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.
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 Susskindseen 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.
 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