Poison, Gifts and Intoxication

Well, much can be said about China – not the issue here and not for me at the moment. Still, I am wondering if a country and continent [sorry, all links are to articles in German language]


[Bei der Düsseldorfer Tafel bekommen alle Bedürftigen Lebensmittel. In Essen vorübergehend nur noch die mit deutschem Pass. – photo dpa]


should really worry about a Chinese investor, who steps substantially in at Daimler Benz? Carrying in his luggage the gift of advanced technologies for electric cars, a gift that does not promise venom-free driving[1], but is at least a small contribution to reduce emissions. – It would be more desirable to think about possibilities to move with this to cooperative advantage instead of maintaining comparative advantage as guide, – Sure, here state regulation could take new forms.

Less complains here I suppose than about google as potential competitor on the market of car manufacturing.


Two of the many points that should be mentioned in detail:


Quoted from the first article, in translation:

The spokesperson of the job center … says that persons who re receiving basic basic social income would not depend on begging.

It is the old flam that here is no poverty [a] because everybody has the right to receive that kind of income and [b] it is sufficient for a decent life. But it is as well a matter of defining begging as smiliar-to-employment activity.


In all these contexts [there are similar cases, also in other German cities, the issue of donations is coming up: basically it says money – also goods – given to people who are begging, also food and other support people receive from charities – are legally ‘donations’ [non-deductible] to the recipient, i.e, beggar.

So, playing this bitter game a bit further we arrive at the state where actually income may soon be defined as donation, the employer soon being defined as good-doer, and the employee …

Well, NOW I think it is time to return to the China issue: I discussed with a colleague more or less extensively about Corporate Social Responsibility – the project to co-author an article finally failed, admittedly it was my fault: I simply could not accept that paying business tax can be seen as corporate social responsibility … .


And all this is much about a topic I discuss occasionally with my colleague here, in a nutshell the old, and still unresolved question about justice and right. And John Stuart Mill, in Volume X of his Collected Works [Essays on Ethics, Religion and Society], in particular writing on the ‘On the Connexion between Justice and Utility’ is at least stimulating, asking us to think about social and individual.

Is it far fetched then if the gist of my presentation, titled

WYSIWYG – Also for Big Data?

is the necessity to think about the a radical ‘new beginning’ when it comes to thinking about social and welfare issues?

Now lean back and think a bit: In the presentation I mention towards the end that one of the most serious problems with the ‘new economic and juridical normal’ is the -delegalisation, ops: the fact that we find a substantial trend towards charitibilisation: the replacement of social rights by charitable activities ….


[1]            The German term ‘Geschenk’ translates into English as ‘gift’, the German term ‘Gift’ translates into English as venom, toxic, poison.


… boxing humans …

Well, moving in the academic realm is too often about boxing humans – yes, both sides going together: putting people into boxes and brutally beating them up. The following a letter I sent to relevant newspapers as comment on what is going on, how students [and lecturers] are mal-treated, disrespectful encounters when students are following their curiosity. It makes me increasingly sad, and I feel deeply ashamed …


Dear colleagues,

adding to the various discussions on ranking and formalistic approaches to studying, admission to universities and performance of third-level teaching and research, one point is easily overlooked – the following example is perhaps extreme, though not necessarily completely exceptional.

I worked for two years as professor of economics at Bangor College China, Changsha [BCC] before taking up my current position as research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, Germany. Still, one persisting bond to the previous job is concerned with writing references for some students. Some universities where students applied, accepted only references, requiring my mail-address from the previous job – but shouldn’t universities at this time and age accept that scholars are moving, following ambitions and calls in other positions? This means: they should also accept that mail addresses change, and one may even prefer to use a non-institutional address. Anyway, I mentioned the BCC-mail address – however, sending a mail to that address is answered by an auto-reply referring the sender to another address. This is the first point where the institution that was seeking the reference – the Graduate School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong – failed. They ignored the auto-reply and I did not know about the request they sent. Finally I was made aware of it [by the bright applying student], checked the dormant mail box and continued to the website for the submission of the reference. A form opened [after going through a more or less cumbersome procedure], asking for replies to multiple choice questions. I still think students are not made up of multiple choice elements, instead: they are real beings, humans with a multifaceted personality that cannot be squeezed into such forms – even when considering data-processing as an at-times appropriate tool. So, instead of ticking the boxes I preferred skipping them, attaching a recommendation letter instead. However, the system did not allow me to submit the letter unless I would first answer the multiple-choice questions which would feed into a one-dimensional profile. I complained, sent the letter as a mail attachment – and did not receive a reply by the said office of the Hong Kong University. At some stage, I agreed – honestly disgusted by the lack of qualification and respect towards students – ticked the boxes and attached the letter [again cumbersome, as one had to enter a code which was not clearly legible, not allowing to distinguish 0 and O]. I sent another letter of complaint to the Graduate School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong – which was again answered to the BCC address, and again they failed to resend the mail to the e-mail address mentioned in the auto-reply.

If these are the standards of entering higher education, one should not be surprised that at the other end, i.e. at the time of finishing studies, many people have difficulties. They feel their creativity being limited by the requirements of publishing, acquiring funding and the competition along lines of subordination under expectations instead of striving for innovation [see Maximilain Sippenauer: Doktor Bologna; Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 20.10.2017: 11]

Still, it is a bit surprising that all this is well known and still not much is changing. Surprising … ? Perhaps it is not really surprising if we consider that the income of top-administration posts increase while the income of lecturers does not follow accordingly [see for instance the article titled: Times Higher Education pay survey 2016 in The Times Higher Education; https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/times-higher-education-pay-survey-2016%5D.

It seems that there is a long way towards ‘supporting the brightest by open systems’, overcoming the dominant administrative policy of ‘wedge the narrowest by furthering their smart submission’.


Peter Herrmann

precarity and digitisation – it is not just about jobs

This is the title of a presentation of which the recording is online now.

It had been given during the




The presentation is more in search of the question, not pretending to know answers.
The contribution is crosscutting, mainly offering a theoretical and global in orientation. The aim is to contribute against the background of digitisation to the discussion of  the changing world of the organisation of work and underlying process of accumulation.
During the era of ‘industrial capitalism’ the tension between market and society was by and large processed and channelled via the firm – a conclusion we can draw from reading R.H. Coase and Karl Polanyi. However, looking at some of the current trends as they are tied up under keywords of gig-economy, sharing economy, collaborative consumption, collaborative production, on-demand-economy and the like, we are facing at least in some areas of the economy some changes which can be captured by two keywords:
  • de-firmisation of working frameworks
  • hybridisation of work or to be more precise employment

What are and what can be the answers? We see precarisation as one route, not suggested but actually taken. But it is a route based on two questionable presumptions: the first is that work has to be organised as labour and the second is that society has to and can bear and even accept major inequalities.

[Part of] The discussion is also recorded and focuses on issues of developments in China..

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.

New Economy – New Economics

 Just uploaded is a presentation, given in Hangzhou on the 21st of May 2017, dealing with the question … – well actually looking for the relevant question.
In connection with discussing digitalisation, new productive forces etc., we are frequently caught in the old patterns: interpreting presence and  future in the light of past and presence. The presentation tries to point out some areas where asking questions that are indirectly reinterpreting the past in the light of the future, allowing to explore the future in the light of a newly interpreted presence. – Complicated ? May be, but better thinking slowly and openly, instead of coming hastily to the wrong conclusion by simply extending what we claim to know.
There had been something that was called a Critique of the Political Economy [see volumes one to three of The Capital] – and is often forgotten that it was based on what its author wrote, here pointing on theses 8 to 11:
All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.
The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.
The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
See also researchgate – there are two projects that are of relevance in this context:
* Is it really about Industry 4.0.?
* Wandel des Wirtschaftens – Wandel des Rechts. Forschungsskizze zu Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik
Special thanks go to Thomas Weiss-Roisdorf, scientific council of attac and the federal ministry official affairs im Germany with whom I maintained over the last couple weeks contact on this issue – discussions that I perceived as hugely beneficial.

challenges – attempts to move forward


Attributed to Johann Caspar Lavater, the words

Those who do not strive to move forward, are not taking themselves seriously

are at the House of Science in Bremen. It is the venue of yesterday’s symposium to honour Rudolf Hickel.

The symposium is aiming on addressing the

Herausforderungen für Politik und ökonomische Wissenschaft im 21. Jahrhundert/ Challenges for politics and scientific economic disciplines in the 21st century.

The event was organised by the University of Bremen, its Institute for Labour and Economy and the Arbeiterkammer Bremen.

In particular André Heinemann put a huge effort into compiling an interesting programme. – And actually he brought me back to Bremen, to the university, from which I obtained my doctorate. A long way if you want as André and myself actually met on occasion of the Shanghai Forum.


Importantly, the sessions and the overall event aimed on creating some space for really reflecting on some of the issues, allowing for more than presentations and Q&As only, and furthermore crossing borders. This did not (only) mean to look at wider issues of political economy but also emphasising the need of developing questions. The evening before we had been actually sitting together, mocking about parts of the current mainstream:

It is not really so important to have a question. Relevant is having data – and then you can define a question from calculating the data in some way that allows you to arrive at some interesting result.

Of course, some answers had been given during the event; and many questions had been raised. For my part, I was continuing [here and here frequently updated information the work] to ventilate the issue of precarity, in this case in close connection with the challenges posed by ‘Industry 4.0’. Soon an update will follow – linking to a text with some background considerations on the topic, titled

Beklagen von Prekarität oder Forderung nach neuen Sicherheiten/Sicherungsstrukturen – Herausforderungen durch Industrie 4.0

the audio recording of the presentation of during the symposium is available and another, more extensive presentation, to be given in early next week in Changsha will follow.

First, back to my students in Vienna … – teaching European integration at times of increasingly disintegrating pressures an interesting topic.

academics making life difficult ?

Making life difficult by complicated, complex thoughts …! – This is the image academics have the bear with quite often – the absent-minded professor is the common proposition.

So the scene:
Imagine there is a train station, you receive a mail message on the phone and it is important enough to receive immediate attention: you want to download it on your tablet, allowing you to work on the issue while travelling. Free internet available as service of the train station, so you try … the annoying process of registration (big data needed, even from a small aunt like you)  … the connection fails … – well, that’s life and you have to assess the text (some peer reviewing) later, other work to do during the train journey.
Sitting in the train, a few minutes later, a mail on your phone tells you the user name, different from the one sent via SMS.
As you are still in the area of the train station  you want to connect … – big data, all is connected in the global village … – but now you are required to register for another network, not the train station int the railway company …, of course registration is free, zero marginality, the time you spent doesn’t count, i.e. the value of your time is considered to be equal to zero. Curiosity lets you do stupid things – so you register again, fail again …

… The voice out of the speaker reminds you in a very clear, not to say sharp and loud – voice: keep your mobile phones low level, don’t upset your neighbours … – pick and choose, the announcement is made n different languages, all in the clear and loud voice:


Isn’t this something that has to bring the day’s trinity to my mind, the one is the presentation heard earlier, dealing with data robbery and the working customer as new type of consumer, and the Un(der)paid Innovators: The Commercial Utiliza- tion of Consumer Work through Crowdsourcing.

The other thing coning to mind is a phone call made earlier, chatting with a Hungarian friend about the near-to-impossibility of living globally in a narrow-minded world where national sentiments are put higher than moral sentiments, even conflating them under the hegemonic meaning of the idea of a “commonwealth” of the Wealth of the Nations.
The dream you still have and of which you receive with all this the confirmation that it is a dream, something you just imagine, thus being a bit interpreting the world without (having the power to) changing things.

Escaping the world of dreams, of the supposed holiness of the trinity capturing your mind, you add a fourth element (which actually leaves father, son and Holy Spirit behind, overcoming them): a beautiful day, a beautiful landscape through which you pass, and possibly some readers from different countries wondering if this is a story that happened in the “own” country, wherever this might be … and where the only “academic” to the little tale was that the train left exactly 15 minutes later than scheduled – the academic quarter. – Perhaps to is not about academics making life complicated but the injustice of a narrow-minded system, extremely “diversified” = uncoordinated by privatisation, a world that  suggests sharing as means of encapsulating (within) large “social networks” that loose their democratic dynamics.