Ranking, awarding …

…reviewed from a very different corner

A spectre is haunting academia: the specter of competition – having politicians, who want to instrumentalise science, as their mouthpiece – for instance recently the Hungarian government came up with a strangulating funding scheme

and surely many other countries may be added.

Another instrument of the specter is the use of various schemes of ranking, awarding and the like …There are different dimensions of policies that are tightly strangulating what may be called “freedom of academia”

(may be called so, as this terminology had been abused by conservative and reactionary politicians in Germany against the student movement end of the 1960s (see Hans-Abrecht Koch: Professorale Selbstbehauptung in turbulenter Zeit; see also 
Review of Nikolai Wehrs, Protest der Professoren. Der «Bund Freiheit der Wissenschaft» in den 1970er Jahren
Alessandro Stoppoloni (in Italian); also: 
Martina Steber: Die Hüter der Begriffe. Politische Sprachen des Konservativen in Großbritannien und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1945-1980 – available via liegen.io)

One aspect came to my mind when reading an article titled
CAN AN ALGORITHM WRITE A BETTER NEWS STORY THAN A HUMAN REPORTER?, written by Steven Levy. Two passages caught my special attention: 

Hammond was recently asked for his reaction to a prediction that a computer would win a Pulitzer Prize within 20 years. He disagreed. It would happen, he said, in five.

The other passage:

Last year at a small conference of journalists and technologists, I asked Hammond [Narrative Science’s CTO and cofounder, Kristian Hammond] to predict what percentage of news would be written by computers in 15 years. At first he tried to duck the question, but with some prodding he sighed and gave in: “More than 90 percent.

What actually is frightening of the following little story? Sure, for many the outlook of loosing their employment but we may consider that today’s standards – such as the Pulitzer Prize and many others – aren’t as noble as so many ranking-fed moneybags propose. Again, many things to be said and discussed, though for the moment only one, quoting Felix Stalder:

“iUsers are only able to evaluate search results pragmatically; that is, in light of whether or not they are helpful in solving a concrete problem. In this regard, it is not paramount that they find the best solution or the correct answer but rather one that is available and sufficient.”

Estratto di: Stalder, Felix. “The Digital Condition.” Polity Press, 2018

Indeed, everybody gets the Prize he or she deserves – it also means that at some stage the winning material will be self-assessed by an algorithm (a step further than the currently already ‘automated review’) by – finally that would be the ‘peer’ for the review. Anything new? May be, but may be not so much. Rancière, writing about post-democracy, states that it

is the government practice and conceptual legitimization of a democracy after the demos, a democracy that has eliminated the appearance, miscount and dispute of the people.

Just in time – and one could say: time does actually not matter. One of “my” universities sent a newsletter today – via e-mail, may be that this is the reason for calling it ‘connection’. It is arriving from one of the Chinese universities I worked at, ne of the headlines reading (in the section Education)

Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative kicks off at … with Michael Young

right away followed by an article titled

… establishes International Business School

Now I dare to wonder to which extent revolutions, also and perhaps especially in science are initiated by a spark, a genius – often not (easily) understood, daring to make a step further – nit fearing being possibly wrong … – of course, this is a slippery field. We in China and we protestants in Europe know, for different reasons:
it is all about working hard
– in the east to serve society, in the west to build a house, plant a tree and have a sun (so the sayings go, standards set for male). And it is – nolens volens – working in society, being, existing , living in society and (as Marx stated) even individualising in society. And still there is this moment of genius – not only needed to be awarded any of these high ranking symbols but being awarded by some form and degree of independence. One does not have to agree with Kant in all the facets, one can laugh about his habits – but one has to accept the challenge he out in front of each of us: consciously living, accepting responsibility, only with this being able to go beyond the Kantian individualism, and doing what we do: making our own history, even if we have to accept that we do not do it entirely according to our own ‘simple individual will’.

Such awards make only sense if this is acknowledged and academic work does not degenerate to mere International Business …

The latter is exactly what we see with the entire reviewing, and new attitudes to awarding – at least as danger of the massification of ranked publishing: mass, numbers, formal perfection counts – quality control as engaged dispute amongst peers is replaced by checking the reflection of formal coherence – relativity in terms of E = M2cannot be seen, and Schroedinger’s cat will be known as dead or alive, no option for the beast to be … really Schroedinger’s cat.

Another issue with reviews – algorithmised or not, or another expression: Finally any reviewer – human or not – can only review what is familiar.

The divine day in-day out

Or it is about resistance

and getting engaged in debates …we, each of us, has to decide


Plans – struggling ….

The plan for the weekend is concluding the final touch – the topic a huge one – and the aim to put struggle on the human rights agenda, understanding these rights not as matter of achieving global harmony but als permanent contest about self-determination in a world without borders – obviously an oxymoron.

The subtitle of the present intro, well, actually the title of the book will be

The Right to Stay – the Right to Move

Aren’t we living in a world of abundance?


The present two contributions emerged in rather different contexts than being immediately concerned with what the title suggests: first, the topic employs my thinking for several years – background had been discussions with a former student, Lucey O’Leary, a while back, when I had been teaching in Ireland. She did have a degree in law and discussions emerged from my teaching: social policy, which in my understanding included political economy and also law (social law, philosophy and sociology of law). My background in Political Economy is that of Marx(ism), that of law the learning experience and work at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law/Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich. Over the years, it never worked out to elaborate the reflections which had been nevertheless engaging my mind, guided by the idea of the need of a ‘fourth generation of human rights’.

These considetations moved back towards the top of the agenda while working more recently on economic issues: digitisation and the subsequent hollowing out of social protection systems, but more importantly the far-reaching, though often not sufficiently reflected changes of the mode of production.[1] Leaving the many aspects aside (technology and economics, composition of capital, investment of otherwise overaccumulated capital, shift of and between sectors to name but a few – and considering also that some of the legal issues are very ‘simple’, i.e. issues of blocking social-protection-flight as subspecies of capital flight, applying labour (protection), employment law and (re-)establishing collective bargaining (law) or even more ordinary the criminal offenses of bullying and (sexual) harassment, there are others that require revisiting fudamental issues of law and even further issues around the meaning of justice in a world that is at the very same time shaped by two tensions that are increasingly meaningful and also increasingly interwoven:

  • it is the tension between globalisation, accompanied by standardisation on the one hand and processes of diversification on the other hand.
  • the other trend is about the possibilities of overcoming poverty;[2]but this is just one side of the coin, the other being about an increasing impoverishment, the quasi-destitution of the middle-classes, the shift of impoverishment to the countries that are still the countries of the north and not least the re-establishment of the concurrency of public poverty and private wealth 

Against this background, quesitons of human rights, universality and not least the meaning of socio-economic developments gain new importance, not least demanding overcoming even the standard criteria, or we may also say the standards of criteria. If the present volume had been successful in pursuing this goal is, remains to be decided by the reader.

For me as author remains to thank too many people to list them by their names. There are the many discussants; and there are – two exceptions may be allowed to be personally mentioned: Dorota Borkowska from the Faculty of Economics and Sociology at the University of Łódź, looking after the many students who come every year, diving into what is even today an adventure: studying in a foreign country; and still finding time to support me. The second is Peter Kube, yes, a priest, aus Halle – still, appreciated as discussant and friend to laugh with. Talking with and to him means so much about listening to oneself and I can only hope that it does not mean that he has to go one day a similar way as a person from whom he apparently learned – that person was finally condemned to drinking the hemlock, then price for saying the truth.

Not least, I am grateful for the generous support by The EKSOC Visiting Fellowship Programme at the University of Łódź, Poland (2018/2019) and the preceeding support by the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, Germany (2017/2018).

[1]     I see thisas core of the entire process while I am admittedly still not entirely sure about the range and wider meaning – the standard answers: (i) nothing really changed, (ii) we witness fundamental changes but they are limited to niches, possibly only temporary outlayers and finally (iii) we are already at the doorsteps of a new mode of production are not really satisfying.

[2]     Evidence may be taken from the success in combatting poverty in China, and also the increasing number of people from the so-called emerging economies joining e.g. the club of the superrich (e.g. Mc Carthy, Niall, 9/2018: Where Super Rich Populations Are Growing Fastest [Infographic])


wishes at the end and beginning of the semester II

http://www.mrichatham.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/knowledge-vs-experience. jpg

May we learn how to deconstruct the industrial norms, so that experience, appropriation and appropriateness guide us through the days and life.


wishes at the end of the one and beginning of another semester I

May we gain the strength, to acknowledge the limits of our wisdom and judgement without accepting the consequences arising from there – this, instead of being tempted to think we know everything, and even worse, knowing everything better than those who are directly concerned. 

senza via d’uscita

la speranza è l’ultima a morire

hope is the last to die 

l’espoir est le dernier à mourir. 

die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt

a rather simple formula, logics for beginners




But seen in this light …, does it mean those who lost hope are already dead? Guess it really does make life much easier then …

Uncertainty as the highest state of insecurity

The following gives an outlook on a new publication, contributing to the work at the HIGHER SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SCHOOL IN GDAŃSK (WSSE) on Security issues in education and management, selected aspects of social security

Discussing increasing populism and right-wing political movements and social law together is commonly – and without any doubt importantly – dealing with issues of social legislation, employability and emphasising the importance of ‘honesty and reliability’ from the political side. And while globalisation is not condemned, it is at least in tendency suggested to be a centre piece of the present quarrels; migration, low-wage policies, capital-flight and tax competition are then highlighted as major issues. The present contribution aims on taking a wider approach, arguing that one of the major problems is the aggravation of a secular process that may be called – alluding to Karl Polanyi’s work – disembedding of law.

The Price to be paid

Much has been said about the price to be paid for success … and often the German’s are praised: zeal, diligence …, though Protestantism was and is not necessarily dominant amongst the Germans, this tribe is often presented as incarnation of the protestant work ethics (as Max Weber analysed it). Topics for many discussions; many topics for discussion.

One aspect, often forgotten, had been mentioned by Immanuel Kant, though emerging from a possibly unexpected, even unrecognised context (English below):   

Die vorzügliche Achtungsbezeigung in Worten und Manieren selbst gegen einen nicht Gebietenden in der bürgerlichen Verfassung – die Reverenzen, Verbeugungen (Complimente), höfische – den Unterschied der Stände mit sorgfältiger Pünktlichkeit bezeichnende Phrasen, – welche von der Höflichkeit (die auch sich gleich Achtenden nothwendig ist) ganz unterschieden sind – das Du, Er, Ihr und Sie, oder Ew. Wohledlen, Hochedeln, Hochedelgebornen, Wohlgebornen ( ohe, iam satis est !) in der Anrede als in der Pedanterei die Deutschen unter allen Völkern der Erde (die indische Kasten vielleicht ausgenommen) es am weitesten gebracht haben, sind das nicht Beweise eines ausgebreiteten Hanges zur Kriecherei unter Menschen? ( Hae nugae in seria ducunt. ) Wer sich aber zum Wurm macht, kann nachher nicht klagen, daß er mit Füßen getreten wird.[1]

Preferential tributes of respect in words and manners even to those who have no civil authority – reverences, obeisance’s (compliments) and courtly phrases marking with the utmost precision every distinction in rank, is something altogether different from courtesy (which is necessary even for those who respect each other equally) – the Du, Er, Ihr and Sie, or Ew. Wohledeln, Hochedeln, Hochedelgeborenen, Wohlgeborenen (ohe, iam satis est!) as forms of address, a pedantry in which the Germans seem to outdo any other people in the world (except possibly the Indian castes): Does not all this prove that there is a widespread propensity to servility in men? (Hae nugae in seria ducunt) But one who makes himself a worm cannot complain afterwards if people step on him.[2]

Worthwhile to think about it, not least as it reminds a bit of Mills, thinking about the dissatisfied human and the satisfied pig.

It may be worth to mention that, looking for the text on the internet, usually quotations omit the last sentence, thus, I would say, omitting the price to be paid for such success.

[1]    (Kant, Immanuel, 1793: Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft. Die Metaphysik der Sitten; 437)

[2]    (Kant, Immanuel, 1793: The Metaphysics of Morals; Introduction, translation, and notes by Mary Gregor; New York et altera: Cambridge Univesity Press, 1991: 232)