… 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.

Meanings of a Term – Global Village

Bizarre, n’est-ce pas?
Turning away from teaching at a university in a more or less large city [well, a city with 9 million people is in China not considered to be really large …], in a country that is classified as ‘emerging economy’ in a setting of a joint venture, i.e. the collaboration of a Chinese and Welsh university to debates in a small village in France – 1.200 inhabitants allow to speak of a village.
What makes it bizarre is not so much the huge difference in the settings but the fact that the teaching in the supposed global setting had been very much about  narrowly understood economy, suggesting individuals acting rationally on transparent markets, being completely informed, whereas we discuss in the village – really transparent, a real market with all its imponderables, including that of non-market performances, solidarity, neighbourly support etc.- strategies hat are suitable for new politics and policies in a globalised world.
The internet is there and used in both cases and one wonders if it offers a net sufficiently strong to absorb the tension?
The one meeting is relocated – we go on the river.
The reflection of the trees and bushes in the water make me reflecting on the actual meaning of the relationship between base and superstructure.
The roots as base, more or less rigid in the ground, the stem and strong branches, the leaves … – not moving this calm evening – the firm regulatory framework that is completed by the actual ‘governance’ and mode of life and living regimes [and here].
Or is it the other way rond, the accusation regime being the flexible part, adapting to the changing conditions of utilising capital? Perhaps such ‘flexibility of the accumulation regime is just a temporary matter – during phases of massive change as we see them at the moment?
Bizarre – and interesting – how short the way can be between trees, reflected in a river and ventilating for instance matters of digitisation and sharing economy. surely much shorter than the reflections teaching model economics in the modern ivory tower of wrongly understood curricula.

Digitisation – some general questions

A presentation under the title

‘Gig Sharing Economy’: Value Chains or Poverty Chains – Challenges posed by Digitisation in the Context of Globalisation

is now published. The presentation does not go into much details but aims on ventilating some general issues of a specific strand of digitisation, namely sharing economy, gig and cooperative economy and the like.

The presentation [i] explores a little bit the context of globalisaiton, [ii] considers the wider framework of reshaping capitalism and the composition of capital and [iii] looks at different classificatory aspects of the ‘new economies’.

It is part of my work at the moment, and further information may be found for instance via the following links: