almas and Carol as editors listened to a presentation on which the edited texted is based did not insist on changing. This gives the written word surely a different meaning, allows a distinct understanding – for editing language the knowledge of the subject area is probably much more important than the knowledge of ‘pure language’. Such pure language is something like pure reason: shallow, taking the shape of a spectre: cadaverous, commanding respect and stone-cold. Sufficient and applicable in a world that is reduced on relations: cadaverous, commanding respect and stone-cold.

And it is surely a challenge to allow the flourishing of relations within relationships without killing the relationality and vice versa: to foster relationality without assassination of relations. Barry actually took up this challenge – I am talking about editing another text. I have to smile, reading the other day his mail:

Peter, I’m in the midst of de-hegelizing your paper – it is very good when formatted in colloquial English. It also addresses some other Big History debates, which you have intuitively caught. Great job…very impressive! – Barry

If he is ready to go the final step will be shown in the future. Leaving the linguistic aspect out of question, we should not make things simpler than needed and possible. Why not do, what I did as part of this years course at Corvinus: reading. Reading a text and spending about three hours on about two pages. Sure, we cannot do it all the time. But we have to see as well that only those things we know already will easily fly at us. Looking for other things, for something new is not easy; and teaching other things while at the same time looking for them, exploring them further is surely even more difficult. But imagine the please, the …, well: gratification … . I mentioned Lucy, didn’t I? One day in class, the usual difficult stuff … . She turns to Brona and I hear her whispering something like:

Yes, really – yesterday evening I really got it. I don’t know exactly … . But I really got what he is talking about. Yes, it is possible to understand it.

Yes, it is. The only condition is openness – the readiness to accept a very simple fact, nearly too simple to be mentioned; and nevertheless obviously frequently forgotten in educational institutions where learning takes the form of an exercise, nearly military in character: production and reproduction of knowledge, the ultimate goal being the production of recruits of the army in the factories – or the reserve army on the corridors of the labour offices.

– Thanks, Lucy! Thanks also to Michelle, to Barry, … – actually there are many, perhaps at the end most of the students who happily escaped at least for some time the power of points which had been used as bullets to make them obedient solders, disciplined by the discipline’s bullets of mainstream knowledge and mainstream dissemination, with the bitter end of

The suicide of the social sciences: causes and effects

as outlined by Carin Holmquist and Elisabeth Sundin.

(Holmquist, Carin/Sundin, Elisabeth, 2010: The suicide of the social sciences: causes and effects; in: Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research Volume 23, Issue 1: 13-23)[1]

*****

Coming from the light, moving to the word, speaking the sentence, we arrive at one of the paradoxes of history until now: elaborated speech, artfully veered words emerging as sentence: the sentence of the newly emerging cage, now golden, artfully turned, emerging with an increasingly tightened power, thus making play increasingly difficult again.

The sentence is the commitment claimed by the new rules: light is replaced by the power switch, the word is replaced by the book of which the pages can only be opened to allow the reading of the positive words: the words of positive law, purely individualistic, and nevertheless until now the highest form of reason: instrumental, and as such surely not least a matter of the instrumentalist, the person or group that controls the instrument. Linguet and Smith alike are surely right in their interpretation – but a tiny turn in Smith’s exact wording, in the paragraph he wrote must rouse our attention. It is the said socialisation of power: individual masters joining into a coalition, thus undermining societal solidarity. Individuals, guided by an invisible hand, emerges as class that positions itself as such outside and above society, successfully claiming the position as hegemon.

But doesn’t this, when we take up for instance Spinoza’s definition of freedom, provoke also the consideration of horizons of possibilities? Let us briefly recall Spinoza’s definition. He states in his Treatise, for instance that

[i]t is impossible for the mind to be completely under another’s control; for no one is able to transfer to another his natural right or faculty to reason freely and to form his own judgment on any matters whatsoever, nor can he be compelled to do so.

Referring to this sentence, highlights the two important aspects: the highly individualist orientation – expressing the fear Spinoza developed in the light of the recuperating conservative Dutch powers; and the extreme orientation on reflexive responsibility: freedom from external forces, freedom had been first considered in terms of contemplation and only second as freedom to act.

Nevertheless it opened also the horizon for some kind of contingency – but contingency as reasoned contingency, based in the reality and it’s analysis. As much as the gathering of individual bourgeois turned into the bourgeois class, other gatherings of individuals can turn into collective actors.Thus we arrive finally from interpretation at the conclusive interpretation – and this is the consideration of the dialectical turn. Actually we don’t have to do this anymore ourselves and can refer to Ernst Bloch who systematically proposed a structure of a space of opportunities. Taking it from my writing on a different occasion we see that

Ernst Bloch makes us aware of four different kinds of possibilities, namely (i) the formally possible – what is possible according to its logical structure; (ii) the objectively possible – possible being based on assumptions on the ground of epistemologically based knowledge; (iii) the objectively possible – possible as it follows from the options inherently given by the object; (iv) and the objectively real possible – possible by following the latency and tendency which is inherent in its elementary form.

(Herrmann, Peter, in print: God, Law and a Good Society; see Bloch, Ernst, 1938-1947: Das Prinzip Hoffnung; [written in 1938-1947, review 1953 and 1959]; Franfurt/M.:Suhrkamp, 1959 258-288)

We are actually gaining relative independence by becoming knowledgeable not only about the here and now but by the recognition of what is as germ in the here and now: the germ of history as source also for the future, the recognition of the opportunities contained and in need to be brought to the surface by getting actively involved in the contradictions.

*****

Back to step one then: there is surely no ‘day without culture’ since those days of the switch with which we learned to turn on the light and the roller shutter which allowed us to escape it.

And of course, one of the instruments, itself a product of culture, had been religion. Volkhard Krech, with reference to Peter L. Berger, elaborates on this. He quotes Berger who states

Religion is the undertaking of man to errect a holy cosmos

(Berger, Peter L.,1973: Zur Dialektic von Religion und Gesellschaft; Frankfurt/M.: Fischer: 26)

And explains

It’s task is to make sure that the socially constructed nomos the quality of certainty and ontological status that had been questioned in (…) border situations.

(Krech, Volkhard, 2011: Wo bleibt die Religion?; Bielefeld: transcript: 28)

Again in the words of Berger:

Religion implies the projection of the human order into the totality of existence

(Berger, op.cit.: 28)

Isn’t this very much the same projection and fascination that is expressed – and retained – in the masterworks we inherited from Michelangelo and Rubens?

But before I turn to them, I want to return briefly to the ‘day of culture’, my day of culture. Starting this little epistle I had been on the way back, from a Beethoven concert (ah, no, I won’t say anything – just try not to remember, feel so sorry for the great Beethoven, who had been rolled over by a pianist who mixed up roles and performed more like a logger), briefly stepping into Everyman, the JEDERMANN, though apparently not officially part of the Goethe-Institute at least adjunct. Full of tension: the privy councillor and everyman’s culture; the traditionalist who once said that

[a] person who does not know the history of the last 3,000 years wanders in the darkness of ignorance, unable to make sense of the reality around him

and who surely had been also the personification of an avantgardist: storm and stress, critique of the prevailing conditions of society: a callous formation, caught in rationality which he once scornfully brushed off, exclaiming

All rights and laws are still transmitted

Like an eternal sickness of the race, –

From generation unto generation fitted,

And shifted round from place to place.

Reason becomes a sham, Beneficience a worry:

Though art a grandchild, therefore woe to thee!

The right born with us, ours in verity, This to consider, there’s, alas! no hurry.

(Faust, Johann Wolfgang von: Fasut; translated by Bayard Taylor; The Pennsylvania State University, 2005: 67)

— —— ——

Es erben sich Gesetz’ und Rechte

Wie eine ew’ge Krankheit fort,

Sie schleppen von Geschlecht sich zum Geschlechte,

Und rücken sacht von Ort zu Ort.

Vernunft wir Unsinn, Wohlthat Plage;

Weh Dir, daß Du ein Enkel bist!

Vom Rechte, das mit uns geboren ist,

Von dem ist leider! nie die Frage.

(Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von,1806: Faust. Eine Tragödie; Stuttgart/Tübingen: Cotta’sche Buchhandlung, 1825: 121)

the respectful gentle- and nobleman, at the same time well known as macho, as he shines through in Martin Walser’s novel of A Loving Man; parochial, lover of the two Charlottes – the Stein’sche and much earlier the Kestner’sche, and at the same time the incarnation of the extraversion, imagine him, sitting their on his West-Eastern Divan, being much later honourable reference for Daniel Barenboim’s and Edward Said’s cultural peace initiative; thus showing the transformation of tradition … – culture surely not least a matter of openness, readiness to engage in contradictions. And he knew too well about it, exclaiming in his Faust

What rapture, ah! at once is flowing

Through all my senses at the sight of this!

I feel a youthful life, its holy bliss,

Through nerve and vein run on, new-glowing.

—- _____ __—-

Ha! Welche Wonne fließt in diesem Blick

Auf einmal nur durch alle meine Sinnen!

Ich fühle, junges, heil’ges Lebensglück

Neugühend mir durch Nerv und Adern rinnen.

http://www.einam.com/faust/

*****

It cannot be pure incidence that after a short while a group of young people turns up, getting organised on the small stage, surrounded by the various posters, announcing Jazz concerts, performances of classical music, art exhibitions, dance performances – the most varied genres of arts. And it could be possible to write a little history of art in Budapest, looking at the various dates. Coming back to the Vasari-quote from before we may say – cum grano salis: there are many more siblings, the entire word of music, dance – expression and expressing, design: watching for the signs in reality, picking them up and bringing them again together as that what is

objectively real possible – possible by following the latency and tendency which is inherent in its elementary form.

It doesn’t take long and the room is imbued with the rhythm of a mixed sound: jazzy-Hungarian folk music: the ease of young people who do not have a chance but who take it – very much as Herbert Achternbuch claimed in his novel Die Atlantikschwimmer.

It is surely a wild mix of different cultures, emerging as new culture that searches for a place between the old, the presence and the future.

Yes, I continue listening; and I continue preparing the next class, reading Rosa Luxemburg’s text on Accumulation, chapter XXVII beginning with the words

Capitalism arises and develops historically admidst a non-capitalist society. In Western Europe it is found at first in a feudal environment from which it in fact sprang – the system of bondage in rural areas and the guild system n the towns – and later, after having swallowed up the feudal system, it exists mainly in an environment of peasants and artisans, that is to say in a system of simple commodity production both in agriculture and trade. European capitalism is further surrounded by vast territories of non-European civilisation ranging over all levels of development from the primitive communist hordes of nomad herdsmen, hunters and artisans. This is the setting for the accumulation of capital.

(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: 368)

So, in this way it is a day of special culture – a special day of culture: two concerts, one so-called high-culture, lowly performed by a pianist who treated the Steinway in the mood of a lumberjack, another concert which didn’t really come along as a concert but more as a playful gathering of musicians: having fun, making fun and getting people to join …, a bit of the Meister’s Journeyman Years of Goethe, whose spirit is in some way in the room.

*****

Back to Spacetime – the term that made me take off a little bit. So, back to painting, back to the new ability: understanding a new dimension of space.

But actually I will leave that for another time. Finally we can be sure, that there is a next time. Another day full of culture. Or should we be afraid of nature, playing a silly trick, and leading us into an entirely different sphere?

*****


[1] Ah, yeah: it is published in one of these attacked coffins, knocking from inside – looking from inside out doesn’t cost anything; though looking from outside into it you’ll be charged.

Tension – Excitement – Challenge*

It is two weeks now that I am here, arriving with the night train in Budapest on the 25th – at that time still being torn between the old and the new.

– Don’t we all know this feeling of a kind of standstill: While we are living, staying in a place, we think too often that there is no development, have the impression that nothing changes. But only occasionally returning to places, or being frequent visitor we think that even after a year the world apparently turned upside down.

However, sometimes I get the opposite impression: In global society, change seems to be a foreign word, a misnomer, a non-word and one gets easily the impression that there is no such thing as change. And moreover, as different as places still are, this stasis is apparently everywhere the same: local variations over a global cacophony. The sadism of stasis – nothing changed, nothing changes, the appearance of history repeating itself: barbarism, slavery, princedoms … – and liberating philosophers, even philosopher kings rising and falling like empires.

Of course, I know that this statement doesn’t hold true: Speaking about history and repetition is talking about a contradiction in terms. Actually in my current academic work I try to find out in which way change is actually going much beyond what we usually recognise – not a cacophony but a baroque piece: the ease with which political movements – on the right and on the left alike – apparently move around, a kind of lightness despite the harshness of measures and the blood and tears coming to the fore during so many demonstrations. But this light, though strict melody, carried for certain sequences – election periods or short-term business cycles or cycles of political gossip, is actually carried by the descant, a constant move, though remaining an enigma – hidden behind catchwords of neoliberalism, austerity, welfare state, social security, hiding that we are facing some kind of reinvention.

Old fortresses are re-erected under different names and presenting themselves in new garment?

New mythologies emerging, suggesting WYSWYG – What You See is What You Get? and as phenomena they introduce themselves by promising improvements, they suggest to come along like beautiful swans in ecstatic dance, encased by a soft veil while moving gently across the lake – the haze of flexibility, increased choice, and even the system’s readiness to admit failures: frequently we hear that the rat-race has to come to an end. Supposedly there is a life Beyond GDP – I finally sent of the proof print for the article in the International Journal of Social Quality; remembering the difficulties of tackling this issue, especially as the work on that article, though ‘my’ work, had been permanently confronted with the challenge of existing ‘between’, in some respect ‘above’ the world – thus easily being crunched when crossing boundaries. Pragmatic solutions can usually be easily found – the so-called Stiglitz-Commission showed how easy it is to come up with something, and it showed equally that simple proposals are deemed to fail (but for this I refer to the forthcoming article and also to the new book on Social Quality.

At least we should always be aware of what Alain Lipietz, after briefly looking at Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, brings to the point by asking simple, and in their simplicity important questions:

The novel gives us a wonderful story and a lesson. Have we not invented many Beasts of the Apocalypse by over-schematizing, generalizing, dogmatizing our thinking? Have we not deduced from these Beasts and their properties the future unfolding of concrete history?

(Lipietz, Alain, 1986: New Tendencies in the International Division of Labor: Regimes of Accumulation and Modes of Regulation; in: Scott/Allen J./Storper, Michael [eds.]: Production, Work, Territory. The Geographical Anatomy of Industrial Capitalism; Boston/London/Sidney: Allen&Unwin: 16-40; here 17 f.)

____________

At least a short remark on this shift of ground-patterns may be allowed. One question is for instance if we really can use this concept of neo-liberalism, if it captures sufficiently the far-reaching changes? And going on from there, seeing that anything like neo-liberalism is very much a matter of political steering (the superstructure), I am asking in which fundamental way the mode of production actually changed. Should we still allow ourselves to speak of post-Fordism (as it is still quite common in the theory of regulation). Is there not a requirement to look for a definition that captures in a ‘positive way’ the changes? Perhaps there is some reason for thinking about a Gates-Jobsian shift emerging from the undefined polyphonic post-Fordism? The new computer-technology and with this the era of information-technology as it is frequently attributed to Gates’ Microsoft and Jobs’ Apple emporium has much deeper implications as we usually see: the digitalisation of everything, the increased accessibility of manything and the potential of anything are visible, lurk around every corner. But we do not see immediately the depletion of substance in algebraic formulae, the unattainability of understanding and the reality of the potential as potentiality of factuality, immersing as something that could be but that is not. A new kind of absolute idea – it is not irrationality but a new rationality and perhaps even a new categorical imperative.

Sure, today the Hegelian god of such absolute idea had to give way for the new-Cartesian, Gates-Jobsian god of ‘information’ and consumption. The consumo ergo sum I mentioned in a very early publication [yes, last century-stuff 😉 ] could not only persist but appears to be excessive – even to such an extent excessive that it dug its own grave.

But with this we arrive at a core moment of the Gates-Jobsian accumulation regime: it is the very specific gate it establishes. Though it is apparently still about jobs, it is actually about something rather different …, as it can be argued that production – in the complex understanding as it had been developed in the Grundrisse is altogether redefined. The four dimensions pointed out by Marx are manufacturing/constructing, consumption, distribution and exchange. If we want to find at least one major change, apparently common to all, we can make out that these acts are in two ways torn apart: not only that, lets say: productive consumption is rather distant from the actual fabrication, distribution is an area which appears to be able to happen even without any manufacture(d products). In addition we find even within these dimensions of production major divisions and separations. Thus we may look at a new mode in the following tentative outline:

  • fabrication as open process of assembling variety, however depending on extended supply of mass products
  • consumption as invisible process behind the scenes, not least over distance – the proverbial electrical power coming out of the plug rather than being produced in generating plants
  • distribution as allocation, attribution of roles and status
  • exchange as competition

The socio-human being seems to be submerged by the new categorical imperative.

____________

It is somewhat strange incidence talking one of the days to Edib – considerations to get me to a conference of the new world – under the aegis of Gates, considering in the light of Big History the position of humanity. Though I propose to speak of humane-ity. At least it is fascinating to see similar topics coming up as they had been discussed during the Renaissance era. The difference however: at that time Copernicus, Galilee, Bruno …., they all claimed that the earth is not the centre of the universe, paradoxically asking for man to be his own master (yes, it was and still is  long way to fully accept that woman would be her own masteress).[1]

____________

Wendy asked rhetorically, long time ago, as what I would consider myself, answering the question herself: a social philosopher …. Yes, may be at this stage I have to admit I am one of these people who never learned something real, who only claim to know something about everything and who want to say something on any topic – there are enough of them like Adorno, Bauman, Habermas, Weber … to be sure, no pretension …, but why not join them: a dwarf amongst …, well, just among other people, as it is not really difficult to be a loner and a maverick.

____________

And there I may then return to the standstill. I came the first time to Budapest in 2006, and although I am not sure I think it had been the first time of being visiting professor abroad. Such positions are surely challenging – teaching and working in a different environment, with different students but also in different course settings. As much as one is ‘one of the many’, just a lecturer amongst lecturers, one is also the stranger. And as such one merges with the presence of spacetime and remains nevertheless observer.

I remember the ‘old times’ too well, having a small flat at the Váci Utca, near to the Erzsébet Híd – in the evening coming from Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem, usually going later to the Centrál Kávéház. Though coming from the small village in Ireland, now living in a city, everything looked somewhat cosy. It is the wrong term, but nevertheless I lack a better term for describing the well-ordered life. After some time, I learned to ignore the tourists, also the obvious rip-off. Instead I saw – wanted to see – the heave …, the hype: optimism …., and humility. Sure, even at that time it had not been as plain as that – and I will surely will have a closer look at the time soon: the travel log in which I wrote about it is currently prepared for print and I look forward to hold the book in my hand.

But today’s perspective is a different one. Surely many things changed. Well, the blind man at the entrance of the metro station is still there – as I recognise so many of the faces of people in the street: begging; distributing leaflets with which an apparently eternal clearing sale is announced, year for year, month for month with the same tempting offers; selling tickets for a concert in a church at the main street, not telling people that it is unbearable cold in there; selling table cloth ….; I still see the people who are standing in the morning, at 5 or 6 in front of the one building, hoping for a job at least for a couple of hours. Apparently little has changed: for a long time I didn’t see the fiddle player with the cute little dog – in 2006: I saw him every morning from the window of my flat – he was on the way to work in the little tunnel between the two sides of the Váci, about the time when I left to the university, teaching Zsuzsa’s group of PhD-students. Gone are also many of the homeless, people sleeping rough: gone by way of ‘cleaning’ the building site before finishing the work – or cleansing? And gone is as well the piano player – we met and there had always been time for a chat in the coffeehouse where he played – he played for little money, and for what he saw as great pleasure: merging with music instrument like a holy trinity …, and I knew exactly what he was talking about, I could remember the feeling I once experienced: my fingers gliding over the soft material of the keys of a grand-grand piano … – playing …, the ease of true wilfulness, liberated from need and necessity.

And I try not to remember too often that I said at the time of my earlier visits in several presentations that the hype, the wish to learn from the then booming Ireland and the hope to step into the Celtic tiger’s footsteps would be like following a meander. But what I cannot forget and what I do not want to overlook is that my earlier statements, questioning the value of the earlier hype, had been well in place. It had been already then that the ground opened for what appears today as major change: the crisis of democracy – here in Hungary, and here in EUrope and here in the Global Village.

Looking at the life in a city as Budapest we may feel reminded of a building site – starting according a blueprint for a magnificent edifice without accepting that it cannot be erected on drift sand. Building such edifice is like thinking about seven ages – though the number of phases my not be correct, the issue at stake is the rise and fall of modes of production, easily hidden behind facades – like the use of terms that had been meaningful at one stage, that are by now shallow, hollow. Like the edifice on the other side of the road where I live: two beautiful old buildings, artfully welded together by an intermediary glass construct – at one stage envisioned as shopping mall, but never opened, now until further notice disposed to decay.

A derelict building site – and as much as I am in Budapest I am not really writing about Budapest, not solely about the country. I it is more the one building block of transition. And talking about transition I do not mean the so-called Central and Eastern European Countries – rather, I am talking about the transition towards the final global order of what I called tentatively Gates-Jobs’ian shift.

____________

Today it seems that the swan’s dance is really getting wild, rampant.

– It is difficult for me to look at one country only. Just the other day I follow a link, informing about working conditions in India. And I read an article – the German ministry for family affairs withholds information – published are only studies that support the seriously family- and in particular women-UN-friendly policies. Yes, the UN pops up – perhaps incidentally as matter of negation and also as matter of the United Nations: nations united in their political orientations – doesn’t the news from Germany match the Irish report on Lone Parent support cuts?

It may be true:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blest:

The soul uneasy and confin’d from home,

Rest and expatiates in a life to come.

(Alexander Pope, 1734: An Essay on Man)

Here it seems that hope is lost, lost after having list trust: coming from socialism, having left the another apparently ancient regime behind, entering paradise, entering a world that had been not least known only from soap operas …. Paradise lost, and it is up to you where you want to localise this: the past-past of the golden ages of the good old times – eternally popping up –, or you see it in the past which is just overcome and still present or the new past: every present day, lost because of it’s stasis, lost with the loss of hope. And every further step gives the feeling of more hope being lost. Of course, it may be a wrong impression, idiosyncratic. – My own recent experience in Athens return to my mind, later the brief discussions with Judith in Berlin, Brian in Brussels, Donal in Cork, Sinead in Dublin about possible next steps, not least the steps we can do in Ireland: not looking for wrong national sovereignty, but for true solidarity.

Desperation seems to be the word of the day – here and there, expressing itself in resignation and/or blind hatred and rage. Here in Budapest I see more resignation than rage. Here the loss of democracy is so obvious though all this is just one of the bars, part of the EUropean string-concert of strangulation. Remembering the extensive trust, still pertaining in 2006, I face now the turn of the rubble of the ‘new beginning’ into the dust of the scattiness of struggles, not having any other rationale than maintaining power; watching the old poor, being joined by the young poor: old, i.e. living already long time in poverty; old, i.e. being old in years – and those who joined only recently the army of the poor, some of them old in years, but some of them surely not even born in 2006, now joining their parents or even sitting alone, begging for money; seeing what may not be for everybody obvious at first glance: people being caught in the ongoing hope – the hope of finding a modest place in the new system, finding a way through the gates, to some kind of jobs.

____________

I am still convinced that part of the problem is actually due to our own failure. The failure of critical voices who are going ahead with general moaning about neoliberal retrenchment, austerity … – thus standing in the way of finding new perspectives.

I am afraid that the given catchwords as neoliberal retrenchment, austerity, welfare state – and many similar could be added – may well be needed in some political disputes. But we should not forget that they easily suggest that there is a strategy behind the current global development where perhaps it does not really exist. And the use of such terms makes us overlook that contradictions exist in the overall process, not just as matter of the counter-power evoked but also the contradictions within the given system. And most importantly it makes us neglect the fundamental character of the changes, not really being about depletion but being about change, the development of something new: something that wears the grimace of blight and the countenance of beauty, presenting itself as carnival of which we cannot yet be sure which one is just a façade. The point of cumulation is probably art – being protest, invention, creation and imagination of the virtual, past and coming. Is it as such necessarily protest. Is it true what the Futurist Manifesto says: that it art is about

the slap and the blow with the fist

And can we say that

There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character.

____________

So, on which stage are we playing?

It is the first item I looked at in this course on New Economic Philosophies. It’s Reflection in Six Paintings since the Renaissance.

– Isn’t it indeed necessary to explore more the history of everything, to explore more the manything and the real potential which, mind, will not be the potentiality of anything but only the coming to the fore of the real something, immanent as germ in the developing presence?

It may sound stupid, arrogant, ignorant …. – the crisis running riot; the living conditions of the many are deteriorating, just these days major protest movements emerging in Spain and …, and I start teaching a course on fine arts.

But perhaps it is not really ignorant, and on the contrary devoutness to learning. May be we can learn at least to be more attentive to spacetime – as matter of the determination of existence by big history as we would name it at the Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting at Lomonosow Moscow State University (waiting for the anthology to which I contributed on questions of Human Rights, hopefully coming out soon).

If we look at artwork it is not least the condensation of complex historical occurrences literally in a small space, the use of the canvas as space in which the painter, the artists flourishes as actor.

Simon Schama stated in his work on Rembrandt’s Eyes that

a ‘person’ in the seventeenth century meant a persona: a guise or role assumed by an actor. Rembrandt was playing his part, and the deep shadow and rough handling of his face complicate the mask, suggest the struggling fit between role and man.

(Schama, Simon, 1999: Rembrandt’s Eyes; London et altera: Penguin: 8)

And as important as this is, we are talking here in an even more general way of the actor, flourishing with the learned practice of the connoisseur on the canvass: a matter of playing with given structures and the process of giving structure to that what hitherto only exists in its own terms or the terms set by others. In this light it is true:

In every human society, art forms part of a complex structure of beliefs and rituals, moral and social codes, magic or science, myth or history. It stands midway between scientific knowledge and magical or mythical thought, between what is perceived and what is believed.

(Hough Honour/Fleming, John (2005): A World History of Art; London: Laurence King: 2)

Art, paintings and music, sculpture and theatre, photography and opera …, all these different performances are surely an especially pronounced matter of appears to me as secular everyday’s permanent struggle of development: individuation and distancing from the self, the move towards disengagement, however, without the loss of engagement, moreover: the disengagement as condition for the free engagement, independent of immediate need: engagement like the gliding over the soft material of the keys of a grand-grand piano … – playing …, the ease of true wilfulness, liberated from need and necessity.

But this development has also another perspective. It bears the general concept of disengagement sui generis. What had been frequently presented as relationality, with the four analytical dimensions of

  • auto-relation
  • group-relation (as general sociability)
  • ‘other’-relation (as ‘institutionalised and ‘defined’ socialbility – including class relationships etc.) and
  • environmental (‘organic nature’) relations

gains now an entirely new form, namely the form of potential independence:

Biography and life in today’s understanding are themselves product of modernity: under societal conditions, that are characterised by a static and seemingly unchangeable order autobiographisation and individuality are not strong or they do not even exist. This finds its reason in the fact that the ambitions and performance of the individual do not really determine the soci(et)al position of the individual; this lace is simply determined by the situation and social positional into which people are born. We can only talk about biography and life in the modern understanding since the push towards individualisation that had been made possible by the need of huge numbers of workforce in the new industries and the subsequent disembedding of the workforce from the traditional relations.[2]

(Welzer, Harald, 2011: Mentale Infrastrukturen. Wie das Wachstum in die Welt und in die Seelen kam; Edited by the Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung: Berlin: Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung: 15)

While Norbert Elias importantly developed a thorough understanding of the unity and difference of social ontogeny (οντογένεση) and phylogeny (φυλογένεση) (see Elias, Norbert [1939]: The Civilising Process. Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations; Oxford: Blackwell, 2000; also the chapter on Socialisation – Accessing the Social or Freeing the Individual I wrote in the book on Social Professional Activities and the State), the reality developed historically in a somewhat different direction: The Cartesian Cogito Ergo Sum provided the foundation on which the new idealism could establish itself: The human body emerged as nothing else than a container, an instrument. The new relationality appears as one between the me and they, the tool and the user, the social developing as something that is delivered rather than lived.

And it appears as being brought to the boil by what I see sitting the other day in the Gerbeaud: it seems that the artfully designed cakes, the sneakily premeditated ice creams, even the hot drinks in the divine china and skilfully twisted pottery are more a matter for the eye: slim, feathery men and women are sitting around the small tables, occupied by making many photos and approach then, hesitatingly the delights of refined ordinariness: ingestion. – All this suggests a world that is turned on its head – a new idealism:

Grub first, then ethics. – A hungry man has no conscience

Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral

Bertolt Brecht, in his strong Threepenny Opera pronounced truism. And it surely had been a truism for all the Ancient Regimes. But the new regime, the Gates-Jobsian virtual world wants to suggest something new. First comes the moral, the beauty and then we think about the necessities. A world of morality for the rich – and the answer follows, of course. Again we can refer to Brecht:

The  woman: Does she come regularly? Has she got a claim on you?

Shen Teh: No claim, but she’s hungry: and that’s more important.

(Bertolt Brecht: The Good Person of Szechwan. Translated by John Willet; edited and introduced by John Willet and Ralph Manheim; London: Methuen, 2000: 15)

There is no such thing as society – There is no such thing as change – There are no rights … — It seems to be true. But mind: saying It seems to be true means to make the same mistake: Engaging on the level of appearance, without acknowledging the truism that is still valid today – and that will always be valid:

Grub first, then ethics. – A hungry man has no conscience

Or, as Frederick Engels put it in his piece on Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (volume 24 of the MECW, page 306 – quote from web-version),

The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.

____________

Exactly this complexity is the specific play in which we are engaging – its hegemonic power expressed in the interplay of different layers: we may see it as man’s ages: Infancy, Childhood, Loving Adolescent, Fighting Adult, Wisdom Maturity, Putridity and finally the Dementia of the Very Old and the return to the child’s dependency. – Of course we have to add – just as reminder: Man’s Ages are very much presented as ages of men – women so many times being considered, right in the tradition of Aquinas (we could easily go back as well much further, for instance looking at Plato and Aristotle).

Claiming on the one hand in his Summa Theologica that

it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate

he obviously missed some light, stating in the same book on another occasion

I answer that, It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a ‘helper’ to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation. This can be made clear if we observe the mode of generation carried out in various living things. Some living things do not possess in themselves the power of generation, but are generated by some other specific agent, such as some plants and animals by the influence of the heavenly bodies, from some fitting matter and not from seed: others possess the active and passive generative power together; as we see in plants which are generated from seed; for the noblest vital function in plants is generation. Wherefore we observe that in these the active power of generation invariably accompanies the passive power. Among perfect animals the active power of generation belongs to the male sex, and the passive power to the female. And as among animals there is a vital operation nobler than generation, to which their life is principally directed; therefore the male sex is not found in continual union with the female in perfect animals, but only at the time of coition; so that we may consider that by this means the male and female are one, as in plants they are always united; although in some cases one of them preponderates, and in some the other. But man is yet further ordered to a still nobler vital action, and that is intellectual operation. Therefore there was greater reason for the distinction of these two forces in man; so that the female should be produced separately from the male; although they are carnally united for generation. Therefore directly after the formation of woman, it was said: ‘And they shall be two in one flesh’ (Gn. 2:24).

Reply to Objection 1: As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence; such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher observes (De Gener. Animal. iv, 2). On the other hand, as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten, but is included in nature’s intention as directed to the work of generation. Now the general intention of nature depends on God, Who is the universal Author of nature. Therefore, in producing nature, God formed not only the male but also the female.

Later, in a different entry, we will come back to the question of women.

____________

Looking now at Shakespeare writing on the Seven Ages of Man (around 1600) and William Mulready’s depiction much later in 1838 this cycle of life evolved in particular around four realms – the major lines of friction at the time:

  • Naturalness
  • Court Society
  • Religion
  • Love

And obvious this opens a playing field for exploration of different layers of soci(et)al development – we will look at this in four different dimensions.

  • secular societal development
  • individual development
  • secular economic development and
  • process of production.

SECULAR SOCIETAL DEVELOPMENT

INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT

* Naturalness* Court Society* Religion* Love * Childhood and Infancy* Regulation (of Adolescence and Adulthood)* Wisdom* Decay (Putridity and Dementia)
* Development of a mode of production with its respective accumulation regime and mode of production (economic theories of special relevance are Kondratievian and Schumpeterian considerations on take-off-phases, simplified captured by the term of the Schumpeterian entrepreneur)* Established mode of production with its generally accepted cyclical oscillation* Structural crisis* Circular Reflexivity (over-accumulation) * manufacturing as establishing use value Naturalness* distribution as attribution of power positions (control)Court Society* consumption as relating to the ‘natural environment Religion* Exchange, potentially pushed to a self-reflexive process

SECULAR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

PROCESS OF PRODUCTION

Of course, this is only a first glimpse into what will establish itself over time in a more detailed way!

In any case, this does not suggest circularity of or repetition in history. However, it does suggest an ongoing tension between inclusion as establishing relatively integrated and coherent systems, characterised by simultaneous process of extreme externalisation on the one hand and on the other hand internal disruption of previously integrated systems.

At least for the time in question this can be seen also as fight around the central issues of detachment and engagement on the way towards freedom. Taking human history as big human history we may say: the expulsion from paradise had been the first step towards emancipation: the first step towards independence from god. The price that had to be paid: guilt and lack of protection. The second step had been, subsequently emerging over the history of humanity, the gained independence from nature – not as denial but as matter of controlling the laws of nature. But this detachment had been not least paid for by the loss of the social, pure individualism as I called it on another occasion, when writing together with Claire. And in fact, if the analysis is correct, we are now coming to the limits: insolvency. The assets being exhausted, individualism and virtuality not being able to pay the debt they had been themselves building up over the centuries. The financial crisis is then nothing else than the point of cumulation pointing on the need for a Re-Invention of the Social – a process that has to go much beyond the limited Renewed Invention of the Social as it is described by Stephan Lessenich[3]

Or as I stated, with respect to the development up to hitherto, in my contribution on Human Rights – Good Will Hunting vs. Taking Positions for the book I am editing together with Sibel on Religion and Social Policy

This means that modernisation, i.e. the emergence of self-control of independent individuals under the condition of the ongoing expulsion from the Garden of Eden is even more serious under the new conditions as it is now inextricably welded into the system of dual dependency: the expulsion is eternal – the joyless existence in particular preached by Protestantism – going hand in hand with the alienation as it is justified by the god-given inequality. What some preach – not necessarily the only possible interpretation of the scripture – and what some say – not necessarily the only possible interpretation of the reality – gains a hegemonic status as permanent fostered escapism.

The two crossing diagonals are shaping the painting, in a very specific way marking both different directions and different spaces. The first ‘move’ is from the top left to the bottom right: it can be characterised as man’s different ages – and here man actually stands for men, for males. This line is also a line that spans from the court or fortress: the symbol of the Ancien Regime towards the ordinariness of life: literally people on the ground. Thought the situation in which the people are: depending on help, on mutual support, but also the representation of respect as it is for instance expressed by the one man’s hand at the cap, is not one of ease, it is nevertheless the presentation of brightness: the presence as future we may ask. The presence of emancipation, accepting the consequential need of mutuality and …, a new dependence. We can read it as well in a slightly different way: seeing the past also in a brighter light – though not as bright as the presence in the front. Then we actually concentrate on the dark, the centre slightly shifted to the left: the ages of fight and wisdom.

This leads to the second line, from the bottom left to the top right: the development from childhood to the loving adolescence. It is a line cutting through the other ages – and a line where man’s ages are now showing themselves as ages of humans. The boy, being undecided – or deciding? Or even: refusing to decide? – between the ages of later adulthood, being torn, and following in the presentation the line towards love, care, the one women in the middle of the picture drawing another line: the line between love and care. It is the tension marking the boys situation transformed in linking the tenderness of caring for the old with the tenderness of the loving relationship: TLC – tender, loving, care. There is not much darkness here. But we see at the same time a possible inverse development: the freedom, perhaps even the instability that characterises the boy’s need to decide is moving towards the presentation of the ease of a new accommodation: the ease of love, the playfulness expressed by the person leaning against the wall, the imagination, i.e. imaging of FLC – family loving care.

The new setting: also undecided: possibly between the new citizen, accommodated the palace-like building, carrying the heritage of antiquity on the two pillars next to the window, and the old citizen: the landlord …, present in the farm building, literally spanning between the fortress and the new building. Can we even suggest: ancient time literally reaching into the new age, also representing anxiety.

There is another time dimension, expressed in the triangular the women in the middle of the picture suggesting a line between the line between adolescent love and caring love – and thus the return of the productive role of the family. But here it is not the family of the oikos, the household economy: instead, it is the family: the social, reminiscent, although residual in the new family. As such producing and maintaining the social while standing outside of the ‘new social’: the social of individuals.

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Coming to the end of this section, it makes also sense to return to something that had been mentioned earlier – the opportunity to learn from looking at paintings. Learning as matter of understanding the time that is looked at and the times of depiction. And there may be even more we can learn about time. A fresco requires extremely fast work – the technique behind it: the paint, quickly and unchangeably engraving into the ground, does not give any leeway – and da Vinci, working on his Last Supper, was well aware of the difficulties although he tried to ignore them. And the fast stroke with a brush in paintings like that of a tree, just Over In An Instant are so full of time, or, using Sean Seal’s words

a single stroke painted in less than a heartbeat yet it has more visual information than one could achieve with one hundred strokes.  It has oodles of great design elements and principals contained within it. There is variety, texture, value, shape, lines, movement…

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In one single stroke the entire affluence of a reality – and we know well what happens:

The concrete is concrete because it is a synthesis of many determinations, thus a unity of the diverse. In thinking, it therefore appears as a process of summing-up, as a result, not as the starting point, although it is the real starting point of origin of perception and conception. The first procedure attenuates the comprehensive visualition to abstract determinations, the second leads from abstract determinations by way of thinking to the reproduction of the concrete

(Marx, Karl [1857/58]: Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58 [First Version of Capital]: in: in: Karl Marx. Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 28: Marx: 1857-1861; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1986: 38),

And the reality, everyday’s reality is of course permanently present – and it occasionally presents itself in a very special ‘painting’. – Only at first glance it seems to be a huge step from thoughts like this to …

… returning into the office – one day Gyöngyi left a booklet on my desk, one of the March editions of the Budapest Funzine, announcing on the front page the focus of the issue: Revolution Ready!

I write a quick mail to the very kind and very capable young woman who looks after international staff here at the Corvinus-Department of World Economy.

Sorry for not having been here, Gyöngyi – some …, well not counterrevolution but anti-revolution: I signed an endless number of documents – and I do not have a clue what they meant.

Still, I now avail of a bank account – too late for the consideration you mention below: three month, free of charge, and without paying for the tons of paper I signed and without paying for the twenty ink cartridges they probably needed and I had not been even asked to sign with my own pen 😉

Additional service: I had been asked if I would use internet-banking – I said no. Later I had been asked …, yes: if I would use internet-banking. I said no. Reply: ‘But I will explain it to you.’

Then I had been asked to provide a special internet-banking PIN – which I did 7 digits, quite a lot. I wrote it down for myself. And then she showed me and told me: the first time you log in you have to change the PIN. – This may enter the comparative study on bureaucracy etc. – For your entertainment: I once wanted to use Internet-banking back home, with the Bank of Ireland. I got the access codes etc., and wanted to transfer money started the process … . And at the very end of the process a funny message appeared on the screen, something like:

‘Within a couple of days you will receive a letter, authorising you to transfer money into the account you applied for.’

– You see it is not Hungary. We frequently disputed to which extent we are really dealing with national patterns of bureaucracies, national patterns of bribary …. At least there is strong competition.

Bureaucracy – opening an account, …

– it could be a tentative title for a comparative study

Is this not also very much a matter of …, yes: change, standstill, repetition in history and places? Too often we think just of the moment and the place: see it as so very specific, unique … And then again we see in so many cases just a diffuse pattern, seemingly all the same, appearing as endless sameness.

Very much about the deception that happens if we allow the

synthesis of many determinations

getting actually independent from its origin: the concrete? Doesn’t this show clearly the need that

first procedure attenuates the comprehensive visualition to abstract determinations?

If we are not thoroughly ready to engage in this, we fail to comprehend that it is not irrationality but a new rationality and perhaps even a new categorical imperative.

Failing, we end in the prevailing traps, the race of the rat. From back home, i.e. the University in Cork, I get a mail, announcing the next ‘planning day’, an annual meeting by the School of Applied Social Studies, originally set up to have at least once a year for more principle debates. It is scheduled to take place in the building where subjects as health studies, nursing etc. are taught. I cannot refrain from writing a little bit more than: ‘Apologies, I won’t be able to join.’ What do I write? Here you are.

Thanks for invite, ….

That is development – I remember days when this day had been a kind of celebratory event, from today’s perspective I would even say: a day of engaging in debates about planning, taking place in a nice atmosphere, spoiling staff for work that had been done, preparing for the finish, for a break and the next tasks and works – today, instead meetings take place in the Health Sciences Complex. Is it about encouraging us to think about negative health effects of the ‘new system’? Or guaranteeing that medical help is near if somebody collapses on the finishing line?

At least the University/School is not facing the (VERY same) trouble as we are facing it here: a politically absolutely incapable, right wing government that intends to exsiccate for political reasons a certain paradigm (roughly captured by catchwords as global economics/global political economy/world systems theory). The somewhat good thing: having been asked to join the team building a defence wall – one never knows the outcome, maybe I am crunched – in any case, apologies for not being able to join for the planning day.’ – Still, I refrain form extending on this. Over the last month, we got frequently mails like this:

Just to let you know that … has been in touch to say thank you for the bouquet of flowers sent from Applied Social Studies – she says it was a very thoughtful gesture which she really appreciated.

Yes, it is more frequent that people are getting sick, end up in hospital and get a nice bunch of flowers. Finally Applied Social Studies is about caring – and we may leave it for instance to sociologists to analyse why there is an increasing need to be caring, and we may leave it to lawyers to speak about the implementation of labour law …. – and we may hand back to the priests and ancient philosophers to talk about rights.

Capitalism today:

sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste,… sans everything?

Sans quelque chose, c’est aussi: sans mur porteur. What had been a carrying wall, is transformed into a outer wall of a fortress, aiming on protection of the wounded tiger: gated communities, (EU)regional fortresses. The hurt animal showing its teeth like a shark – but those, living in the dark remain unseen.

Budapest – Europe – the eyes turn further …. – Is it pure coincidence that I receive a mail from the Algarve?

Today’s rainfalls made obvious how difficult it is to live everyday’s life in this area. The entire country appears to be paralysed in a kind of traumatic resignation, in some places suggesting a regress, returning to the time before the EU-hype. Actually only the carts drawn by the mule is missing to complete the picture we saw when we arrived in Portugal in 1988.

Mule? It is another time interesting to play with words, looking up synonyms, looking also for translations and synonyms in other languages: hybrid, stubborn, slipper, fool, ass, neddy, moke, bonehead, simp.

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I do not know about the mail, if it is purely coincidental or not. But it is surely not incidence that I am glad that the two András, Balázs, István are ready to go ahead with the new project, working title Global Political Economy, the meeting with the publisher is already arranged. It is surely also not by accident that another little project emerged: new perspectives as matter of writing together with the students.

For me there cannot be any doubt, there will be a new categorical imperative. And for me there is no doubt that we all will play a role to define it. Here, in the streets of Budapest, the lecture theatres and in combating the European and global crisis – but even more so: here, in the world of a potentially limitless beauty – becoming real when the means of production are employed for reaching economic freedom. It

would mean freedom from the economy, that is, man’s freedom from being determined by economic forces and relationships: freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a living. Political freedom would mean liberation of the individuals from politics over which they have no effective control – the disappearance of politics as a separate branch and function in the societal division of labor. Similarly, intellectual freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought after its absorption by mass communication and indoctrination – abolition of ‘public opinion’ together with its makers. The unrealistic sound of these propositions is indicative, not of their utopian character, but of the predominance of forces which prevent their realization by preconditioning the material and intellectual needs which perpetuate obsolete forms of the struggle for existence.

Herbert Marcuse: One-Dimensional Man –

Or freedom like that of fingers gliding over the soft material of the keys of a grand-grand piano … – playing …, the ease of true wilfulness, liberated from need and necessity. A play encased by a soft veil while moving gently across the lake.

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* My thanks go not least to András, Anna, Balázs, Daniel, Estella, Gyöngyi, István, Marianna, Zoltán and Zsuzsa – without whom I would not be here and would not have done what I did – they are responsible for what can be gained but not for taking the blame for omissions retained.
This entry will be occasionally revised – and later it will be republished in a form that merges it with later posts – the slow birth of a publication, open for contributions: comments may be incorporate in one or another  form


[1]            It is, by the away, again interesting that there is no English term for a ‘female master’. It would be a ‘mater craftswoman’ or a champion. Another example underlining the importance of a strategy that is based on the Four-in-One-recognition.

[2]            Original: Biographie und Lebenslauf im heutigen Sinn sind selbst ein Produkt der Moderne: Unter gesellschaftlichen Verhaeltnissen, die von einem statischen Machtgefuege und einer unumstoeßlich scheinenden Ordnung gepraegt sind, ist die Autobiographisierung ebenso wie die Individualitaet geringer ausgepraagt oder gar nicht vorhanden. Das liegt daran, dass es weniger an den Ambitionen und Leistungen der einzelnen liegt, wo sie ihren gesellschaftlichen Platz einnehmen; dieser Platz hängt ganz einfach davon ab, in welche Situation und gesellschaftliche Lage sie hineingeboren werden. Von Biographie und Lebenslauf im modernen Sinn kann erst ab jenem Individualisierungsschub die Rede sein, der durch den massenhaften Arbeitskraeftebedarf der neu entstehenden Industrien und die damit verbundene Entbettung der Arbeitskraft aus traditionalen Verhaeltnissen moeglich wird.

[3]            Lessenich gives an excellent account of the development of the social- and welfare state; however, he lacks to point out that these patterns are systematically based on a wrong point of departure: he deals with the socialisation of the individual, absolutely important at one stage, but caged in the need to define social rights strictly as ‘social rights of individuals’.