the cases we are becoming the other

Last Friday, 3rd of July, the Human Rights Center. Law School at the Central South University, Changsha, PRC organised with our partners a webinar, titled

Addressing Contemporary Forms of Racism: Challenges Posed by the Pandemic and National Responses

It had not least been looking at the different forms and “incidences” where Chinese Identity had been negatively met by afronts, reaching from reservation over hate speech to violence. A longish report can be found here.

who is it? who are we?

Now available – don’t blame me for the price – further info below and even more here

Chinese National Identity in the Age of Globalisation

Editors: Zhouxiang, Lu (Ed.)

  • Examines the transformation of Chinese national identity in the era of globalisation
  • Addresses issues central to national identity in the context of Chinese culture, politics and society, including ethnic identity
  • Considers the birth of Chinese national identity in the late Qing era and the influence of popular culture on national identity

I am the law

Written for the blog of the Human Rights Centre of the Law School at Central South University, Changsha, PRC

Obviously we are facing a very dramatic challenge since some time: the virus that dominates the world, suggesting to humankind

Nothing will be the same again after defeating me!

If this is true or if we will fall back into the age-old ding-dong, we are challenged today for example by

  • near to 1,000.00 deaths per day in the UK (the figures from the 10th and 11th of April)
  • an increasing fear amongst people
  • lack of coordination – globally and locally
  • political debates that are not discussing the security of life but the maintenance of individual freedom – and economic profitability
  • in many regions of the world – the so-called developing countries – substandard of medical supply and medical care and the lack of means to secure a minimum what is needed, Including the lack of Social Security
  • the president of the United States – carelessly or stupidly – stating in a press conference, talking about the virus , that
    “It comes from China. It will disappear, one day – it is like a miracle – it will disappear …”
  • the president of the European Union proclaiming – nearer to tears then to political realism – that we have to help each other and there’s no other way then helping each other
  • the murder of a 33-year woman in Berlin, FRG, who suffered from psychological distress, killed by a policeman, “executing his duty” – this in itself is a complex story. What is of interest here is the fact that since 2016 the police is not allowed to file psychological abnormalities in order to protect the privacy of the individual (https://de.indymedia.org/node/61800 and https://www.tip-berlin.de/polizist-erschiesst-maria-b-kommentar/)
  • and finally another time Trump who

Signs Order Allowing Private Companies to Mine the Moon    

The list could be extended, but in the present context of the so-called virus-crisis I want to highlight the following three – seemingly not  belonging to the current humanitarian challenge, they can be seen as the core of the entire debate we have to engage in. These are the * political debates, * the politicisation and * the fact of private companies being encouraged to move to the moon. Why? At the very core of the current debate we are dealing with the process of socialisation and its analysis, characterising a specific relationship of accumulation regime and life regimes. The cutting edge concerns the question of valuation with the two dimensions of exchange value and use value. The globalised economy has – today – as its focus the production of exchange value and furthermore the orientation of life and living along this line. Exchange value is as such considered as the ultimate use value – the actual use in terms of managing daily life is shifting away from the metabolism of human practice. This, in consequence, means that we externalise control of daily life as artificial aspect of an alienated economic process: we live in order to work instead of work in order to live; we are in order to eat instead of eating in order to be; we consume in order to keep the machine going instead of maintaining the economic process in order to satisfy our needs; we absorb knowledge in order to be informed instead of gathering and processing information in order to develop knowledge … . Indeed, these are complex processes at the core of which we see an alienation of the social as the core of human existence today. In this light the privatisation of the moon, the exploration that has as its ultimate goal the enclosure, the destruction of the common good, can be seen as a metaphor, though a very real one, of the current debate. Happening in the background of the debate of the virus crisis, it is clearly showing that the core of the crisis is about the disruption of the connection between accumulation regime and life regime. This disruption establishes a hiatus that is difficult to overcome. As stated on a different occasion, we face the following dilemma – a cage from which it is difficult to find an escape. It is this constellation of mutual dependencies, that makes an escape nearly impossible. Individual behaviour can hardly be changed due to system requirements; change of the system is equally impossible due to the endurance of individual behaviour. Equally, there is the blockage between the accumulation regime and the life regime on the one hand and the mode of regulation and the mode of living on the other hand. The complexity is furthered by the tension between the two different regimes and between the two modes.

Indeed, as Hannah Arendt suggested that a country has to be very rich to be able to cover the loss of imperialism, a country has to be also veryrich to cover the cost of privatisation of public services.

All this means not least that we have to find a different way of discussing rights. So far,  we are usually concerned with the juxtaposition of social  and individual. In other words, the rights of individuals, indeed individual freedoms, are counterposed to matters of intervention in the public interest – the first is expressed by individuals being allowed to define their own rules, as mentioned previously with the reference to Tinder; the latter can be expressed by the phrase recently brought forward in a Chinese article, saying

don’t be the farmer who saved the snake.

Realistically, the complex situation is not about social and individual orientation of action, activities, praxis and behaviour, but about the relationship between accumulation regime and life regime, and subsequently the mode of regulation and the mode of living. The following definitions are underlying this interpretation:

  • the accumulation regime is the way in which we make money and spend it for reproduction
  • the life regime presents the fundamental pattern of production and consumption in the perspective of classes and social groups
  • the mode of regulation can be understood as the framework and the rail system, supporting and limiting the processes of accumulation
  • finally we arrive at the way in which individuals translate the general opportunities and restrictions into their real life.

At the very core we find the metabolism, determining the position of human beings in relation to the world around them, determining the two dimensions: “what is  given” on the one hand, “what had been built” on the other hand.

Thoroughly thinking through these dimensions and the interdependencies will reveal the true dimensions of the political: on the one hand it is about the political economy which is today specifically shaped in order to promote profitmaking instead of securing people’s life; on the other hand it is about is the political management not only of the healthcare sector but of services of public or general interest and their denial. In other words, we are dealing with the question if the economy is grounded in commons, understood as common control of the use of means of production in the widest sense in the common interest of the common people, or if the economy is geared to secure the profits of a minority. This is not only about the immediate threat, but it is an issue that concerns the way in which society is shaped, the way the social is actually understood – on the one hand we have the merciful understanding and support, on the other hand we see a rights-based approach that emphasises the need of social security not as matter of supporting individuals, but as matter of societal responsibility, the focus of government action on the common weal and the balance of rights and obligations, based on the principle of acknowledging everybody’s needs and everybody’s capabilities.

Epistemologically it should not come as a surprise that in the country that provided the fertile ground for a very peculiar philosopher from Koenigsberg coming up with the categorical imperative:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.[2]  

social distancing takes the form of a very different peculiarity,

namely that of being by and large ignored – finally one acts in the supposed freedom, of the individual who defines the rule … – go back a bit, and read again, and perhaps a third and even forth time as it is such a paradoxical situation that in fact results in pulling the wool over one’s eyes, making white to appear as black. As stated on another occasion, all this is concerned with the question of how to define freedom – as liberty to do what one wants or as insight into what is necessary – and how to understand public responsibility – as control or provision of social security. And to be honest, I do not value freedom of miners to work on the moon; instead, I value the security of minors, established on a firm foundation of rights.

***************************

A long time ago, in a very different context, I wrote

One highly important although by no means conclusively defined aspect is the blurring of borders and boundaries in conjunction with increasingly strict closures. Thus, the contributions to this book may also be read as contributions along the line of tension between ‘gated communities’ and the open global village. The question quo vadis? gains a twofold meaning. It is asking where people actually go, where and why they move and where they find some kind of belonging. And the question is also about frames and gains. Where are moves allowed and how is moving allowed and what are the expected outcomes for the different actors? One point can be made at the outset: we have to start from here – this hugely tensional question. And there is a long way to go until we arrive at a position which allows all of us to feel – at least for some time – comfortable in the global village.

Decisively, we are today all migrants and as such in need of The Right to Stay – The Right to Move with its mental, intelectual and spatial dimension. This makes it also meaningful to speak of lockouts in the context of the virus crisis and the crisis of the health system: while we are in fact locked in/quasi-locked in – being privatised, dispelled from the social and this way denaturalised considering that humans are social beings.


[2]               Kant, Immanuel, 1785: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

The Deepening Crisis of the European Union …

Nothing new: the crisis in question is still the”old one” and the publication is already from 2014. New is that the book

The deepening crisis of the European Union: the case for radical change 

is now available for free – it can be dwoonloaded from the dedicated website of the Central and Eastern European Online Library

(if you do not have access via an affiliated institution, you have to a new, free account).

Contributor(s): Włodzimierz Dymarski (Editor), Marica Frangakis (Editor), Jeremy Leaman (Editor)
Subject(s): Politics, National Economy, Supranational / Global Economy, Governance, Labor relations, Government/Political systems, International relations/trade, Welfare systems, Economic development, Law on Economics, EU-Accession / EU-DEvelopment, Fiscal Politics / Budgeting, Globalization, EU-Legislation, Geopolitics
Published by: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Ekonomicznego w Poznaniu
Keywords: European Union;crisis 2008+;Berlin consensus;Spain;EU social model;capitalism;uneven development;
Summary/Abstract: This volume is drawn in large part from academic papers presented at the 18th EuroMemo Conference at the Poznań University of Economics in September 2012. The first section is devoted to an examination of deficiencies of both the structures of political decision-making in the European Union and of the conduct of EU crisis management since 2008. The second section considers broader features of Europe’s political economy which have a fundamental influence on its general evolution and the development of its deepening crisis. The third and final section includes the chapters which, in different ways, address key challenges facing the advanced economies of Europe at a fundamental and critical juncture in their development. “The book is a much needed addition to the literature on Europe’s structural growth weaknesses and the mismanagement of the ‘Great recession’ at both European and member state level. The critical viewpoint is stressed on the EU basic institutional biases together with suggestion of alternative solutions respectful of social needs and the well-being of citizens” (Nicola Acocella, Professor of Economic Policy, Department of Methods and Models for Economics, Territory and Finance, Faculty of Economics, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’).

TABLE OF CONTENTS (THE CHAPTER I CONTRIBUTED TOGETHER WITHJ MARICA FRANGAKIS IN BOLD)

  • Berlin consensus and disintegration: monetary regime and uneven development in the EU
  • The political economy of the ‘Euro-system’
  • Boom and (deep) crisis in the Spanish economy: the role of the EU in its evolution
  • Impact of the global crisis on the economic performance of Central and East European countries
  • The financial crisis and the restructuring of the EU social model
  • Crises and capitalist oligarchies: a radical critique of society and its political economy
  • EU governance: democracy as a mere fragment of political discourse
  • The need for a radical ‘growth policy’ agenda for Europe at a time of crisis
  • The future of capitalism will be decided in the cities
  • The preconditions for reducing social inequality in Europe
  • Lists of tables, figures and boxes
  • Notes on contributors

Brexit, Europe and the Left

The blog titled Brexit, Europe and the Left and edited by the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation Brussels and Trademark Belfast, published recently a short piece they asked me to write – on the German economy.

from the blog, Ivan Radic/Flickr

The teaser they added

Made in Germany or Made for Germany?

  • 25 October 2019

The once “strong tiger” of the German economy might be crumbling. For decades, the Made in Germany strategy pursued by successive governments suggested high quality goods worth paying for. Systemic faultlines, structural conservatism and policies of privatisation have created new lines of conflict domestically. Why this is bad also for the rest of Europe and the world explains Professor Peter Herrmann.

Success

Having been awarded membership of the Institute for International Political Economy Berlin (IPE) at the Berlin School of Economics and Law has, of course a personal dimension, and looking at the colleagues and also the history of the Institute makes such award a special honour. 

The programmatic statement on the website states that the

IPE  is concerned with the relation between the economy and political power in a globalised world, and the social implications that this raises.

In this light I see myself as member of the Institute as well as support and general encouragement of a very traditional view on economic issues: they are political questions, they are concerned with the core of what society is about and they are not “standing against the social”, the question has always been and will be “Not ‘how much’ economy, but what kind of economy do we want”?

During a recent presentation I referred to a definition of capitalism by Joe Brewer, reading:

Here is how capitalism actually works — use a legal framework of private ownership to extract value from the labor of others. The end game is a system that hoards wealth, stifles innovation, and ultimately destroys the value created by cooperation among those who seek to do things that cannot be done alone.

Leaving various problematic aspects of Brewer’s view aside, it is a fine formulation of the meaning of law. Isn’t it indeed astonishing in which way law is explicitly used tome injustice the accepted foundation and framework of living together? I find this an interesting thought, which possibility culminates in a statement suggesting that law is ideologically the equivalent to what enclosure of land and primitive accumulation are as foundational act and permanent renewal and extension of the socio-material conditions of exploitation whites the expropriation of the actual worker from his/her product? Isn’t it remarkable in which law is becoming increasingly complex and differentiated, the reflecting – and justifying – the separation not only of the worker from the means of production but also the complex mechanisms of “division of labour” and the segregation of production, consumption, distribution and exchange that find they-to-day expression in the fact that (making Marx’ formulation from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

The worker … feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it.

In the meantime this moved further, IKEA advertising now that you can book the style, though don’t need the location.

it is a about socialisation ..

Before heading to the University of Vienna, teaching about European Integration and its failure, here something about …, well, Europe too, though very different: looking at enterprises as specific forms of socialisation … – Something we often forget: socialisation has to be understood in historical terms and as such it is concrete, also at times high individualist and/or oriented on maximising individual gain.

Moving or Staying – is that the question?


Peter Herrmann Right to Stay – Right to Move ISBN/EAN: 9783990610169, first 1; 2019; http://www.wienerverlag.at http://www.viennaacademicpress.com

This work contains Peter Herrmann’s reflections, an admirable result in terms of time and cultural productivity  of his research stay and material support at the University of Łódź, Poland (2018/2019) and the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Germany (2017/2018) as he mentions in the following pages. Munich is perhaps the place, that might be considered as a possible common point where international and national experts in Social Law and Social Policy intertwine their destinies in this „labyrinth of lines“.

 Among the main contributions of this work is the sharpness in the use of the author’s knowledge in different disciplines particularly in Economics, Sociology, Social Policy and Law. As well as his academic audacity in resorting to a great ample baggage of sources both of current political conjuncture citing digital media as well as of return to the classics of Economy and Law, pleasant historical narratives and even of literary novels. As well as the use of recent publications identifying clear and provocative ideas of a path dependency and the “development of underdevelopment” for those who are willing to understand the connection between social space and social time of the global village. 

In the first part, with greater emphasis on economics but always keeping faithful to what is known in Germany as Grundlagenforschung. He follows in many respects the thought and academic legacy of Hans F. Zacher whom the author has personally known and who unites in his human warmth, sensitivity an attempt to understand that there is a “black hole” and to find interdisciplinary research questions regarding the relationship between inequality in the Global and the poverty chains. Peter Herrmann has the comparative advantage of being a global researcher – he does not seek to benefit from his competitive or cooperative advantage of coming from the scientific community of the North – trying to paraphrase his lucid explanations in these concepts, Peter Herrmann knows and is able to adapt to the viscitudes that many scientists of the global South must face day by day and in his words that are also taking place in Europe.

The work deals with one of the most relevant and current topics: Migration and Mobility.

In the second part dedicated to human rights, the reading demands a level of abstraction that can reveal that a naked reader in his capacity of magination of certain realities or on the contrary as Löwenstein would compare in his constitutions and forms of government policies that there are different „Kleidungsstücke“ or suits to understand certain realities and the scope of interpretation will depend on each reader.

The classification of human rights into three generations is a discussion that the author takes up again by proposing a fourth generation. A fourth generation of human rights has to acknowledge the responsibility for socio-economic development not in terms of distributive policies but as matter of (re-)productive responsibility. Interestingly, he also proposes to reflect on: “new dimensions of power but also the fundamental structural change which we may classify as ‘socialisation by privatisation of public power’. One of the greatest current challenges in public international law.

As a bridge between the two parts of this work, he uses the very illustrative scheme to understand the order in which States can be classified in the process of globalization: Accumulation Regime/Mode of Regulation/Life Regime/Mode of Living. With a very precise and brilliant explanation of the term “threshold countries” as an idea(l) of modernization, declaring mass consumption as highest stage of socio-human existence – with this he obviously criticises Rostow and the mainstream approach to “development”. In his view, obviously two major issues remain without being problematised: the crucial meaning of the differentiation between public and private is not considered; also, there is no thought directed towards sustainability. The threshold, thus, means capitalist industrialisation, in reality possibly directly moving to the ‘advanced’ stage of finance capitalism.”

The book ends with a very critical quote from internet access as a human right that reminds us of Cristobal Columbus’ initial quote when he used the knowledge of the eclipse to colonize what would be called the Indians in the author’s words “undermining sooner or later the productive foundation, the indigenous mode of production”.

Dr. Lorena Ossio, LLM

Koordinatorin der Forschungsgruppe “Das Soziale im globalen Süden”

Coordinator of the Research Group “Understanding Southern Welfare”

Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung der Universität Bielefeld

Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University

Methoden 1, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany

Clarity …, and what undermines it

Sometimes, just near to publishing something, or sending it to the printer, I envy a bit other authors – everything they write is so terrible clear easy to understand — and then I remember what a colleague one wrote, Kant, it is some comfort …

many a book would have been much clearer if it had not been made quite so clear. For the aids to clarity helpb in the partsbut often confuse in the whole, since the reader cannot quickly enough attain a survey of the whole; and all their bright colors paint over and make unrecognizable the articulation or structure of the system, which yet matters most when it comes to judging its unity and soundness.

Kant: Critique


Are they really learning?

The Vienna Academic Press/Wiener Verlag fuer Sozialforschung, after a complete relaunch, now being under new management, I met yesterday evening in Vienna the new chief manager who took on board the republication of my PhD-thesis – a reprint without changes:

Die Organisation. Eine Analyse der modernen Gesellschaft

The Organisation. Analysis of Modern Society

In the following the forward is published, in German and English language. Thinking back the line of my academic work since then, I have to say that I never did what so many of the colleagues said oder the years: I closed this chapter once and forever. I did not even think this would be tempting

Scroll for English

Die Organisation. Eine Analyse Moderner Gesellschaft – Vorwort zur unveränderten Wiederauflage

Organisationen sind, so wird gesagt, lernende Einheiten. Sicher ist dies in mancher Hinsicht nicht zu bestreiten, aber doch lässt sich auch schnell zögern, denn die Frage ist doch zunächst sehr grundsätzlich, ob denn Organisationen überhaupt als handlungsfähige Einheiten bestehen. Ihnen einen solchen Charakter zuzusprechen bedeutet letztlich, dass man sie als vollständig verselbständigte Einheiten sieht, die Menschen darin im Grunde zu unselbstständigen Ausführungsorganen degradiert, und zugleich die historisch-gesellschaftlichen Bedingungen zu Randglossen verkommen (sind).

Das mag tatsächlich oft durchaus so erscheinen – und die persönliche Erfahrung des Engagements in den fast dreißig Jahren seit der hier unverändert aufgelegten Studie, gesammelt in verschiedenen Bereichen und verschiedenen Ländern, gaben oftmals Anlass zu solchem Gedanken an ein „Vergib Ihnen nicht – sie machen sonst doch nur, was sie selbst wollen“. Zugleich aber ist doch ein Punkt hervorzuheben, der in der Arbeit gemacht wurde – vor allem mit einem Zitat von Antonio Gramsci belegt: bei solchen scheinbaren Detailbetrachtungen wie Parteien, Organisationen etc., muss man die ganze Geschichte der relevanten Länder mitdenken.

Tatsächlich kann daran wohl der Kern gesehen werden, der allen Zweifeln entgegensteht: die damalige Analyse hat sicher manches voreilig verallgemeinert. Aber die grundlegende Unterscheidung der handlungstechnischen Dimension der Aneignung einerseits, der verwertungsmäßigen Dimension andererseits ist eine sinnvolle Handreichung vor alle auch bei der Entwicklung strategisches Handeln und bei Überlegungen, innerhalb von Organisationen ein solches zu entwickeln. Dies gilt es dann eben konkret in den historischen Analysen zu entwickeln. Und wird dann auch schnell deutlich, dass „Verselbstständigungen“ schlicht morbide Erscheinungen sind.

Das ermöglicht auch, Organisationen in einem gesamtgesellschaftlichen Rahmen von doch immer noch modernen kapitalistischen Gesellschaften zu verorten. Intermediär ist ihre Rolle nicht nur als Vermittlungsinstanz verschiedener „Ebenen“ gesellschaftlichen Handelns, sondern auch im Sinne von Vermittlungen zwischen verschiedenen Möglichkeitshorizonten. In diesem Sinn muss man wohl sagen, dass der Sieg der verselbstständigten Organisation nichts anderes ist, als der Sieg der konservativen Kräfte auch in einer Zeit des Interregnum, jener Phase, von der Antonio Gramsci schrieb, dass die Krise darin bestehe, dass das Alte zwar im Sterben liege, aber das Neue noch nicht geboren werden kann. Die morbiden Erscheinungen, die bei dem italienischen Hegemoniekritiker betont wurden, sind eben nicht zuletzt Organisationen, die ein „Heim“ für jene bieten, die den Weg in die Neuzeit verpassen.

Dank gilt dem Wiener Verlag, namentlich Herrn Heribert Renkin. Nunmehr hat der Verlag unter neuer Leitung dieses Projekt übernommen.

Łódź/Berlin, March 2019

The Organisation. An Analysis of Modern Society – forword to the republished original work

Organisations are, it is said, learning units. Of course, in some respects this cannot be denied, but one may well hesitate, because the initial question is a different, and a very fundamental one, namely whether organisations do exist at all as units capable of action. To attribute such a character to them ultimately means that they are seen as completely independent units, people being basically degraded to dependent executives, and at the same time the historical and social conditions made to marginalia.

This may indeed often seem to be the case – not least the personal experience of engaging during the almost thirty years since the study had been originally published, experience made in different areas and different countries, often gave rise to he thought “Do not forgive them – they will otherwise only do what they want to do themselves“. At the same time, however, one point should be emphasised – made in the study itself above all by quoting Antonio Gramsci who suggested that in such analysis of detailed phenomena as parties, organisations, etc., one has to think along the line of the entire history of the country in question.

In fact, we can see the core of this demand indeed also in the presented work: while the analysis certainly generalised some issues prematurely, one point proved to be valuable: the fundamental distinction between the technical dimension of appropriation on the one hand, and the exploitative dimension on the other. This is a meaningful help, especially in the development of strategic action and when it comes to considerations of developing change oriented action within organisations. This must then be developed concretely in the historical analyses: it becomes quickly clear that “autonomies” are simply morbid phenomena.

This makes it also possible to locate organisations within the overall social framework of still modern capitalist societies. They are not only intermediaries in their role as mediators of different “levels” of social action and classes; they are so as well in the sense of mediation between different horizons of possibility. In this sense, it must be said that the victory of the independent organisation is nothing else than the victory of the conservative forces even in a time of interregnum, the phase of which Antonio Gramsci wrote that the crisis consists in the fact that the old is dying, but the new cannot yet be born. The morbid phenomena stressed by the Italian critic of hegemony are not least organisations that offer a “home” for those who miss the road to modern times, some kind of zombies.

My thanks go to the Vienna Press, namely Mr. Heribert Renkin; he has taken over this project in the publishing house which is now under a completely new management.

Łódź/Berlin, March 2019