books not only written for their own times
Of course, books are written at a specific period in time, reflect the era and contribute to their stabilisation or change. And they are reflected upon. One of the outstanding works is Thomas Paine’s
so much to be criticised and rejected, beginning with the title, not acknowledging the need for
(also here.) And still, there is good reason for acknowledging the greatness of Paine’s work, and in some ways – cum grains salis – its timelessness. Though history does not repeat itself, there is something that, in different forms, is not alien in different eras — sure, we do not have kings anymore …., but doesn’t this sound familiar, looking at what is going on today in so many countries:
It is time that nations should be rational, and not be governed like animals, for the pleasure of their riders. To read the history of kings, a man would be almost inclined to suppose that government consisted in stag-hunting, and that every nation paid a million a-year to a huntsman.
And isn’t there a certain irony of history when considering the following? In a bookshop I spotted recently a book, authored by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, looking at Why Nations Fail. The shortlisting-note caught my special attention:
Shortlisted for the FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award
The nearing “last call for flight …, passengers Mr. Herrmann … immediately …” told me that I should work against my personal failing to get on board, taking this somewhat more urgent than the failing of nations – the latter happened, the other could still be avoided, allowing to wok a bit more against “history does not repeat itself”. For instance by talking with students about the tricky link between this topic and its possible award by “FT and Goldman Sachs” – and though it is tricky, it is obvious that the huntsmen want to maintain their rides on the hobby horses that are so dear to us – and that they have to know some version of the answer of the question Why Nations Fail. And it is important to look at the historical dimension though it may be distracting the many from becoming aware of being treated like animals.
There is enough evidence – we know about pervers lives of the huntsmen, and we find the various facets of the causes of the ‘animalistic system’ – for instance looking with Robert Reich at Inequality for all and his notion of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, or woking at the stories about The four horseman ….
We surely have to be careful – making sure that issues are not individualised, avoiding the witch-hunt against a demonised finance capital as we know it from German fascism and any one-sided; in-systemtic analysis, in-systemic in the sense of isolating and de-historising facts out of a complex system. And it should be asked if a better capitalism is the real solution. But we have to take the good portion which shows the structural defects and also
* the germs for the solution of the problems: germs towards a new growth strategy as I outlined them together with Marica Frangakis in a contribution on The need for a radical ‘growth policy’ agenda for Europe at a time of crisis (in: Dymarski, Wlodzimierz/Marica Frangakis/Leaman, Jeremy: The Deepening Crisis of the European Union: The Case for Radical Change; Poznań: Poznań University of Economics Press, 2014);
* the germs that push towards new societal strategies
Herrmann, Peter: From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn
Herrmann, Peter, forthcoming: Social Quality – Regaining Political Economy; in: International Journal of Social Quality;
* and the germs that move discussions about redistribution into a more radical direction
I this light, there is enough out there to be positive, instead of detailing the critique by new figure that do not change the substance anyway.