Once upon a time humankind said

the world is flat

and they did not dare to sail out, remained neat the shore to be safe, and not falling off.

With knowledge progress arrived – or with progress humankind was becoming more knowledgable. And it became common knowledge:
the recognition that it is a sphere.
Progress had been made, allowing humankind to move in circles ….
May be this is also the problem of Europe, aiming to re-establish itself as a kind of New Princedom, and neglecting the complications of claimed value orientations.

… What is really needed …

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”

“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Charles Dickens, 1843: A Christmas Carol, A Ghost Story of Christmas


The Church and Economy

I just finished the draft of another article which may one day end up in a small collection of theological writings – actually already my three volumes “Writings on Philosophy and Economy of Power”

New PrincedomsGod, Rights, Law and a Good Society and Rights – Developing Ownership by Linking Control over Space and Time are reasonably full on this topic.

This time it is on Liberation Theology, a contribution written for an edited volume on Social Pedagogics in Latin America (Edited by Jacob Kornbeck and Xavier Úcar)

While writing, I came across this passage, from an article by Rachel Donadio in the New York Times (Francis’ Humility and Emphasis on the Poor Strike a New Tone at the Vatican; 25.5.2013:

“The economy has picked up again here,” said Marco Mesceni, 60, a third-generation vendor of papal memorabilia outside St. Peter’s Square. “It was so hard to sell anything under Benedict. This pope attracts huge crowds, and they all want to bring back home something with his smiling face on it.”

Much could be said – and is said already – on this pope, his charisma and his meaning for the development of catholicism; and much had been said about unintended consequences of action. In this case it is amazing in which way and to which extent we – even being pope – cannot escape commodification. of course, there is also a meaning for papal politics in it: the demand to take up responsibility in the world in which we live.

Indeed, we may then be grateful to read in the same article:

He has repeatedly returned to the euro crisis and the suffering it has caused in Greece and the Catholic countries of Southern Europe.

“If investments in the banks fail, ‘Oh, it’s a tragedy,’ ” he said, speaking extemporaneously for more than 40 minutes at a Pentecost vigil last weekend, after a private audience with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the architect of Europe’s austerity policies. “But if people die of hunger or don’t have food or health, nothing happens. This is our crisis today.”

Still, all this remains very limited: as important as moral statements are, it is important to work towards real redistribution, public responsibility and a new approach towards global economy, based in human rights:rights that have to go beyond protection and need to be enhanced by a fourth generation of Human Rights.

Strengthening the European Social Model by Going Beyond

The following are the notes of the closing remarks during the conference “Rafforzare il Modello Sociale Europeo. Il contributo della Qualità Sociale alla coesione del sistema comunitario”, Venerdì 31 Ottobre 2014 presso la Sala Polifuzionale, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Rome


I want to thank all participants for their contributions – they had been especially in their diversity a major challenge for me to think about the tasks ahead. The actual challenge is – another time – to overcome the contradiction between what we know and what we do. And it is probably correct to say that there is a general good will and acknowledgement of the virtues as we know them already since ancient times. And nevertheless we fail acting accordingly.

I will keep it short and will not develop the long story which we know from Pinocchio:

Pinocchio’s legs were so stiff that he could not move them, and Geppetto held his hand and showed him how to put out one foot after the other.

When his legs were limbered up, Pinocchio started walking by himself and ran all around the room. He came to the open door, and with one leap he was out into the street. Away he flew!

Of course, you may also refer to the work for instance of Max Weber, Niklas Luhmann and many others.

It seems today that we are facing a similar story: Europe had been established as system based on values as – amongst others – peace and justice. And now it seems to go entirely stray, following its own ways.

Already in the mid 1990s a large number of academics called for a focus on social quality as central parameter for future politics. In a declaration in Amsterdam it had been stated in 1997:

Respect for the fundamental human dignity of all citizens requires us to declare that we do not want to see growing numbers of beggars, tramps and homeless in the cities of Europe. Nor can we countenance a Europe with large numbers of unemployed, growing numbers of poor people and those who have only limited access to health care and social services. These and many other negative indicators demonstrate the current inadequacy of Europe to provide social quality for all its citizens. We want, in contrast, a European society that is economically successful, but which, at the same time, promotes social justice and participation for its citizens.

And actually there had been a very positive reception, the then commissioner for employment and social affairs highlighting the importance of focussing on social quality.

The two crucial points claimed had been the need to arrive at a policy design

  • that accepts the complexity and interdependencies of society. This meant to overcome a departmentalised approach, aiming on a new integrity which is not subordinated under rules of a de-socialised model economics
  • that goes beyond standard parameters of measuring economic success in quantitative terms, taking social quality as reference, and looking at peoples real and everyday’s life.

This merged in the claim concerned with politics, i.e. the need to develop policies beyond finding technical and short-term solutions.

I do not want to discuss the Lisbon strategy which stated in 2000

  1. The Union has today set itself a new strategic goal for the next decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion

Leaving a structural analysis aside, THIS Europe had not been able to address the crisis, and actually it can be seen as part of a global political arena, leading straight into it, deepening and accelerating it. In actual fact we find today major challenges – most of them well-known and often discussed.

A major reason for the failing of the debates and analysis had been and is that the complexities and interdependencies had not been sufficiently considered: a matter of power, interests and of Pinocchio running his own way, even if they may have – or claim to have – the same vision.

Proposals for alternatives had been made from different sides, too often limited to models and dreams, simply based on abstract values. However, the reality needs to go beyond this. One of the major steps had been shown in November 2013, coming from an angle that had been perhaps unexpected by many, Pope Francis, writing about an economy that kills. More important than this statement had been another sentence in that paragraph, asking

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.[1]


  • exorbitant growth of capital and productive potentials is going hand in hand with decreasing GDP and an increasing inequality instead of socio-economic security for all
  • growth is translated into production of waste, speculation and privatisation of public goods – which translates into “values” equal “consumables” instead of providing a foundation for social cohesion
  • employment is loosing its productive dimension – and also its function of “making a living”. Precarity is the norm instead of suggesting a new take on socially meaningful activities and cooperation that secures social inclusion
  • migration is not a problem – though it is made being a problem as long as it is an answer to which individuals are forced by the externalisation of costs of production instead of seeing the major potential for social empowerment.

All this can be put into a nutshell – at least people living in Rome will understand immediately and others probably just have to replace the names of places and streets. And it is only a rephrasing of what Francis said:

How is it possible that we ignore the homeless people and “celebrate excessive consumerism”: go to Termini station at 4 o’clock in the morning – and in the afternoon have a look at excessive luxury on the Via dei Condotti and even the Via del Corso.

Indeed, all the answers will remain a torso as long as we do not manage to re-embed all policy areas into one guiding principle, that orient on

the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment. Its subject matter refers to people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships.[2]

The objective conditions of making use of the potentials will allow to translate social justice (equity), solidarity, equal valuation and human dignity, the normative factors presented in the framework of social quality, into meaningful parameters of an analytical tool and an instrument to systematically develop alternatives.

Urgently needed is in this light the confrontation of some major flaws of current politics:

Excessive cheap production and low fare trade, being a major feature of quantitative growth strategies are established on the strategies of sheep advertising and “low fair production”.

But we urgently need

  • planning
  • public responsibility
  • solidarity enshrined in rights
  • making people themselves the public

What else remains to be said? Since several years now there is a label on cigarette now: Smoking kills Perhaps we should think about this in connection with the words of Pope Francis and public responsibility.



The EU has to refocus policies: instead of adjoining welfare policies to a growth oriented strategy of competitiveness, policies have to be focused on the social as people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships in everyday’s life as the true aim of policy making.

National Governments

National governments have to commit themselves to the same goal, strongly considering their action as part of their global responsibility.

Municipalities and Regional Bodies

It is necessary to orient local and regional policies on strategies that take overall sustainability into account, and allow for participative approaches that foster the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment.

Trade Unions

It is necessary to develop new understandings of syndicalism, thoroughly analysing the critical developments on labour markets and in society, putting more emphasis on the representation of men and women in atypical employment and the societal contributions made outside of labour markets.

Civil Society

The role of civil society is to provide a glue between the different levels and realms of society and to link particularistic interests into the wider context of an overall sustainable society

Academic World

Interdisciplinary orientation cannot be a catchword alone but has to be implemented and a permanent guideline of academic world – be it in teaching or research. For this the academic world has to be open for heterodox approaches, a truly open debate and a non-competitive working climate that is rooted in discourse and exchange.

Our Commitment

We as European Observatory on Social Quality commit ourselves

  • to further elaborate the theory and practice,
  • to contribute with concrete analysis of living conditions and daily life in a comprehensive understanding
  • to develop a network of and link between academics, politicians and civil society
  • to provide services that foster the overall aim of moving towards a society that is based in the orientation on overall sustainability and social cohesion.

The goal then will not be paradise – but a proper use of the resources we have.


[1]            Pope Francis, 2013: Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, consecrated persons and the Lay Faithful on the proclamation of the gospel in today’s world; Città del Vaticano; Libreria Editrice Vaticana; – 28/10/14

[2] van der Maesen, Laurent J.G./Walker, Alan, 2012: Social Quality and Sustainability; in: Van der Maesen, Laurent J.G./Walker, Alan (eds.): Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators: Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; 250-274; here: 260

Small Wonders ?!

Il pullulare di lotte e di violenze aveva spinto la popolazione ad espedienti caratteristici: ciascuna famiglia cercò di proteggersi con lo stringersi alla propria consorteria, e ciascuna consorteria so alleò ad altre in società. I più ricchi rafforzarono le mura dei loro palazzi ed eressero torri; torri eressero a comune difesa anche minori famiglie, piccole fortezze intorno a cui si combatterono furiose lotte intestine; e, mentre tutti i nobili si collegavano in alleanza tra loro (Società dei militi), tra la borghesia so formavano associazioni di mestiere che andavano crescendo di numero e di potenzia.[1]

Certo no, Cara, there is always more to be said and done – even if it is only to say and to experience of what had been said and done

Actually with every additional step I make in my “religious studies” I am wondering if we sometimes shouldn’t simply accept that at least many things had been said and done: There are some of these church intellectuals simply not in a position to accept crusades having been and being undertaken in their name and …. – and are we all so limited in tolerating that we failed. In this respect Francis is surely a good example, admitting that he had failed ….

… but then he waits for people praying for him.

I am not sure about all this – and one of the problems is that it is so difficult to get sufficient information for something that one can justifiably suggest to be a “complete picture”.

The pope driving in a Panda … – isn’t that also a wonder? or is it a wonder that we (or some of us) think it is a wonder. I heard the other day about people who went to Argentina – some time ago – and asked to see the cardinal – apparently it had been granted, with something like: yes, just go there, at the side of the church…that door … – and they stepped in, seeing the cardinal preparing his meal: two (scrambled?) eggs.

And I also heard about today’s procedures of the inquisition. And I read the many articles about the Changes of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, the changes of the Vatican policies …, and the fear that nothing happens, and the knowledge that in some what nothing can change as long as certain foundations are not touched – but that will then still to be elaborated for the little essay to come on the Vatican Spring, [2]and the presentation I will have to give in two weeks.

For me it is always somewhat a wonder how people are, how they are seen and how they are made seen, i.e. are presented: kind of “made of and built on sand”, formed by people, but also the kind of sand from which they are made and bey the wind and …, and the image we make of them – and so we read at CCC2427:

Il lavoro provieni immediatamente da persone create a immagine di Dio …

Leaving aside that this image making is according to other sources a sin …. – well, it is “work”, the way in which we all create …. prejudices.

There is a not so funny story. 10 people, one has to look at a painting, tell somebody else what s/he saw, who tells somebody else what s/he saw … – At the end a gentle man with black skin, saving a woman who is attacked and would have been raped by a furious man with white skin turns out to be a f… nigger who rapes a woman while having a knife between his teeth … – the reality “re-written” by the racist real society, the rally racist society, the societal racist reality … – and thus making reality as you many well know from the Song From The Capeman.

In this way, I am living personally in a somewhat interesting (as I did most of my life), living (another time) between worlds …, and though I think these rolling heads (well, in actually fact I think they just fell into the bucket) are not so nice, I think there head been some good reason for it; and apparently a missed opportunity here in Italy. – I told you about the student who is now here fro placement – she arrived during the week with her sister – just a couple of days for accommodation before work starts. I went fro dinner with them – and then the next evening we went again The local hero who wanted to join us on the first occasion missed it – and so … – … we ended up strolling a bit through town before sitting down in a nice restaurant: two somewhat old men, and two definitely young women. We passed the palace of the Borghese – sure, if you have a villa you have to have a palace. I knew the place but I did to know: “It is private. They are still living there.” …. Well, yes, there had not been a “real” revolution here. We walked further … turned left, into the entrance – few words by Marco and that gate opened intron of us: “but only to … “ we had been told where to stop. While some other people walked further, turned left, opened another door and we learned: There is a special room. the nobles can go there for having a meal. Still served in the “appropriate style”: servants in their uniform …

I could go on …

… and I could go on, add about this feeling yesterday when I went to the “village”, i.e. via Alexandria: “my village”, quartier …, : I passed a bar, a person standing in front …: Buona Pasqua – asking for money; I left the post office, next to the bar, turned right, seeing a woman sitting a few meter ahead on the ground, begging; I didn’t walk so far but had to cross the street, managing the way throughout he parking cars, directly confronted with a woman sitting on the ground, begging …. – I went into a small shop: cheap stuff for little money” – Pound shop they had been called in the country where I lived for a while … A young Chinese man, being there from earlyish in the morning until latish in the evening – I go frequently there: for some strange reason I am attracted by this kind of shop. When I went there the first time, I paid in the ordinary way, just handing the bank not over the counter. He took it carefully and respectfully with both hands, making a little bow …. – I am Chinese enough, i.e. lived long enough in the Chinese culture to know how to behave the next time … – and this day, after having nearly left the tiny premise I turned back:

E Buona Pasqua. –

– Buona Pasqua a lei!

He waved and made a bow, and he waved and made a bow, and left a me a bit disturbed … – yes, traditions can be kept and still a surely meaningless tradition of others: Easter which for him most likely does not have the meaning it has for the Westerner, gains an entirely new meaning, gains importance the importance of being accepted …

… Later I went to Trastevere …, sitting there, with the computer, making a lengthy Skype call with a Russian colleague, being occasionally approached by some people – morendo di fame …, something that happened also when I walked back to the scooter: the contrasts, walking pass the Vatican palace, adduct to Santa Maria in Trastevere, housing Caritas Internationalis, looking at Santa Maria, the building of the church, its beautiful top of the front (though a meagre shadow of its inside) – Buona Pasqua – morendo di fame. And finally I vespaed home, passing the front of the central train station: Termini. Termination in the front, on the little traffic island – perhaps you saw the two old women – I thought everybody would know them, would know there story – but nobody of those whom I asked, does … termination of a life, like being crucified … – I felt that day more appalled than other days. This society …, celebration of Easter may be by and large for the heads that had not been chopped off, and for the many others who should have been and should be more radical in their moves just a crusade in a different habit, crusades in general being a habit … – HE suffered for us? If so, he surely did it not for us but for one percent of humankind only.

… Still, I wish you a very happy Easter – Buona Pasqua, independent of your beliefs …




[1]            Foligno, Cesare, [without date; 1921]: Dante. Con 186 illustrazioni e 3 tavole; Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche: 3

[2]            to be published in Tausch et altera: “El Papa – ¿Cuántas divisiones tine?”

HOPE II – The Story of Remembrance

The municipality of Haidari, near Athens, is implementing these days an interesting project – actually it is a follow up: HOPE II.

The discussion so far showed that learning from history is especially of importance when authoritarian statehood is gaining power and actually the EU is loosing direction. Starting from the idea of an Economic Community: surely driven by economic interests, but also acknowledging the importance of fundamental freedoms and rights of people, it drifted to a position that is fundamentally based in the idea of a neoliberal market strategy. We can see the current tendencies of separatist, regionalist and nationalist movements as part of the consequences of the social drawbacks of austerity policies and the orientation on competitiveness.
It is of remarkable importance that the municipality here engages in such a project on the


To engage in an open dialogue and to engage young people in this important aspect of dealing with the dark side of history has to be seen as special meritL Remembering the past should be warning for today to make sure that there will be a humane tomorrow.

Tomorrow the speech will be available on this site.