What do we do with the revolution – and what does the revolution do to us?

Peter Herrmann / Mehmet Okyayuz[1]/[2]

What to do with the revolution – and what does the revolution do to us?

The title of the following article is an allusion to the motto of attac’s coming Summer Academy

1918 – 1968 – 2018: In Favour of Change – That happened to the Revolution?

But the article presented here is about the orientation on the Battle for the Good Life, published on 23.12.’18, authored by Ulrich Brand. In our view, Brand takes up that SOAK motto by correctly pointing out that a revolution is already under way; however, in our view it is misleading to classify the change of life-style as any kind of revolution, being driven by such changes. Such arguments in favour of an anti-imperial way of life can be seen as new-Kantian categorical imperative:

Reasonable, conscious people of all countries, unite.

 

Instead of taking a sound economic analysis of global neoliberalism as point of departure, and deriving from there concrete plans to fight for a “good life”, Brand focuses on attitudes and behavioural patterns, suggesting that we reach from there a point leading almost inherently to the good life.

Admittedly, the path to a good life is naturally closely bound to patterns of everyday’s behaviour. The alternatives presented in the text by Brand – and also in the book which he elaborated with Markus Wissen – lead to a diffuse and individual, negative attitude, founded in and guided by “free will”. This can probably best be described as a denial of consumption: Consequently, we should not drive any SUV, not eat too much meat, preferably not fly, or at least limit this. The list can be continued, and all these quests are surely also commendable. But didn’t Adorno state already in his Minima Moralia that there is no real life in the wrong life. It may be that this statement comes – deliberately – eye-catching. Their basic content should, however, be changed in a constructive way so that structural preconditions, potentially leading to a good/better life, are developed from an analytical perspective – and this is especially true when addressing a readership such as the TAZ-constituency: the risk that dream images will be constructed which, at best, will settle the conscience. Just as the imperial way of life has been subjectively produced, reproduced and legitimised since the beginning of the 1990s at the latest, here the antithetical counter-conception is constructed in the same way.

Analogous to Lawrence Harrison’s “liberal” approach – he argues that underdevelopment is the result of a “mindset” (see Harrison, LE, 1985: Underdevelopment is a State of Mind, Lanham: Madison Books) – we find here a modified version: the breakout from the imperial way of life or from the global underdevelopment can also be the result of an attitude of refusal.

Indeed,

it is not just individual actions that maintain this life that is contrary to but solidarity and sustainability. There are also powerful structures of production that produce mobile phones, cars and food in capitalist competition, generating profits and growth. 

However, such statement is “fundamentally critical” only if it linked to outspoken demands for clear regulations and distribution structures, and asks even more for clear structures of production and its organisation. For example, the requirement that cooperatives can exist has to be secured not least by tax law; recognition of what we produce has to be accompanied by looking at the various damages, however, important is that such alternative perspectives soon lose the character of good, namely when results are forced into balance sheets and new accounting techniques … – An extreme mishap occurs when we look for “pricing of everything” (George Monbiot), which then suggests so-called green growth as way out. What is proposed here is, as well, quite concrete, though laborious. Last but not least, it is also about small steps and the ‘sweeping in front of your own door’ – for example, to work for the development of the Local Public Transport Network and cycle path networks instead of embarking on the dangerous “main road”; for example, it is about denouncing the overcrowding of shop corridors in supermarkets instead of accepting being exposed to the dangers of injury. Of course, these are also truisms and will hardly be considered as a critique of Brand’s critique of the imperial way of life. However, the difference is huge – now it is time for a bit of theory, otherwise it remains really a

we-know-it “Ökoelite”, telling society how to live so that climate change and other environmental problems are overcome.

In comparison – and acknowledging the dangers of such shortcut – the following points can easily be recognised as an important approach to concrete, that is, feasible, utopias.

First, Brand starts from the criticism of lifestyle and then sees ,even powerful production structures’. In contrast, in our opinion – strongly influenced by the French Regulation School – a set of four dimensions needs to be considered: [a] the accumulation regime, in a broad way defined as definition of what has value and the appropriate structuration of value; [b] the life-regime as a framework or “set-box” within which individuals can plan their lives – very different ways but in general limited by cornerstones such as paid employment, increasingly private social security [note this oxymoron of the “privacy of the social”] and many more; [c] the mode of regulation, generally not least an ideological and formal system, which ensures the implementation of the two regimes mentioned before. And here, too, there is a counterpart, namely [d] the mode of life – this is looking at what each individual really makes of life – taking into account the small print or observing the principle that terms and conditions apply.

Given this framework, it is possible to determine more precisely where we stand – and against which we must develop systematically our strategy: it is methodological nationalism and methodological individualism – this goes further than simply nationalism and individualism, for it is about the roots of these phenomena, without which just a left critique quickly reaches the limits. With these four dimensions in mind, it is also possible to illuminate the developmental path more systematically and to look at perspectives of the “no movement further this way” – five core areas will be mentioned, also aiming of replacing the Keynes Beverdige orientation on the five major evils: greed, illness, ignorance, misery and laziness. Although many challenges still need to be addressed, the five tensions are outlined as major economic and political challenges:

  • The overproduction of goods – globally and locally – turns into a production of very concrete, tangible bads
  • Huge public and quasi-public wealth meets with extremely unequal access options for the majority
  • The wealth of knowledge is trimmed by an orientation on skills
  • The individualisation of problems itself causes social problems
  • The complexity of governmental processes leads to the inability to govern, which in Germany is partly criticized as “Merkelogy” – the attempt of doing everything right by avoiding clear decisions.[3]

Admittedly a bit snappy, a remark remains to be added: even the discussion about the anti-imperial way of life, as brought forward by Brand, has something of that oxymoron of the privacy of the social – and unfortunately that is different and perhaps even contrary to the slogan that the private is political.

Sure, communism “is the simple thing that is so difficult to do” – this is how Brecht formulated, writing the role for Palagea Vlasova, The Mother. And so it is with every kind of better life. Anyway, we think more appropriate than those Christmas- and New Year wishes put forward in the article we refer to, are the following ideas and demands:

  • Conscious life – as a recognition and evaluation of successes already achieved instead of continued recalculations of what we know at least in principle [19.7% poverty and exclusion in Germany[4] are too much – but already 15% and even 10% were already too much.
  • As part of this: emphasis of existing opportunities emerging from the public use of public goods – e.g. more data access and control for everybody, considering them as public goods, instead of excessive protection of artificially defined privacy.
  • Lived equality and openness instead of closing “communities” in order to maintain consensus of the various kind – something that concerns gated communities in urban settlements as well various “critical” groups that are sealing themselves of against critical debates
  • Which translates in the need for an open and honest disputes and conflict culture against forced “burden of consensus”, aiming on a pseudo-peace culture.

Sure, it is not be meant this way – yet the fight for the good life nearly pushes its advocates to see Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Cronies as allies. They already live in such a rational world of sharing and doing good, of course far from a rights-based approach and far from the idea of producing something different and producing in different ways. They fear redistribution probably less than establishing rights-based systems that would block the possibilities of initial exploitation – that mode of accumulation, which easily determines the last fibres our way of life. It is precisely this notion that makes also Brands wish-list not much more than well-meant, and certainly not worthless, individualistic efforts. The testimony of such “revolution” will then be that it had been tried hard to reach the goal – everybody who knows about the rules of phrasing such documents knows what is actually means: trying to achieve a goal does not mean actually doing so.

[1] Social philosopher; UEF, Finland ; Corvinus University of Hungary; EURISPES, Italy; currently Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy [Social Law], Munich

[2] Social scientist; Middle East Technical University, Ankara

[3] These five tensions are first addressed in Herrmann, Peter, 2016: From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn – or: How many gigabytes has a horse ?; Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en la relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raúl Roas García), Havana [ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301815015_From_5_giant_evils_to_5_giant_tensions_-_the_current_crisis_of_capitalism_as_seedbed_for_its_overturn_-_or_How_Many_Gigabyte_has_a_Horse ] ; Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda; Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of the Trans-Pacific Section [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303549291_Growth_and_Development_-_Complement_or_Contradiction_Challenges_for_a_Global_Agenda]

[4] https://de.statista.com/themen/120/armut-in-deutschland/; 31/12/17

Annunci

Was machen wir mit der Revolution – und was lassen wir die Revolution mit uns machen?

Peter Herrmann/Mehmet Okyayuz[1]/[2]

Was machen wir mit der Revolution – und was lassen wir die Revolution mit uns machen?

Der Titel des folgenden Beitrages ist eine Anspielung auf das Motto der diesjährigen Sommerakademie von attac – dort soll es um ‚1918 – 1968 – 2018: für Veränderung – Wo bleibt die Revolution’ gehen. Aber in dem hier vorlegten Beitrag geht es um eine Auseinandersetzung für den Kampf ums gute Lebenzu dem am 23.12.’18 in der TAZ von Ulrich Brand aufgefordert wurde. Unseres Erachtens knüpft Brand insofern an jenes SOAK-Motto an, als er richtig darauf hinweist, dass eine solche Revolution bereits im Ansatz stattfindet, irreführend ist aus unserer Sicht aber, diese als eine Revolution zu klassifizieren, die aus der Lebensweise kommt und von dort weiter getrieben werden soll. Es geht in diesem Bild um eine anti-imperiale Lebensweise gleichsam als neu-Kantianische Realität eines kategorischen Imperativ: Vernünftige aller Länder, vereinigt euch. Anstatt eine ökonomische Analyse des globalen Neoliberalismus als Bezugspunkt zu nehmen und daraus abgeleitet konkrete Überlegungen zum Kampf ums gute Leben vorzustellen, konzentriert sich Brandt auf Einstellungs- und Verhaltensmuster, die dann fast wie von selbst zum guten Leben führen sollen.

 

Der Weg zum guten Leben hat dabei zugegebenermaßen natürlich auch mit Mustern des täglichen Verhaltens zu tun; die aufgezeigten Alternativen münden in dem Text von Brand – und ebenso in dem Buch, welches er mit Markus Wissen vorgelegt hat, allerdings in eine diffuse und individuelle, vom ‚freien Willen‘ geleiteten, Negativhaltung. Dies kann man wohl am treffendsten mit Konsumverweigerung umschreiben: Folglich soll man sich keine SUVs mehr kaufen, nicht zuviel Fleisch essen, möglichst nicht fliegen, oder dies doch zumindest begrenzen. Die Liste kann fortgeführt werden, und all dies klingt ja auch lobenswert. Aber hat nicht schon Adorno in seiner Minima Moralia festgestellt, dass kein richtiges Leben im Falschen möglich sei. Es mag sein, dass diese Feststellung – bewusst – plakativ daherkommt; ihren Grundgehalt sollte man aber – so meinen wir – dahingehend konstruktiv verändern, dass man strukturelle Vorbedingungen, die zu einem guten/besseren Leben führen könnten, auf einer analytischen Betrachtungsweise erarbeitet – und das gilt gerade, wenn eine Leserschaft wie die der TAZ angesprochen wird. Anderenfalls läuft man Gefahr, dass Wunschbilder konstruiert werden, die bestenfalls das Gewissen zu beruhigen in der Lage sein werden. Genauso, wie die imperiale Lebensweise spätestens seit Beginn der 1990’er Jahre auf subjektivistische Weise produziert, reproduziert und legitimiert wird, so wird hier der antithetisch daherkommende Gegenentwurf auf die gleiche Weise konstruiert.

Diese Vorgehensweise, die – analog zu Lawrence Harrisons ‘liberalem’ Ansatz, dass Unterentwicklung quasi das Resultat einer ‘Geisteshaltung’ sei (siehe Harrison, L.E., 1985: Underdevelopment is a State of Mind. The Latin American Case; Lanham: Madison Books), wird hier in dem Sinn modifiziert, dass der Ausbruch aus der imperialen Lebensweise bzw. aus der globalen Unterentwicklung ebenfalls das Resultat einer Geisteshaltung der Verweigerung sein könne.

In der Tat, ‚es ist aber nicht nur das individuelle Handeln, das diese alles andere als solidarische oder nachhaltige Lebensweise am Laufen hält. Es sind auch machtvolle Produktionsstrukturen, die in der kapitalistischen Konkurrenz Handys, Autos und Nahrungsmittel produzieren, Profite und Wachstum generieren.’ Eine solche Feststellung ist aber nur dann in kritischem Sinne ‚komplett‘, wenn auch Forderungen nach klaren Regulierungen und Verteilungsstrukturen, aber mehr noch nach klaren Strukturen für die Produktion und deren Organisation damit einhergehen: So etwa die Forderung, dass die Existenz von Genossenschaften nach Unternehmens- und Steuerrecht abgesichert werden muss; Anerkennung dessen, was wir produzieren, neben den Gütern die diversen Schäden, aber ebenso das diverse Gute, dass allerdings schon bald den Charakter des Guten verliert, wenn es dann in Bilanzen und neue Buchführungstechniken gezwängt wird … – Im extremen Fehlgriff geht es dann beim pricing of everything’ (George Monbiot) um sogenanntes Grünes Wachstum. Auch das ist durchaus konkret, wenngleich mühselig. Nicht zuletzt geht es auch hier um kleine Schritte und das ‚Kehren vor der eigenen Tür’ – etwa sich für dem Ausbau des OePNV und der Radwegnetze einzusetzen, anstatt sich auf die gefährliche ‚Nutzerbahn’ zu begeben; etwa gilt es, die Überfüllung der Laden-Korridore anzuprangern anstatt sich mit Trolley und Kind den Gefahren der Verführung und Verletzung auszusetzen. Freilich sind auch dies Binsenwahrheiten und werden wohl kaum als Kritik an der Imperialen Lebensweise angesehen werden. Der Unterschied aber ist ein gewaltiger – und nun muss ein wenig Theorie her, denn sonst bleibt es doch leicht dabei, dass ‚eine besserwisserische „Ökoelite“ […] der Gesellschaft vorschreiben [wolle], wie sie zu leben habe, damit Klimawandel und andere Umweltprobleme eingedämmt werden.’

In der Gegenüberstellung – und im Eingeständnis der Gefahren durch Verkürzung – sind aber doch folgende Punkte leicht als Ansatz für die konkrete, also machbare Utopie zu erkennen.

 

Erstens, Brand geht von der Kritik der Lebensweise aus und sieht dann ‚auch machtvolle Produktionsstrukturen’. Dagegen steht unserer Auffassung – stark geprägt durch die französische Regulationsschule – als Viergespann: [a] entscheidend das Akkumulations-Regime in einem weiten Sinn als System der Definition dessen, was ‚Wert hat’ und die entsprechende Strukturierung der Wertschöpfung; [b] das Lebensregime als Rahmen oder ‚Setzkasten’, innerhalb derer Individuen Lebensentwürfe planen können – sehr verschieden, aber doch begrenzt durch Eckpfeiler wie etwa Erwerbsarbeitsverpflichtung, zunehmend private soziale Sicherung [man beachte dieses Oxymoron der Privatheit des Sozialen] u.v.m.; [c] die Regulierungsweise, allgemein als nicht zuletzt ideologisches und formales System, welches die Umsetzung der beiden genannten Regime sicherstellt. Und auch hier gibt es ein Pendant, namentlich [d] die Lebensweise – hier geht es darum, was denn jeder Einzelne wirklich aus dem Leben macht – unter Berücksichtigung des Kleingedruckten oder bei Beachtung des Grundsatzes ‚Es gelten die allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen’.

Mit diesem Rahmen lässt sich nun genauer bestimmen, wo wir stehen – und wogegen wir systematisch angehen müssen: es ist der methodologische Nationalismus und der methodologische Individualismus – dies geht weiter als einfach Nationalismus und Individualismus, denn es geht um die Wurzeln dieser Erscheinungen, ohne die eben auch eine linke Kritik schnell an die Grenzen stößt. Mit dem Viergespann lässt sich auch schnell ein wenig systematischer der Entwicklungspfad ausleuchten und auf die Perspektiven des ‚Nicht Weiter So’ eingehen – fünf Kernbereiche sollen genannt werden. Dabei geht es auch ganz bewusst um eine Ablösung der Keynes-Beverdige-Orientierung an den fünf großen Übeln: Gier, Krankheit, Unwissenheit, Elend und Faulheit.[3] Auch wenn sich viele Herausforderungen immer noch hierum drehen [müssen], so soll hier von fünf Spannungen gesprochen werden:

  • Die Überproduktion von Gütern schlägt – global und lokal – in eine Produktion von ganz konkreten, fassbaren Belastungen um
  • Enormer gesellschaftlicher Reichtum paart sich mit extrem-ungleichen Zugangschancen
  • Reichhaltigkeit des Wissens wird durch eine Orientierung auf Fähigkeiten zurechtgestutzt
  • gerade aus der Individualisierung von Problemlagen erwachsen gesellschaftliche Probleme
  • die Komplexität von Regierungsprozessen mündet in der Regierungsunfähigkeit von ‚governance’, die in Deutschland teils als Methode Merkel des Allen-Recht-Machen-Wollens kritisiert wird.[4]

– Nun bleibt – zugegebenermaßen ein wenig bissig – die Bemerkung anzufügen, dass auch die Diskussion um die anti-imperiale Lebensweise, die ja bei Brand mitgeführt wurde, etwas von jenem o.g, Oxymoron der Privatheit des Sozialen hat – und leider ist das ist etwas anderes und vielleicht gar Gegensätzliches zur Losung, dass das Private Politisch sei.

Klar, der Kommunismus ‚ist das einfache, was so schwer zu machen ist’ – so legte Brecht es der Palagea Wlassowa, Der Mutter, in den Mund. Und so ist es mit jeder Art des besseren Lebens. Allemal, angemessener als die hier kritisierten, seinerzeit als Weihnachts- und Neujahrswünsche vorgetragenen Gedanken seien dann hier einige Anregungen und ‚Wünsche’ genannt:

  • Bewusstes Leben – als Anerkennung und Beurteilung bereits erzielter Erfolge anstelle fortwährender Neuberechnungen von Bekanntem [19.7 % Armuts- und Ausgrenzungs-Betroffene in Deutschland[5] sind zuviel – aber auch 15 % waren schon zuviel.
  • Als Teil dessen Betonung bestehender Möglichkeiten, die sich bei öffentlicher Nutzung der ja auch öffentlichen Güter ergeben – etwa mehr Datenzugang für alle als Schutz einer künstlichen Privatsphäre.
  • Gelebte Gleichheit und Offenheit anstatt Schließung der verschiedenen, auch linker Gruppen, um Konsens zu sichern
  • offene und ehrliche Dispute und Streitkultur gegen die eigene konsens-belastende Schein-Friedenskultur

Sicher, so ist es nicht gemeint – gleichwohl der Kampf ums gute Leben, wie er von uns kritisiert wird, kann fast dazu verleiten, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg und Kumpane als Mitkämpfer anzusehen. Sie leben ja bereits in einer solchen Vernunftwelt des Teilens und Gut-Tuns, freilich fern von Recht und fern vom Gedanken, anders und anderes zu produzieren. Selbst Umverteilung fürchten sie wohl weniger als ein Recht, dass sie schon zur Ordnung ruft, wenn sie das Umzuverteilende unter knechtenden Bedingungen produzieren lassen – im Rahmen eben einer Akkumulationsweise, die uns bis in die letzten Fasern unserer Lebensweise zügelt. Gerade so macht sie solche zu nicht viel mehr als zu wohlmeinenden, und sicher nicht ganz wertlosen, Individual- und Klein-Schichten bezogenen Bemühungen. Im Führungszeugnis einer solche ‚Revolution’ wird dann stehen müssen, dass sie stets bemüht war das Ziel zu erreichen – jede[r], der Formulierungen von solchen Dokumenten kennt, weiß was tatsächlich gemeint ist: Bemühungen ein Ziel zu erreichen, bedeutet nicht, es tatsächlich zu tun.

***********

[1] Sozialphilosoph; UEF, Finnland; Corvinus Universität Ungarn; EURISPES, Italien; gegenwärtig Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik [Sozialrecht], München

[2] Sozialwissenschaftler; Middle East Technical University, Ankara

[3] Im Original want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness

[4] diese fünf Spannungen sind erstmals angesprochen in Herrmann, Peter, 2016: From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn – or: How Many Gigabyte has a Horse?; Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en las Relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raúl Roas García), Havana; Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda; Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of Trans-Pacific-Section

[5] https://de.statista.com/themen/120/armut-in-deutschland/; 31/12/17

Principiis obst! Mind the beginning!

We talked a couple of times about Hannah Arendt – point of departure was actually something that seems to be very distant from her work: criteria that constitutional courts can refer to when taking decisions. And of course, taking the perspective from the legal doctrine is different from that taken by others. Funnily enough, legal doctrine translates into German as Rechtsdogmatik – suggesting something like dogmatic law, of even dogmatic thinkers on legal issues?

At some stage I mentioned some literature to my office mate – stuff I would think being important on this topic. Books, some more or less legalist, at least coming from sociology of law, philosophy of law, and perhaps stuff philosophising on justice – we both laughed when I dared to say – mind, to a jurist:
law is not interested in justice, hardly knows about it. what we share – legal scientists and economists – is a more or less blind interest in coherence. that may be rather simple: you put numbers and articles and even laws, we put numbers on goods and people – no matter on how bad the goods are, no matter how deep personalities are buried behind the figures.
 We laughed, knowing that it is reality and when it is lived reality it is harsh.
After such books, and after working a bit on our different tasks, I interrupted the silence:
Right, there is another one: Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition. it is probably the most comprehensive book she wrote, and from reading this, it is possible to understand the others …  to least the one on he Eichmann-trial and the banality of evil.
 A short chat, a couple of days later, we had been sitting for lunch – just across the street. Else a rather dull, grey day. I don’t know why she asked me about Hannah and Martin Heidegger … – I said what I knew, and part of it, actually part of the question had been already about Heidegger’s relationship to the fascists.
The romantic relationship between the two philosophers was known as a difficult one – and apparently the relationship between Heidegger and the fascists had not been so clear …
– can one say it was part of this banality of evil? We talked about it, the time, the difficulty of admitting that it is difficult. For me it is again and again emotionally a difficult matter, having known comrades, colleagues, friends who went through that hell – making impossible to accept that those had been ordinary people.
It could be him
I pointed on the table to the left
or her
my eyes moved to the right. I looked into her eyes:
It could be you — or do you know if it is not me at some stage?
It was loud, the snowfall was not too bad and I proposed to leave. I opened the brelli:
Let’s go to the LMU. I do not know exactly where it is …
– did you ever hear about the Geschwister Scholl?
She did not – and I told her the bit I knew, talked also about Anne Frank, my visit in the Anne Frank House, im Amsterdam. I remembered, at the end of the museum little notes, one asking
Why do we feel such a pity for this one child, knowing that there had been so many more being brutally slaughtered. – it is because we hardly can cope with this one, bearing the large number would crash us completely. 
After a while we found one person who could help us finding the way – and a little while later we find the little memorial – I had to swallow, as usual when being confronted with my past which is not my past and against which I had been fighting. I managed, we entered – we walked along the exhibits, I have had the impression getting slower and slower. And for my part I was wondering if it was right to put all this weight on her shoulders. Or if it was my duty? Or …just something like a waste of time?
 After we left, we stood a while at the bottom of the broad stairs …
Do you know, I fell sometimes so … riven, so unsure, insecure …
She talked about Korea, the occupation by the Japanese … – and I had to ask sincerely and honestly to forgive me for not knowing anything about her country. A bit later, when we walked back to the Institute, I remembered Albert Einstein – I used this reference to underline what I said before, and already while we have had lunch:
I cannot guarantee that I would be as brave as these people – I would like to be, but would I be as strong as they had been? Albert, with all his knowledge, he was one of the enablers – finally his contribution mad it possible that the USA developed the nuclear weapon. And he did so intentionally, ‘knowing’ that the bomb in the hands of the US would better than it would be in the hands of the fascist Germany. Later, when he knew better, namely that it had been used so senseless, the US playing with the muscles without any military need and humane consideration, he changed not just his mind but concentrated much of his effort on condemning .., well part of his own deeds. – Braveness …
 ******
The morning of the same day I submitted another recommendation letter for  student – the boxing exercise – the mail to the university is already prepared but I have to wait, sending it:
Earlier I just submitted a recommendation – and I dare to make a recommendation to your institution:
Be professional and serious, and do not breach confidentiality law – there is much improvement for you, actually I was near to recommend to the student not to go further with the application due to your highly unprofessional way of treating students.
Sincerely worrying about the quality of academic standards I remain
Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
 … 
The evening I went to a presentation at the institute:
„Jenseits der Praxis? Die aktuellen Vorschläge für eine Reform des Gemeinsamen Europäischen Asylsystems (GEAS) aus rechtlicher und praktischer Sicht“
 A very clear presentation, also highlighting some fundamental flaws – followed by a ‘soft debate’, leaving some important points out,
Principiis obsta. Sero medicina parata, cum mala per longas convaluere moras.
[Ovid]
Mind the beginning| Too late the remedy is prepared when the evil became stronger simply by time.
Ovid wrote it, thinking Remedia Amoris – what then about the self-loving academics …?
******
Today, I went for my usual walk  the first time that I really was getting aware of the name of the one street I passed so often: Ackermannstreet – the city of Munich still celebrating this loyal property of a man who had to go to court because of misappropriation,
This day I did not listen to my usual lectures and audio-plays, I remembered my last visit in Athens. After that visit I wrote:
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.
It is a way full of the tensions: on the one hand the small academies of free thinking – free and ready for the hemlock; on the other hand the abduction, about which Maria Mies wrote in the one book on Europe I edited [Mies, Maria, 1999: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Peter Herrmann (Ed.): Challenges for a Global Welfare System: Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: 153-171].
Studying the history – sine ira et studio – as Tacitus said.
Also making history without hate and zealousness? There is always the danger then of abduction: the legal doctrine, expressed in the constitutional state, the state under the rule of law is turned into the one-sided application of law, its consistency the utmost and only validation. The economic doctrine, being caught in the mirage of closed systems, the equations make equal what is different, and not able to see that not figures but power matters.
Life goes on – only not forgetting its complexity and ambiguity can make us free. [I could not find the link to the one, the eleventh song].

I am scared …

E0702 UHDE 9827

There is a light

she said

and they are together. It is not a sad painting!

This is from a most enjoyable visit with a friend at the New Pinakothek. It had been much later that evening, after we had been chatting, nicely, seriously, laughingly over a drink when she gave me this think-piece, and with it came a ‘provocation to live’ …

I am Scared, Therefore I am Brave!

Recently, my Italian translator, Giuseppe, wrote me an email. It was not a typical exchange, but quite an extraordinary personal query:

“Many see you as a very courageous person. They would like to imitate you at that, at least a little bit, but they feel they are not courageous, say, ‘by nature’ and they cannot learn courage. What do you think about that? Can people train themselves to be courageous?

I do not know how to answer this question in brief, and definitely not in the body of an email, not in just a few words. But the question is important, maybe essential, and so I decided to reply by writing this essay. ….

changing face

Patterns of revolution change …
– at some stage it had been the increase of the price of bread, causing the upheavals in France, or at least being a string contributor; now things changed
more changed: At some stage it had been about directing ager against the nobility, now it is against the fellow consumer … – apparently too small to mention details of history matter, indeed.

inner beauty – and the lack of it

The times of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and the somewhat frivolous times at The Existentialist Café – the times of being,enjoying freedom and striving for more of it and of philosophising over and about Apricot Cocktails are gone [may be they are here 😉] – and sometimes a paradoxical development requires now political correctness that would be countering the understanding that we[re] meant those years. So, even talking about beauty becomes quickly a somewhat tricky topic – easy to drop a brick, or even to cause a tower collapsing. Sure, a problem for many, and for me too.

Be it as it is, when talking to a friend in China, occasionally the term inner beauty came up. I suppose it mainly refers to harmony and ‘contentedness’, making beauty a matter of living ones own life – a bit of La Belle et la Bête perhaps? And as much as this is an individual matter, or a matter to be resolved between beauty and beast, it is also very much a social construct, depending in multiple ways on the space and time we live in. And part of it is the paradoxical attempt to compensate for the lack of inner, of one’s ‘natural’ beauty by a whole range of artificial means – Clothes Make the Man [Gottfried Keller] and in some way we may add: makeup make the woman [ah yes, I know …, as said …]. It is at least interesting to see that – according to Angus Trumble [2004: A Brief History  of the Smile; NY: Basic Books: page 57]

[t]oward the beginning of the current recession, in 2001, American women spent more then $836 million on lipstick, 6% more than the year before. According to Leonard Lauder, chairman of Esteée Lauder, ‘When things get tough, women buy lipstick.’ Perhaps.

Probably this is a matter of striving for some artificial beauty, underlining natural expressions, compensating for ‘unnaturally’ enforced lack of beauty: socio-economic crisis causing too many worry lines and wrinkles – some redistribution from the bottom to the top being implied: at least trying to makeup the way to higher echelons ….

More interesting, I find, is the other case, namely the in fact explicit redistribution from rich artificiality, aiming on making natural beauty possible –

first comes a full stomach, then ethics [Brecht],

and

first comes a full stomach, then inner beauty can unfold again
[Herrmann, nothing wrong with occasionally forgetting modesty I supose]

So, how to make sure that people can live up to their inner beauty? – again from the book mentioned, here page 61,

by the eighteenth century the French consumed approximately two million pots of rouge each year, of wich a certain proportion was applied to lips as well as cheeks. The reason we can be sure of the figure is that an attempt was made to impose a tax on each pot at a rate of 25 sols, in this case to finance pensions for the widow of poor army officers. Comparable amounts of rose and patchouli scent are consumed by women of rank.

[I did the highlighting; and in this case I do not give out, reading that the money was used to support  widows of army officers – the normal thing: social support first for military servants, then state officials and finally, if at all, for ‘ordinary people’ – looking at cutbacks, we find the reverse order … – and there I give out.

Yes, economy and economics is lurking around every corner, and sometimes it is easier to forget all about it, simply enjoying the inner beauties that are around…

trying to open the box

 

Looking at how academic institutions deal with applications by students – and with lecturers who support their endeavour – when it comes to applications there seems to be little hope: one meets ignorance, lack of respect and unqualified ways of handling procedures – I referred to this issue earlier.. I suppose part of the problem is also that we usually accept such misbehavior and move on, allowing ‘them’ to move on their way. Hopeless …

“HOPE is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.”
– Pandora’s last words

With this attitude I wrote the letter/mail to some completely ignorant universities: if asking for a reference that supports students to follow their path of curiosity, has any meaning, there are some institutions that themselves delve in complete lack of meaning.

 

Dear colleague, I am writing to you after overcoming some hesitation and also after reflecting if there is any point in it.

Still, for the sake of students and due to my commitment to academia and academic standards I feel obliged to follow up on the way your university is dealing with applications. If there is any claim on hour side to be an academic institution of reputable rank and with an international standing, at least revisiting the following is highly advisable – to say the least.
Lecturers today are encouraged to move, and some actually manage to be engaged by different universities and research institutes – for my part I can humbly state that I had been in the lucky situation of being involved in teaching and research in different countries, linked to various institutions, amongst them those with high international standing. However, this also means that e-mail addresses change. Apparently, so I had been informed, your institution requires students to submit contact details of lectures whom they nominate for their recommendation, valid at the time of teaching. In other words, I had been teaching students who asked me for a reference after I left the respective university – and still the students are asked to provide contact details from an outdated position. In this light, what is really outdated is the requirement you set. It shows that your institution does not reflect standards of todays academia, and instead follows somewhat ‘provincial’, ‘parochial’ ideas. – I may add, that historically at least in Europe, the mobility of academics had been the norm, the settled, academic the exception – settled in terms of space usually also meant settled in thinking, lacking openness to exchange and innovation.
Now, moving on to the next point: In several cases it is [was] possible for me to keep the e-mail address from an earlier position. One option to deal with this is to check different mail accounts. Sometimes it is possible to forward mails; and another option is to set an automatic reply, informing and asking the sender to use a different e-mail-address. I had to chose with one of the accounts the latter option. So, the request for a reference, sent by our university to the one ‘official’ mail address, was answered by such automatic reply, providing an alternative address. Although the mail from your institution was not sent by a completely automated system and replies had been received, the responsible department or person did not consider to react in an appropriate way. On the contrary, later a reminder was sent to the same, inactive, address. This behaviour from your institution shows in my opinion cum gram salis the same attitude as that mentioned previously. It is highly disrespectful, ignoring the serious interests of students and showing no collegiality to academics. It is even topped by the fact that I once set a mail to the relevant department of your institution, using the ‘dormant address’. The rely I received gave apt evidence of the fact that the mail I sent was not properly read.
I may then add: the standardised ‘questionnaires’, used to ask to assess students, are substandard. In general I think it is questionable to use multiple choice questions and similar for such assessment – it is about young personalities and not machines or fat-stock. Still, if such approach is used, the design requires a bit more reflection. If a student of mine, would submit such questionnaire which I had been asked to complete, as part of exams, that student would end, on a generous day, with a very low grade.
Again, the way your institution is currently handling – at least – this part of the application process is simply appalling and lacks any respect towards students and those lecturers who are in a position to support their curiosity about learning. This part of their learning experience provided by you is apt to undermine such curiosity, and teach that studies you offer may not deliver what they promise.
Sincerely disappointed
Peter Herrmann

 

Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy/
Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik
[section social law]
– Research Fellow –
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University of Eastern Finland (UEF)
Department of Social Sciences
PL 1627
70211 Kuopio
FINLAND
—-Corvinus University
Institute of World Economy
Faculty of Social Sciences and International Relations
Fővám tér 8
1093 Budapest
HUNGARY
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Active Member of the European Academy of Science and Arts