Digitisation – Employment – and What?

The recording of the keynote presentation on Digitisation, Employment, and What? is already online. It is an attempt to socio-locate the challenge of today’s productivity puzzle and had been given on occasion of the symposium in Helsinki, organised by the Pellervo Society and the European Academy of Science and Arts, today on the 18th of September 2018.

Usual beginning is about “I do not know where to start” – all is so terribly confusing, a multitude of extremely different things.

There seems an obvious reply in the present case,

  • at least for digitisation – the apparent omnipresence of issues that are in one or another way about digital stuff – from the CD-player to the computer on four wheels
  • also for AI – the fact that it is not entirely clear is part of AI itself: there seems to be something that we, humankind, came up with and that is now “beyond our capacities” – the Frankenstein of Intellect if you want
  • and what seems to be equally clear: precarity in the vein of decreasing employment – another time we hear in different rhythm the old melody: there is not enough work anymore. But if we listen around we hear also something else – something we also heard for many times throughout history: There will never be an end, though there will be many changes.

Having said earlier that presentations are often started with something like “I do not know where to begin”, waiting for an Ariadne who may help. At present, my point is a different one, namely “I do not where it will end”. It is the famous Alice-in-Wonderland-situation, leading elsewhere to the conclusion “but I would not start from here”.


Human Rights – shifting borders to new limits?

Human Rights – and one may say jurisprudence in general – is dealing with the fundamental tension of setting limits in order to reach universality. This means in particular being aware of the trap entailed in this constellation. Usually it is seen as “mission impossible”, left outside of the debate of the lege feranda; here it is suggested to take up Marx’ remark in a footnote in The Capital, volume I, saying:
“Proudhon begins by taking his ideal ofjustice, of “justice éternelle”, from the juridical relations that correspond to the production of commodities: thereby, it may be noted, he proves, to the consolation of all good citizens, that the production of commodities is a form of production as everlasting as justice. Then he turns round and seeks to reform the actual production of commodities, and the actual legal system corresponding thereto, in accordance with this ideal. What opinion should we have of a chemist, who, instead of studying the actual laws of the molecular changes in the composition and decomposition of matter, and on that foundation solving definite problems, claimed to regulate the composition and decomposition of matter by means of the “eternal ideas”, of “naturalité” and “affinité”? Do we really know any more about “usury”, when we say it contradicts “justice éternelle”, “équité éternelle”, “mutualité éternelle”, and other “vérités éternelles” than the fathers of the church did when they said it was incompatible with “grâce éternelle”, “foi éternelle”, and “la volonté éternelle de Dieu”?”
Still, there is the claim of some universality needed when it comes to (human) rights – finally it is the function of law to construct a hegemonic framework which than is broken down into smaller units, guided by the principle of binarisation.
With this reference in mind it should be possible to elaborate a more historicised take on HR, demanding to refer consciously to a “progressive economy”, i.e. the potentiality of a formation oriented on the interwoven matters of
  • Producing goods, but more importantly producing people, relationships and available time
  • Producing inclusion as condition of integrity – different to ancient societies, where slaves had been doing the work that allowed non-slaves to develop themselves in commune.
Human Rights – universally meaningful, though founded in a well understood partisanship, cum ira et studio: Hegemonies … – they follow the rule which Ovid is looking at:
In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas/corpora — I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities.
Here you can find the recoding of a short presentation around these questions, given on the 12th of September 2018 at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.

values and interests – one or two or more?

values and interests – last week the Polish Vice suggested in Krynica being them as one, being backed by his high-level Hungarian colleague, who suggested that these values are Christian values.


Seems people like me are in danger again, even and especially if and when we show readiness to move towards common goals of humankind and humanity. It had been this remark that contributed to writing to Simone, back in Munich at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy:

Perhaps I should offer a contribution for next Wednesday’s talk on contemporary issues.

Indeed, later I concretised this proposal, suggesting as title:

Social injustice and social (de)legalisation – A hegemony-theoretical perspective on social and human rights

It is remarkable, as I think, to see how explicit some people suggest that THEIR ONE interest has too be the interest of all: the claimed universality of human rights fading away behind the claim of unquestionable hegemonic claims. Though it is remarkable, it is in actual fact nothing new behind such supposed enlightened claim. Didn’t Marx discuss this already in a footnote in the first volume of Capital:


Proudhon begins by taking his ideal of justice, of “justice éternelle”, from the juridical relations that correspond to the production of commodities: thereby, it may be noted, he proves, to the consolation of all good citizens, that the production of commodities is a form of production as everlasting as justice. Then he turns round and seeks to reform the actual production of commodities, and the actual legal system corresponding thereto, in accordance with this ideal. What opinion should we have of a chemist, who, instead of studying the actual laws of the molecular changes in the composition and decomposition of matter, and on that foundation solving definite problems, claimed to regulate the composition and decomposition of matter by means of the “eternal ideas”, of “naturalité” and “affinité”? Do we really know any more about “usury”, when we say it contradicts “justice éternelle”, “équité éternelle”, “mutualité éternelle”, and other “vérités éternelles” than the fathers of the church did when they said it was incompatible with “grâce éternelle”, “foi éternelle”, and “la volonté éternelle de Dieu”?

If we really want to talk about values, it may be time to acknowledge not only that there is a variety of interests, clashing against each other and values MAY be referred to as attempt to take them – but not anything else no anything more. Something to be thought about on Wednesday – and also on Tuesday next week in Helsinki, talking about

Digitisation – Employment – and What? An Attempt to Socio-Locate the Challenge of Today’s Productivity Puzzle

as part of the symposium Digitisation, Artificial Intelligence and Stultification, September 18th, 2108, organised by the European Academy of Science and Arts and the Pellervo Society (The recording will be made available here from the 18th of September onwards.

employment – precarity – or what

Precarity of Employment – Precarity of Capital Accumulation – Helplessness of Social Science

Thoughts from the Panel during the 28thEconomic Forum, Krynica-Zdroj, Polonia:
Flexible Employment: A way to a global chaos or to a new model of labour market stability?

a brief note, while already on the way back to Munich …

And the changed title is:

Panem et circenses – but who bakes the bread?

There is no reason to carry owls to Athens – they are there, and at least also one is in Krynica, in the park

– repeating what is well known, e.g. speaking about growth and employment and looking for ways for its enhancement. Opposing is often naively just about rejecting it without thinking about viable alternatives. The core of my contribution in Krynica can be summarised in the following table and a short para, trying to get a bit closer to the ground of things:

(Click to enlarge)

and in the one paragraph:

Precarity can only be meaningfully looked at, if understood as one of two sides of the accumulation regime: there we are dealing with employment issues, around generating value; and we are dealing with accumulation as realising value by combining factors of production and by recombining in different ways use value and exchange value. The one is a matter of production, the other of distribution and exchange. The problematique emanates from the fact of what we may call a “realisation paradox”: Though the market is needed to make surplus real, it is only the productive sphere that makes it possible. The outcome is the “destruction of time“ in the sphere of production, in order to be artificially extended in the sphere of consumption. It should not surprise if one feels reminded of the process of production which consumes raw material, i.e. destroys nature in order to establish artificial consumables.

– I would not suggest that capital/capital accumulation is in a more precarious situation than employment/the employment regime and social securitisation; however, there is good reason to look at (parts of) this under the heading “sex, drugs and crime”.

On the new title: such an event has something of exactly the Panem et Circenses, trying to make us forget that somebody has to bake the bread ….
Follow the link for the recording of some schort remarks.

Once upon a time …

… is today ….

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

And then …?

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

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

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

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

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

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

representation of a post-nation state governance system

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

relational processuality and processual relationality

Next then

Elastyczne zatrudnienie: globalny chaos czy nowa równowaga rynku pracy?/

/Flexible employment: a way to a global chaos or to a new model of labour market stability

It is a panel of the 28th Economic Forum, scheduled for the 4th to 6th of September in Krynica.

Looking at the announcement of the participants in the panel I see that

Guests from Russia, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Poland 

are announced. And that makes me wondering if they forgot me or in which box I am put. Well, I know that I am officially there in my Munich position at the Max Planck Institut for Social Law and Social Policy. Still, I am also “Hungarian”, due to the link with Corvinus University, and “Fin”, being pat of the University of Eastern Finland and …

… and am I joking?

http: //next.myworshiptimes31.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/55/2013/12/safety-net-copy.jpg

In some respect of course, which means that we are facing the reality and thinking remaining captured by four methodological flaws (see the contribution on Value Theory – is there still any value in it? – is it still worthwhile to talk about it?; in:Changing the Socio-Economic Formation: New Labour Relations, New Forms of Accumulation, New understanding of  Intelligence [working title; forthcoming]):

  • methodological individualism
  • methodological nationalism
  • methodological solutionismus as strategy of technicism, going hand in hand with permanent strategies of externalisation and relative downgrading of living standards
  • methodological presentism not least due to the urgency of matters that need to be addressed in the light of the previous point, i.e. methodological solutionism. Paradoxically, this implies that future is suggested to be present. While it enlarges the space for action, it reduces its substance as the latter can only be grasped in the light of the presence. Rüdiger Safranski contends

the enormous depth of interference of techno-social action strengthens its repercussions which are getting manifest only in the future. The manmade share in the future is increasing. Yet the openness of future still exists because the risk event may occur – but it may also not do so. No risk insurance can disperse the worries; worries can even increase indirectly via the increased want for security. … Security drives towards more security simply due to the fact that, getting used to security, one is hypersensitive when it comes to something menacing.

(Safranski, Rüdiger, 2017: Zeit. Was sie mit uns macht und was wir aus ihr machen; Franfurt/M.: Fischer 2017: 79)

However, as much future is integrated into the presence, it limits itself to presentism as factually only the real presence exists as point of reference. This results in linearly defined thinking.

While widely seen as separate issues, they can only be understood as entity of societal realities and their analysis, making us understanding agency, space, matter and time in specific ways and, as practice is also based on the way we are understanding realities, these pillars are also shaping these realities.

Finalising the work on the book “Digitisation and Precarisation – Redefining Work and Redefining Society”, edited together with Vyacheslav Bobkov, I am getting another time aware of the actual tension of problems “running in circles”: debates on globalisation and precarity are very much caught in such vicious circle as long as they cannot overcome those methodological limitations: there is no relational processuality, and equally no processual relationality that commences in one area: one industry, one issue (like globalisation, digitisation, precarisation …) or one locality unless we want to limit ourselves to spotuality: an unchanging world, given once for ever, not able and not destined to move. Indeed, as quoted recently

As long as something is, it is not what it will have been at some time. – Solange etwas ist, ist es nicht, was es einmal gewesen sein wird.