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”.

A Year Ahead

Well, a bit strange year coming to an end, after commencing on September the 8th 2017: taking it as “year” extended by some days, shortened by some events standing in the way of “routine work” in the office at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in the Amalienstrasse 33 in Munich, standing in the way of life and living … – still several lucky events as concerts, visits of museums … or events in which I had been lucky enough to be able to do at least to some extent what I wanted to do — following the commitment of a dwarf

standing on the shoulders of giants, and even walking some distance with them, side by side.

It proved another time for me that the real – and really exciting – tension of working in academia is not so much about fundamental and applied research but between research and taking position in the biased debates of our times – the times of past, presence and future.

The list below provides gives a more or less small insight into what I could achieve, not mentioning the endless disputes with universities about references for former students, peer-reviewing (though being hesitant when it comes to accepting this task) and also not mentioning the frequent chats with colleagues becoming friends and …, well and friends becoming colleagues.

– The latter may deserve some explanation. While academic work seems to be in some way impersonal, strictly bound to rule and while this is to some extent actually true, it is important to acknowledge the most fundmental rule: any knowledge has to be aobut the acknowledgment of reality as ultimate point of reference. And reality is not primarily what we learn from textbooks, statistics, legal and administrative regulations – even economists, usually at least, do not look at figures for the sake of the figures. Instead, it is about how people act and interact …, and omit (inter)acting. Of course, it is about specific observations and observations of the specific. Nevertheless, it is also about gathering different perspectives, not those expressed in interviews but those expressed in life, or we may say in “open dialogue”. Of course, this is first and foremost a very vague approach. And as much as it may end in accidental contacts – easily ending in accidents of misjudgments due to not knowing background and context of the other – it is also something that emerges naturally when engaging with people around – and this is equally a source of possible accidents due to the limited outreach of contacts.

– Supposedly, the Brandhorsts, before buying paintings for their collection (which then became the Brandhorst museum in the Arts Areal in Munich), borrowed the pieces of art, kept them for a few weeks in their home where they received guests – the purpose was to gather loosely for some chitchat, together exploring the paintings and getting different perspectives. The end result: a new opinion, not algorithmitically defined, but by allowing something to emerge from the unexpected, also from the unknown. it is abitu to gather, merging to something, coming together.

Chats on the corridor of the institute, Wednesday’s for lunch in the Old Simpel or somewhere else: the Vietnamese restaurant next door, Limoni across the street, or the Bavarian around the corner, of course … – with so different people – I guess all this had been like I imagine those visits in the Brandhorst’s home, or like visits  to the Arts Areal in Munich, on my own, with others … – always opening the mind …, and asking only to accept one condition: a mind that is sufficiently open to further unfold – the magnificent blood of the orchards needs at least those burgeons that are ready to unravel, the light, seen somewhere in the background …


The list of what had been done, though still not all being dusted

Articles/Book Contributions

  • The Comedy of Big Data or: Corporate Social Responsibility Today, while Corporations wither away?, in: Tjaša Štrukelj/Matjaž Mulej/Grażyna O’Sullivan (eds.): Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance: Volume 2, The Tools for Practice; Palgrave (in print)
  • together with Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Korotayev, Andrey V. (eds.), 2017: Global Evolution, Historical Globalistics and Globalization Studies; Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Global Studies/Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Oriental Studies/The Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting International center for education and social humanity research; Volgograd: Uchitel
  • together with Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Korotayev, Andrey V., 2017: Introduction: From the First Galaxies to the 2040s; in: Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Herrmann, Peter/Korotayev, Andrey V. (eds.), 2017: Global Evolution, Historical Globalistics and Globalization Studies; Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Global Studies/Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Oriental Studies/The Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting International center for education and social humanity research; Volgograd: Uchitel: 5-8
  • Potentials for Taking a Strategic Role for Sustainable Sociability; in: Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Herrmann, Peter/Korotayev, Andrey V. (eds.), 2017: Global Evolution, Historical Globalistics and Globalization Studies; Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Global Studies/Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Oriental Studies/The Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting International center for education and social humanity research; Volgograd: Uchitel: 349-364
  • Csoba J., Herrmann P. “Losers, good guys, cool kids” the everyday lives of early school leavers. Monitoring of Public Opinion : Economic and Social Changes. 2017. No 6. P. 276—293. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2017.6.15
  • Erinnerung an Paul Boccara; in: Sozialismus. Monatlich Hintergründe, Analysen und Kommentare; Heft Nr. 1 | Januar 2018 | 45. Jahrgang | Heft Nr. 425: 64
  • Art, recherché, création et politique; À la mémoire de Paul Boccara; in : Economie & Politique ; Novembre/Décembre 2017 ; no 760/761: 30
  • Nationale Entwicklungen im Bereich Sozialer Sicherheit und des Sozialschutzes in Irland. 2017-18 – Jahresbericht
  • For Him Art, Research, Creation and Politics Were the Same Thing—In Memory of Paul Boccara; in: CASS: World Review of Political Economy (WRPE)
  • Precarity – it isn’t employment, it is the economy, stupid; in: ”Living standards of the population in the regions of Russia”; Moscow, forthcoming
  • Precarity – it isn’t employment, it is the economy, stupid – extended version of article mentioned before; forthcoming
  • (together withN.Bobkov/I.B. Kolmakov/E.V. Odintsov): Двухкритериальная модель социальной структуры российского общества по доходам и жилищной обеспеченности/Two-Criterion Model of the Social Structure of Russian Society by Income and Housing Security; in: Экономика региона/”Economy of region” (; in print
  • About You – Bei Strafe des Frageverbots, ob man überhaupt ist; erscheint in Tarantel. Zeitschrift der Ökologische Plattform bei DER LINKEN
  • Preparatory work for The Development of the Concept of Universal Human Rights: A Critical Perspective; In: International Human Rights, Social Policy and Global Welfare: Critical Perspectives; eds.: Féilim Ó hAdmaill/ Gerard McCann; Policy Press, forthcoming
  • A foglalkoztatás precarity – A tőke felhalmozódásának előfeltétele – A társadalomtudomány szenvedélyessége; in: METSZETEK. Társadalomtudományi folyóirat; Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetem Politikatudományi és Szociológiai Intézet


  • Changing the Socio-Economic Formation: New Labour Relations, New Forms of Accumulation, New understanding of Intelligence
    • Changing the Socio-Economic Formation: New Labour Relations, New Forms of Accumulation, Artificial Intelligence and Sharing Economy
    • Value Theory – is there still any value in it? – is it still worthwhile to talk about it?
    • Migration between value and poverty chains
  • with Vyacheslav Bobkov: Digitisation and Precarisation – Redefining Work and Redefining Society (with Contributions from Australia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Russia; Springer
    • Own Contributions:
      * together with Vyacheslav Bobkov: Foreword: Digitisation and Precarisation – Redefining Work and Redefining Society
    • Economy of Difference and Social Differentiation. Precarity – searching for a new interpretative paradigm
  • Preparatory work, together with Laurinkari, Juhani/Unger, Felix: Documentation of the Symposium of the European Academy of Science and Arts and the Pellervo Society, Helsinki: Digitisation, Artificial Intelligence and Stultification of Society; also contribution: Digitisation – Employment – and What?


  • Digitalization, immigration and the welfare state, by Mårten Blix, Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017, 186 pp., ISBN 978 1 78643 294 0 (hardback) – European Journal of Social Work; 2018;
  • D’Aprile, Dorothee/Baur Barbara/Kadritzke, Niels (Red.): Chinas Aufstieg. Mit Kapital, Kontrolle und Konfuzius; Berlin: taz Verlags- und Vertriebsgenossenschaf; Edition Le Monde Diplomatique 23/2018; in: im Erscheinen in
  • Greve, Bent: Technology and the Future of Work. The Impact on Labour Markets and Welfare States; Cheltenham/Northhampton: Edward Edgar, 2017; ISBN: 9781786434289


see for some:


  • Phanresia, volume IV, in progress
  • Commencing Phanresia I-III audio-access, in progress
  • Commedia Della Vita or Pánta Rêi’s Firm Ground – blog entries, trying to inspire thinking – ongoing, usually twice per week


Well, the suitcases are packed … – off tomorrow with some hand-luggage, collecting the large bags on Friday …

Now, time to say good-bye – as done so often before,       and          again               and       again

and              even much later too.


There are two things to remember – and I am still grateful to the people teaching me: I will continue being scared; and I will continue even if, or probably better: because there is a light; and I am grateful for to the person that asked me many questions, allowing me to learn about the value of my freedom; and to those who stayed with me while disappearing

– Thank you – 고마워요! – 谢谢 – Köszönöm – Merci – Danke

employment – precarity – or what

Precarity of Employment – Precarity of Capital Accumulation – Helplessness of Social Science

Thoughts from the Panel during the 28thEconomic Forum, Krynica-Zdroj, Polonia:
Flexible Employment: A way to a global chaos or to a new model of labour market stability?

a brief note, while already on the way back to Munich …

And the changed title is:

Panem et circenses – but who bakes the bread?

There is no reason to carry owls to Athens – they are there, and at least also one is in Krynica, in the park

– repeating what is well known, e.g. speaking about growth and employment and looking for ways for its enhancement. Opposing is often naively just about rejecting it without thinking about viable alternatives. The core of my contribution in Krynica can be summarised in the following table and a short para, trying to get a bit closer to the ground of things:

(Click to enlarge)

and in the one paragraph:

Precarity can only be meaningfully looked at, if understood as one of two sides of the accumulation regime: there we are dealing with employment issues, around generating value; and we are dealing with accumulation as realising value by combining factors of production and by recombining in different ways use value and exchange value. The one is a matter of production, the other of distribution and exchange. The problematique emanates from the fact of what we may call a “realisation paradox”: Though the market is needed to make surplus real, it is only the productive sphere that makes it possible. The outcome is the “destruction of time“ in the sphere of production, in order to be artificially extended in the sphere of consumption. It should not surprise if one feels reminded of the process of production which consumes raw material, i.e. destroys nature in order to establish artificial consumables.

– I would not suggest that capital/capital accumulation is in a more precarious situation than employment/the employment regime and social securitisation; however, there is good reason to look at (parts of) this under the heading “sex, drugs and crime”.

On the new title: such an event has something of exactly the Panem et Circenses, trying to make us forget that somebody has to bake the bread ….
Follow the link for the recording of some schort remarks.

whereabout …?

The other day I talked with Turkish colleagues – one mentioned the Ankara Agreement, making emigration easy and apparently gaining a new momentum: the opportunity to make use of a quasi-free movement being taken up by many young, qualified people (that is hat I had been told).

https: //×2/640/426/43d81eaeeb4ba567a36be455ccee7930/Ci/chappatte_immigration-37930404.jpg

It is funny then in the sense that young people from all countries emigrate: Turks to various EU-countries, Hungarians to the UK, Chinese to down under, Italians to Ireland, Irish to Poland, Yanks to China … though leaving it as open question to where they really move at the end … – a question if we do not accept that “somewhere” is the mental state of precarity of different forms is.

Migrants of all countries, you are united!

Though there remains the challenge of developing a truly “portable citizenship”, i.e. to become migrants not only by themselves but also for themselves.

Privatisation through the backdoor


on New Deal For Irish Families, states at the end of his article

Real choices for mothers and their partners requires a social investment state that supports families throughout their life course.

Of course, at first sight it is laudable but then …


Would it not be even more laudable and plausible to establish another reference as the words of Bertrand Russels who suggests in his In Praise of Idleness

that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried further than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently.


(l)eisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered possible by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.

Isn’t the rhetoric of “social investment”, seen in connection with targeting choice between family and career, not only wrong by way of reducing social policy on a labour market instrument, but also by way of misguiding the understanding of work? Isn’t it with such social investment perspective also established as private matter through the backdoor? Instead of paying for childcare privately the state (or possibly private public partnerships) ar paid in kind, through the work they do instead. Redistribution of wealth has to go hand in hand with redistribution of  work. Indeed, Nicolas Bueno in his short Introduction to the Human Economy makes a point that is surely interesting enough to overcome the idea of social investment as a social policy. He writes

Once human beings are delivered from being thought of as mere producers of economic value, a part of the time and energy that was before only dedicated to producing goods and services can be used in order to create something else. But what can individuals create with their human potential? Human benefits.


relational processuality and processual relationality

Next then

Elastyczne zatrudnienie: globalny chaos czy nowa równowaga rynku pracy?/

/Flexible employment: a way to a global chaos or to a new model of labour market stability

It is a panel of the 28th Economic Forum, scheduled for the 4th to 6th of September in Krynica.

Looking at the announcement of the participants in the panel I see that

Guests from Russia, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Poland 

are announced. And that makes me wondering if they forgot me or in which box I am put. Well, I know that I am officially there in my Munich position at the Max Planck Institut for Social Law and Social Policy. Still, I am also “Hungarian”, due to the link with Corvinus University, and “Fin”, being pat of the University of Eastern Finland and …

… and am I joking?

http: //

In some respect of course, which means that we are facing the reality and thinking remaining captured by four methodological flaws (see the contribution on Value Theory – is there still any value in it? – is it still worthwhile to talk about it?; in:Changing the Socio-Economic Formation: New Labour Relations, New Forms of Accumulation, New understanding of  Intelligence [working title; forthcoming]):

  • methodological individualism
  • methodological nationalism
  • methodological solutionismus as strategy of technicism, going hand in hand with permanent strategies of externalisation and relative downgrading of living standards
  • methodological presentism not least due to the urgency of matters that need to be addressed in the light of the previous point, i.e. methodological solutionism. Paradoxically, this implies that future is suggested to be present. While it enlarges the space for action, it reduces its substance as the latter can only be grasped in the light of the presence. Rüdiger Safranski contends

the enormous depth of interference of techno-social action strengthens its repercussions which are getting manifest only in the future. The manmade share in the future is increasing. Yet the openness of future still exists because the risk event may occur – but it may also not do so. No risk insurance can disperse the worries; worries can even increase indirectly via the increased want for security. … Security drives towards more security simply due to the fact that, getting used to security, one is hypersensitive when it comes to something menacing.

(Safranski, Rüdiger, 2017: Zeit. Was sie mit uns macht und was wir aus ihr machen; Franfurt/M.: Fischer 2017: 79)

However, as much future is integrated into the presence, it limits itself to presentism as factually only the real presence exists as point of reference. This results in linearly defined thinking.

While widely seen as separate issues, they can only be understood as entity of societal realities and their analysis, making us understanding agency, space, matter and time in specific ways and, as practice is also based on the way we are understanding realities, these pillars are also shaping these realities.

Finalising the work on the book “Digitisation and Precarisation – Redefining Work and Redefining Society”, edited together with Vyacheslav Bobkov, I am getting another time aware of the actual tension of problems “running in circles”: debates on globalisation and precarity are very much caught in such vicious circle as long as they cannot overcome those methodological limitations: there is no relational processuality, and equally no processual relationality that commences in one area: one industry, one issue (like globalisation, digitisation, precarisation …) or one locality unless we want to limit ourselves to spotuality: an unchanging world, given once for ever, not able and not destined to move. Indeed, as quoted recently

As long as something is, it is not what it will have been at some time. – Solange etwas ist, ist es nicht, was es einmal gewesen sein wird.