Which means?

Which means?

— the standard question when working in several countries, across continents and a meeting has to be arranged: 12:00 o’clock — meaning nothing if it is not referring to a specific time-zone which, as context, makes it possible to answer the question ‘what time is it there?’

Which means!

— this time, after having returned to Europe — it is stated with an exclamation mark … : being [w]here again, means at the moment at least being in a place that causes exploding in the stir of feelings of extreme ‘alienation’, while not being sure about the cause[s]. It is about learning as ‘Foreigner in the own country – viewing from inside or asking: Are we serious at all?[1]

  • alienation …. , land- and city-scapes that are as distant from each other that it cannot be grasped as something real;
  • alienation, looking at the involvement in academic work of different levels, the distance between them going beyond the distance between the ground level of a cottage and the top level of Burj Khalifa as the world’s highest building;
  • alienation when it comes to different love stories: teatrale e tragico but also other fun stories … , divertente, sull’amore platonico, preguidica la vanità — as long as one sits solely in the audience it makes them simply enjoyable, while standing on the stage is at times difficult;
  • alienation, when standing in the shop, looking at the price tags, calculating: it may be ‘cheaper’[2] to buy a new shirt …, coffeemaker … not bringing the one already owned to the dry cleaner …, not going to the coffee shop for a cuppa …
  • alienation, when seeing someone taking keys out of the handbag, highlighting the ‘own’ as proper part of the proper life, though contradicting the reality of the loss of property, the accumulation by dispossession, characterising life in societies of which the social is defined by its dissolution
  • alienation when thinking about representatives, figures whose work consists of representing and presenting, flying first class while others do not find the mere resources to go to work or to study …
  • alienation when receiving e-mails, using addresses that actually do not exist, institutions and institutes pretensions: people mentioned although they left for other positions, large statutory bodies sending replies to inquiries after many weeks, with the surprising ‘signature’: sent from my blackberry …
  • alienation when looking at the stabilities: the same places hosting the same begging, pleading faces: ho fame …., the same churchy-type hypocritical nuns, surely loving — meaningfully loving by giving, though too often missing it by not taking, where taking is understood as

grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality

  • alienation when feeling obliged to ‘defend the other’ — too often simply as reply to ridiculous prejudices that would even in a mediocre cartoon simply stupid, and unfortunately also dangerously igno-arrogant
  • alienation when accessing the web: fast, unVPNdisturbed, free and uncensored and then getting aware of the very personalised notions, all defining the rhythm of the web-movement … — algorithms of another VeryPersonalisedNotions.

Isn’t this all about expectations of meaning where one wonders if there is any meaning that can be defined as matter of humanity, let alone in humane terms, all this and much more opening the way to alienation, meaninglessness and …

… and where the only meaning seems to be the ability to adapt, adopt, into the world of hypocrisy,

stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring

in the illusion that it may end as it did in the case of the frogs, the one surviving as he resisted to stop floundering after falling into the milk jar so that finally

the frantic moves of his companion had churned the milk into butter.

All he had to do was to jump out of the jar

What Brecht grasped as matter of the work and exploitation process

Dig away!

Major Chung owns a wood

See it’s cleared before tonight

That’s orders. Understood?[3]

In the original German version

Trabt schneller!

Herr Dschinn hat einen Wald

Der muß vor Nacht gerodet sein

Und Nacht ist jetzt schon bald!

is now body-soul-snatching the entire life, reflected in terms as care-work, relationship-work, love-work even where it should not be a matter of the supposed ‘oldest profession’ – life-work, where, as known from Goethe

to nonsense reason turns,

and benefit to worry.

… I saw this earlier, at Roma Termini, the central train station

It seems then there is nothing we ACTUALLY ARE and overcoming alienation may really be a matter of ‘being what you want’ … and the Kiko Milano, the shop, advertising this way, is surely only one of many shops, designers, political forces, think tanks … that will tell us.

Sure, the question that needs to be asked is the following:


What is new, what is different …?

Those olden days, so often presenting themselves as golden ways on which life trotted along, it had been the priests and the dignitaries of the villages, those power holders, hegemons who changed the labels, and with it the matter that enables …

Isn’t all this locating us in both cases — the traditional and the contemporary society, and also in the old world and the new world — in the middle of The Lonely Crowd,[4] allowing some variation, but not allowing escaping loneliness, leaving us in different ways alone with Man’s Search for Meaning.[5]

Locating us as alie-loners[6], though all of us akin to a similar underlying sentiment so that Frankl could indeed suggest that every era needs its own therapeutic paradigms.

The time where we are increasingly forced alie-loners in a world that provides the freedom of being what we want, as it makes it difficult to be what we are, ‘undesigned’, but loved and loving as reflected in Frankl’s words:

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.

Alienation as designer-life in designer-dresses with designer-bags, knowing the time from the designer-watches takes place in gated socio-spatial realms in which language is reduced on information about models and their functioning about which Erwin Chargaff wrote:

The more limited and circumscribed the question, the more likely a definite and comprehensible answer, i.e., one that adds to, and fits into, a previously conceived system or model. In limited sciences, such as physics or chemistry, which are surrounded by boundaries, as it were, the multiplicity of frequently overlapping answers, collected in the course of centuries, has produced a broad area of understanding, though even here much is still obscure.

But biology is limitless, and our experiments are only drops out of an ocean that changes its shape with every rolling wave. Because our questions must skirt our fundamental ignorance of the nature of life, the answers we receive can be no more than a travesty of truth; a truth, moreover, that may be so much of a plural that we can never comprehend it. The manner in which questions are asked, i.e., experiments designed, is either completely random or conditioned by our ideas of a preestablished harmony, a harmony that we seldom recognize as a contract with God that He has never signed.[7]

And it has as its very consequence either hyperactivity — the rat running in the wheel because it is running in the wheel because it is running in the wheel, and the only reason is …, running in the wheel, maintaining the movement, mistaking it for development.

Or it is the mentioned

stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring

Alienation as pain, pain that does not find a cure

Nicht alle schmerzen sind heilbar, denn manche schleichen sich tiefer und tiefer ins Herz hinein, während Tage und Jahre verstreichen werden Sie Stein.[8]

In my translation

Some are getting deeper and deeper under the skin, into the heart, and over the years they establish themselves as stone.


And the religion — aren’t Frankel and Chargaff, and so many others returning to it. Arriving in Rome the other day: there had been the churchy-type hypocritical nuns as a kind of welcome, at the airport a high concentration of these globalists, ranting against the fundamentalists of other origin, without considering the own religion possibly being fundamentalist … — Perhaps the attraction is a reflection of the commitment to integrity, the holistic character of the world which surely is needed. And still, I refrain from it. I once heard a friend, speaking about a book that was deeply coined by the Indian religious thinking, saying:

Yes, I don’t buy into it. I just read it as general reflection, stepping across the religious part.

And it means to face the paradox of reality, to accept the contradiction and tension that accepting the holistic character of the world does not mean to accept that there is one world only.


Pánta rheî


[1]            Ausländer im eigenen Land – ein Blick von innen Oder: Was machen wir denn bloß?; in: Nachrichtendienst des Deutschen Vereins für öffentliche und private Fürsorge, Frankfurt/M., Issue 11/2000: pp. 376 – 382 (based on a presentation on the 75th Deutsche Fuersorgetag, November 2000 in Hamburg)

[2]            in inverted commas as this is of course only a matter of the mney paid here and now, not considering externalisation, social ‘meaning of exploitation’ that defined such prices along the different levels …

[3]            Brecht: Good Person of Szechwan. Song of the eighth elephant.

[4]            David Riesman/Nathan Glazer/Reuel Denney, 1950: The lonely Crowd. A study of the Changing American Character

[5]            Viktor Frankl, 1946: Man’s Search for Meaning – original title: …trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager

[6]            as composite of alienation and loner

[7] Chargaff, Erwin, 1978: Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature, New York: The Rockefeller University Press: 169

[8]            Poem by Ricarda Huch


straightforwardness – it could well mean not to follow the straight line …

Taking the words from Keynes’ General Theory we have to see:

The classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non-Euclidean world who, discovering that in experience straight lines apparently parallel often meet, rebuke the lines for not keeping straight—as the only remedy for the unfortunate collisions which are occurring. Yet, in truth, there is no remedy except to throw over the axiom of parallels and to work out a non-Euclidean geometry. Something similar is required to-day in economics.

And even beyond geometry and economics, the seemingly simple solutions, bringing us forward ling the straight lines, may be fatal, especially while standing next to the abyss.

Digitisation – some general questions

A presentation under the title

‘Gig Sharing Economy’: Value Chains or Poverty Chains – Challenges posed by Digitisation in the Context of Globalisation

is now published. The presentation does not go into much details but aims on ventilating some general issues of a specific strand of digitisation, namely sharing economy, gig and cooperative economy and the like.

The presentation [i] explores a little bit the context of globalisaiton, [ii] considers the wider framework of reshaping capitalism and the composition of capital and [iii] looks at different classificatory aspects of the ‘new economies’.

It is part of my work at the moment, and further information may be found for instance via the following links:


Talking yesterday in ChangSha about academia, and a life committed to it also in terms of a political obligation, it is today about contributing to the

Summit for Global Solidarity

you may also see it as real G20-meeting – real as it is reality that we need alternative approaches to the worlds pressing problems and great opportunities.

Attac’s Academic Council contributes with various workshops, one of them looking the Digital Platforms.

In German language my contribution during a workshop – and below some more detailed description. In a few days, a more extensive, and more academic presentation will be posted in English language.

follow also the two projects

Is it really about Industry 4.0.?

Wandel des Wirtschaftens – Wandel des Rechts. Forschungsskizze zu Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik

BEITRAG zum WIRKLICHEN G20-Treffen, dem


[Aus der Programmankuendigung]

„Digitale Plattformen“, „sharing economy“, „crowd working“ sind neue Begriffe, an die sich Hoffnungen, aber auch Sorgen knüpfen. Laptops, Tablets und Smartphones revolutionieren die Arbeitswelt – tun sie das, und wenn ja, wie? Im Workshop soll unter Beteiligung von Prof. Peter Herrmann diskutiert werden, ob und wie sich unser (nicht nur Arbeits-) Alltag durch diese Digitalisierung verändern könnte und wie wir darauf reagieren.

Dieser Beitrag speziell versucht, die Änderungen der Kapitalstruktur herauszuarbeiten – die Schlussfolgerung ist einfach: Vergesellschaften anstatt Teilen.

Protestocatholicism …. or … Cathoprotestanism …

Teaching is over now – most of the exam papers corrected and time …, to look forward. Teaching always is caught in the tension: dealing with the ‘real realities‘ on then hand and with ‘clear’ theories and the supposed ‘objective, value-free’ analysis of the reality on the other hand – and in economics it is even worse than other disciplines: the ‘objective reality’ being the reality of rational individuals. If it would be only for my neighbours and colleagues: I know that humans are not rational actors. Some are not acting, some are solely actors, some are not rational – and the worst category are the irrationally acting actors …
Well, leaving this aside …, or actually no: taking it from here, there is always also the point that even the ‘rational systems’, as central banks, money, exchange values etc are never following the books – it is not because they have their own lives but more because text books create ‘an own life’: the life of a world as it should or could be, the life of a world that had been imagined by some as political programs etc.
Two issues, the one like to pure doctrine when it comes to banking and central banks: be they independent or not, they are usually considered to be public bodies, committed to the common wheal etc. Still, in one way or another, i.e. more or less explicit, these banks serve – in most if the cases – public AND private interests, usually without being specified.
However, sone specification can be seen in the generally agreed upon ‘holy trinity’: maximisation of employment, stabilisation of prices, moderating interest rates.
But ….. where is the challenge addressed that Dani Rodrik poses as irresolvable trilemma: we cannot have democracy AND sovereignty AND global integration.
In fact – this is indeed part of the story –  we see that over the recent years and even decades the overall goal of controlling inflation is positioned over the goal of maximising employment. Stating this, it is necessary to ask as well: why maximising employment if we are already producing large surpluses?
From there it is worthwhile to look at the second issue: the question of value, valuation and valorisation. It haunts me for a long time, always asking myself and perhaps even more so: talking about values, calling for living along the lines of the cardinal virtues …- beh, forgotten what the quarterly reviewer said?
“Capital is said … to fly turbulence and strife, and to be timid, which is very true; but this is very incompletely stating the question. Capital es- chews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vac- uum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent, will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent, certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., posi- tive audacity; 100 per cent., will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave trade have amply proved all that is here stated” (T.J. Dunning, 1. c, [Trades’ Union and Strikes,] pp. 35-36; from: Marx, Karl, 1867: Capital; Volume I; in: Karl Marx/Frederick Engels. Collected Works; Volume 35; London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1996: 748, footnote 2)
Still, working currently in the ‘mainstream’ [or to be more precise: trying to swim against it], I am looking at questions of digitisation, all the new economic forms emerging in that context, linked to primarily in the issues about technical developments but more about relations of procession and the mode of production. Profitability plays a role and …, exactly the issues around value, valuation and valorisation. in the context of a paper I am still developing not least in connection with the preparation of the G20-discussions I am wondering of it is time to change perspectives in political economy. Famously Max Weber centre-staged an issue that was already issued – more en passant – by Marx: the question of the protestant ethics. Marx saw it, of course, as matter of the superstructure, without denying its importance whereas Weber saw the emergence of this ethics system as driving force.
My question is a different one at this stage: instead of counterpoising catholicism and protestantism, we may have tops of a merger, we may call it
Protestocatholicism …. or … Cathoprotestanism …
The reflection behind it? Well, quoting from the paper – work in progress –
Early capitalism was characterised by the fundamental ambition to follow the principle of exchange of equivalents – inequality existed at the point of departure but after ‘free individuals entered the economic sphere of exchange – they had been equals. The ten new capitalism stood against the feudal system that was based on violence. However, looking at the situation today, we see that the foundation is not simply and solely about the different points of departure. The economic process of the data economy is itself a violent relationship that has little to do with equivalence: it is the violence of withholding information, utilising the directional power of information, the enforcement of conditions, perfectioning of control etc.
A world which has lost much of the foundation in reality and where, indeed, values seem to be virtual, even if they are presented by concrete numbers as Peter Wahl pointed out already some time ago:
Even if every business transaction was protected by derivatives, the real economy-based proportion would still be less than 5%. Therefore, by far the largest portion is used for speculative trading. Buyers and sellers no longer have anything to do with each other. Dealers with not the slightest interest in wheat purchase large quantities of grain forwards in order to sell them profitably when the contract matures. Only a very small proportion of this business actually refers to material objects such as grain, gold or oil – the BIS assumes this proportion to be approximately 1%. The predominant proportion concerns financial products. There is practically no end to fantasy in developing derivatives: meanwhile, the system has achieved such a complexity that there are derivatives dealing with derivatives of derivatives.
Protestocatholicism …. or … Cathoprotestanism … – just another form of indulgence payments, from old violence to new violence.
And in any case, this violence is real.

teaching about realities?

Sometimes, when teaching about harsh realities, I admittedly ask myself if I am not exaggerating, making things looking worse than they are. Sometimes, when writing about economic and social facts, I am wondering if it is really about facts or about vested interests that are suggesting some biased interpretation. At least, when looking at the OECD-countries there is the assumption – or proposition –  that we are living in enlightened countries, developed on the basis and for the sake of wealth and well-being of their people, now even ‘thinking-tanking’ about an Inclusive Growth Opportunities Index 2017. And indeed, reading what the OECD member-states suggests as Our Mission suggests that we can put our minds to rest – rest assured that things are not perfect but at least moving towards perfection:

The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
The OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. We work with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change. We measure productivity and global flows of trade and investment. We analyse and compare data to predict future trends. We set international standards on a wide range of things, from agriculture and tax to the safety of chemicals.
We also look at issues that directly affect everyone’s daily life, like how much people pay in taxes and social security, and how much leisure time they can take. We compare how different countries’ school systems are readying their young people for modern life, and how different countries’ pension systems will look after their citizens in old age.
Drawing on facts and real-life experience, we recommend policies designed to improve the quality of people’s lives. We work with business, through the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC), and with labour, through the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC). We have active contacts as well with other civil society organisations. The common thread of our work is a shared commitment to market economies backed by democratic institutions and focused on the wellbeing of all citizens. Along the way, we also set out to make life harder for the terrorists, tax dodgers, crooked businessmen and others whose actions undermine a fair and open society.

Well, often the small print is overlooked, when putting minds resting assured …, so often it is overlooked that people, humans are put to rest – or even more: that people are not even considered to be human beings. So we read for Australia, on of the OECD-countries:

In the past, Australia’s Indigenous communities were administered under fauna and flora laws, according to Reuters.

Indeed, teaching about realities is not only a matter of teaching about more than models – it is also about teaching something that can be very different.

‘Swabian Housewife’ – and what not only Angela Merkel missed

A presentation at CSUFT/BCC in ChangSha, PRC is available here – approaching a more profound system of national accounts – something every REAL ‘Swabian Housewife’ can understand immediately, but where Angela Merkel’s austerity poster girl obviously missed the lessons in economics, thus being hailed for the wrong reasons.

A bit more difficult stuff (see for more info already here) can be found here, in German language – more soon to be added – and more will be added over time in this space and also here.