never blame students for what lecturers and politicians do to them

A widely known problem is that students today have – supposedly – problems to read: are unwilling, only printed on exams and subsequently the reeding they need for proceeding. My personal experience suggest something different: if students have space: literally by way of sufficient “quality location”, time and mental space, not being pestered by problem-solving urgency, allowed to foster critical thinking (as Robert Cox outlines it in the piece from 1981: Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory; in: Millennium – Journal of International Studies 1981; 10; 126-155 DOI: 10.1177/03058298810100020501) most of them would love reading more, more widely, critically working with texts.

However, if politicians educate teachers who then educate students and then these students become politicians, educating teachers who then educate students who then become politicians … … … – it is quite natural that after going a couple of times around, policy documents and texts books look very much alike, nit even reaching the intellectual level of A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies.
Though already from 2011, a document issued by the Irish government can be taken as example for such dummies=stultification-strategy, showing on page 7 the following:
It reminds me that at some stage “Communications“, issued by the European Commission had not been allowed to be longer than 20 pages – politicians are not reading longer documents …  the paradox then and there: instead of producing one document with 30 pages, two documents with twenty pages each had been produced … , and so forth and so forth … at least the printing press being extensively used. The crux of “maths”: making two documents out of one 30-page document dos not mean having two 15-pages docs. because additional space is needed for the cross-references and the like. though we end up with something like 30 divided by 2 = 20+20 = 60, or in short: 30 divided by 2 equals 40. There is a German term “Milchmaedchen-Rechnung”, literally “calculation made by a dairymaid”, meaning fallacy, naive. Perhaps it should be changed, the new term being Commissioner- or Politician-Calculation.
May be it is still better then producing one document that is so much simplification of everything that it requires a guideline to show the reader the way through (though to sweet) nothingness.
In any case, please, never blame students for what lecturers and politicians do to them.
Some voluntarily, some lazily, some being forced .., and some still resisting.

future — is there one?

During the assembly of TRANSFORM! Europe, I dared to raise some issues that I consider being relevant for a transformation, looking a bit deeper, orienting towards the future


– of course not anything more than some hopefully stimulating contemplations about the future. Keywords are the European narrative, the occupation of spaces, charitabilisation, generational change, the spreading of nationalism. A general question is of course, if the left can or should “offer anything” or if it can only exist as part of the societal movement, thereof aiming on being avant-garde. Here the recording.

“political crap – well Cook-ed”

Scandals and no end … – still, there are some that deserve special attention. The Apple-tax avoidance policy is one of peculiar interest – for different reasons:
Think about the following:
I pleaded on different occasions –  not least in connection with the data abuse by Facebook – for their socialisation: there seems to be little point in regulating monopolies – while at first glance tempering – it is a  no-go policy to break up monopolies that actually depend in their very functioning on being monopolies. Socialisation, e.g. state control, does not solve the problem but at least it puts it into a different regulatory perspective:
regulating private entities that are too big or securing democratic control over relevant political bodies, that is the question.
Public control, then, is of course an issue that deserves …, not just special attention but a conceptualisation of the public itself that is serious about …, well , its public character. On this topic we read for instance:
public (adj.)
late 14c., “open to general observation,” from Old French public (c. 1300) and directly from Latin publicus “of the people; of the state; done for the state,” also “common, general, public; ordinary, vulgar,” and as a noun, “a commonwealth; public property,” altered (probably by influence of Latin pubes “adult population, adult”) from Old Latin poplicus “pertaining to the people,” from populus “people” (see people (n.)).
In any case, this is quite different from what we learn about the tax system in Europe and Ireland, reading in the mentioned article (my translation);
Instead, first Lienemeyer has to investigate and understand the Irish tax model as it is applied by Apple, that means first and foremost detective work.
Thus, adding value or or piracy-policies, that is another crucial question.
There is the common saying about milking the cow to limits and it is commonly said that the pitcher goes often to the well, but is broken at last.
There is, in economics, so much talk about value chains – suggesting that the enterprise and country in which the enterprise is located gets a “fair share” – said in another way: as many products today – computers, phones, cars, fridges etc. – are produced in various places, with parts from different countries, the overall value of the product will be distributed between the countries, the contribution of each “valued proportionally”. One point to be considered here is that these value chains are, as Benjamin Selwyn points out, in actual fact poverty chains, the Apple-case clearly gives another good reason to question such concept.
Two passages from the said article in the SZ clearly show the contradiction:
At the time, Ireland replied in a letter to Brussels that Apple’s advanced technology, design and the intellectual property are exclusively rooted, developed and managed in the USA, thus making it impossible to attribute it to the Irish enterprises [enterprises  set up by Apple as mediators, solely dealing with sales]
However, a little later we read the following:
In the view of the head of the department at the EU-Commission it is fact that the Irish Apple-branches run their offices solely in Ireland, have their employees only there and are, thus, ordinary Irish companies. “Then the question is: who is generating the profit? A virtual headquarter or an industrial premise with real people working?” says Lienemeyer. As Apple maintains offices in the city of Cork. this is his conclusion, Apples global business is Irish. Consequently all profit has to be taxed in Ireland.
Ireland and Apple react by being shocked. In their understanding the global Apple-tree with its mature fruits always had its roots in California.
Both, Ireland and Apple see this a affront. At the end, the question is here:
eating the apples and rejecting the tree – is that a feasible option?
To be or not to be, that question needs urgently to be replaced: Who is allowed to define what being is – and who is allowed to determine the conditions of existence of others, of majorities?
Cook, Apple’s CEO, once spoke of ‘political crap’ coming from Brussels. Actually he may be not entirely wrong after all. Leaving the tax scandal aside, there are two fundamental issues that remain without consideration:
First, regulating sick and decaying systems, that are not only undermining like cancer the entire body but already replaced completely the entire body, is hardly enough as cure against the body snatchers.
Second, this requires not least to fundamentally overcome methodological nationalism: as long as we still think in competition between regions and nation states, global capitalism will unfold exponentially – paradoxically in niches of arrogant and sexist plutocracies.



It is somewhat remarkable, reading in an OECD-report a sentence that is so deeply informed by psychology, governance and some of the anthropological teaching:

For example, most of the banking functions can be performed by information and communication technologies (ICT), but many people still prefer to negotiate a loan with a human instead of a computer program.[1]

Thinking then about ministers and what they have in their mind about human behavior is revealing – and I am wondering who is actually programming humans? And who is responsible if they are programmed n the wrong way, giving out loans in highly irresponsible ways?



[1] OECD (2016) New Market and New Jobs. Ministerial meeting on the digital economy background report. OECD Digital Economy Papers № 255. Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy, 21-23 June 2016, Cancún (Mexico).

Source for the picture: https:// www.

Six Degree of Separation


from Augustine’s Contra Faustum Manichaeum

The story of six degree of separation, as dealt with here and here, seems to be in some way itself a speculation … — at least empirically it is not in the strict sense viable. Be that as it may, fact is that the world is a small place and fact is that it is still of utmost important what kind of links do exist.

The silly example when we look at xenophobia etc.: It is not the Turk, Syrian, Jew, Chinese, gay around the corner I fear … — but in general, when it comes to Turks, Syrians, Jews, Chinese and gay people they are just [I could provide a list of stereotypes and ask you to tick the box you consider as being relevant …] and there is good reason for being at least alert. So the often heard saying, the often seen praxis – and one may wonder if the fascination by a supposed exotic character of the Turk, Syrian, Jew, Chinese, gay friend is not some kind of the same thing in reverse … In any case, we may add to the various classifications of humans as social beings, economic and rational beings and nevertheless also a homo ludens the classification of humans being ‘concretist’, lacking the ability to accept generalisations of a certain kind and also depending on the ‘concrete counterpart’ as co-player.

There is another point here — most likely closely linked to what had been mentioned before — and of course I leave gathering the existing studies and any ultimate empirical validation to others. The question is concerned with those mechanisms of six degrees of segregation. I mean the small network that protects each member of the network, supports them blindly and cuts off all ‘blind and dormant links’. They surely continue to exist and may be relevant in some respect — ‘when needed’. But at the same time there are the tight rules that make overstepping them fatal.

Imagine a person taking up a well paid position in another country — and well paid means a very influential position. Imagine that this person needs, of course, accommodation befitting one’s rank, and ‘befitting one’s rank’ is interpreted by saying: the ‘institutionalised rank’ — be it a guild, party or an employing university — has to pay for the refurbishment, i.e. the employer – in case of private employers there will be some negotiations, in the case of public employers it may be …, the establishment of a private network.

Then somebody turns up, gets known and slightly scratches the links of the lock that protects the small insider network.

In the one case an investigation may be started, in the other the black sheep is expelled. And in mixed cases, the investigation is turned into a feud against the supposed intruder …

Looking at the educational system, it is interesting to hear that — for instance — the real advantage of studying at Yale or any of these ‘ranking universities’ is not about more knowledge from better profs. It is all about better contacts to more influential academics. And this is why people fluff contacts up, do excessive namedropping, and even pretend to have studied and worked at certain institutions …

And this, again, is not least possible because of indifference of those within and those who try to enter. Thus, indifference is one of the most dangerous murderers of sociality. As Antonio Gramsci, in his Odio Gli differenti [11 febbraio 1917], contends

Odio gli indifferenti. Credo che vivere voglia dire essere partigiani. Chi vive veramente non può non essere cittadino e partigiano. L’indifferenza è abulia, è parassitismo, è vigliaccheria, non è vita. Perciò odio gli indifferenti.

L’indifferenza è il peso morto della storia. L’indifferenza opera potentemente nella storia. Opera passivamente, ma opera. È la fatalità; è ciò su cui non si può contare; è ciò che sconvolge i programmi, che rovescia i piani meglio costruiti; è la materia bruta che strozza l’intelligenza. Ciò che succede, il male che si abbatte su tutti, avviene perché la massa degli uomini abdica alla sua volontà, lascia promulgare le leggi che solo la rivolta potrà abrogare, lascia salire al potere uomini che poi solo un ammutinamento potrà rovesciare.

And this indifference is also one of the most dangerous murderers of peace.

The problem is not really some form of closure or the establishment of inner circles — we may consider this as natural. Maintaining close contact with all people one ever meets, or at least to all one finds nice, and supporting them wherever they need support, is surely stressful, not feasible. The problem is, however, the other extreme: it is not about shutting off the rest of the world, encapsulating oneself int a cocoon. the real problem is that segregation and closure commonly, in particular [though not only] in higher echelons of society, is about the complete utilisation of contacts: the other only exists as functional element of the world, is instrumentalised in favour of individualist perspectives — often enough appearing as extremely social and interacting — it is about people who never work, but permanently network.

All this is extremely dangerous in two respects: the one is that any real cut-off means the loss of valuable human and humane ‘resources’; the other is that it shows complete stupidity and lack of self respect – or some form of conscious wrong doing that needs to be hidden. Sure, we all make mistakes — the real mistakes, however, are those that prove that we are ‘mistaken personalities’, not able to critically face what we did, not accepting that somebody else my disagree with what we did, and simply continue living in separation without segregating.

The black sheep has to learn … — and we all have to learn being able to clearly define black and white ….

– Conoscere se stessi, conoscere gli altri — Knowing yourself, knowing others

— this is according to Liang Shiqui what makes the art of insult a noble art.

Surely this is all about living in the academic world too often not compatible with working academically

it is about saying inconvenient truth and the freedom of speech

and it is, of course, about the question a student asked some time ago:

Why can’t we do what we like to do?

And though all this may not look explicitly political … , and actual fact it is here where we are dealing with some fundamental of the development of rightwing politics and fascism — as we discussed earlier in November.

Small Print on Freedom of Opinion and Speech

It had been again and again an issue over the last two years or so, I spent in China: does it exist? How is it oppressed? and not least: But ‘we/they in the west’ can say what we want’.


though there is some small print we should not forget – an example may show what this is about.

Looking back in order to enhance looking forward

There is no intention on my side to engage in a wider or deeper debate on Chinese issues – it would require volumes, acknowledging successes, failures and contradictions now and then. And there is surely no intention to deny one or the other, be it in absolute terms or in the light of comparative reflections.

Still, having arrived in Moscow, I dare looking briefly back. The 19th CPC National Congress, having taken place the recent days, marks a shift in the orientation of which the meaning will be seen in the future. The congress suggested as main, i.e. ‘principal contradiction’ the country faces now is the society being

between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing need for a better life.

Previously – for 36 years – the maxim was seen as being caught between

the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social production.

Sure, even commenting on this can only be an attempt to make us thinking about what is at stake – actually far beyond China.[1] And any commenting is of course facing the danger of ‘loosing due to translation’. A bit of comfort for me is looking back at some experience in daily life, the glimpses into Chinese life and perhaps a bit of the mentality – glimpses, surely not more.

Well, then, isn’t there potentially a ‘mental’ or ‘intellectual typo’? Shouldn’t it read peoples’ instead of people’s. In the second case there is an individualist undertone while the challenge is really the life of the people, not people.

Sure the resolution of the congress has inscribed this new project:

addressing the development’s imbalances and inadequacies, and push[ing] hard to improve the quality and effect of development

into the party’s constitution. Important is now to see emphasis that constitutions are about processes, not structures. We are dealing with the constitutive process, the formation. And with this it remains to be seen if the apostrophe will be shifted into the right position, to promote a course that is worth to be carried on by a party that claims to be left. At stake is indeed the peoples’ life as foundation of people’s life – seemingly a tiny difference though remarkably one that is decisive for the meaning of the social.

Looking back at the experience of teaching in the PRC up to recently there is the tension not just in the party’s document and in reflecting on it. Surely, some of my students would go for moving the apostrophe into the right place. And surely, this means not least confronting an Americanised and Europeanised orientations of the educational system.[2]

Sure, there is the wider question, looking back much further. Here we have to ask if Deng had actually been right – or completely wrong. First we have to eat, that stands before any moral considerations are made – well known from Brecht’s Three-Penny Opera. The ‘Deng-question’ remains, better to say, the question Deng did not sufficiently consider: ‘What kind of moral will those, being well fed, while others receive little more then the bread crumbs, develop?’

There is no reason to question successes – over the last years more than breadcrumbs had been made available for many. Equally, as appalling as developments in Higher Education is in ‘the West’ are, there are exceptions and there are increasingly counter movements: claims for higher quality, for

an education … [that] will teach you how to think, not what to think

to use the words of Jazreel Goh, education marketing director of the British Council in China. More than glimpses of hope?

The hopes I personally have, and it means to take up on and support the excitement I see in the eyes, I hear in the voices, I read in the words of so many students; the hope that they withstand the strangulation that is still going on.

Looking back … – or looking forward? There is no real need for marketing directors but there is a need for academics being aware that they are and will always be students and for students that are aware of being academics, not future bean counters or Wall Street-pedestrians [follow the links for the interviews that are in these articles] – I found it striking that the congress paid a lot of attention to the economy and its development, while it neglected by and large many of the questions that are ore fundamental, namely those dealing with the actual processes of production and its ‘what and how’.


[1]            This far beyond may well be taken as part of the interpretation of the outspoken claim to be a global payer.

[2]            I dare to say that the congress was apparently clear on the question of education – but in a very unfortunate direction towards competitiveness, undermining ‘deep quality development’.