Karl Marx on Margaret Thatcher?

Well, it is of course not so, but reading The Capital again, I got stuck when I came to the footnote 2 on page 605:[1]

Bentham is a purely English phenomenon. Not even excepting our philosopher, Christian Wolff, in no time and in no country has the most homespun commonplace ever strutted about in so self-satisfied a way. The principle of utility was no discovery of Bentham. He simply reproduced in his dull way what Helvétius and other Frenchmen had said with esprit in the 18th century. To know what is useful for a dog, one must study dog-nature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he that would criticise all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. Bentham makes short work of it. With the driest naïveté he takes the modern shopkeeper, especially the English shop- keeper, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer normal man, and to his world, is absolutely useful. This yard-measure, then, he applies to past, present, and future. The Christian religion, e. g., is “useful”, “because it forbids in the name of religion the same faults that the penal code condemns in the name of the law”. Artistic criticism is “harmful”, because it disturbs worthy people in their enjoyment of Martin Tupper, etc. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, “nulla dies sine linea”, piled up mountains of books. Had I the courage of my friend, Heinrich Heine, I should call Mr. Jeremy a genius in the way of bourgeois stupidity.

The difference between Bentham and Thatcher was that she did not pile up mountains of books but made, by applying the same way of thinking, a country relatively rich, its people relatively poor and the thinking absolutely un-societalist = lacking any consideration of solidarity. Indeed,

there is no such thing as society

– after the country had been reduced on individuals and at most family and neighbourhood, the plan is now Europeanised: BREXIT was and is an expression of exactly the same thought.

[1]            Marx & Engels. Collected Works. Volume 35; Lawrence & Wishart, electronic books; 2010

Annunci

Reviving Schaeuble’s Augean Stables?

The other day, I was writing in a mail to colleague, saying I would soon send some comments on what had been suggested to be

the great vision on E future ! A very stimulating
document !

the White Paper on the future of Europe announced here, actually not agreeing with such an assessment. In that mail I stated as well:
We have had last weekend the annual meeting of the European academy – by accident I could take part. Surely many good “large visions”, but again some lack of realism – you may have read the Europe-book I published several years ago – it was not about providing a vision, but at least I guess some of the obstacles that remain in place and play a fundamental, i.e. structural role.
And indeed it is a challenge to present “the large vision”, and be nevertheless concrete and also vice versa, to ending in some trap of policy making technology.
And just when I revisited Juncker’s meagre ‘vision’, I received a mail, with the link to Paul Mason’s article. Though I may agree in both cases with many details, I do not agree with the point of departure also of the “6th vision”, i.e. Paul’s proposal (https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/03/option-six-a-europe-of-democracy-and-social-justice/), suggesting

What follows, the Option Six Proposal, is a genuine attempt to preserve the EU and the Eurozone as global institutions.

Why is such attempt worthwhile? Isn’t any analysis challenged first and foremost to state that any of these goals is first and foremost asked to define and clearly answer cui bono, not least in terms of what is the overall and genuine “benefit”, the common wheal, the additional value … . in the present formulation it sounds very much like “we have to have it because …. we have to have it was everything else did not work and seems not to work …, and paradoxically: we always have had it, more or less as matter of Rostow in Brussels  (to allude to Arrighi’s “Smith in Beijing”).

In this way, the Juncker proposal is very much abut accepting “the end of history”, making a few more or less technical proposals to manage this end.

BUT:
  • It is about the economic “model”
  • not the economic reality which is characterised by being able to utilise indeed exceptional conditions to establish – name it as you like: a strong city or a tentatively emerging world empire
  • So far, in other words, the “success” was by and large established as systematically driven by exception, (at most) only little by a a stabled, lasting, and sustainable normality (including norm)
  • This supposed strength is defined as matter of emerging from defining itself against others, not by taking a suggested genuine “own stronghold” as point of reference
  • and in reality it is just contrary to what is stated as needed for the future: “they deliberately make no mention of legal or institutional processes – the form will follow the function.” (page 15)
  • That suggests to change – but does not really reflect from the outset why this is/was so far exactly the instituionalist perspective, determining even most of the (affirmative and critical) theoretical reflection, few exceptions granted (as of course most the SQ work, humbly my own work etc., but missing here are many approaches that would claim to be fundamentally critical …)

State of the Union Address 2016: Towards a better Europe – a Europe that protects, empowers and defends

is little convincing, suggesting that

The next twelve months are the crucial time to deliver a better Europe: 

a Europe that protects;

a Europe that preserves the European way of life;

a Europe that empowers our citizens,

a Europe that defends at home and abroad; and

a Europe that takes responsibility.

A very benevolent reading suggesting at most the vision of an institutionalist setting FOR the citizens, but not of Europe and by Europeans.
And speaking there also about
A EUROPE THAT PRESERVES OUR WAY OF LIFE
overlooks that this way of life is characterised more and more and systematically by tensions, exclusion, and a process of peripheralisation of many, allowing a Mr Schaeuble (referring now to the metaphors of those disrespect they use) to act as if he would be herdsman of PIIGS, forgetting that HE and the likes are those who behaved like King Augeas – mind what the story says:
Now King Augeas owned more cattle than anyone in Greece. Some say that he was a son of one of the great gods, and others that he was a son of a mortal; whosever son he was, Augeas was very rich, and he had many herds of cows, bulls, goats, sheep and horses.
And
Every night the cowherds, goatherds and shepherds drove the thousands of animals to the stables.
It is not very likely from this that the King was hard working – not to obtain the large numbers and not by looking after the animals…
I guess, more has to be done than waiting for better administrators.

yesteryears remarks on yesterdays results?

Looking at the results of the resent votes – e.g. BREXIT, TRUMP(uns)IN(n), HOLLANDENIXIS, REXIT, – the following may come to mind:

For assessing political events, the following rule may be applied that a large plan can be made out behind everything what appears  to be innocuous whereas everything that seems to be based in a plan usually does not have any setting that is any more than pure thoughtlessness
(Franz Grillparzer, österreichischer Schriftsteller [1791-1872])
Bei Beurteilung der politischen Ereignisse kann als Regel dienen, dass hinter allem, was den Anschein des Unverfänglichen hat, ein geheimer Plan steckt, wogegen das, was planmäßig zu sein scheint, gewöhnlich keinen Hintergrund hat, als die vollkommenste Gedankenlosigkeit.
(Franz Grillparzer, österreichischer Schriftsteller [1791-1872])
Still, the good thing is that  Austria does not send a new Messiah, though results being tight enough …

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Thanks Conny!!

SOLIDAR Weekly Round Up 15-07-2016

Editorial by Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

15 July 2016

Yesterday, 14th July, Bastille Day commemorates the French Revolution. Its three principles engraved on every town hall and every public school in France have again been under attack, this time in Nice. What more symbolic day! France is mourning yet again and we express again our solidarity reaffirming that the defense of democracy, of freedom, equality and solidarity, the call for social progress remains the core of our commitment, our compass!

After the Brexit vote, these principles should more than ever lead a value-based debate on European policy.

Liberté is not only a principle of rights, it also means being free from poverty and exclusion. The 125 million people in Europe who live in, or under the threat of, poverty do not have Liberté. How can we get them out of poverty? How can we get the less qualified back into the labour market and into decent work? The EU had – once upon a time – a social agenda, a Lisbon strategy and later it had a Europe2020 strategy. Unfortunately, instead of taking the lead and using the mid-term review of Europe2020 as a basis for action, the Juncker Commission is instead continuing the European semester process, while not working on improvement of the strategy to make it more effective. The news that the ECOFIN Council has decided to send a letter to Spain and Portugal illustrates the main reference to guideline Number 1 of Europe2020: “the vigorous application of the Stability and Growth Pact”. In the interpretation of Schäuble and others, vigorous means vigorous, without taking into account the damage it has on society or without even taking electoral results and referendum results into account. Did the message not get through? This European Union of austerity has been rejected as the majority of citizens do not have the feeling that the EU cares about them.

Egalité. In the last four years the Commission has reported on Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE). We are not all equal. We are still a long way from equal pay for equal work in the same workplace. The gender pay gap is still huge, not to mention the unfair tax system that allows tax evasion and tax havens for the rich. Since 2008 there have been some efforts to tame the financial markets, but these initiatives have been watered down under a Commission President who has now been recruited by the bank responsible for the implosion of the financial markets eight years ago. So much for the the credibility of leaders! Only a handful protested at the publication of this news; at the same time some people in the European Parliament were preparing a report on whether Civil Society Organisations and NGOs should continue to be financially supported by the EU when they are being ‘too critical’ of it.

Fraternité. Competitiveness is the new criterion under which everything is evaluated. The dangerous poison of nationalism is unleashed because there is now also competition between member states in the north and member states in the south. Pensioners in Greece and in Germany are in completely different situations, but both expect the EU to contribute to ensuring the stability and the availability of decent, ‘poverty-preventing’ pensions. And what about the arrival of migrants and refugees? After the wave of solidarity last year, the Balkan route is now closed and people are dying daily in the new ‘Dead Sea’ (i.e. the Mediterranean). There are indeed fewer images on the news but the human loss is immense and it cannot be excused by ignorance. How to strengthen a sense of solidarity (Fraternité) is indeed a challenge, but first the mutual benefits of sharing need to be proven before solidarity can mould our thinking.

This foreword is not a new “J’accuse” in the Emile Zola sense. These are just the thoughts that many of us have who want the EU to progress, but we want an EU with different assumptions. Sustainable economic, social and political development, social investment and social protection for all should be the basis of the EU. We Europeans have to take the lead in the post-Brexit debate. We have to challenge the political leaders and the policy makers in the Institutions to make sure they put people’s concerns first. They should use the momentum for political change that delivers a real safeguarding pillar of social rights, and that translates the Sustainable Development Goals agenda into an ambitious European agenda. They should trust the next generation and promote their skills and competences and deliver on integration and the inclusion of migrants and refugees. Ambitious? Maybe! But still feasible. It is a matter of will. Those who believe that this Europe should first be destroyed and then reconstructed are playing with fire and instead they should learn from history. Reform is not a term of abuse, it is a progressive challenge!

See also Immanuel Wallerstein’s

Commentary No. 429, July 15, 2016: “Bastille Day: France’s Ultra-Confused Present”

Missed opportunity – or Io e Caterina

Topics in the headlines change – though in some cases it is only about names and institutions.

‘Migration’ for quite a while the dominant topic had been surpassed by BREXIT, pushing the GREXIT to a somewhat historical stage, though they apparently catch up again with T May-gie – may be Theresa May, the potential Iron-Lady the II, will once be known this way.

Headlines changes and so do names – or we may say we still find the old names in the headlines, though roles and positions change: Isn’t it a historical irony that Mr B is not only invited by Goldman Sachs for a bit of work, but that he is invited

to advise the bank on the U.K.’s negotiations to leave the European Union

(Sure, asylum policies need to be changed – so he may find a place in the UK …)

Well, from his previous experience he knows at least potentially enough about the European crisis – though it may be that he missed talking to people saying good-bye.

Be it as it is, there is another thing that keeps my mind busy these days – and it is going a bit back in history. The long way back leads to Narcissus, the bit shorter way to part of the history some of us still know too well – it leads back to Hitler, Truman and Adenauer:

There were three fathers of the division of Germany: Adolf Hitler, because the division was essentially a result of World War II and the German genocide. Harry Truman, as he commenced the Cold War against Communism to avoid that the US-war boom would enter into a recession and developed West Germany as loyal province of the United States in Europe. Germany was divided and in addition the exercise terrain for the troops had been secured by the NATO. Konrad Adenauer, who secured with the Federal Republic that for part of Germany the ‘western model’ – he vilified the other part of Germany as ‘Soviet Zone’ and in 1952 he – as well as the United States – declined the offer of the Soviet Union to German unification: ‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’.[1]

Or in other words:

It is better to have a western-democratic FRG than to have a unified neutral Germany.

In the medium-term – or we may say, one of the possible medium-terms – we may look at Lisbon and the pronounced strategy striving for Europe to be the most competitive region.

Without doubt, such classifications, periodisations and emphasis of any historical incisions are always problematic. But paradoxically the closer look at single events and individuals frequently allow us to understand the larger picture.

1987 Maggie T. contended that

there is no such thing as society

and with this she recognised very well where society was going: a utilitarianism led, competition based understanding of society: individuals being responsible for their greatest happiness and not allowing to keep in mind even the slightest notion of the aim: that it should and would be greatest happiness for all. One can and has to say a lot against the classical utilitarians as for instance put forward by Bentham and Mills; but one has to acknowledge that they wer at least loyal to the vision of ‘such thing as society’ and that it would be there forever due to notions of solidarity and responsibility and morality.

And it also meant  that at least in their vision the

bellum omnium contra omnes

was rejected.

Then it could even be translated into a vision like

Better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of s few.

We barely find a discussion that makes this link of conservatism – the link between human beings as individuals and nation states as patriam populum et proprium suum, the fatherland of its own people and property – explicit …, and it seems not to be changing with fatherlands being increasingly motherlands.

And part of this constellation is easily overlooked – for instance also by Juergen Habermas, writing

The Union is put together in such a way that basic economic decisions that affect society as a whole are removed from democratic choice. This technocratic emptying out of the daily agenda with which citizens are confronted is no fate of nature but the consequence of a design set out in the treaties. In this context the politically intended division of power between the national and European levels also plays a role: the power of the Union is concentrated there where nation state interests mutually block each other.

This is of course not wrong – but it is only half of the truth, and committing the other half makes it possible that nationalists reemerge: the other half clearly is: power, in the Western-European countries as power of a minority over the majority … – the sentence

‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’

gets another meaning here than just being concerned with the relationship between two countries – and in the 60s and 70s Juergen knew this too well.

——

Many thoughts had been employing my mind the last days and weeks – reading Camus’ L’Étranger and living a bit like Simmel’s Stranger, remembering Hegel’s Cunning of Reason and facing the Curse of Unreason, the Eclipse of Reason as so we depicted by Horkheimer. But also may others. After talking the one day with Yi about The Other Dimension, I stumbled upon a film-clip about robots: somewhat funny, somewhat frightening. One aspect that caught my special attention: the robot saying to somebody ‘Pleased to meet you’. My question is not ‘can the computer be pleased’ my question is: ‘Did we degrade ourselves to such a low level, did we programme ourselves in that way WE ARE THE ROBOTS?

And this is how we programme students, to be better business-people and better politicians of the future and … smilingly greeting

Pleased to meet you

before they wipe out the lives of real people, taking about BREXIT, though not asking if is

actually the real topic.

Indeed, a missed opportunity, and I still do not see the debate on a

better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of a few.

But I found one sentence in the video on the robots that caught my special attention. The celebration of one of the successes, namely the machine

being able to follow the leader

——

Something else caught my attention, not least these days while the academic world is busy with marking and deciding about the future of lives (spending so much time for administration instead of allowing us to be together with students, learn from each other, work together for a common future).

I recently mentioned the article, dealing with the envisaged future of universities as fun-parks. There is one sentence in the article of which the meaning is easily ignored:

You are also defining the higher-education experience in a way that has nothing to do with academic rigor, with intensive effort, with the testing of students’ boundaries and the upending of their closely held beliefs.

So, the alternative to fun-park is drill and Nuremberg Funnel?

I am excited by those students who come to me after the exams – not to as for a change of their marks, but to ask for more time needed to develop understanding, for gaining trust in a lived and livable future. And I feel ashamed working within a system that does only allow time for competition, offering little time for the real fun:

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.

This is what the robots cannot do – and this what a competitive robot, ops, a competitive Europe surely cannot offer.

The digital game should never been mixed up with the digitalisation of the player.[2]

And the religion should remain in the church and not enter crusade into the life again – by occupying our thinking ….

And so we have to do the thinking ourselves …, and find the right action

===============

[1]      Es gab drei Väter der Teilung Deutschlands: Adolf Hitler, denn im Wesentlichen war die Teilung eine Folge des Weltkrieges und des deutschen Völkermordens. Harry Truman, denn um die Kriegskonjunktur in den USA nicht in eine Rezession münden zu lassen, begann er den Kalten Krieg gegen den Kommunismus und entwickelte Westdeutschland als loyalste Provinz der USA und Standbein in Europa. Deutschland wurde geteilt und der Truppenstationierungsplatz über die NATO zusätzlich abgesichert. Konrad Adenauer, der mit der Bundesrepublik für einen Teil Deutschlands den westlichen Weg sicherte, den zurückgelassenen Teil als Sowjetzone diffamierte und 1952 – wie auch die USA – das Angebot der Sowjetunion zur deutschen Einheit ablehnte: „Lieber das halbe Deutschland ganz als das ganze Deutschland halb’.

[2]      Watch the eyes, minute 3.28 – sure, all after the initial order at 1:42: don’t speak

Easily condemned …

It is easy to condemn the Brits for exiting – though it had been only part of them anyway. But is also easy that one overlooks the fundamental flaws of the formation to which they are turning the back. While writing on CSR, i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility, I found this definition on the Commission’s website:

What is CSR?

The Commission has defined CSR as the responsibility of enterprises for their impact on society. CSR should be company led. Public authorities can play a supporting role through a smart mix of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulation.

Companies can become socially responsible by:

  • following the law;

  • integrating social, environmental, ethical, consumer, and human rights concerns into their business strategy and operations.

So, the European Union is a place where respecting the law is not an obligation, but a “bonus”?

There is surely much that the “remainers” have to think about in more serious terms: not the lack of legitimacy but the lack of legitime claims of being a legitimate integrative and integrating force.

There may be something to be learned from two contributions I wrote a while back:

… It is easy to chastise the children, and it likely to forget the failure of the parents …

The Next Round?

I just heard/read the news from Istanbul. Sounds like another terrible round …, and still it is the old story? So they write:

— Ataturk Airport is “one of the most secure airports in the world,” CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes says. But the airport has been “very overwhelmed for several decades with terrorism from PKK.”

— The White House issued a statement: “Ataturk International Airport, like Brussels Airport which was attacked earlier this year, is a symbol of international connections and the ties that bind us together.

It is difficult to make any “negative” comments in face of what is just a human tragedy. But still I am wondering if what I read should be easily translated into:
White House and Erdogan together against PKK and the others … – it is a worrying constellation and is a worrying constellation looking at it in the wider perspective of BREXIT, and some “progressives” now claiming we should habe more exits, return to localism …
And we in academia follow, pretending excellence, striving for rankings and serving leisure interests?