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.

challenges – attempts to move forward


Attributed to Johann Caspar Lavater, the words

Those who do not strive to move forward, are not taking themselves seriously

are at the House of Science in Bremen. It is the venue of yesterday’s symposium to honour Rudolf Hickel.

The symposium is aiming on addressing the

Herausforderungen für Politik und ökonomische Wissenschaft im 21. Jahrhundert/ Challenges for politics and scientific economic disciplines in the 21st century.

The event was organised by the University of Bremen, its Institute for Labour and Economy and the Arbeiterkammer Bremen.

In particular André Heinemann put a huge effort into compiling an interesting programme. – And actually he brought me back to Bremen, to the university, from which I obtained my doctorate. A long way if you want as André and myself actually met on occasion of the Shanghai Forum.


Importantly, the sessions and the overall event aimed on creating some space for really reflecting on some of the issues, allowing for more than presentations and Q&As only, and furthermore crossing borders. This did not (only) mean to look at wider issues of political economy but also emphasising the need of developing questions. The evening before we had been actually sitting together, mocking about parts of the current mainstream:

It is not really so important to have a question. Relevant is having data – and then you can define a question from calculating the data in some way that allows you to arrive at some interesting result.

Of course, some answers had been given during the event; and many questions had been raised. For my part, I was continuing [here and here frequently updated information the work] to ventilate the issue of precarity, in this case in close connection with the challenges posed by ‘Industry 4.0’. Soon an update will follow – linking to a text with some background considerations on the topic, titled

Beklagen von Prekarität oder Forderung nach neuen Sicherheiten/Sicherungsstrukturen – Herausforderungen durch Industrie 4.0

the audio recording of the presentation of during the symposium is available and another, more extensive presentation, to be given in early next week in Changsha will follow.

First, back to my students in Vienna … – teaching European integration at times of increasingly disintegrating pressures an interesting topic.

Populism – more than a political trend?

The debate on populism and he New Right surely needs considerations that go beyond political and institionalist considerations, not least looking at the political economy in which it stands and that stands at firm wall behind it. In preparation of a workshop later this year, organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, I developed some reflections which surely need further elaborations but may be already at this stage worthwhile tobe read. The beginning goes like this.

The fundamental first question is if we can still speak of a political left and right. And a definitive affirmation is underlying the main argument of the following. The reason for raising this issue is not the general ‘totalitarianism doctrine’ but its specific resurgence based on the view of both, left and right, being populist-authoritarian – as such, the currently fashionable argument is actually not referring to any concept of totalitarianism in the normally suggested understanding. Instead, Dalio et altera insinuate that ‘[p]opulism is a political and social phenomenon that arises from the common man being fed up with 1) wealth and opportunity gaps, 2) perceived cultural threats from those with different values in the country and from outsiders, 3) the “establishment elites” in positions of power, and 4) government not working effectively for them. These sentiments lead that constituency to put strong leaders in power.’[1] They interpreted this as ‘a rebellion of the common man against the elites and, to some extent, against the system.’[2] There is on the other hand too little concern with more detailed analysis, i.e. an analysis that engages as well openly in the contradictory nature of the shifts in the political landscape, and the fact that we should not be simply concerned with ‘enemy bashing’ but instead – looking at the details – we have to move towards searching for concrete utopias as alternative.[3] In fact that requires also that the left fully returns to sound arguments, not denying any problems nor suggesting arguments on the basis of moral sentiments.

And the further elaboration – as far as it stands now – can be found here. Of course, start of a debate, not final statement on an issue.


[1] Dalio, Ray et altera; Bridgewater Associates, 2017, March 22: Populism: The Phenomenon; Bridgewater. Daily Observations: 2; https://www.bridgewater.com/resources/bwam032217.pdf; 31/03/17

[2] Ibid.

[3] see in this context an interesting study, on Italy, problematising the background in the overall political patterns, past and present, not least issuing the secular changes of the political culture: The Economist. Intelligence Unit, 2017, March 24th: More fragmentation: back to the first republic?; http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=265252810&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWVdJM1pUTXpZamMzTm1JMyIsInQiOiI0bzU0Tmlad2xyVlVqUms2K3diSVJxNUt1c1RVdU1SUzVsZzRTRWpvcEhFa0U5cnBVaFBvbUY1YVBhaDNzRFU0cW5lY1A4SHRZd1JOMHZVa3J0WWFTMDF2UGhYckxcL2QyUkZpRnBVNDZyaGdBUWF3N3FyZHE5VWowXC84R0xLXC9KMSJ9; 31/03/17; see in this context also Anderson, Perry, 2017, March: Why the system will still win; in: Le Monde diplomatique; https://mondediplo.com/2017/03/02brexit; 02/04/17; Anderson, meaning populist movements from>>>> the right speaks of ‘anti-systemic movements’


About the real realities of the presence …

… not the realities of a proposed future in the making,

There we are talking about digitalisation, the abundance of today’s society and zero-marginality, of course often or not, considering, admitting, commiserating the poverty, asking even for changes of the distribution and policies of distribution, allowing the “inclusion”. Looking honestly at the other sides, we should surely register also the “exclusion of mindfulness”, the fact that the reference we use is actually itself exclusive, establishing a real- and mind-set that evokes and even is excluding. In his book Mike Davis, looking at the Planet of Slums, we find on Page 49 the decisive statement:

“Most displaced … are social outcasts, excluded from formal life and employment.”

 – important to note that he is quoting an aid NGO.

The attempts to arrive at a really integrated approach, understanding concisely the intimate link, are at least today too often caught in a certain kind of “positivity/Positiveness of the future” – be it by looking at the Precariat as the New Dangerous Class
In sum, all these positive approaches are overestimating – for one or another reason – the somewhat futurist view, proposing some new normal, and easily forgetting that fact that for many life is still actually still “the normal we thought to be overcome fro some time already”, the suggested “historic, early normal”.
Sure, development is rapid – we find also his statement in Davis’ book:
Angola, only 14 percent urban in 1970, is now a majority urban nation. Most of its city-dwellers are both desperately poor and almost totally ignored by the state, which in 1998 was estimated to spend only 1 percent of its budget on public education and welfare. The unending civil wars in Colombia likewise have added more than 400,000 IDPs to Bogota’s urban poverty belt, which includes the huge informal settlements of Sumapaz, Ciudad Bolivar, Usme, and Soacha.
And although I think we are too often look at crude data which do not really say anything about life and what it is about here is another figure, taken from Davis’ book:
If UN data are accurate, the household per-capita income differential between a rich city like Seattle and a very poor city like Ibadan is as great as 739 to 1 – an incredible inequality.
A gentle reminder to the readers of the blog — whenever the modern and “postmodern” world is looked at on these pages, taking the “positive outlook” the author is well aware of the ore “positivist perspective”, if you want: the story told by the reality as it is shown by the far too many real lives standing behind every “single figure” that amounts to the brute reality of global capitalist development that is by no means flat and where talking about Postcapitalism as a Guide to Our Future is really more science fiction and should realistically not be seen as vision.

Employment – is that really the core issue?

In a brief presentation at ФГБОУ ВПО “РЭУ им. Г.В. Плеханова” (Plechanov University) in Moscow I addressed issues around employment, labour market policies and the structural challenges our economies and moreover societies face today by putting them into the perspective of critical and problem-solving research (Cox). This presentation is part of the research I outlined with the question: Is it really about Industry 4.0.?

In this context the recent publication of my article

may be as well of interest.


A fundamental methodological problem is the relevance of an antagonism of capitalism. This needs to be classified in light of the developmental stage of the means of production: far too little attention is paid to the contradictory character of individualization and socialization. This brings us to Karl Polányi’s main argument of disembedding. He also deals with a shift from the socially integrated (and dependent) individual to the utilitarian market citizen. The French regulationist theory offers a major step toward understanding new forms of societal embedding linked to this “new personality.” It will also allow us to move beyond the misleading juxtaposition or dichotomization of individualization-socialization. Investigating five major tensions, it ventilates the possible meaning of the digital revolution and the challenges for monitoring development. The main aim of the article, however, is to bring the economy back in and to go beyond the traditional duality between economics and politics.

Keywords: change, development, economics and social science, economy and society, social quality, theory of regulation, work


International Journal of Social Quality 6(1), Summer 2016: 87–106 ISSN: 1757-0344 (Print) • ISSN: 1757-0352 (Online) © Berghahn Books 2016 doi:10.3167/IJSQ.2016.060105


Davos these days …

… even today, it seems that little changed since I visited it as child. Looking at it, even some of the old impressions return … – a smallish village, a nit drowsy in the middle of the Swiss mountains. This way, it also reminds these days a bit of a tiny village in …, well, the Romans of the time thought it should be under the their rule, the …, well today we would say French would have claimed it under their aegis. And the people of the village claimed to rule it themselves, under the wise guidance of a druid, and made strong by a magic drink – was its secret really the vast physical power or more the condition that this is “the own land”: independent, hegemon not of anybody but only of itself. Of course, it was the little village that occasionally made its way into the headlines

As said, there is some reminiscence when going there these particular days end of January 2017.

I do not know if and to which extent you followed the debates – but there had been some interesting contributions made here in connection with “our topic”, the collaboration on precarity, and also collaboration on new industrial developments. And indeed, the WEF-debates showed great awareness, in one way or another dealing with the “hollowing out of the  welfare state”, the need to revisit issues of social security and even basic income .. – but  importantly all this had been discussed as matter of threats on governing (populism and “antiestablishment movements”) and the changing technological basis, not much concerned with the reference points of accumulation regime, living regimes, modes of regulation and modes of life as I explored them in last year’s book, the demand of

Opening Views against the Closure of the World (Economic Issues, Problems and Perspectives)

And of course, hope is set in individual contributions and solutions – there are good reasons behind getting Sergey Brin and Joe Stiglitz here together. It reminds a bit at the solution of the world problems that once upon a time had been announced and asked for – if I am not mistaken the same  venue: Bono (I think), “donating” a huge lump some, and asking the other rich to follow.

Perhaps it is worthwhile, if somebody has time interest and is eagerly looking for a topic for research to investigate this (well, you don’t have to look into Christine L’s moral and ethical standing …, the story of wine and water is well known, but not the other part, the one concerned with the contradictory character of the ruling classes, and its tightly knit network. A text written in German language, relatively old at this stage, but hugely interesting.
At least it allows us to look as well into a complex system that lives exactly by maintaining the contradictions as means of distracting from their true attempts of further destruction – with Trump, now the “new duce”, we clearly know what is up to. With the Lords of the four rings we don’t. So highlighting the attention they paid to burning questions does not suggest to buy into what they say, but I think it is surely remarkable: several topics topped the agenda which up to previously would have been at most seen as relevant for what had been then seen as “developing world” – surely the agenda proposed from different sides for the global north showing its own traps….
Yes, Davos …, there are some parallels at least with the little village mentioned earlier: it is a place where a small group of people occasionally meet, a tiny elite that tries to make fun of the ret of the world by resistance. Without discussing the resistance of the druid-village, it goes without mich discussion here: it is the resistance of the inner circle against admitting that they have to give up on their hegemonic claims to rule the world by exploiting the 99 % – and it is about admitting that throwing some brad crumbs at the masses while indulging in caviar is not the answer on the structural challenges …
Guess time to get back to the desk and becoming serious again … – also looking at the contradictions in the real world of industry 4.0.