What do we do with the revolution – and what does the revolution do to us?

Peter Herrmann / Mehmet Okyayuz[1]/[2]

What to do with the revolution – and what does the revolution do to us?

The title of the following article is an allusion to the motto of attac’s coming Summer Academy

1918 – 1968 – 2018: In Favour of Change – That happened to the Revolution?

But the article presented here is about the orientation on the Battle for the Good Life, published on 23.12.’18, authored by Ulrich Brand. In our view, Brand takes up that SOAK motto by correctly pointing out that a revolution is already under way; however, in our view it is misleading to classify the change of life-style as any kind of revolution, being driven by such changes. Such arguments in favour of an anti-imperial way of life can be seen as new-Kantian categorical imperative:

Reasonable, conscious people of all countries, unite.


Instead of taking a sound economic analysis of global neoliberalism as point of departure, and deriving from there concrete plans to fight for a “good life”, Brand focuses on attitudes and behavioural patterns, suggesting that we reach from there a point leading almost inherently to the good life.

Admittedly, the path to a good life is naturally closely bound to patterns of everyday’s behaviour. The alternatives presented in the text by Brand – and also in the book which he elaborated with Markus Wissen – lead to a diffuse and individual, negative attitude, founded in and guided by “free will”. This can probably best be described as a denial of consumption: Consequently, we should not drive any SUV, not eat too much meat, preferably not fly, or at least limit this. The list can be continued, and all these quests are surely also commendable. But didn’t Adorno state already in his Minima Moralia that there is no real life in the wrong life. It may be that this statement comes – deliberately – eye-catching. Their basic content should, however, be changed in a constructive way so that structural preconditions, potentially leading to a good/better life, are developed from an analytical perspective – and this is especially true when addressing a readership such as the TAZ-constituency: the risk that dream images will be constructed which, at best, will settle the conscience. Just as the imperial way of life has been subjectively produced, reproduced and legitimised since the beginning of the 1990s at the latest, here the antithetical counter-conception is constructed in the same way.

Analogous to Lawrence Harrison’s “liberal” approach – he argues that underdevelopment is the result of a “mindset” (see Harrison, LE, 1985: Underdevelopment is a State of Mind, Lanham: Madison Books) – we find here a modified version: the breakout from the imperial way of life or from the global underdevelopment can also be the result of an attitude of refusal.


it is not just individual actions that maintain this life that is contrary to but solidarity and sustainability. There are also powerful structures of production that produce mobile phones, cars and food in capitalist competition, generating profits and growth. 

However, such statement is “fundamentally critical” only if it linked to outspoken demands for clear regulations and distribution structures, and asks even more for clear structures of production and its organisation. For example, the requirement that cooperatives can exist has to be secured not least by tax law; recognition of what we produce has to be accompanied by looking at the various damages, however, important is that such alternative perspectives soon lose the character of good, namely when results are forced into balance sheets and new accounting techniques … – An extreme mishap occurs when we look for “pricing of everything” (George Monbiot), which then suggests so-called green growth as way out. What is proposed here is, as well, quite concrete, though laborious. Last but not least, it is also about small steps and the ‘sweeping in front of your own door’ – for example, to work for the development of the Local Public Transport Network and cycle path networks instead of embarking on the dangerous “main road”; for example, it is about denouncing the overcrowding of shop corridors in supermarkets instead of accepting being exposed to the dangers of injury. Of course, these are also truisms and will hardly be considered as a critique of Brand’s critique of the imperial way of life. However, the difference is huge – now it is time for a bit of theory, otherwise it remains really a

we-know-it “Ökoelite”, telling society how to live so that climate change and other environmental problems are overcome.

In comparison – and acknowledging the dangers of such shortcut – the following points can easily be recognised as an important approach to concrete, that is, feasible, utopias.

First, Brand starts from the criticism of lifestyle and then sees ,even powerful production structures’. In contrast, in our opinion – strongly influenced by the French Regulation School – a set of four dimensions needs to be considered: [a] the accumulation regime, in a broad way defined as definition of what has value and the appropriate structuration of value; [b] the life-regime as a framework or “set-box” within which individuals can plan their lives – very different ways but in general limited by cornerstones such as paid employment, increasingly private social security [note this oxymoron of the “privacy of the social”] and many more; [c] the mode of regulation, generally not least an ideological and formal system, which ensures the implementation of the two regimes mentioned before. And here, too, there is a counterpart, namely [d] the mode of life – this is looking at what each individual really makes of life – taking into account the small print or observing the principle that terms and conditions apply.

Given this framework, it is possible to determine more precisely where we stand – and against which we must develop systematically our strategy: it is methodological nationalism and methodological individualism – this goes further than simply nationalism and individualism, for it is about the roots of these phenomena, without which just a left critique quickly reaches the limits. With these four dimensions in mind, it is also possible to illuminate the developmental path more systematically and to look at perspectives of the “no movement further this way” – five core areas will be mentioned, also aiming of replacing the Keynes Beverdige orientation on the five major evils: greed, illness, ignorance, misery and laziness. Although many challenges still need to be addressed, the five tensions are outlined as major economic and political challenges:

  • The overproduction of goods – globally and locally – turns into a production of very concrete, tangible bads
  • Huge public and quasi-public wealth meets with extremely unequal access options for the majority
  • The wealth of knowledge is trimmed by an orientation on skills
  • The individualisation of problems itself causes social problems
  • The complexity of governmental processes leads to the inability to govern, which in Germany is partly criticized as “Merkelogy” – the attempt of doing everything right by avoiding clear decisions.[3]

Admittedly a bit snappy, a remark remains to be added: even the discussion about the anti-imperial way of life, as brought forward by Brand, has something of that oxymoron of the privacy of the social – and unfortunately that is different and perhaps even contrary to the slogan that the private is political.

Sure, communism “is the simple thing that is so difficult to do” – this is how Brecht formulated, writing the role for Palagea Vlasova, The Mother. And so it is with every kind of better life. Anyway, we think more appropriate than those Christmas- and New Year wishes put forward in the article we refer to, are the following ideas and demands:

  • Conscious life – as a recognition and evaluation of successes already achieved instead of continued recalculations of what we know at least in principle [19.7% poverty and exclusion in Germany[4] are too much – but already 15% and even 10% were already too much.
  • As part of this: emphasis of existing opportunities emerging from the public use of public goods – e.g. more data access and control for everybody, considering them as public goods, instead of excessive protection of artificially defined privacy.
  • Lived equality and openness instead of closing “communities” in order to maintain consensus of the various kind – something that concerns gated communities in urban settlements as well various “critical” groups that are sealing themselves of against critical debates
  • Which translates in the need for an open and honest disputes and conflict culture against forced “burden of consensus”, aiming on a pseudo-peace culture.

Sure, it is not be meant this way – yet the fight for the good life nearly pushes its advocates to see Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Cronies as allies. They already live in such a rational world of sharing and doing good, of course far from a rights-based approach and far from the idea of producing something different and producing in different ways. They fear redistribution probably less than establishing rights-based systems that would block the possibilities of initial exploitation – that mode of accumulation, which easily determines the last fibres our way of life. It is precisely this notion that makes also Brands wish-list not much more than well-meant, and certainly not worthless, individualistic efforts. The testimony of such “revolution” will then be that it had been tried hard to reach the goal – everybody who knows about the rules of phrasing such documents knows what is actually means: trying to achieve a goal does not mean actually doing so.

[1] Social philosopher; UEF, Finland ; Corvinus University of Hungary; EURISPES, Italy; currently Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy [Social Law], Munich

[2] Social scientist; Middle East Technical University, Ankara

[3] These five tensions are first addressed in Herrmann, Peter, 2016: From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn – or: How many gigabytes has a horse ?; Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en la relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raúl Roas García), Havana [ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301815015_From_5_giant_evils_to_5_giant_tensions_-_the_current_crisis_of_capitalism_as_seedbed_for_its_overturn_-_or_How_Many_Gigabyte_has_a_Horse ] ; Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda; Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of the Trans-Pacific Section [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303549291_Growth_and_Development_-_Complement_or_Contradiction_Challenges_for_a_Global_Agenda]

[4] https://de.statista.com/themen/120/armut-in-deutschland/; 31/12/17


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

The need to search for what we cannot know

Wittgenstein once wrote:

For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well.

We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say either.[1]


And later he concludes his tractatus with the words

6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world alright.

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.[2]

And Bertrand Russell summarises in his Introduction that

What we cannot think we cannot think, therefore we also cannot say what we cannot think.[3]

This may leave us in a state of paralysis when it comes to the need of change; but it may also lead us to use the mistakes we make as some form of beauty: as challenge and opportunity to work on unknown paths – not simply as path we did not know before but going beyond this, at path we did not even imagine that they would exist. Paradoxically it means to start from what is really given, unveiled from abstract thoughts and political-economic frameworks, starting from real reality as fundamental truth, and develop things from there.

Talking about economics, as we did end of September in Athens on occasion of the annual Euromemo-conference, we may see this as special challenge to move further with what is today called heterodox economics. Some reflections, trying to radicalise approaches, made at the end of the conference can be found here.


[1]            Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: 68

[2]            ibid.: 89

[3]            Russell, Bertrand, 1922: Introduction; in: Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: XX

Digitalwirtschaft … Flexi oder was?

unter dem Titel
ist nun ein kurzer Artikel in der Freiheitsliebe  erschienen.


Plattformökonomie ist einer der Begriffe, unter denen neue Wirtschaftsentwicklungen gefasst werden. Schon in diesem kurzen Satz, der vagen Formulierung, wird deutlich, dass es bei diesem und ähnlichen Begriffen wie Digitalisierung, gig-Ökonomie, Robotisierung um ein Feld handelt, dass einerseits durch viele Facetten mit ganz spezifischen Detailaspekten gekennzeichnet ist, aber andererseits Teil eines komplexen Feldes von Änderungen ist, die das Wirtschaften und die Vergesellschaftung betreffen.
Das wird dann auch Thema des nächsten Projektes sein, welches mich dann ein Jahr lang am Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik
beschäftigen wird.
Siehe auch hier.


Uploaded also this text now, dealing with the Vatican Spring on ‘my’ researchgate-site – kind of old stuff, though still of interest I suppose, reflecting on the limits of a ‘new catholicism’. As such it is also relevant as reflection of the limited meaning of religious ‘revolutionary claims’.


revista interdisciplinar revistaentelequia.wordpress.com

Peter Herrmann *



Tanto en los discursos de —o acerca de— la economía como en los discursos de —y acerca de— la ética se puede observar una evidente abstinencia mutual, y esto independientemente de la orientación política. Y si un lado reconoce la existencia del otro, suele ser más para identificarlo como su antagonista. Este prefacio, que se centra en la pregunta de si un ‘nuevo fantasma recorre el mundo’ desde la elección de Jorge Mario Bergoglio como máximo Pontífice —el espectro de una orientación católica fundamentalmente renovada— se propone discutir ese ‘despertar’ sugerido por muchos comentaristas desde una perspectiva más amplia. Al adoptar un punto de vista más amplio, llegamos a la conclusión de que existe una cierta necesidad de increpar al individualismo y al economismo desde una perspectiva ética, pero que esos reproches quedan muy cuestionables mientras no analicen y critiquen los fundamentos estructurales de tales ‘aberraciones’. Y concluye que seguramente existe la necesidad y el espacio para un ‘renacimiento de la ética’, pero que esto sólo se puede alcanzar por medio de la intervención colectiva y de procedimientos legislativos, no por la dicha de la oración. Si el cambio pretende ser sostenible, deberá de ser drástico, mucho más que ligeros rasguños en la superficie; y si el cambio pretende ser justo, deberá de ser estructural en lugar de moral.

Palabras clave: Iglesia Católica, ética, economía, reforma, sociedad.

forward, right- or upwards or where should we go?

Yesterday we stood a step back from the abyss … – today we are looking for The progressive way, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the EU.

It is frightening that the linked article, explicitly claiming a social democratic orientation, is even opened by a photo, making direct reference to the pattern that has in the meantime even a name: Trumpism or Trumponomics.
Is this really the way to go?
All this, including the address with which the pope addressed yesterday the heads of state of a somewhat crumbling EU-member states, comes just in time while I am preparing both, the teaching of an intensive course on European Integration at the University of Vienna, department of political science end of the coming month, and a debate at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foudation to which I want to contribute later this year.
There are some short reflections and questions that come to my mind.
  • Why can’t we move back, taking up on the traditions?
  • But do we really have to move forward instead, forgetting about the old wisdom that characterises linearity in economic thinking
  • There is more to be done, and in particular there is still some serious thinking to be done, resisting a subjectivist and voluntarist turn – be it to the right or also left populism, the one aiming on making nations great again, the other on making the EU great again.
  • And it is surely also about the rejection of platitudes, equalising right and left populism in a way in which earlier in history the thesis of totalitarism was put forward – there is surely left populism though it is surely an issue that needs some reflection – interesting is at least when ISI [import substitution industrialisation] is rejected while such sides rarely question the manifold ways of subsidies and new indirect protectionism of multi-speed policies. And equally interesting that such proposal of an entrepreneurial state is indeed something that made an earlier proponent, namely J. A. Schumpeter and his opus magnum highly contestable.
My tiny and humble contribution, planned to make the next 60 years something of which the positive results, which surely had been made already, are more then appreciated side effects of a structurally defunct model are outlined in the following:
Some of this employs my thinking in the realm of economics, under the title
– in close cooperation with Vyacheslav Bobkov from the Plekanov University in Moscow, currently as well with the College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou and it is also playing a role in some preparation of this years G20, I have to do.
Another strand is employing me already now, and especially from September onwards, when taking up work at the Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik/Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy under the title
Still, at the moment it is about teaching students economics – and a decisive challenge remains to resist the number-crunching mind snatchers in a tiny village at the coastline of Wales, even unable to communicate, but trying to creep into the CORE.
see also here for some small but important action