What is the Value of things

Peter Herrmann, currently guest researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy/Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik [section social law], Munich, Germany, will present later today his thoughts on
Value Theory –, asking if there is still any value in it?/Is it still worthwhile to talk about it?
to the conference


The theory of value is probably the most contested feature of Marx’ political economy. The reasons for this are the following two

* It stands at the centre of making out the political of political economy
* It is cross cutting with respect to the micro- and macro-level and especially the ‘personal/individual’ and the ‘societal/institutional’ aspects of economic thinking.
Today the questionable character comes even more to the fore as we witness an apparently fundamental change of the mode of production.
Notwithstanding the critique then and now, there are good reasons to emphasise the usefulness of the theory of value. These will be taken up by exploring explicitly the tensions mentioned, and discussing them against the background of the contemporary shift within the capitalist mode of production.
Marxism, in this light, is especially instrumental for the analysis of globalisation as it allows a clearer understanding not least of the emergence of poverty chains and the role of the capitalist state as institution that maintains centre-periphery patterns of inequality within the productive sphere. Furthermore, we can find from here at least clues for answers Marxism has when it comes to fighting for societal change.

One Belt – One Road – One World – Digitisation of Life as Chinese Lifestyle?

It is never an easy thing: dedication of some work – doesn’t it propose also agreement?
I do not know if and in which way Elmar would have agreed with what I presented – yesterday he passed away and we, critical thinkers with a genuine interest in progressive scientific work – progressive by way of contributing to progress of societal development so we will never know exactly. One thing we do know – the obituary of the scientific committee of attac [German] clearly states it:


It talks about him as an

Inspiring critique of the capitalist economy

This he truly was – as such he encourages me to dedicate the presentation to him: as quest to me and to the students to take up this challenge of critical thinking.

The abstract of the presentation which is recorded here
may give some insight into what you can expect from the lecture — and hopefully you still will be surprised and inspired.
Living in China means as well getting used to a highly advanced level of internet-penetration in large parts of daily life. Often this is perceived as contradicting prevailing traditional ‘life styles’ and attitudes. At first glance this has not much to do with the future of social policy, or does it? – Social policy faces the difficult task of bringing an institutional system and ‘life worlds’ together. With globalisation and digitisation there is an additional challenge: the reference to the nation state and standard forms of labour are increasingly loosing or changing their role, or at least changing it. Is there any common ground for small island nations like Ireland and unimaginable countries like China?

Wisdom versus educating for “bubble-existence”

Again it is the one painting in the Lehnbachhaus that catches some special attention, fascination and wondering …

It simply says Children on the Balcony (by Albert Burkart) though our question is if these are children or – if it is about maturing, being able to look over the fence, preparing for the stage where the fence does not exist anymore … –

Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

I nod

Yes, you are right

– and I ask

Do we need the birds-eye, the ease of the flight to reach such independence – an independence that only exists through the complete sintesi – a state of conflation and consolidation?

Marc was not able to see that this flight would bring him only to death – he may have thought of a peaceful merger, the merge towards peace, the two pieces fighting with each other for a while …

Colours as deceiving interims, though appropriating after some time the essence, ignorant when it comes to the need to communicate, to apply different, i.e. substantial criteria.

From where can we take them? Now I am the one to quote Schiller – again from the Letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man

The greater part of men are much too exhausted and enervated by their struggle with want to be able to engage in a new and severe contest with error. Satisfied if they themselves can escape from the hard labour of thought, they willingly abandon to others the guardianship of their thoughts.

And I add: the greater part is not able any more to dance, at least to dance the dance of the sintesi.


On the way back, passing the King’s Square, the former headquarter of the Fascist murderers that accommodates today a school for music and theatre (“Hochschule für Musik und Theater München”) we arrive at the back of the Old Pinakothek – today the place for free play, the place for free play today … – The freedom, registered as association according German law, once per year, between 14:00 and 18:00 hrs – the lawn is nicely cut, fresh .., one can still smell what The Grim, the man with the scythe revealed, a sweet odour of decay …

Additional opportunities can be booked as special service package – later such packages turn to boxes, but that is for students already …

… indeed, there’s nothing like starting young …

The way to reach free play, the state of free of play, constraint by bubbles

And true too:

… indeed, there’s nothing like starting young to reach wisdom ….

Age .. here it has to accept the responsibility – accepting what we may call Schiller’s paradox

It would be necessary that they should be already sages to love wisdom: a truth that was felt at once by him to whom philosophy owes its name.

Shall we … – the sun is too tempting … – we sit down … with the ease of true playfulness.

hope — even for those …?

Crosses ordered onto walls of all Bavarian government buildings

It requires a lot of …, well, hard to say: nativity, stupidity, short-sightedness, self-overestimation … or lack of confidence that makes it necessary for politicians to hide behind ‘public acts’ that may have only one purpose: personal profiling in the sense of putting oneself on stage, perform as hero without becoming aware that they change the stage to a place for dangerous tragicomedies, to a place where clowns and comedians make policy in the name of five stars, one cross and an abyss that is guiding their thinking …

Their problem — but also that of each of us, requiring to condemn … also our own faults ….

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Of course, that, in the case in question, i.e. Mr. Soeder,  cannot mean to withdraw from critique – it is about dialectics I guess: accepting the message quoted from John 8.3-11, without following what is stated in Luca 23,34:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Where is the border between forgiving and civil courage? Surely not in retreating into the individuals’ realms …

Principiis obsta – Finem respice
‘Resist the beginnings’ – ‘consider the end

How many roads must a man have walked down

A visit of Peter Herrmann, currently guest researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy/Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik [section social law], Munich, Germany, will be giving the coming first week of Mai two lectures in Maynooth, Ireland, at the Maynooth University’s Department of Chinese, directed by Dr. Lu Zhouxiang.
The first lecture deals with
One Belt – One Road [OBOR] – One World – From Economy of Comparative Advantage to Socio-Politics of Cooperative Progressing.
The second is looking at
One Belt – One Road – One World – Digitisation of Life as Chinese Lifestyle
These lecturers, made possible in particular by the engagement of Dr. Lu Zhouxiang. Herrmann, who is himself visiting scholar at the Department in Maynooth, will contribute from his experience of having lectured and researched for some time  in China – Bangor College of Central South University of Forestry & Technology, ChangSha, and Zhejiang University, School of Public Affairs, Dept. of Social Security and Risk Management, HangZhou, PRC. This will establish links to theoretical debates and establish as well reflections from the global experience Herrmann gained over the years.

time … appreciation …. value of values

… or
How academia today undermines knowledge and beauty.
“In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly. You don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time – something, unfortunately, which the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget. He was in Pavia. He had joined his family having abandoned his studies in Germany, unable to endure the rigours of his high school there. It was the beginning of the twentieth century, and in Italy the beginning of its industrial revolution. His father, an engineer, was installing the first electrical power plants in the Paduan plains. Albert was reading Kant and attending occasional lectures at the University of Pavia: for pleasure, without being registered there or having to think about exams. It is thus that serious scientists are made.”
“Finally, in November 1915, he committed to print an article giving the complete solution: a new theory of gravity, which he called ‘The General Theory of Relativity’, his masterpiece and the ‘most beautiful of theories’, according to the great Russian physicist Lev Landau.
There are absolute masterpieces which move us intensely: Mozart’s Requiem; Homer’s Odyssey; the Sistine Chapel; King Lear. To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty – and not only this, but the opening of our eyes to a new perspective upon the world. Einstein’s jewel, the general theory of relativity, is a masterpiece of this order.”
From Carlo Rovelli. “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” – with regards to those who have a huge share of responsibility for irresponsibility

the market and … power versus respect and dignity

Musings from earlier this year – and in a way probably a foretaste of the future. From a mail I sent to a former student [well, I say former while my Chinese students don’t stop seeing me as their 老师:

Thanks for the mail, 刘嘉颖,
yesterday I submitted the reference. I think there is a general problem with these submissions, only very few universities showing respect. It is all set up to suit the universities, not the applicants. If they send a mail to he BU-mail they get an auto reply, asking them to resend the mail the esosc-mail which they do not do. I perceive this as disrespecting your interest of taking really care of your application. There are other things: the mail was marked as SPAM because an oeverload of graphs, depersonalisation of addressing the message, silly questionnaires and forms which, if submitted by a student as ’sample for how to design a questionnaire’, would result in ‘failed’ … – Well, all this is a simple economic issue

Image ref: Alex Slobodkin Getty Images/iStockphoto; from: http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/behind-the-rise-of-indian-students-at-top-u-s-universities/

* if accepted you will pay fees

* if you do not succeed for instance because a reference is missing they still have enough ‘paying customers’ = students who play fees

* they ask academics to help THEM, the university, with the assessment, and we do it for free – it seems as we would do it for you, the student – and in some way it is true; but economically we work free for those universities – imagine one alternative: they would employ external assessors? Would they work for free?

May be even they would – there are ways to make such jobs ‘attractive’ – one could beat them with a note in the CV: External Assessor of …university.

That these procedures of universities upset me more then it probably should has exactly this reason: universities of this kind, money making machines that live on the back of others, without respecting even basic rules of market relations are just one example of an endless number of today’s mal-practice businesses, though they babble about dignity, social responsibility etc. It is the same irresponsible behavior as the behaviour of an airline that ‘allows’ people with a licence as pilot to join as co-pilot, without paying them – as those pilots do not have any proper alternative, they accept it because they need a certain number of hours per year to maintain the license. Many other things could and should be mentioned, in academia the tenured positions are becoming further reduced, people like myself working on ‘occassional jobs’, doing so without social insurance etc.. And it also undermines the ability and capacity of universities to offer proper education as in some universities even for teaching obligatory courses there are only ‘casual lecturers employed. [I am not sure anymore, I think at the university of Vienna ca 40 percent of teaching staff is not-permanent]  – You may see many issues I was talking about in the economics classes: about the invalidity of the law of supply and demand, the laws of the market being laws of power and not of free choice, contracts not realy about what they formally suggest to be, and also the externalisation of cost and even the production functions, here in terms of a change of the function due to the wrong basis for the calculation: part of the work is not included into the calculation. And it goes on as at the end it is of utmost relevance on the micro- and the macro level. Just think briefly about issues of taxation. …

So, end of the lecture 😉 ….

 And possibly the end of a string of posts on this topic, which could be drawn together under the heading
 Not sure, if this is the complete list of related posts, at least some:
 It remains to be added that some universities that I contacted directly with complains, came back to me, asking for apologies, and exact information to consider changes of the procedures, also opening them for a more personal way of assessment. Though all this is often and seems to be a waste of energy … – perhaps it worth to move on, of course in the best case it is not just a matter of private initiative but a collective move and protest against the fall of higher education.