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.



* 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



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.


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…


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.


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.


* 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’.

4 thoughts on “Tension – Excitement – Challenge*

  1. As always, a very enjoyable read interweaving your experiential journey of life (with its associated contextual absurdities) with observation, linked to essential questions relating to philosophy, politics and economics, and constantly invites us and urges us to question, understand and empower ourselves to awaken from our oppressive slumber – in other words, to start thinking again!


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