The Middlemen

It seems to be a somewhat weird way: people have to make a fuss out of everything, ideologise the smallest act and thus apparently make even the non-market, non-political, non-whatever act a somewhat utilitarian one: give it a ‘defined purpose’, the definition being aim and instrument at the same time giving it meaning in relation to others, as – thus it is implicit – the existence and all these acts do not have meaning in themselves, it seems not have any meaning that can be derived from its inherent relationality.

So – what I did not know, let alone think about – we have a World Vegetarian Day, actually it is today, as every year on the first of October, and we have of course also, now also amongst leftist and progressivists, the reasoning behind being vegetarian: it reduces, thus they speak, the ecological footprint, is even an opening for an alternative economy [or eve mode of production] and even the beginning of a new era, allowing us to be not simply humans but finally being also humane.

I a hesitating, not agreeing with all this fuss: sure, much of it may and will be true, simple given facts. But well, I am human, I guess humane, vegetarian – but I simply, without any Cartesian claim that ideologise it, calling out the world-revolution based in the fact that I think about it, rationalise every little f…, or a or z.

But there something nice – and thought-provoking – when it comes to C, D and P, expressed by Winston Churchill.

Christopher Soames, Churchill’s future son-in-law, remembered] Churchill showing him around Chartwell Farm [around 1946]. When they came to the piggery Churchill scratched one of the pigs and said: I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.[1]

So. where do we find humans then, not looking up, not looking down …  – the middle offering apparently for us, and for pigs, some space.



[1]                   Christopher Soames, speech at the Reform Club given on 1981-04-28, reported in Martin S. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill. Volume Eight: Never Despair: 1945–1965. p. 304



Feet of Clay

This morning, while walking as I usually do, I have been accompanied by Fontane’s ‘A Summer in London’, the audio-book-version, to my knowledge unfortunately not translated.

In the chapter

Very, le Pays und die »Tönernen Füße« Englands

it says:

At all times, trade made large, but also small: large towards the others, but small in the heart. It buys courage; courage is not its inherent nature – and this is the danger. … Trade has never higher ambitions than its own being and its ultimate condition is – calmness. Hoping for profit and the City of London joins any dynasty.[1]

This morning I arrive in the office, going through the news, one of the headlines:

Dove Slammed for Racist Ad Featuring Black Woman Turning White

Trade wars and slavery …, of course they have new faces …


Well, to be added: The Britain Fontane was talking about, exits Europe … one may ask, of course, if Europe didn’t already exit itself.


[1]            Der Handel hat zu allen Zeiten groß gemacht, aber auch klein: groß nach außen hin, aber klein im Herzen. Er kauft den Mut; er hat ihn nicht selbst – und hier liegt die Gefahr. … Der Handel hat nie größte Zwecke als sich selbst, und seine erste Bedingnis ist – die Ruhe. Ein Gewinn in Aussicht gestellt und die City von London geht mit jeder Dynastie.

The need to search for what we cannot know

Wittgenstein once wrote:

For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well.

We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say either.[1]


And later he concludes his tractatus with the words

6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.[2]

And Bertrand Russell summarises in his Introduction that

What we cannot think we cannot think, therefore we also cannot say what we cannot think.[3]

This may leave us in a state of paralysis when it comes to the need of change; but it may also lead us to use the mistakes we make as some form of beauty: as challenge and opportunity to work on unknown paths – not simply as path we did not know before but going beyond this, at path we did not even imagine that they would exist. Paradoxically it means to start from what is really given, unveiled from abstract thoughts and political-economic frameworks, starting from real reality as fundamental truth, and develop things from there.

Talking about economics, as we did end of September in Athens on occasion of the annual Euromemo-conference, we may see this as special challenge to move further with what is today called heterodox economics. Some reflections, trying to radicalise approaches, made at the end of the conference can be found here.


[1]            Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: 68

[2]            ibid.: 89

[3]            Russell, Bertrand, 1922: Introduction; in: Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: XX

slow death – of individuals and societies


a long way … from the priests on the Acropolis [ἄκρον (akron, “highest point”) and πόλις (polis)] to the gardens which had been the roaming place of the philosophers to the reality of today’s Europe …- back at the desk after returning from Athens, where we organised at the Harokopio University in Athens, with support of the Nicos Poulantzas Institute the Euromemo-conference under the title

Can the EU still be saved? The implications of a multi-speed Europe


I remember the recent reading of Juergen Roth’s Radetzkymarsch from 1932. It seems to be clear that we can speak of a kind of congeniality when it comes to death of individuals, stubbornly caught by their ideas and societies going through some agony before the final step:

He lived long enough to know how silly it is to say the truth. He allowe people making this mistake and he believed less than the jesters who talked about him in the wide realm of anecdotes, that his world would persist. [1]


He was old, and tired, and death already expected him, still life did not release him. Like a gruesome host it kept him at the table because he did not go through all the suffering that life had prepared for him.[2]

I leave it to the reader to find out why it returns right now to my mind ….: after having returned to Greece after the elections in Germany, after Macron launching his ‘Initiative for Europe. A sovereign, united, democratic Europe’ and while going on with the personal attempt to figure out how old and how European one has to be to understand the challenges and options that are showing up ahead; and how old and how European one has to be to misunderstand them. And how much it personally helps me not to know exactly how old I am, how EUropean …call it uprooting, or call it a bit of transcending the ‘conventional wisdom’ J.K. Galbraith wrote about in this book on the ‘Affluent Society’.


[1]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Er hatte lange genug gelebt, um zu wissen, daß es töricht ist, die Wahrheit zu sagen. Er gönnte den Leuten den Irrtum, und er glaubte weniger als die Witzbolde, die in seinem weiten Reich Anekdoten über ihn erzählten, an den Bestand seiner Welt.

[2]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Alt war er und müde, und der Tod wartete schon auf ihn, aber das Leben ließ ihn noch nicht frei. Wie ein grausamer Gastgeber hielt es ihn am Tische fest, weil er noch nicht alles Bittere gekostet hatte, das für ihn bereitet war.


What we See – What we sometimes think – and What we have to learn

A Dedication to my Students, Around the World

The first impression on one of the the websites of my previous position was yesterday that of the

in its own way a very pleasing tune, matching the mood of the nicety of the previous Friday – for me much more than a beautiful autumn day

A day proving  the enjoyable lightness of being …

I scrolled down the site, saw the old photo showing me during the Shanghai Forum and was getting a bit curious, started the decipher …, wearisome …, to find out that all this is about the media centre and the ‘hyper-modern way of the networked world’ – where the global and the village come together …, perhaps not bad at all, if handled with care. Perhaps this is more important: the way to control the handling, not the instruments …

It surely means not least to be there for students – real, not virtual, and respecting …, no, accepting that we as teachers and as students have more in common than there are differences – where differences and arrogance, where delay and ‘servant-attitudes’ prevail, we have lost already our ingenuity.

To where do we go from here?

From teaching economics at Bangor College China, in Changsha, China – some reflections had been published here earlier, and also here – I arrived now – after some interim work in France and The Netherlands – in Munich, Bavaria, a generous grant from the Max-Planck-Institute for Social Law and Social Policy allows me occupying from today a research position for the next twelve month, looking at issues around digitisation – some books I asked for are already at my disposal on my new desk. And right at the beginning, after having been giving out against orthodox economics [not so much from a heterodox, but from an unorthodox position (or was it more from an alternative orthodoxy?)], I am now wondering if – cum grano salis – heterodox thinking is needed also when it comes to law?

[scan from: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust – Der Tragödie Erster Teil, mit Illustrationen aus drei Jahrhunderten, ed. by Hans Hanning, Berlin: Rütting & Loening, 1982, 2nd ed., p. 123
Teufelspakt_Faust-Mephisto, by Julius Nisle]

And much as Marx did not ‘invent communism out of the blue’, but based it in historical analysis [see in particular Engels’ Work on ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State’] , such historical review is also most valuable in jurisprudence. A nice passage I found – in a book by St Germain, writing  on the Dialogues between a doctor of divinity and a student in the laws of England –  and surely not suggesting that we find the alternatives in divinity …

And so it appeareth, that equity taketh not away the very right, but only that that seemeth to be right

by the general words of the law. Nor it is not ordained against the cruelness of the law, for the law in such case generally taken is good in himself; but equity followeth the law in all particular cases where right and justice requireth, notwithstanding the general rule of the law be to the contrary. Wherefore it appeareth., that if any law were made by man without any such exception expressed or implied, it were manifestly unreasonable, and were not to be suffered …

Reading this on page 45, we read already a page earlier as definition:
Equity is a right wiseness that considereth all the particular circumstances of the deed, the which also is tempered with the sweetness of mercy. And such an equity must always be observed in every law of man, and in every general rule thereof: and that knew he well that said thus, Laws covet to be ruled by equity. And the wise man saith, Be not overmuch right wise;
for the extreme right wiseness is extreme wrong: as who saith, If thou take all that the words of the law giveth thee thou shalt sometime do against the law.

Reminder for the Future

It may be questionable to state one day, one event as beginning of a war, though it had been the first of September nineteen-hundred-thirty-nine that the German troops invaded Poland, under false accusations. The date is taken as occasion to post a reminder, unfortunately seeing today again so many reasons in so many countries to be mobilised against moves towards violence and war. Many ways can be imagined, many wise things said – in length and in short slogans and paintings and demands – as already Kaethe Kollwitz’ lithography from 1924,


demanding ‘Never again War’.

There is one short passage in Zuckmeyer’s The Devils General, which brings it in an impressive way the point – not translating well from the German. It is part of the dispute between SS-group-leader Schmidt-Lausitz and general Harras, the latter shouting against the group-leader:

What did you just say? Fatherland [Vaterland]? You? What do you understand as fatherland? Hä? Just spell it!

V as Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court of Justice)! A as hanging! T as death! E as shooting! R as racial persecution! L as camp! Ausschwitz, Neuengamme, Dachau

You see, this is how fatherland is spelled today in Germany!

the original German version:

“Watt haben Sie da gesagt?” Vaterland?! Sie? Was versteh Sie den darunter?

“Hä? Buchstabieren Sie doch mal”

“V wie Volksgerichtshof! A wie Aufhängen! T wie Tod! E wie Erschießen! R wie Rassenverfolgung! L wie Lager! Ausschwitz, Neuengamme, Dachau

Sehen Sie, so buchstabiert man heute in Deutschland Vaterland!”

[For the short scene from the film see here].

Terms and letters, occasions …, all this may be different – but the underlying patterns never changed!




[1]            Antikriegsplakat von Käthe Kollwitz für den Mitteldeutschen Jugendtag 1924 (Lithographie, 95,2 cm x 72,3 cm; Quelle: DHM) –; 22/08/17