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” …

Actually the plan was a different one …

– it had been early in February, and the plan was to enjoy the ease of a Jazz-concert. But it should not be that way, the venue was cramped when we arrived – trotting along for a while, not knowing what to do … .

‘The Pinakothek, is it still open?’

She asked and I replied I would think so …, until eight. So it gave us about one hour. We entered the Neue Pinakothek …

You enter at the end?

the man from the security service asked.

It does not really matter

I replied when we showed the annual tickets

We can come any time, and we can come often. In this way there is no real beginning, no real end. Coming here is a kind of never ending story.

Walking into the first room I had been asked

Which paintings do like especially?

I went directly to some favourites – favourites this day, this time, this hour …Claude Monet’s La Seine à Argenteuil [1874]; Édouard Manet’s Claude Monet in Argenteuil [1874]. We talked about forms and ways of detachment and engagement – and even detachment as engagement. We talked about the here and there – wasn’t detachment, as understood by the late realists/early impressionists, so very different from the detachment by the Nazareni, we had seen the other day when looking at F.W. von Schadow’s Die Heilige Familie unter dem Portikus.

We moved on – I wanted to point on another difference – that between the Monet/Manet and here now to Liebermann, and Menzel. But again, it should not be that way. – Gotthard Kuehl’s Vor der Schicht [ca 1895/99] caught her attention. After a while, talking, looking for appropriate terms that would make it accrues the language hurdle, I stepped back – we stepped back … .

If you can chose, which one will you take with you?

Asking this question, I pointed on Kuehl’s painting, Liebermann’s Münchner Biergarten [1884] and his Badende Jungen [1898]. But I did not strictly oppose when my friend was cheating a bit, turning around and finally drew me to Fritz von Uhde’s Schwerer Gang [1890].

Such dark, grey painting?

There was not much hesitation

Yes, overall, sad and dark, but because they are together, and … There is a far-flung looking light.

I like it because it’s not sad

Much later, after a chat over a Bavarian Pils, we walked together to the Metro – when we parted, she left me with a thought … – her thought? my thought? or our thought? A thought which is too large for one, even fore two people alone and still has to be dealt with by each of us – alone and in being together. I had been Andre Vltchek’s thought of being Scared, Therefore I am Brave!

When the desire for knowledge becomes truly overwhelming, one simply cannot stop, or slow down. The only way is to go forward, to absorb knowledge, to fight for attaining knowledge, to see the world, to understand, to feel, to listen; passionately and consistently. No fear can deter us, when we are avidly searching for truth. It is so proud, so brave, this desire to know!

When we feel ‘unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind’, when we witness how unjust is the arrangement of this world, when we truly internalize the suffering of others, of our fellow human beings living on all the continents of this beautiful but battered planet, then almost all of us, or at least those who are humanists in their core, become courageous, and brave. They suddenly know what has to be done.

As for ‘the longing for love’, it is there, it is always there, in all of us, in all human beings. To fight for love, when it comes, is brave, and to die for it, if risking all is the only way to save it, is courageous. That ‘longing for love’ is the most humble, most sacred, the most essential part of our nature, so rarely satisfied. It takes courage to love; it takes tremendous, indescribable courage!

I am wondering if there is anything like ‘energising paralysis’ – Mia Eta …. – At least there is now the time to say goodbye, moving on …, and sadly leaving, having lost sight of light since a while in the frictions of different excise – and only seeing glimpses, sparkling and floating for some time, only striving to overcome numerification.

… We can come any time, and we can come often. In this way there is no real beginning, no real end. Coming here is a kind of never ending story … – and this means at the end to stay even if parting. Good Bye, Farewell, See you …- thirteen minutes until the train leaves …

windmills – small and large, without allowing to see an end

One of last week’s joy – one of the last weeks …

Is there a mission, a vision ….?

O Ja! Einfach wie Einstmals heiter aus dem Überflusse schöpfend!  O beglückende Zeit, O Zeitalter voll Glück, von unseren Altvorderen das goldene genannt, nicht, weil man damals Gold ohne Müh und Not gewann, nein, sondern weil all jene, die damals lebten, die Wörter Mein und Dein nicht kannten. In dieser segensreichen Zeit waren alle Dinge gemein. Alles damals war Friede, Liebe, Eintracht.

Oh yes! Simply like once cheerfully drawing from abundance!  O joyful time, O age of happiness, called the golden one by our ancestors – not because gold was at hand at easy, without hardship; no, it had been called thus because all those who lived at that time did not know the words Mine and Thine. In this blessed time, everything was common. Everything then was peace, love, harmony.

Ach, Nichtchen, weisst Du denn nicht, wie verhängnisvoll mein Zuhausebleiben fuer die Welt wäre, wenn man an all das Unrecht denkt, das ich zu richten habe, an all die Bosheit, die ich Gutmachen muss und an all die Sünden, die ich zu sühnen auserwählt bin.

Oh, little niece, don’t you know how disastrous it would be for the world if I stay at home – think of all the injustice I have to judge, think of all the evil for which I have to make good for and of all the sins, I have been chosen to atone for.

(From the leaflet Koenigsplatz – Theaterspiele Glyptothek im Innenhof: Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quijote – 17. July to 15th of September – own translation -P.H.)

Well, yes, soon moving on, indeed ….


John, we met on occasion of a couple of conferences, frequently said:

I always see you sitting with you work in the hotel lounge or in the reception area.

And indeed, for many parts of my work I like an inspiring atmosphere as I can find it in hotel lounges or …

…, yes in some cases it is a privilege, being able to sit in a spot like this
It had been a year ago, near Amsterdam, children playing nearby did not really disturb me – more the other way round: I found it even motivating as it is a bit like having the “dedication of my work” directly as motivation and appeal around:
this work is dedicated to the future generations, aiming on contributing to a society that is worth living in
Such privilege can easily reverse – an adult abruptly dragging one of the kids at the arm, shouting at him
Just leave here, don’t play while we are sitting here.
 – I felt paralyzed, I had to leave soon after this “incidence”. Because of this old fellow’s misbehavior towards the children, but also as I felt disturbed by the permanently incoming beep-sound of incoming messages and swoosh-sound of outgoing messages on his phone.
Two days later, I went there again – I urgently needed a place that provides quietness and inspiration. I was a bit …, no, I was not really surprised that nobody calls the group of adults to order: about fifteen to twenty people, sitting in one of the corners, chatting and laughing loudly, cheering at each other with the beer and wine glasses, and walking around – each of them wanted to take a photo – about about fifteen to twenty people wanted to have more or less the same photo.
I left, feeling guilty that I did not make the point there, both days – the point of difference and sameness. And I left with the confirmation of the position of a lecturer and researcher: there is no such thing as value freedom, the place, any lecturer and researcher has to look for, is the place of the future, not a future ’that happens’ but a future that we have to develop. – Well, the value-judgement dispute should never be reduced on an abstract issue of academics disputing in an ivory tower.

Once upon a time …

… is today ….

Actually it is a more or less long time ago that this project commenced, making the first steps and growing, without a path that would be determined, trying to live in exactly that way that was also the birth name: Phanresia, bringing phantasy and reality together, trying to do it at least, playing the cross-cross conflation. And accepting that the reality could be something different than the original plan, imagined in the stories that had been made up, told to a little girl …

And then …?

… and then the little stories that had been told and imagined together, allowing the old to become young and the young to become …, well, wise and had been published as book …

…and then is now, commencing the youtube version of the book of Phanresia, telling stories from being different and stories about contradictions …. .

Yesterday, the 19th of August, the first part had been launched on youtube; and also the second part; the third part and the fourth. there will be more published subsequently while I enjoy writing the fourth volume, for a little boy… – step by step …, because once upon a time is now and will always be … if we allow reality of phantasy to be!

Samir Amin

Samir Amin (Arabic: سمير أمين‎) was an Egyptian-French Marxian economist – he passed away on the August 12th, 2018.

I am surly not any kind of the 5th of what Immanuel Wallerstein sees in his comment 479 as a gang of four (Samir Amin, Andre Gunder Frank, Giovanni Arrighi, Immanuel Wallerstein, , himself . I have had some connection to one of the gang: Andre Gunder. Though it had been about the work of (one of his last?) publication(s), it emerged as the germ of a friendship. Reason enough, to feel close to the “family” – actually the wok of all of them very interesting and inspiring in my recent work.
Reason enough to link to the mourning … – in solidarity across borders.

Vermeers “Woman in Blue” and the challenge to counter global hegemony of “stakeholder-democracy”

Of course, this “Davos of the East” as it is sometimes called,, and which I mentioned previously, is a special challenge as it is about an invitation to accept the rules of the hegemon, while it is for me the obligation to maintain the role of the anti-hegemeon while knowing that there is always the one option: being seen as fig-leaf or, and this is the serious problem, being absorbed: the anti-hegemonic position being reinterpreted and smoothly welded into the existing interpretation of things. – Dialectic of change one may say; there is no way to succeed but one has to try nevertheless and endlessly like Sisifo.

Part of the dialectic is of course to be in one way or another part of a group that is in line with widespread claims of a

representation of a post-nation state governance system

referring to Katerina Gladkova who is analysing Two years into the SDGs, asking if it is about neoliberalised development? What she says with respect of the SDG-strategy, finds its valid application in many of these “new institutions” – they are another

window-dressing exercise in democracy. The multistakeholder model dilutes boundaries of accountability and is not representative of the needs of the many; on the contrary, it serves the interests of the privileged minority advocating for the neoliberal world order.


I became aware of the task in an entirely unexpected context, namely when looking – together with Angela Maria Opel, as part of the guided tour “Love letters in the Painting of The Netherlands” – at Vermeer’s Women in Blue Reading a Letter, currently hosted in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. A seemingly harm-, possibly meaningless painting of which the value is at first glance its beauty – and as well all know beauty is always contestable. And equally any interpretation of one painting is questionable because painters are children of their time and a single painting is only a piece of the jigsaw, composed by painter and time. The contemporary trinity of Dutch paintings can be seen in map, letter and necklace, frequently appearing not only in Vanmeer’s work. It is the trinity of the young and independent republic, the temptation by the glamorous jewellery, representing the ancient regime – and the dispute over it, now, as the weapons had been laid down. As such , reading the letter may have been not least a matter of political commitment, a question of resisting the temptations of short-sighted glamour and persisting in moving forward towards the new republic which represented at the very same time a new economic formation. Seen in this light, the review of the painting can also be seen as reflection of the close connection between the political and the personal: the urgency of reading, pushing aside the obvious temptation by vanity, the longing for true love standing against the superficial glamour, and this means also the possibility of rejection, the dispute about love going beyond the visible glamour – indeed, the rejection of such letter as depicted by Gerard ter Borch; indeed, not every gallant soldier had been a welcomed soldier.

On the other hand, the light, so typical for Vermeer, can be in some way as competent for the glamour of the pearls: the glamour of the outreaching trade of the new republic … – sending the loved one away for the explorations or receiving the news from abroad? – it had been the tension also of Gabriël Metsu, positioning the Man Writing a Letter and the Woman Reading a Letter side by side, all at a time when Claude Lorrain was painting the variations of the seaport (yes, I had been teaching on tis, in Budapest [economic thinking in six paintings])

An interesting detail may be that Vermeer actually used “real blue”, extracted from lapis lazuli – something for instance van Rijn could not afford /// …. . In other words, Vanmeer represented very much the upper class, most likely the new hegemons. This thought may be extended – the blue of the woman’s garment finds its continuation ih the cooer of the wall in front of her, where it still continues as shadow. As such it continues as well from the map – on may suggest that it is marking the seafarers nation, and it finds finally its strange settlement in the chair, covered with a material with of darker blue, kept tight with golden nubs. – Thus we would have the perfect tension: while the weapons are silent, the soldiers trying their fate in a peaceful “mission with their gallantries”, representing the old regime as much as the regime’s attempt to convince by jewelry and words, the new economic power provides a firm and guided resting point. The old and the new hegemons standing against each other, courting her, The Netherlands.

Sure, such interpretation is not least a matter of speculation, or turned positively: a matter of inspiration and reflection – the reflex of time and times, space and spaces.


– With this we return to the beginning, though we are not talking about any new republic, we surely talk about some far reaching changes. Understanding them, and understanding them in their deeper meaning we have to go beyond the reflection of extended stocktaking. Robert Cox actually outlined the challenge, writing about two different kinds of theory:

Beginning with its problematic, theory can serve two distinct purposes. One is a simple, direct response: to be a guide to help solve the problems posed within the terms of the particular perspective which was the point of departure. The other is more reflective upon the process of theorising itself: to become clearly aware of the perspective which gives rise to theorising, and its relation to other perspectives (to achieve a perspective on perspectives); and to open up the possibility of choosing a different valid perspective from which the problematic becomes one of creating an alternative world. Each of these purposes gives rise to a different kind of theory.

The first purpose gives rise to problem-solving theory. It takes the world as it finds it, with the prevailing social and power relationships and the institutions into which they are organised, as the given framework for action. …

The second purpose leads to critical theory. It is critical in the sense that it stands apart from the prevailing order of the world and asks how that order came about. Critical theory, unlike problem-solving theory, does not take institutions and social and power relations for granted but calls them into question by concerning itself with their origins and how and whether they might be in the process of changing.[1]

Indeed, then contributing to the debate on new technologies, unemployment and precarity, will be not least a matter of refraining from using those terms. It is more a matter of looking at the underlying overall goals and the framing contexts, the why behind the what. It is, in other words, about rejecting the mainstream principle, by Richard and Daniel Susskind[2]seen in the fact that professionals

are inclined to ask themselves what it is that they do today … and how they might make that service a bit quicker, cheaper, or better. Not often enough do professionals ask themselves the more fundamental question …” (37 f.)

which they understand as matter of defining the overall purpose of any undertaking we investigate. May be, being asked to talk about growth and security of employment, I should make socks statements that the need for growth is the real Sisyphos’ pain and security of employment a promised glamour of an ancient regime, similar to the jewelry that had been positioned as decoy against the new republic which may finally become at some stage a res publica, not worrying about privacy of data but about wrongly claimed publicness of GAFA.


[1]           Cox, Robert W., 1981: Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory; in: Millennium – Journal of International Studies; 10/2; 126-155; here: 128; DOI: 10.1177/03058298810100020501

[2]           Susskind, Richard and Daniel, 2015: The Future of the Professions. How technology will transform the work of human experts; Oxford University Press