Ten years on … – no wisdom gained?

Of course, there are many contestable issues concerned with the “ten years on” – leaving the question of timing aside, one point may well be concerned with the word “on”, considering that it should be replaced by “into” or even “digging the grave deeper”. The success-stories so far are, if they exist, stories about de-synchronisation: the fact that some countries succeeded again in a more pronounced way to live on the back of others, temporary victories, and often victories for the countries, not for the people (for instance good overall “economic performance” often means increasing inequality)  …
Preparing the class for coming Monday, but also working on finalising the book
Changing the Socio-Economic Formation – Revisiting Value and Valuation in a Globalising Digital World
I looked up a Briefing Note, presented in 2008, in preparation of the OECD Global Forum on International Investment, titled
It is not looking at the crisis – if the collapse of Lehmann Brothers is taken as reference, it would be even a pre-crisis work, presented on a pre-crisis conference. What makes it interesting (surely – not only – for my classes “Development versus Growth”) is the fact of presenting in a masterful way the shortcoming of an understanding of economics and political economy that can well be seen as structural weakness leading to a crisis like the one we are still suffering from (sure, not everybody).
A quote right from the beginning of the briefing note:
The service sector makes an important contribution to GDP in most countries, providing jobs, inputs and public services for the economy. Trade in services can improve economic performance and provide a range of traditional and new export opportunities. However, services liberalisation also carries risks, and appropriate regulation and other complementary policies help to ensure that liberalisation delivers the expected benefits. We have reviewed the literature on these issues for 6 service sectors (tourism, financial services, energy services, information and communications technology, and Mode IV), … .
And it goes on and goes on and goes on in this spirit, not talking about the essentials of what should be at stake of any analysis. Engels, in 1884, wrote:
According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of the immediate life. But this itself is again of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of subsistence, of food and clothing and shelter and the implements required for this; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a particular country live are determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other.
(Engels, Frederick, 1884: Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Preface [to the First Edition]; in: Karl Marx Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 26. Frederick Engels. 1882-89; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1990: 131-133)
The OECD-experts go exactly the other way round, starting from the end – and actually defining the end as ultimate point of departure and ultimate goal: growth, though remaining undefined, only specified by the reference to the GDP.
Indeed, there is something interesting about GDP and Development.
In fact, the up for some may mean the move back for others
Commonly the “concept” of GDP is attributed to Simon Kuznet – detailed in 1934 in
, it is time to acknowledge that already then the author spelled out – more or less at the outset:
The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above. (page 7)
And he continues:
The abuses of national income estimates arise largely from a failure to take into account the precise definition of income and the methods of its evaluation which the estimator assumes in arriving at his final figures. Notions of productivity or welfare as understood by the user of the estimates are often read by him into the income measurement, regardless of the assumptions made by the income estimator in arriving at the figures. As a result we find all too commonly such inferences that a decline of 30 percent in the national income (in terms of “constant” dollars) means a 30 percent decline in the total productivity of the nation, and a corresponding decline in its welfare. Or that a nation whose total income is twice the size of the national income of another country is twice “as well off”, can sustain payments abroad twice as large or can carry a debt burden double in size. Such statements can obviously be true only when gualified by a host of “ifs.”
A detail, mentioned at the end of the report, is surely of special interest:
The individual industries included here are photography, undertaking, mausoleum and cemetery operation, social service agencies, athletic, yacht, and country clubs, Y.M.C.A.’s, Y.W.C.A/s, and other services not accounted for elsewhere. Most of these services are of a type not easily curtailed or dispensed with, while social and welfare agencies have had a special reason for increasing since 1929. The number of employees was about a quarter of a million in 1929 and probably increased, or at least did not decline greatly, during the 3 following years (see table 200). The estimated average compensation of employees is probably fairly near the actual situation for 1929 but the trend shown since that year, except that there was probably very little per capita decline, is open to question as far as the country as a whole is concerned. (page 140)
Well, perhaps this is what the briefing says???: “Think of your people and your countries economy and accept: poverty is good for you.” In plain language – and this is very much the underlying gist of IMF and World Bank politics – be nationalist and socially unjust.
I am sure, those who write those reports, will not face what poverty or lack of wellbeing etc. mean.
Of course, this is only the visible, more or less tangible part of the underlying misinterpretation of economics: While calculations may well be correct, fact is – as John Maynard Keynes convincingly wrote in 1936:

Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.

(Keynes 1936)

Still, if we look at the title of the quoted opus magnum presented by Keynes reads

The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

and we still may remain without considering the entire depth of reference. Of course, not every book can start with all the life stories …- but at least it should commence by focusing on the real life situation and the supply conditions and the relationality that is part of it. – Think about employment conditions that allow flexibility and reduction of working time without lowering wage and without stress caused by any fear, thus possibly causing the GDP to drop, but enabling employees to care for relatives, to be politically active, to follow their “intellectual needs” … As much as items expressed by GDP are mere means to an end, the same is true for employment, the ends not being products and services, the end not being income but “production and reproduction of the immediate life”.

Even Alfred Marshall, rightly criticised for his contribution to the mathematisation of economics, knew better than many who still highlight the centrality of employment today, (and here; and many could be added) knew better. As we can read in the Memorials of Alfred Marshall (edited 1925 by Arthur Cecil Pigou), Pigou states in his own contribution to the book (page 84):

Though a skilled mathematician, he used mathematics sparingly. He saw that excessive reliance on this instrument might lead us astray in pursuit of intellectual toys, imaginary problems not conforming to the conditions of real life: and further, might distort our sense of proportion by causing us to neglect factors that could not easily be worked up in the mathematical machine.

Acknowledging this, there would not have been any need to write to the Queen …

Annunci

Failing projects

This week, meeting the students here in Lodz for the second time, the work will get more serious. The topics

I.

European Integration – A Failed Political and Social Union?

(from: Zeit Campus: September 2018/2019)

Though proposal had been made a while back – not focussing on issues GREXIT, BREXIT and the very recent “EU-developments” in Switzerland – one is wondering if these developments are seriously distracting the debates: Although they are highlighting the vulnerability, they are easily moving debates on solutions strategies – saving a torso – while neglecting the more fundamental issues that can be seen as fundamentally structural flaws, undermining the supposed plans and claims. In other words, the project had been from the beginning as half-hearted as the project of enlightenment. – In principle, already the lectures in Vienna (2017) had been dealing with these questions. However, in Poland the more philosophical may hopefully be more focussed upon.

II.

The second course will look at

Development versus Growth. Perspectives for a Qualitative Dimension in Developmental Economics

Not an easy one, as there is the fundamental issue of determining value, or to be more precise : to determine what economics/the economy is about. Unfortunately, also in debates one alternative paradigms, easily accept the flawed definition of economy

The economy of humans emerges from two roots. They have to beeconomically active because the means are scarce in relation to the ends …; and they are in a position that allows them to be economically active as, though with some limitations, they can make decisions about the purchase and use of the goods regarding the kind, quality, quantity, use etc., thus influencing the use-impact that are achieved …

(Schoenfeld, Leo, 1924: Grenznutzen und Wirtschaftsrechnung [Marginal Rate and Business Mathematics]; Wien: Manz’sche Verlags- und Universitäts-Buchhandlung; unchanged reprint München/Wien: Philosophia Verlag: 1)

While in very general terms there is nothing wrong with what is said, there is everything wrong if we use this as real point of reference or economy and development. An alternative is Frederick Engels’ proposition:

According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of immediate life. But this itself is again of a twofold character. On the one hand, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter and the implements required for this; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a definite country live are determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other. The less labour is developed and the more limited the volume of its products and, therefore, the wealth of society, the more predominantly the social order appears to be dominated by ties of kinship. However, within this structure of society based on ties of kinship, the productivity of labour develops more and more; with it, private property and exchange, differences in wealth, the possibility of utilising the labour power of others, and thereby the basis of class antagonisms: new social elements, which strive in the course of generations to adapt the old structure of society to the new conditions, until, finally, incompatibility of the two leads to a complete transformation. The old society, based on ties of kinship, bursts asunder with the collision of the newly developed social classes; in its place a new society appears, constituted in a state, the lower units of which are no longer groups based on ties of kinship but territorial groups, a society in which the family system is entirely dominated by the property system, and in which the class antagonisms and class struggle, which make up the content of all hitherto written history now freely unfold.

(Engels, Frederick, 1884: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. In the Light of the Researches by Lewis H. Morgan; in: Marx&Engels Collected Works. Volume 26: Engels 1882-89; Lawrence & Wishart, 2010 [Electric Book]: 129-276, here: 131 f.)

A lengthy quote, a position that should also allow thinking what “the old society, based on ties of kinship, bursts asunder with the collision of the newly developed social classes” means today.
In a forthcoming publication – titled

About You – Nur frage nicht ob Du ueberhaupt bist

part of the topic, dealing with modes of life, will be looked at. After publication in the Tarantel, published by the Ökologische Platform bei Der Linken it will be announced here.

schwach angefangen, stark nachgelassen

A book review – in Gemany language – can be found here, trying to do justice to China by reviewing a publication

Schwach angefangen, stark nachgelassen

Buchautor_innen
Edition Le Monde diplomatique
Buchtitel
Chinas Aufstieg
Buchuntertitel
Mit Kapital, Kontrolle und Konfuzius
Kann man dem komplexen Phänomen „China“ auf wenigen Seiten gerecht werden? Zweifel daran sind mehr als angebracht. …

New Years Thought

It is an old poem, written by Oliver Goldsmith, presenting The Deserted Village – and there may still be something in it that is worth to be thought about today – though …

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade—
A breath can make them, as a breath has made:
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

– though the peasant of those times was still the “worker” and the princes were the “capitalists” — in danger to be overthrown by on the one hand the precarious industry 4.0 self-designer and on the other hand the finance oligarch …

old …

, it only means that the legacy we have to carry on is even larger, and the new threats against the country from the old enemy have to been fought thoroughly …

Fallece Fidel Castro, líder de la Revolución Cubana, a los 90 años

***

Cuban Revolutionary Fidel Castro Dies at 90

It fills me with great sadness and I wish the country well on the way to keep his legacy. And I see it as great challenge for all of us who are on the side of humanity and humane progress.

Disenchantment …

or enchantment …?
In sociology we know latest since Max Weber about the disenchantment of the world. And still we cannot completely grasp it … – You may remember an entry some time ago, when I wrote about a chat with a friend, looking at The Other Dimension.

There it was about emotions, the exceptional and the part of life we cannot and do not even want to explain. There is again another dimension, the enchantment and fascination we overlook so often for which we do not have the time. The enchantment by something that seems to be just routine, perhaps even left to the autopilot, and as it is part of daily life we forget to approach it – sure, not least a metaphor, but there is indeed some fascination in so many things that may seem so very ordinary, from approaching a another country by plane to the landing, looking into the eyes of friends. Don’t we do it nearly every day, and don’t we easily forget about it ?

Quoting again from the mentioned Other Dimension:

To take it from Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment

Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities. To the enlightenment, that which does not reduce to numbers, and ultimately to the one, becomes illusion.

There is surely some Madness of Sincerity of which I learned again – finally

Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.”

And isn’t the ease with which we are forgetting this also one of the major wrongdoings when we as teaches stand in class, not fully respecting the performance of the students, also by not teaching them that failing in the courses does not mean “to  be a failure”? And moreover, to teach indeed fascinating innovations, making easily forgetting the foundations that are needed tallow them to evolve? In a recent lecture, part of the teaching BA-students at BCC, I tried to do exactly the opposite.

“There is no right life in the wrong one”

a friend of mine recently mentioned “stupidity” while talking about the situation that emerged after somebody passing away and the bereavement and non-bereavement  … – unfortunately I see stupidity increasingly in life itself, not in death and surrounding it; it is about permanent hypocrisy, death being somewhat part of the solution. There we are teaching, excellence (the new general trend: we all are “excellent” and we are easily forgetting that, if everybody is standing on the tiptoes, nobody can see better), and we are accepting  non-excellence, swimming in and with the  stream because swimming against it, ends most likely in drowning, and this way we are drowning in the stream with which we swim …., dead already while still breathing, not allowing for alternatives, paradoxically by claiming that only we – as individuals, as Asians, as Europeans, as Latinos, as men or women are the alternative. Establishing false identities as individuals or groups that define us not by saying who we are but by saying that there is “the other”.

*****

… “one of the girls”, one of my students was in the office last week, handing in an admin document. I never really talked to her throughout the entire year (no surprise – excellence is a mass product) and invited her to sit down for a chat. … “actually I know, I have to study harder [though she is one of the “good students”] and I will do what I have to do in order to finish my education. But then …, I do not know … My dream is to open a bakery shop, be happy and pass my happiness on to the customers”. It sounds familiar? I heard similar stories from a couple of students … – and in some I really saw the deep sorrows and I also saw the real excitement – in some way I felt the joy and happiness they were talking about …
…, knowing that there are illusions and romanticisms, knowing that the argument I put forward, stating that there cannot be excellence for and by all”, is in danger of being close to elitism, I still think there is some cause for consideration (re-consideration I should say as we ventilated this issue so often). Why are we pushing towards “higher education” in this way if the result is that

[a]ccording to one analysis, fully 43 percent of Chinese workers already consider themselves to be overeducated for their current positions.

Mind, I am not talking about China and robots. But .., how to say …? Is it correct saying that I am talking about this world in which education is dominated by administration, encapsulated in the iron cage Max Weber was talking about and offering little space for the development of personalities, replicating itself by forcing everybody to follow the supposed wisdom  of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, a fatal motto as we all know that

*****

And how then can we settle …?
Chatting with Yi, Xiao, Tricia, Tomi, Liu and Lv and Steph of course  … to name a few from the many years; working with the few who are really ready to co-work; and thinking about just meeting friends for a good and “innocent” laugh. Traveling recently with Jiaying to 岳陽 (Yueyang)  was nice, and so are meetings with 邹, talking about “uncombed ideas” (to use her words), flowing in the stream to change its direction …

And nice was the trip to the Forum in Shanghai. Actually the meeting itself was “just OK” – some really exciting discussions, but then too many screenplays of presentation of the “we” against the other, but it had been nice to come back to 上海 (Shanghai), to do the boat trip and chat with interesting people – and to make the 5(ish) hour trip from Changsha to Shanghai and back by train – I really like it, being able to work a bit, but also to look out of the window: the beautiful landscape and its variety, letting the thoughts flow …, thinking about the people living there along the route, making their living but also making their life …

Well, and then it is so strange when we are teaching and studying, we are supposed to forget all this, we are dealing with forms and matrices and equations … and we are forgetting what studying is about: helping us making their life and, of course, then making a living …

… a strange world, indeed,, while sitting other time in an “excellence centre”: strange is a world that is turning things around, and  excellence is actually flat …, and reality claims to exist in perfected algorithms

I remain skeptical, and still think with Bohr that

[w]e must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.

But still, and I admittedly did not fully theory of relativity or quantum mechanisms , we have to acknowledge that

E = hf
is superior over
E = mc²
In this way we have to make sure that the sentence that saying
Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems. (Bohr)
also means changes we aim for have to go beyond changes of particles. A theory of revolution – in science and society – wi be inspired by quantum mechanics and we may consider the need to establish a theory of quantum mechanical economics and quantum mechanical social quality.