Ten years on … – no wisdom gained?

Of course, there are many contestable issues concerned with the “ten years on” – leaving the question of timing aside, one point may well be concerned with the word “on”, considering that it should be replaced by “into” or even “digging the grave deeper”. The success-stories so far are, if they exist, stories about de-synchronisation: the fact that some countries succeeded again in a more pronounced way to live on the back of others, temporary victories, and often victories for the countries, not for the people (for instance good overall “economic performance” often means increasing inequality)  …
Preparing the class for coming Monday, but also working on finalising the book
Changing the Socio-Economic Formation – Revisiting Value and Valuation in a Globalising Digital World
I looked up a Briefing Note, presented in 2008, in preparation of the OECD Global Forum on International Investment, titled
It is not looking at the crisis – if the collapse of Lehmann Brothers is taken as reference, it would be even a pre-crisis work, presented on a pre-crisis conference. What makes it interesting (surely – not only – for my classes “Development versus Growth”) is the fact of presenting in a masterful way the shortcoming of an understanding of economics and political economy that can well be seen as structural weakness leading to a crisis like the one we are still suffering from (sure, not everybody).
A quote right from the beginning of the briefing note:
The service sector makes an important contribution to GDP in most countries, providing jobs, inputs and public services for the economy. Trade in services can improve economic performance and provide a range of traditional and new export opportunities. However, services liberalisation also carries risks, and appropriate regulation and other complementary policies help to ensure that liberalisation delivers the expected benefits. We have reviewed the literature on these issues for 6 service sectors (tourism, financial services, energy services, information and communications technology, and Mode IV), … .
And it goes on and goes on and goes on in this spirit, not talking about the essentials of what should be at stake of any analysis. Engels, in 1884, wrote:
According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of the immediate life. But this itself is again of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of subsistence, of food and clothing and shelter and the implements required for this; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a particular country live are determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other.
(Engels, Frederick, 1884: Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Preface [to the First Edition]; in: Karl Marx Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 26. Frederick Engels. 1882-89; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1990: 131-133)
The OECD-experts go exactly the other way round, starting from the end – and actually defining the end as ultimate point of departure and ultimate goal: growth, though remaining undefined, only specified by the reference to the GDP.
Indeed, there is something interesting about GDP and Development.
In fact, the up for some may mean the move back for others
Commonly the “concept” of GDP is attributed to Simon Kuznet – detailed in 1934 in
, it is time to acknowledge that already then the author spelled out – more or less at the outset:
The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above. (page 7)
And he continues:
The abuses of national income estimates arise largely from a failure to take into account the precise definition of income and the methods of its evaluation which the estimator assumes in arriving at his final figures. Notions of productivity or welfare as understood by the user of the estimates are often read by him into the income measurement, regardless of the assumptions made by the income estimator in arriving at the figures. As a result we find all too commonly such inferences that a decline of 30 percent in the national income (in terms of “constant” dollars) means a 30 percent decline in the total productivity of the nation, and a corresponding decline in its welfare. Or that a nation whose total income is twice the size of the national income of another country is twice “as well off”, can sustain payments abroad twice as large or can carry a debt burden double in size. Such statements can obviously be true only when gualified by a host of “ifs.”
A detail, mentioned at the end of the report, is surely of special interest:
The individual industries included here are photography, undertaking, mausoleum and cemetery operation, social service agencies, athletic, yacht, and country clubs, Y.M.C.A.’s, Y.W.C.A/s, and other services not accounted for elsewhere. Most of these services are of a type not easily curtailed or dispensed with, while social and welfare agencies have had a special reason for increasing since 1929. The number of employees was about a quarter of a million in 1929 and probably increased, or at least did not decline greatly, during the 3 following years (see table 200). The estimated average compensation of employees is probably fairly near the actual situation for 1929 but the trend shown since that year, except that there was probably very little per capita decline, is open to question as far as the country as a whole is concerned. (page 140)
Well, perhaps this is what the briefing says???: “Think of your people and your countries economy and accept: poverty is good for you.” In plain language – and this is very much the underlying gist of IMF and World Bank politics – be nationalist and socially unjust.
I am sure, those who write those reports, will not face what poverty or lack of wellbeing etc. mean.
Of course, this is only the visible, more or less tangible part of the underlying misinterpretation of economics: While calculations may well be correct, fact is – as John Maynard Keynes convincingly wrote in 1936:

Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.

(Keynes 1936)

Still, if we look at the title of the quoted opus magnum presented by Keynes reads

The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

and we still may remain without considering the entire depth of reference. Of course, not every book can start with all the life stories …- but at least it should commence by focusing on the real life situation and the supply conditions and the relationality that is part of it. – Think about employment conditions that allow flexibility and reduction of working time without lowering wage and without stress caused by any fear, thus possibly causing the GDP to drop, but enabling employees to care for relatives, to be politically active, to follow their “intellectual needs” … As much as items expressed by GDP are mere means to an end, the same is true for employment, the ends not being products and services, the end not being income but “production and reproduction of the immediate life”.

Even Alfred Marshall, rightly criticised for his contribution to the mathematisation of economics, knew better than many who still highlight the centrality of employment today, (and here; and many could be added) knew better. As we can read in the Memorials of Alfred Marshall (edited 1925 by Arthur Cecil Pigou), Pigou states in his own contribution to the book (page 84):

Though a skilled mathematician, he used mathematics sparingly. He saw that excessive reliance on this instrument might lead us astray in pursuit of intellectual toys, imaginary problems not conforming to the conditions of real life: and further, might distort our sense of proportion by causing us to neglect factors that could not easily be worked up in the mathematical machine.

Acknowledging this, there would not have been any need to write to the Queen …

Annunci

You should sleep nine hours without dreams. Then you have the day for dreams

Herbert Marcuse supposedly said this …  Is it another version of the words written on a postcard I recently received?

Swim to Nowhere, With No Thoughts.

So there we are worrying about big brother, watching us, algorithms rule the world and with Artificial Intelligence taking over.
Sure, there are important issues linked to these catchwords – though one seemingly tiny point is a negligence, not just as matter of language I suppose.
Just a few mails, from a Spam-poor night, and a mail-free one too. Leaving the obvious SPAM aside, to mails are perhaps even more worrying: the one at the top …, well, is there a term like SPAM-IFICATION? At least it does exist now.
* Instead of thoughtful targeting advertisement and communication in general, we accept the wikiwiki culture, leading us to just throw things out, without much thinking.
* Instead of “academic matchmaking”, I mean: bringing me/us academics in contact with relevant other academics, sites like academia, researchgate … often come to the most confusing proposals: does it really make sense to send me a link to an article on trading chemical products between China and Europe, presumably on ground of the fact that I gave a presentation on OBOR or the fact that I lived some time in China?
* hat is the premium of having access to something that is out of reach in terms of manageability?
over two million papers …? What are the criteria forlinking them …, and when will I be able to read them?
Artificial Intelligence?
Indeed, I read an article some time ago, a short one in a newspaper, talking about
artificial stupidity
… which is too often more characterising.
BUT HANG ON …
Don’t we have to blame ourselves for it – not because of using FB; twitter etc.. It is probably a much more serious problem that we – living and working in academia – accept this world and work being directed by ranking; publishers’ journal sites that manipulate our reading behaviour by aggressively suggesting that “readers of this article also read … — and quoted ….” and boxing our thinking and acting.
A new trinket in the jewel case of administrative stupidity, with which the Polish government (as a Czech friend said yesterday on the phone “we are joining”) is blessing us: every academic, working in a university, has to commit her/himself to two subject areas: sociology, economics, medicine … – sure, they are very broad which may be taken as some comfort. Articles for the assessment of the academic will only be taken into account if it is in line with this self-attribution. What now if I am looking into
as M. Keith Chen did.
What if I am looking at the question of European unemployment insurance in the light of legislation, sociological aspects and the economic development, possibly publishing the results in a journal on European history …?
There is not only direkt and outspoken censorship but also the seemingly “tame brother”,
And predictive shopping is not really new – though earlier it occurred in different forms
(Saw this the other day in Berlin: “What is missing today?” – Bakingpowder, bread, butter, eggs … onions)
Still, there is surely the need to resist …
… though there is also the time … – well, as said the other day I received a postcard, with a colour drawing, not algorithm-based but manufactured in the true sense by the sender, much appreciated by the recipient …, occasionally I allow myself resisting the need to resist, sitting there
and looking at it,
Swim to Nowhere, With No Thoughts
as the few words under the drawing suggest. nd making me think, energizing me … to resist!

Public-Private .. a hoax?

When a company opens its databases to users, as Amazon, Google, and eBay have done with their Web services, it is encouraging participation at new levels. The corporation’s data becomes part of the commons and an invitation to participate. People who take advantage of these capabilities are no longer customers; they’re the company’s developers, vendors, skunk works, and fan base.
Kelly, Kevin, 08.01.05: We Are the Web; in: Wired
Which is, of course, embellishment. However, there is more to it as an article in The Economist, titled
made recently clear. It raised the question if social media, shutting down websites, that they see as channel for hate speech, are in breach of the law by undermining “free speech”. Of course, it is easy to say that they have the right doing so and even the obligation. However, at second glance it is not as simple as that. In actual fact it turns out to be extremely tricky:
The meaning of the so-called rule of law is primarily protecting citizens against arbitrary action of the state. However, it is obligation of the state as democratic instance to guarantee freedom of speech, but also to agree in this very same function of being a democratic state on the limits of freedom of speech. It is about the limit given in the case of one individual or group infringing the rights of (an)other individual(s) or groups – the latter is the second dimension of the rule of law, namely the protection of individuals against each other. In other words, we are a bit in trouble, not least if we take as point of reference T.H.Marshall’s view on citizenship with the three dimensions: civil, political and socio-economic rights: the state, against which citizens have to be protected by the rule of law in case of unjustified state action has to apply the same rule of law in case of citizens that are in conflict with each other. The problem is that these citizens would, then, have the right to use the rule of law if they feel threatened or wrongly treated by the state. It seems to be an endless circle of recursive applications.

36721749 – wooden gavel on book with golden scale on table

The solution seems – at least in theory – that citizens are actually not simply individuals but already as such “social instances”. Thus, the rule of law can only be meaningful if it is intrinsically conjoined with the rule of democracy – obviously a non-juridically defined matter, to be valued in the same realm of praxis.
This, then, is also the problem when it comes to decisions concerning social media and the (not existing) obligation to publish information that is submitted by third parties: such “institutions” as facebook etc. are entirely private agencies. Thus we are confronted with some far-reaching contradiction: while they are in some way public (namely they are publicly traded), they are equally private and self-referential, defined by the one and sole motive of making business. Legally it simply means:
  • In the business-cases we are dealing with terms of use with reference of an exchange relationship, in principle focused on a mutual interest, namely the conclusion of a contract
  • However, in the case of publicness we are dealing with terms of mutual responsibility with reference of common interest which needs to be negotiated – which includes also the conflict of interest, the result of which is conclude by a treaty.
The kernel is, consequently, to look at the congruence and divergence of private and public. This emerges from business leaving the private realm, becoming public (and suggesting, like facebook’s Zuckerberg in the Washington hering, to be

an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all of the good that connecting people can do. And, as Facebook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool for staying connected to the people they love, for making their voices heard and for building communities and businesses.

And it emerges if publicness claims to fulfill its “mission” by accepting the rules of private business (as we find it in so-called public-private partnerships).

Failing projects

This week, meeting the students here in Lodz for the second time, the work will get more serious. The topics

I.

European Integration – A Failed Political and Social Union?

(from: Zeit Campus: September 2018/2019)

Though proposal had been made a while back – not focussing on issues GREXIT, BREXIT and the very recent “EU-developments” in Switzerland – one is wondering if these developments are seriously distracting the debates: Although they are highlighting the vulnerability, they are easily moving debates on solutions strategies – saving a torso – while neglecting the more fundamental issues that can be seen as fundamentally structural flaws, undermining the supposed plans and claims. In other words, the project had been from the beginning as half-hearted as the project of enlightenment. – In principle, already the lectures in Vienna (2017) had been dealing with these questions. However, in Poland the more philosophical may hopefully be more focussed upon.

II.

The second course will look at

Development versus Growth. Perspectives for a Qualitative Dimension in Developmental Economics

Not an easy one, as there is the fundamental issue of determining value, or to be more precise : to determine what economics/the economy is about. Unfortunately, also in debates one alternative paradigms, easily accept the flawed definition of economy

The economy of humans emerges from two roots. They have to beeconomically active because the means are scarce in relation to the ends …; and they are in a position that allows them to be economically active as, though with some limitations, they can make decisions about the purchase and use of the goods regarding the kind, quality, quantity, use etc., thus influencing the use-impact that are achieved …

(Schoenfeld, Leo, 1924: Grenznutzen und Wirtschaftsrechnung [Marginal Rate and Business Mathematics]; Wien: Manz’sche Verlags- und Universitäts-Buchhandlung; unchanged reprint München/Wien: Philosophia Verlag: 1)

While in very general terms there is nothing wrong with what is said, there is everything wrong if we use this as real point of reference or economy and development. An alternative is Frederick Engels’ proposition:

According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of immediate life. But this itself is again of a twofold character. On the one hand, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter and the implements required for this; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a definite country live are determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other. The less labour is developed and the more limited the volume of its products and, therefore, the wealth of society, the more predominantly the social order appears to be dominated by ties of kinship. However, within this structure of society based on ties of kinship, the productivity of labour develops more and more; with it, private property and exchange, differences in wealth, the possibility of utilising the labour power of others, and thereby the basis of class antagonisms: new social elements, which strive in the course of generations to adapt the old structure of society to the new conditions, until, finally, incompatibility of the two leads to a complete transformation. The old society, based on ties of kinship, bursts asunder with the collision of the newly developed social classes; in its place a new society appears, constituted in a state, the lower units of which are no longer groups based on ties of kinship but territorial groups, a society in which the family system is entirely dominated by the property system, and in which the class antagonisms and class struggle, which make up the content of all hitherto written history now freely unfold.

(Engels, Frederick, 1884: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. In the Light of the Researches by Lewis H. Morgan; in: Marx&Engels Collected Works. Volume 26: Engels 1882-89; Lawrence & Wishart, 2010 [Electric Book]: 129-276, here: 131 f.)

A lengthy quote, a position that should also allow thinking what “the old society, based on ties of kinship, bursts asunder with the collision of the newly developed social classes” means today.
In a forthcoming publication – titled

About You – Nur frage nicht ob Du ueberhaupt bist

part of the topic, dealing with modes of life, will be looked at. After publication in the Tarantel, published by the Ökologische Platform bei Der Linken it will be announced here.

Centre-Periphery reversed

It had been a strange feeling or mood – returning Sunday around lunchtime from Helsinki – taking a longish walk from the railway station zoo through the park, passing the memorial fro Rosa Luxemburg at the Landwehr Canal, doing some text editing and having an early dinner in the canteen of the Berliner Ensemble, Brecht’s place of activity – then off to the Gorki theatre: Les Justes. En route passing the metro station at Friedrichstraße where I occasionally crossed the border for visits at the peace council an others …. a bit further the Humboldt university, where I gave one of my first public presentations as young academic …. the statue which Käthe Kollwitz made before I enter the theatre for the performance of the Albert-Camus-piece.

The is still some repercussion from Helsinki – opportunity for a short visit in the national gallery. There hadn’t been the great names – most of the names never heard outside of the country, the paintings more placid than those of the great names, depicting more the landscapes, unknown people and everyday’s life – the periphery one may say. Sure, they can also be found in other galleries  some time ago the New Pinakothek came up with a special exhibition:

L WIE LAND UND LEUTE… LANDSCHAFT UND GENRE IN DER STUDIENGALERIE DER NEUEN PINAKOTHEK

But that is the point: it is more about a special exhibition – paintings that usually do not make the way in the main halls.and even there mostly it is the depiction accepted power,

Different in the museum in Helsinki. Much could be thought and said, at the end very much concerned with the fact that the centre of power is looking too often at the periphery of culture, distracting from “ordinary life”, from the worries and joys of people in their real life, that kind of life that is not about glory and that is not reflected in income statistics, employment figures and the like. And that life in which even angels may get wounded.

(Hugo Simberg: The Wounded Angel, from the Ateneum website)

It is the normality of what actually defines life: Kaethe Kollwitz, the hesitation in Camus’ piece when it comes to revenge while facing a real human being, not just the personification of a role, a specific vulnerability that is acknowledged and offers some special strength – that kind of strength that does not need huge power centres as materialisation of control, that does not need helicopters or massive “intelligence” for its protection,

(BND – the fortress of FRGs secret service – this part of the building sowing a fraction of the entire complex)

a strength that emerges from acknowledged truth. The open centres of exhibited power

loose centrality where they loose the respect of the seeming periphery: the real life; political and imperial power moves to the periphery where the actual meaning is emerging from the way in which people shape and share every day and everywhere, where we find confirmed that

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 existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

And where we have to add that it is not only history but also the attraction of present power, the presentation of power in attractiveness, meaning beauty and might that takes this nightmarish character.

Still, it remains the question. often asked: can people be just in a world that is profoundly unjust? – All this surely something to reflect upon when we talk about populism.

The no-problem-society V – is there really no right life in the wrong one?

[the no-problem-society (I, II, III, IV)]

 

Adorno coined the phrase
Though without referring to him, we had been chatting about this topic, Yi wondering why “you in the West have this strange attitude: not living, working and then condensing life in a brief period called holidays …”
A few days after our chat this came back to me, 8:30, taking a morning-train to the German capital: eleven man, not too young, entering the passenger compartment, loud enough to entertain a train station, occasionally quietened by reading the famous boulevard journal … . After a short while I saw one of them sitting there with a bottle of sparkled wine, only minutes later he got a little box of Kuemmerling, the herb liqueur – don’t get misled by the name, it is not going back to any worries (the German term “Kummer” can be translated as worry).
Obviously they went for a weekend to live, forgetting existing during unbalanced work, caught in alienation.
I pointed it out to my companion: people, clearly showing the meaning of what Marx stated 1844 in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts:
What, then, constitutes the alienation of labor? First, in the fact that labor is external to the worker, that is, that it does not belong to his essential being; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel well but unhappy, does not freely develop his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker, therefore, feels himself only outside his work, and feels beside himself in his work. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His work therefore is not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for satisfying needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that labor is shunned like the plague as soon as there is no physical or other compulsion.
It has nothing to do with what is called intelligence, it is nothing that can easily be overcome, by nobody and nowhere – again Marx, again the first volume of Capital:
If money, according to Augier, “comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek,” capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.
And more or less the same kind of blood-stain:
to the development of productivity and the more economic use of the conditions of production. It imposes on the worker an increased expenditure of labour within a time which remains constant, a heightened tension of labour-power, and a closer filling-up of the pores of the working day, i.e. a condensation of labour … the denser hour of the 10-hour working day contains more labour.
And as commodity consumption becomes “production”, the act of buying itself becomes a means of satisfaction, it is the emergence of the real life becoming itself a wrong life.
Yes, Yi, we know and still we do not fully grasp it, we remain caught with the two souls you talked about. Still … as much as we now … a stone know as well a lot, is there on the ground, condensed, the impressions of hundreds of years ingrained – but it is unable thinking to think even a nanosecond, as unable as it is to feel …, to love, to acknowledge and eve enjoy the madness of everyday’s life. No way for it to escape, to start thinking, no way to make it thinking …
The answer is prompt:
Poor stone –
And turning towards me:
If you are angry against the stone; I feel sympathetic with him.
Looking into the eyes, the face, I would like to have a stone in front of me, touching it, comforting it, softening it …
No, I am not angry with him, I feel sorry for him … There is a chapter in one of the books I wrote for children, it is about a person wo had been like a stone …. But actually he had been cured one day.
Followed by her question:
Cured by a Mr. Hammer?
Of course:
No, a hammer can only make things worse; after using it you only have more stones … wait, just a sec …
While searching the file of “Phanresias Geschichten von der Freundschaft” and the chapters dealing with Mr. Messerscharf, the train attendant walks through the train offering a cookie.
Well, it seems that there can be some realm right life in the wrong one – but looking into her face, the frozen smile of the person offering the DB-present …that thought meaning to stay for a long time with us …
*********
Isn’t it also linked to the point mentioned earlier, the West and the East: yes, there is on the one side this egoism, hedonism, egocentrism … – living for oneself – it means for a social being: not living at all. Freedom is not only the freedom of those who think differently (Luxemburg), not only the insight in necessities. It is also the lived “ubuntu” – the knowledge of and acceptance and appreciation of living ho one lives in dependency of the other. On the other hand it is also the trap in which we easily may end – with every lament concerning the “you in the West” I hear and see also the ambiguity of the other side: ubuntu as “I do not live my own life”, at times expressed as satisfaction, at times expressed as melancholy and even sadness, the feeling of loss, though never denying the devotion … – freedom brings us back to the dilemma of the right life in a wrong one, in a wring society — the price to be paid is surely high …
*********
… Those days I listend to an interview, or better to say a TV-discussion: Rudi Dutschke, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Matthias Walden and Kurt Sontheimer (recording: 13. Juni 1978) – I do not remember exactly, was it Daniel or Rudi, talking about bottomless hatred? – The flint-stone comes to mind …, the brother of Mr. Messerscharf. And the question of directing explosions. And that would be the real end of comedians on the political stage, not only in Italy under the five “guiding stars” …

Digitisation – Employment – and What?

The recording of the keynote presentation on Digitisation, Employment, and What? is already online. It is an attempt to socio-locate the challenge of today’s productivity puzzle and had been given on occasion of the symposium in Helsinki, organised by the Pellervo Society and the European Academy of Science and Arts, today on the 18th of September 2018.

Usual beginning is about “I do not know where to start” – all is so terribly confusing, a multitude of extremely different things.

There seems an obvious reply in the present case,

  • at least for digitisation – the apparent omnipresence of issues that are in one or another way about digital stuff – from the CD-player to the computer on four wheels
  • also for AI – the fact that it is not entirely clear is part of AI itself: there seems to be something that we, humankind, came up with and that is now “beyond our capacities” – the Frankenstein of Intellect if you want
  • and what seems to be equally clear: precarity in the vein of decreasing employment – another time we hear in different rhythm the old melody: there is not enough work anymore. But if we listen around we hear also something else – something we also heard for many times throughout history: There will never be an end, though there will be many changes.

Having said earlier that presentations are often started with something like “I do not know where to begin”, waiting for an Ariadne who may help. At present, my point is a different one, namely “I do not where it will end”. It is the famous Alice-in-Wonderland-situation, leading elsewhere to the conclusion “but I would not start from here”.