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.

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