Digitalization, immigration and the welfare state – A Book Review

Just published:


Digitalization, immigration and the welfare state, by Mårten Blix, Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017, 186 pp., ISBN 978 1 78643 294 0 (hardback)

One may be grateful, seeing a title as the one of the books for review, that finally it is about some- thing that can well be perceived as a crossroads for the future, defined by: digitization as one of the main new hopes, and equally a major variable of insecurity; migration is seen by many as a major threat; and the welfare state as known centre and channel, allowing taming rough sea. …

It is published in the


and can be accessed – if you have access via:



It may be that future referencing look like this, at least I felt obliged to add the underlined part while having written an essay for publication

Herrmann, ongoing [a]: Is it really about Industry 4.0.?;; [b] Wandel des Wirtschaftens – Wandel des Rechts. Forschungsskizze zu Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik;; 29/12/17; some of the references had been added by researchgate and are completely irrelevant to the work and/or content would be fundamentally criticised and even rejected. Actually thus confirms parts of what had been stated: the complete lack of competence of the algorithm jugglers and the lack of real power of users as those references cannot be manually deleted)

The paragraph I referred to reads as follows:

This pattern applies – cum grano salis – to many areas, and of course, it means higher efficiency, thus lower cost, the possibility of establishing user-friendly and comfortable use of services and purchase of goods, in selected cases even giving the customer/service user some space for interaction and increased influence, opening roads towards part-individualised services/goods. All this going hand in hand with decreasing prices. However, there is a price to be paid, and there are two different charges levied. The one is a – possibly twofold – pressure on working conditions; twofold means that pressure is increased on those who are directly involved as for instance UBER-drivers, foodora-deliverers but also hotels [individual or chains] that are engaging with The other bill has to be paid by people and strata who are only peripherally concerned – we may even think about the click-workers on click-farms, boosting the image of their customers by making virtual reality to faked realities. The other reason is that the increased freedom and power of the customer/user is in actual fact more illusionary than anything else: one crucial point is that even the attempt to make use of the options requires a pre-empt formulations, making thus sure that ‘the system’ is able to process the data. In other words, increased variety is more qualitative than quantitative.

Adding a bit of the background: I am not extensively working with my researchgate-site, and the same applies to which actually had been established a long time by my university in Budapest. Recently I saw by accident references to documents and texts as reference which had not been added by me, some of them I didn’t even know. I contacted the ResearchGate Community Support, complaining. I even received an answer whited not always been the case:

Thanks for contacting us. You are the only collaborator listed, so you are the only person who can add research items to this project.
If you are referring to the references (34), these are automatically added using the publications that you have added to your project. To remove the references, you need to remove the publication that you added as an update.

So, the first thing that can be said: they a liars – obviously they are also collaborators, to be more precise, a system that is not thought through is collaborating. On the point that this system is not thought through, the following my be said, quoting from my answer:

Thanks …, from the perspective of an academic researcher this is not reflecting how things should work. In the extreme – as known from an English case, doing research on fascism/right wing policy it ended up in the most contested position appearing as most outstanding work in this field of research. – It was not a researchgate-related case but shows that your management should revisit policies that are going into that direction.

Just showing up is thus sufficient, substance, positions of researchers are erased from the agenda. and still it has something of the Berufsverbote we had been fighting – be it under terms of Berufsverbote, McCarthyism, censorship or anything the like. All this is worrying enough.

There is still another point that deserves mention. Those days with the little encounter with the ‘community’ I wrote a mail to a friend in China:

I made yesterday a somewhat funny experience: the midwife saying something, i.e. ‘ I am obliged to inform you …. – but from my own experience …’ – so after her midwife-business was done, I asked what this would actually mean: ‘I am obliged …’. Who and what would oblige her. The professional organisation, the medical professionals, some administration …. – she did not know. All was based on some statistical surveys, not a matter of experience. – Doesn’t acceptance begin with such small things? Doesn’t it begin as well with people like myself simply completely accepting the requirements … put up by national ministries, by other universities like Bangor, Warwick, LSE etc,, by ministries from other countries … ? As said, difficult and there is probably no ‘one answer’. Refusing on some occasions to comply, I actually had to pay thousands of Euro over the years leaving aside other payments like being ignored, censored, bullied or not being accepted for certain jobs based on ‘political’ reasons. Still, this is also something linked to the issue of knowledge versus skills. Skills … it is something for computers and robots … – but knowledge …
And real knowledge is …, well another experience from one of the recent days, when I went to the opera in Munich. I met one guy who works there – after ??? some five years at least, he still remembered me …, bit of chatting, also about the performance – during the pause he said: you will enjoy the third act — one must really be a very good side and dancer to be able to sing and dance wrongly. – Similar to what Picasso once said – something like: it took me three years to learn painting like the classical painters, and it took me many more years to learn painting like a child.

The world isn’t flat – though accepting that some people suggest it would be is sad to say the least, and seeing them making a career and having the power to algorithm-ise the careers of others and the way knowledge develops is appalling. The fact that major journals do it, should for researchgate and similar a motivation to do better instead reproducing the publishers ‘artificial bashfulness’, borrowing a term from from Hito Steyerl.


eeeeeeA small study, titled


and authored by Judit Csoba and Peter Herrmann had been just published.



The article describes an empir- ical study concerned with the NEET gen- eration in Hungary. The NEET generation (Not in Education, Employment or Train- ing) is represented by those young per- sons who do not work or study anywhere due to a number of social, economic and political reasons. The authors pres- ent the results of qualitative interviews revealing some of the problems of sec- ondary school graduates. The findings point to deep public misunderstanding of the situation of the NEET generation and help the authors to draw up several proposals on the modernization of youth policies.

The complete reference is as follows:

Правильная ссылка на статью:

Csoba J., Herrmann P. “Losers, good guys, cool kids” the everyday lives of early school leavers // Мониторинг общественного мнения : Экономические и социальные перемены. 2017.

No 6. С. 276—293. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2017.6.15.

Csoba J., Herrmann P. “Losers, good guys, cool kids” the everyday lives of early school leavers. Monitoring of Public Opinion : Economic and Social Changes. 2017. No 6. P. 276—293. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2017.6.15.

Alternative Economic Policy Today


In the presence of the two award winners:

the award ceremony is scheduled for the 6th of December at 18:00. The event will take place at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung [Salon], Franz-Mehring-Platz 1, 10243 Berlin.

The Scientific Advisory Board of Attac Deutschland, Attac, the Working Group on Alternative Economic Policy, the EuroMemo Group and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation award the Jörg Huffschmid Prize 2017 in memory of Jörg Huffschmid’s scientific work and socio-political commitment.

This prize is awarded every two years since 2011.

Schedule of the event:

Welcoming address by Prof. Dr. Rainer Rilling, Member of the Executive Board of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation

Introduction by Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Munich

‘A different and better way of running the European economy! Alternative Economic Policy Today’ lecture by Dr. Axel Troost, Working Group Alternative Economic Policy e. V.

Speech by Dr. Silke Ötsch, Innsbruck; Member of the Scientific Advisory Board Attac Germany

Laudatory speech by Prof. Dr. Thomas Sauer, Ernst-Abbe-Hochschule Jena; Member of the Scientific Advisory Board Attac Germany

Replies by the winners

Verleihung des Jörg-Huffschmid-Preises 2017

In Anwesenheit der beiden Preisträger: Dr. rer. pol. Ulaş Şener für seine Arbeit «Die relative Autonomie der Zentralbank – Eine politökonomische Analyse der türkischen Geldpolitik nach 2001» und Etienne Schneider für seine Arbeit «Raus aus dem Euro – rein in die Abhängigkeit? Monetäre Dependenz und außenwirtschaftliche Restriktionen alternativer Wirtschaftspolitik unter den Bedingungen der Eurozone und des Weltmarktes»

Der Wissenschaftliche Beirat von Attac Deutschland, Attac, die Arbeitsgruppe Alternative Wirtschaftspolitik, die EuroMemo Gruppe und die Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung vergeben im Gedenken an das wissenschaftliche Werk und das gesellschaftspolitische Engagement von Jörg Huffschmid den Jörg-Huffschmid-Preis 2017.

Zur Bewerbung um die mit 2.000 Euro dotierte Auszeichnung, die seit 2011 alle zwei Jahre verliehen wird, konnten für 2017 Studienabschlussarbeiten (Magister-, Master- und Diplomarbeiten) sowie Dissertationen eingereicht werden, die thematisch im Bereich der politischen Ökonomie der Finanzmärkte angesiedelt sind.


Begrüßung durch Prof. Dr. Rainer Rilling, Vorstandsmitglied der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Einführung durch Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann, Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik, München

«Anders und besser wirtschaften in Europa! Alternative Wirtschaftspolitik heute.» Fachvortrag von Dr. Axel Troost, Arbeitsgruppe Alternative Wirtschaftspolitik e. V.

Laudatio von PD Dr. Silke Ötsch, Innsbruck; Mitglied des Wissenschaftlichen Beirates Attac Deutschland

Laudatio von Prof. Dr. Thomas Sauer, Ernst-Abbe-Hochschule Jena; Mitglied des Wissenschaftlichen Beirates Attac Deutschland

Antwort der Preisträger

Moderation: Peter Herrmann

For Paul Boccara, although he will not be able to read it anymore

When we met the last time in person – if I remember correctly, it had been at the place du Colonel Fabien in Paris, Paul, arriving with Catherine, welcomed me by saying something like:

I am so glad that we can meet, I only just recovered …, can you imagine; I could not speak for about three days … – he his fatherly and still young laugh marked his face as it did so often. Can you imagine, me, not being able to speak a single word.
We all laughed …, nobody could really imagine … and after a short while we took up our work. And despite the ease of the discussion, it had been real work, requiring full attention.
And as much as he was talking he was also so well able to listen – to the large lines and the details of arguments. It may there was one exception to all this, or I should say: one condition: newness, commitment going hand in hand with ambition, the desperate endeavour to move things forward. It was about working for improvement – the work of understanding and interpreting and all that for the political change.
My first encounter with his work is many years back, reading about his ideas of state-monopolist capitalism – it was a long time before we met. And it was surely one of the works that inspired a new thinking for me: bringing economic and political thinking not only together, but doing so in the best tradition of developing a new integrated approach, understanding ‘building on tradition’ not least as the need to move on, developing things further in order to understand today’s reality and to elaborate concepts for the reality of the future – reform and revolution, it included for him also the revolution within the existing capitalist system.
At least three off his later works have to be mentioned, not least for the reason that we discussed often the related topics:
The book

And our cooperation – in detail and the presentations and debates in the large conference venue at the place du Colonel Fabien – was something that tightened a deep felt friendship.

Two volumes followed, exploring the
Théories sur les crises, la suraccumulation et la dévalorisation du capital
In this context we talked also about the various economic theories, the shift around the large waves and the different interpretation of the work of Kondratieff, also taking about the new technological challenges – danger and opportunities – and also the need to work towards an integrated approach that employed his thinking over the last years, feeding into the recent book, ambitiously analysing
Indeed, he ended this publication
with the words
Ce que je fais est follement prétentieux, et pourtant, même si on le fait mal, il faut le faire. C’est en le faisant mal qu’on le fera mieux un jour
What I do is insanely pretentious, and yet, even if you do it wrong, you have to do it. It’s by hurting him that we’ll ever do it better.
I remember the one day, already a few years ago – we walked somewhere in Paris, he passed and looked at me:
There are so many notes I made, there are so many ideas … . It is your turn soon to gather it, and to move things on.
Sunday the 26th of November his voice ceased for ever to speak, that day his ears stopped to listen – and I hope and I know there are enough who listened over the years and who will now take up what he cannot say anymore.
A tiny beginning can be already found in a small and very modest volume I edited in 2011, titled

babies and bathing water

With this reference I ended a comment on the entry of Paul’s blog, where he looks at the CORE-project.

In a nutshell: a textbook that is slightly better as others, does not make it sufficiently fit for use.

As my experience of working with the text-book shows, some more radical change is needed. And blaming a faulty economic system, narrow-minded economists and trumpy-dumy politicians should not tempt us to kill the baby …

… boxing humans …

Well, moving in the academic realm is too often about boxing humans – yes, both sides going together: putting people into boxes and brutally beating them up. The following a letter I sent to relevant newspapers as comment on what is going on, how students [and lecturers] are mal-treated, disrespectful encounters when students are following their curiosity. It makes me increasingly sad, and I feel deeply ashamed …


Dear colleagues,

adding to the various discussions on ranking and formalistic approaches to studying, admission to universities and performance of third-level teaching and research, one point is easily overlooked – the following example is perhaps extreme, though not necessarily completely exceptional.

I worked for two years as professor of economics at Bangor College China, Changsha [BCC] before taking up my current position as research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, Germany. Still, one persisting bond to the previous job is concerned with writing references for some students. Some universities where students applied, accepted only references, requiring my mail-address from the previous job – but shouldn’t universities at this time and age accept that scholars are moving, following ambitions and calls in other positions? This means: they should also accept that mail addresses change, and one may even prefer to use a non-institutional address. Anyway, I mentioned the BCC-mail address – however, sending a mail to that address is answered by an auto-reply referring the sender to another address. This is the first point where the institution that was seeking the reference – the Graduate School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong – failed. They ignored the auto-reply and I did not know about the request they sent. Finally I was made aware of it [by the bright applying student], checked the dormant mail box and continued to the website for the submission of the reference. A form opened [after going through a more or less cumbersome procedure], asking for replies to multiple choice questions. I still think students are not made up of multiple choice elements, instead: they are real beings, humans with a multifaceted personality that cannot be squeezed into such forms – even when considering data-processing as an at-times appropriate tool. So, instead of ticking the boxes I preferred skipping them, attaching a recommendation letter instead. However, the system did not allow me to submit the letter unless I would first answer the multiple-choice questions which would feed into a one-dimensional profile. I complained, sent the letter as a mail attachment – and did not receive a reply by the said office of the Hong Kong University. At some stage, I agreed – honestly disgusted by the lack of qualification and respect towards students – ticked the boxes and attached the letter [again cumbersome, as one had to enter a code which was not clearly legible, not allowing to distinguish 0 and O]. I sent another letter of complaint to the Graduate School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong – which was again answered to the BCC address, and again they failed to resend the mail to the e-mail address mentioned in the auto-reply.

If these are the standards of entering higher education, one should not be surprised that at the other end, i.e. at the time of finishing studies, many people have difficulties. They feel their creativity being limited by the requirements of publishing, acquiring funding and the competition along lines of subordination under expectations instead of striving for innovation [see Maximilain Sippenauer: Doktor Bologna; Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 20.10.2017: 11]

Still, it is a bit surprising that all this is well known and still not much is changing. Surprising … ? Perhaps it is not really surprising if we consider that the income of top-administration posts increase while the income of lecturers does not follow accordingly [see for instance the article titled: Times Higher Education pay survey 2016 in The Times Higher Education;

It seems that there is a long way towards ‘supporting the brightest by open systems’, overcoming the dominant administrative policy of ‘wedge the narrowest by furthering their smart submission’.


Peter Herrmann