Vermeers “Woman in Blue” and the challenge to counter global hegemony of “stakeholder-democracy”

Of course, this “Davos of the East” as it is sometimes called,, and which I mentioned previously, is a special challenge as it is about an invitation to accept the rules of the hegemon, while it is for me the obligation to maintain the role of the anti-hegemeon while knowing that there is always the one option: being seen as fig-leaf or, and this is the serious problem, being absorbed: the anti-hegemonic position being reinterpreted and smoothly welded into the existing interpretation of things. – Dialectic of change one may say; there is no way to succeed but one has to try nevertheless and endlessly like Sisifo.

Part of the dialectic is of course to be in one way or another part of a group that is in line with widespread claims of a

representation of a post-nation state governance system

referring to Katerina Gladkova who is analysing Two years into the SDGs, asking if it is about neoliberalised development? What she says with respect of the SDG-strategy, finds its valid application in many of these “new institutions” – they are another

window-dressing exercise in democracy. The multistakeholder model dilutes boundaries of accountability and is not representative of the needs of the many; on the contrary, it serves the interests of the privileged minority advocating for the neoliberal world order.


I became aware of the task in an entirely unexpected context, namely when looking – together with Angela Maria Opel, as part of the guided tour “Love letters in the Painting of The Netherlands” – at Vermeer’s Women in Blue Reading a Letter, currently hosted in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. A seemingly harm-, possibly meaningless painting of which the value is at first glance its beauty – and as well all know beauty is always contestable. And equally any interpretation of one painting is questionable because painters are children of their time and a single painting is only a piece of the jigsaw, composed by painter and time. The contemporary trinity of Dutch paintings can be seen in map, letter and necklace, frequently appearing not only in Vanmeer’s work. It is the trinity of the young and independent republic, the temptation by the glamorous jewellery, representing the ancient regime – and the dispute over it, now, as the weapons had been laid down. As such , reading the letter may have been not least a matter of political commitment, a question of resisting the temptations of short-sighted glamour and persisting in moving forward towards the new republic which represented at the very same time a new economic formation. Seen in this light, the review of the painting can also be seen as reflection of the close connection between the political and the personal: the urgency of reading, pushing aside the obvious temptation by vanity, the longing for true love standing against the superficial glamour, and this means also the possibility of rejection, the dispute about love going beyond the visible glamour – indeed, the rejection of such letter as depicted by Gerard ter Borch; indeed, not every gallant soldier had been a welcomed soldier.

On the other hand, the light, so typical for Vermeer, can be in some way as competent for the glamour of the pearls: the glamour of the outreaching trade of the new republic … – sending the loved one away for the explorations or receiving the news from abroad? – it had been the tension also of Gabriël Metsu, positioning the Man Writing a Letter and the Woman Reading a Letter side by side, all at a time when Claude Lorrain was painting the variations of the seaport (yes, I had been teaching on tis, in Budapest [economic thinking in six paintings])

An interesting detail may be that Vermeer actually used “real blue”, extracted from lapis lazuli – something for instance van Rijn could not afford /// …. . In other words, Vanmeer represented very much the upper class, most likely the new hegemons. This thought may be extended – the blue of the woman’s garment finds its continuation ih the cooer of the wall in front of her, where it still continues as shadow. As such it continues as well from the map – on may suggest that it is marking the seafarers nation, and it finds finally its strange settlement in the chair, covered with a material with of darker blue, kept tight with golden nubs. – Thus we would have the perfect tension: while the weapons are silent, the soldiers trying their fate in a peaceful “mission with their gallantries”, representing the old regime as much as the regime’s attempt to convince by jewelry and words, the new economic power provides a firm and guided resting point. The old and the new hegemons standing against each other, courting her, The Netherlands.

Sure, such interpretation is not least a matter of speculation, or turned positively: a matter of inspiration and reflection – the reflex of time and times, space and spaces.


– With this we return to the beginning, though we are not talking about any new republic, we surely talk about some far reaching changes. Understanding them, and understanding them in their deeper meaning we have to go beyond the reflection of extended stocktaking. Robert Cox actually outlined the challenge, writing about two different kinds of theory:

Beginning with its problematic, theory can serve two distinct purposes. One is a simple, direct response: to be a guide to help solve the problems posed within the terms of the particular perspective which was the point of departure. The other is more reflective upon the process of theorising itself: to become clearly aware of the perspective which gives rise to theorising, and its relation to other perspectives (to achieve a perspective on perspectives); and to open up the possibility of choosing a different valid perspective from which the problematic becomes one of creating an alternative world. Each of these purposes gives rise to a different kind of theory.

The first purpose gives rise to problem-solving theory. It takes the world as it finds it, with the prevailing social and power relationships and the institutions into which they are organised, as the given framework for action. …

The second purpose leads to critical theory. It is critical in the sense that it stands apart from the prevailing order of the world and asks how that order came about. Critical theory, unlike problem-solving theory, does not take institutions and social and power relations for granted but calls them into question by concerning itself with their origins and how and whether they might be in the process of changing.[1]

Indeed, then contributing to the debate on new technologies, unemployment and precarity, will be not least a matter of refraining from using those terms. It is more a matter of looking at the underlying overall goals and the framing contexts, the why behind the what. It is, in other words, about rejecting the mainstream principle, by Richard and Daniel Susskind[2]seen in the fact that professionals

are inclined to ask themselves what it is that they do today … and how they might make that service a bit quicker, cheaper, or better. Not often enough do professionals ask themselves the more fundamental question …” (37 f.)

which they understand as matter of defining the overall purpose of any undertaking we investigate. May be, being asked to talk about growth and security of employment, I should make socks statements that the need for growth is the real Sisyphos’ pain and security of employment a promised glamour of an ancient regime, similar to the jewelry that had been positioned as decoy against the new republic which may finally become at some stage a res publica, not worrying about privacy of data but about wrongly claimed publicness of GAFA.


[1]           Cox, Robert W., 1981: Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory; in: Millennium – Journal of International Studies; 10/2; 126-155; here: 128; DOI: 10.1177/03058298810100020501

[2]           Susskind, Richard and Daniel, 2015: The Future of the Professions. How technology will transform the work of human experts; Oxford University Press


Was machen wir mit der Revolution – und was lassen wir die Revolution mit uns machen?

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

Was machen wir mit der Revolution – und was lassen wir die Revolution mit uns machen?

Der Titel des folgenden Beitrages ist eine Anspielung auf das Motto der diesjährigen Sommerakademie von attac – dort soll es um ‚1918 – 1968 – 2018: für Veränderung – Wo bleibt die Revolution’ gehen. Aber in dem hier vorlegten Beitrag geht es um eine Auseinandersetzung für den Kampf ums gute Lebenzu dem am 23.12.’18 in der TAZ von Ulrich Brand aufgefordert wurde. Unseres Erachtens knüpft Brand insofern an jenes SOAK-Motto an, als er richtig darauf hinweist, dass eine solche Revolution bereits im Ansatz stattfindet, irreführend ist aus unserer Sicht aber, diese als eine Revolution zu klassifizieren, die aus der Lebensweise kommt und von dort weiter getrieben werden soll. Es geht in diesem Bild um eine anti-imperiale Lebensweise gleichsam als neu-Kantianische Realität eines kategorischen Imperativ: Vernünftige aller Länder, vereinigt euch. Anstatt eine ökonomische Analyse des globalen Neoliberalismus als Bezugspunkt zu nehmen und daraus abgeleitet konkrete Überlegungen zum Kampf ums gute Leben vorzustellen, konzentriert sich Brandt auf Einstellungs- und Verhaltensmuster, die dann fast wie von selbst zum guten Leben führen sollen.


Der Weg zum guten Leben hat dabei zugegebenermaßen natürlich auch mit Mustern des täglichen Verhaltens zu tun; die aufgezeigten Alternativen münden in dem Text von Brand – und ebenso in dem Buch, welches er mit Markus Wissen vorgelegt hat, allerdings in eine diffuse und individuelle, vom ‚freien Willen‘ geleiteten, Negativhaltung. Dies kann man wohl am treffendsten mit Konsumverweigerung umschreiben: Folglich soll man sich keine SUVs mehr kaufen, nicht zuviel Fleisch essen, möglichst nicht fliegen, oder dies doch zumindest begrenzen. Die Liste kann fortgeführt werden, und all dies klingt ja auch lobenswert. Aber hat nicht schon Adorno in seiner Minima Moralia festgestellt, dass kein richtiges Leben im Falschen möglich sei. Es mag sein, dass diese Feststellung – bewusst – plakativ daherkommt; ihren Grundgehalt sollte man aber – so meinen wir – dahingehend konstruktiv verändern, dass man strukturelle Vorbedingungen, die zu einem guten/besseren Leben führen könnten, auf einer analytischen Betrachtungsweise erarbeitet – und das gilt gerade, wenn eine Leserschaft wie die der TAZ angesprochen wird. Anderenfalls läuft man Gefahr, dass Wunschbilder konstruiert werden, die bestenfalls das Gewissen zu beruhigen in der Lage sein werden. Genauso, wie die imperiale Lebensweise spätestens seit Beginn der 1990’er Jahre auf subjektivistische Weise produziert, reproduziert und legitimiert wird, so wird hier der antithetisch daherkommende Gegenentwurf auf die gleiche Weise konstruiert.

Diese Vorgehensweise, die – analog zu Lawrence Harrisons ‘liberalem’ Ansatz, dass Unterentwicklung quasi das Resultat einer ‘Geisteshaltung’ sei (siehe Harrison, L.E., 1985: Underdevelopment is a State of Mind. The Latin American Case; Lanham: Madison Books), wird hier in dem Sinn modifiziert, dass der Ausbruch aus der imperialen Lebensweise bzw. aus der globalen Unterentwicklung ebenfalls das Resultat einer Geisteshaltung der Verweigerung sein könne.

In der Tat, ‚es ist aber nicht nur das individuelle Handeln, das diese alles andere als solidarische oder nachhaltige Lebensweise am Laufen hält. Es sind auch machtvolle Produktionsstrukturen, die in der kapitalistischen Konkurrenz Handys, Autos und Nahrungsmittel produzieren, Profite und Wachstum generieren.’ Eine solche Feststellung ist aber nur dann in kritischem Sinne ‚komplett‘, wenn auch Forderungen nach klaren Regulierungen und Verteilungsstrukturen, aber mehr noch nach klaren Strukturen für die Produktion und deren Organisation damit einhergehen: So etwa die Forderung, dass die Existenz von Genossenschaften nach Unternehmens- und Steuerrecht abgesichert werden muss; Anerkennung dessen, was wir produzieren, neben den Gütern die diversen Schäden, aber ebenso das diverse Gute, dass allerdings schon bald den Charakter des Guten verliert, wenn es dann in Bilanzen und neue Buchführungstechniken gezwängt wird … – Im extremen Fehlgriff geht es dann beim pricing of everything’ (George Monbiot) um sogenanntes Grünes Wachstum. Auch das ist durchaus konkret, wenngleich mühselig. Nicht zuletzt geht es auch hier um kleine Schritte und das ‚Kehren vor der eigenen Tür’ – etwa sich für dem Ausbau des OePNV und der Radwegnetze einzusetzen, anstatt sich auf die gefährliche ‚Nutzerbahn’ zu begeben; etwa gilt es, die Überfüllung der Laden-Korridore anzuprangern anstatt sich mit Trolley und Kind den Gefahren der Verführung und Verletzung auszusetzen. Freilich sind auch dies Binsenwahrheiten und werden wohl kaum als Kritik an der Imperialen Lebensweise angesehen werden. Der Unterschied aber ist ein gewaltiger – und nun muss ein wenig Theorie her, denn sonst bleibt es doch leicht dabei, dass ‚eine besserwisserische „Ökoelite“ […] der Gesellschaft vorschreiben [wolle], wie sie zu leben habe, damit Klimawandel und andere Umweltprobleme eingedämmt werden.’

In der Gegenüberstellung – und im Eingeständnis der Gefahren durch Verkürzung – sind aber doch folgende Punkte leicht als Ansatz für die konkrete, also machbare Utopie zu erkennen.


Erstens, Brand geht von der Kritik der Lebensweise aus und sieht dann ‚auch machtvolle Produktionsstrukturen’. Dagegen steht unserer Auffassung – stark geprägt durch die französische Regulationsschule – als Viergespann: [a] entscheidend das Akkumulations-Regime in einem weiten Sinn als System der Definition dessen, was ‚Wert hat’ und die entsprechende Strukturierung der Wertschöpfung; [b] das Lebensregime als Rahmen oder ‚Setzkasten’, innerhalb derer Individuen Lebensentwürfe planen können – sehr verschieden, aber doch begrenzt durch Eckpfeiler wie etwa Erwerbsarbeitsverpflichtung, zunehmend private soziale Sicherung [man beachte dieses Oxymoron der Privatheit des Sozialen] u.v.m.; [c] die Regulierungsweise, allgemein als nicht zuletzt ideologisches und formales System, welches die Umsetzung der beiden genannten Regime sicherstellt. Und auch hier gibt es ein Pendant, namentlich [d] die Lebensweise – hier geht es darum, was denn jeder Einzelne wirklich aus dem Leben macht – unter Berücksichtigung des Kleingedruckten oder bei Beachtung des Grundsatzes ‚Es gelten die allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen’.

Mit diesem Rahmen lässt sich nun genauer bestimmen, wo wir stehen – und wogegen wir systematisch angehen müssen: es ist der methodologische Nationalismus und der methodologische Individualismus – dies geht weiter als einfach Nationalismus und Individualismus, denn es geht um die Wurzeln dieser Erscheinungen, ohne die eben auch eine linke Kritik schnell an die Grenzen stößt. Mit dem Viergespann lässt sich auch schnell ein wenig systematischer der Entwicklungspfad ausleuchten und auf die Perspektiven des ‚Nicht Weiter So’ eingehen – fünf Kernbereiche sollen genannt werden. Dabei geht es auch ganz bewusst um eine Ablösung der Keynes-Beverdige-Orientierung an den fünf großen Übeln: Gier, Krankheit, Unwissenheit, Elend und Faulheit.[3] Auch wenn sich viele Herausforderungen immer noch hierum drehen [müssen], so soll hier von fünf Spannungen gesprochen werden:

  • Die Überproduktion von Gütern schlägt – global und lokal – in eine Produktion von ganz konkreten, fassbaren Belastungen um
  • Enormer gesellschaftlicher Reichtum paart sich mit extrem-ungleichen Zugangschancen
  • Reichhaltigkeit des Wissens wird durch eine Orientierung auf Fähigkeiten zurechtgestutzt
  • gerade aus der Individualisierung von Problemlagen erwachsen gesellschaftliche Probleme
  • die Komplexität von Regierungsprozessen mündet in der Regierungsunfähigkeit von ‚governance’, die in Deutschland teils als Methode Merkel des Allen-Recht-Machen-Wollens kritisiert wird.[4]

– Nun bleibt – zugegebenermaßen ein wenig bissig – die Bemerkung anzufügen, dass auch die Diskussion um die anti-imperiale Lebensweise, die ja bei Brand mitgeführt wurde, etwas von jenem o.g, Oxymoron der Privatheit des Sozialen hat – und leider ist das ist etwas anderes und vielleicht gar Gegensätzliches zur Losung, dass das Private Politisch sei.

Klar, der Kommunismus ‚ist das einfache, was so schwer zu machen ist’ – so legte Brecht es der Palagea Wlassowa, Der Mutter, in den Mund. Und so ist es mit jeder Art des besseren Lebens. Allemal, angemessener als die hier kritisierten, seinerzeit als Weihnachts- und Neujahrswünsche vorgetragenen Gedanken seien dann hier einige Anregungen und ‚Wünsche’ genannt:

  • Bewusstes Leben – als Anerkennung und Beurteilung bereits erzielter Erfolge anstelle fortwährender Neuberechnungen von Bekanntem [19.7 % Armuts- und Ausgrenzungs-Betroffene in Deutschland[5] sind zuviel – aber auch 15 % waren schon zuviel.
  • Als Teil dessen Betonung bestehender Möglichkeiten, die sich bei öffentlicher Nutzung der ja auch öffentlichen Güter ergeben – etwa mehr Datenzugang für alle als Schutz einer künstlichen Privatsphäre.
  • Gelebte Gleichheit und Offenheit anstatt Schließung der verschiedenen, auch linker Gruppen, um Konsens zu sichern
  • offene und ehrliche Dispute und Streitkultur gegen die eigene konsens-belastende Schein-Friedenskultur

Sicher, so ist es nicht gemeint – gleichwohl der Kampf ums gute Leben, wie er von uns kritisiert wird, kann fast dazu verleiten, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg und Kumpane als Mitkämpfer anzusehen. Sie leben ja bereits in einer solchen Vernunftwelt des Teilens und Gut-Tuns, freilich fern von Recht und fern vom Gedanken, anders und anderes zu produzieren. Selbst Umverteilung fürchten sie wohl weniger als ein Recht, dass sie schon zur Ordnung ruft, wenn sie das Umzuverteilende unter knechtenden Bedingungen produzieren lassen – im Rahmen eben einer Akkumulationsweise, die uns bis in die letzten Fasern unserer Lebensweise zügelt. Gerade so macht sie solche zu nicht viel mehr als zu wohlmeinenden, und sicher nicht ganz wertlosen, Individual- und Klein-Schichten bezogenen Bemühungen. Im Führungszeugnis einer solche ‚Revolution’ wird dann stehen müssen, dass sie stets bemüht war das Ziel zu erreichen – jede[r], der Formulierungen von solchen Dokumenten kennt, weiß was tatsächlich gemeint ist: Bemühungen ein Ziel zu erreichen, bedeutet nicht, es tatsächlich zu tun.


[1] Sozialphilosoph; UEF, Finnland; Corvinus Universität Ungarn; EURISPES, Italien; gegenwärtig Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik [Sozialrecht], München

[2] Sozialwissenschaftler; Middle East Technical University, Ankara

[3] Im Original want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness

[4] diese fünf Spannungen sind erstmals angesprochen 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 Gigabyte has a Horse?; Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en las Relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raúl Roas García), Havana; Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda; Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of Trans-Pacific-Section

[5]; 31/12/17

babies and bathing water

With this reference I ended a comment on the entry of Paul’s blog, where he looks at the CORE-project.

In a nutshell: a textbook that is slightly better as others, does not make it sufficiently fit for use.

As my experience of working with the text-book shows, some more radical change is needed. And blaming a faulty economic system, narrow-minded economists and trumpy-dumy politicians should not tempt us to kill the baby …

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.


Differences ….
…. I thought about it during the symposium, while talking to one of the colleagues who asked me what I would think about the gathering. Of course, there is a danger of stereotyping. Still, I dared to say that in China such events are more about presenting the institution, in Europe it is always very much about self-presentation of the participants – “here I feel more of collaboration, trying to define the core of the issue and working together towards finding an answer.” – As said, there is the huge danger of all these classifications, concerned with the I and the We and the Us – I will come back to it.


The day after the symposium was the day of … – well, it was not really holiday. It was about other meetings – the many ambassadors that participated in the symposium had been now “replaced” by the individual ambassadors: instead of meeting the ambassadors as collaborators, it was now meeting the ambassadors. One could think: they represent their country; but they also may represent themselves – just having a job, living in another country than that of their origin and somewhat “merging images and expectations” – at least in some cases. If one would not know the mechanisms that are behind of being sent on mission into the different countries one could occasionally get the impression ambassadors come to the country that they see “as their own”, the country in which they would really like to live … . Perhaps it is about extremely privileged people who are able to live up to the Aristotelean “vision” that

[t]he ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.

Or it is about the perfect staging: the non-smokers, and non-drinkers, sitting relaxed in the rocking chair, smoking the obligatory cigar, while their vista is moving pensively between the rum and …, well, it should be Miami if it would be a it closer …
Anyway, would it be possible in Italy to meet for a chat with the French ambassador, and especially: celebrating the launch of a mural, a most remarkable project that decorates now the wall around the embassy? The kind of casual chat may be as remarkable as the fact that the embassy allows such truly multi- and intercultural project to happen and as remarkable as the way in which artists, people from the embassy and people from the Cuban government and people from the street interact. Is there a term like “serene-serious”? But looking for such a term may be just due to the German heritage that I carry with me around the world – nolens volens … – as we all carry such tiny things with us, and as it confirmed to me during the day: the yanks in the morning, the French during the day, but also confirmed in the evening, meeting the ambassador of the UK on the occasion of the visit in the beautifully renovated opera house. (— Ah well, there is something nice about carrying the general entry ticket named “minister of culture”.
Though the various ambassadors and embassy staff reflect another dimension of “the we and they”: the social divide is surely not relevant in Cuba as it is elsewhere. I was always thinking about it during these days, looking at the person in the escalator: her job is to look after everybody, getting us onto the right floor …, and during the breaks she is reading the academic journal on international relations. It reminds me of thbe one day when I had been collected: the car at the gate was bringing me to the ministry. The colleague, who would later take part in the meeting with the deputy of the department, discussed heatedly the next possible moves the government should take – admittedly car and uniform were less pompous than those of the European doormen.
Second day after the symposium, first day of the month: First of May. I leave as usual in the morning at 5ish. But this day not just for a walk, but with  the destination appropriate for this day: the Revolution Square. Already in front of my house I see many people, moving into the same direction. They are gathering, the group of international students just passes when I open the gate, I see the workers of different hospitals, the workers of the ministry of education, the workers of the tourist industry … – an experience of a special kind: Bonn, the peace rallies (in 1972?), a rally in Paris, probably about 15 years ago; the various rallies around the globe, against the US-Intervention in Iraq — I remember having been in Birmingham at the time, taking part in  workshop. And we received the messages: tens of thousand, millions … – in Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid … .
I do not know how many people gathered on the first of May in Havanna. In any case, numbers do not really matter. Later, when I walked back, a thought came to my mind, the idea of a “comparison”: There are so many people now talking about the pope, the new developments: beginning with his harsh critique of “an economy of exclusion and inequality [that] kills”, recognising that
[t]he current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person.
(Evangelii Gaudium, 2013)
But as strong as the messages from the pope may be, something else comes to my mind: The pope’s message is received with devotion and humility, leaving afterwards everybody alone: going home or even going out to do good – as volunteers, as supporters and councillors (I guess it is the new term for missionaries), as Mother Theresia or Father Theodore or Brother Michael
and sister St Catherine of Siena. The message of this first of May was clearer – after a short but powerful address the rally started moving, the groups remaining together: from their enterprises etc., but in some way they are merging …, expressing their determination — Trotz alledem (or here)
Sure, for some the photos seem to be more important; and for some … – Linda, when we talked, was not too excited: “”e are gathering at 5:30 — it means that I have to get up at 4, walk a long way as the buses will not provide service that morning … – but I have to.” — “And if you would not have to …?” — “Well, I still would go. We Cubans just like to complain.” [Ah well, yes … of course also “We Cubans …” ;-)]
Much later, it is about 10, I am sitting in the rocking chair, reflecting, writing, contemplating …. – some people pass the house, obviously tourists … too late to join, though it may well be that they never really want to join.
I look at my t-shirt: 21ème siecle. La fin de l’histoire? Mon oiel! – Karl Marx looking mischievously. And indeed, it may well become true in a different way as originally stated that
those who come too late are castigated by history
(Mikhail Gorbachev)


Something that occupies my thought since some time now is going hand in hand with this — in the words of the pope it would be about “camminare insieme”; in general terms it is about the point I mentioned earlier: “the I and the We and the Us”. Recently somebody addressed me in a mail by writing “Man without country”. And I was thinking about it. What is it that makes us men and women of/with a country? The marching together as something of producing something and getting awarded for it? In simple terms the production of the gross domestic and gross national product and the social security that results from here? So far so good … – and still completely loosing ground when we think a bit more about it. Such production was always exclusive, depending on “the other”: any surplus produced, is complemented by a loss somewhere else. If a win-win situation is possible at all, it actually depends on overcoming its own presumption: the presumption of “the other”. It is even difficult to think it. It is a bit like thinking the “endless character of the universe”, the common approach being imagining something really huge, and adding something really huge to it, always adding and adding, only shifting borders and not being able to really think without borders at the outset – forgetting that the sum is more than the amount of its parts, forgetting that the borderless space is different to shifting borders to another external point. — Living in some way an “ex-pat life” (possible if one does not have a patria? Possible not to have a patria?), one hears too often these words of “the I and the We and the Us”: we Europeans, we Irish, we French, we Chinese, we Japanese, we Italians, we Germans, we …; our dumplings, our pasta, their stew …; and all their different ways of thinking and acting and not-acting, making even “our crisis” and “our hardship” and “our inability to find solutions” more remarkable than the “crisis” and “hardship” and “inability to find solutions” of the others — often followed by something like “but actually I am different, I am not really European, Irish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, German,  … In this way, nationalism may well be the foundation of individualism, making it necessary for us to define ourself in contradistinction. In actual fact this arises then from the constellation of a fundamentally split society, the split between and within nations. It does not allow us to develop this “camminare insieme”. Is it really true?
The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person.
(Evangelii Gaudium, 2013)
Or is it the other way round: as the accumulation regime, a capitalist system stands at the outset. In the words of Karl Polanyi:
The market pattern, on the other hand, being related to a peculiar motive of its own, the motive of truck or barter, is capable of creating a specific institution, namely, the market. Ultimately, that is why the control of the economic system by the market is of overwhelming consequence to the whole organization of society: it means no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market. Instead of economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.  The vital importance of the economic factor to the existence of society precludes any other result. For once the economic system is organized in separate institutions, based on specific motives and conferring a special status, society must be shaped in such a manner as to allow that system to function according to its own laws. This is the meaning of the familiar assertion that a market economy can function only in a market society.
(Polanyi, Karl, 1944: The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time; Boston: Beacon Press, 1957: 57)
It was the
[n]ineteenth century civilization alone [that] was economic in a different and distinctive sense, for it chose to base itself on a motive only rarely acknowledged as valid in the history of human societies, and certainly never before raised to the level of a justification of action and behavior in everyday life, namely, gain. The self-regulating market system was uniquely derived from this principle.
(ibid., 30)
And as long as these gain oriented markets are now our “societies”, and as much as these markets are backed by a methodological nationalism, it is barely imaginable to achieve a way of thinking that overcomes the inherent force towards “the I and the We and the Us”. Actually capitalism itself – its key players of the current casino system – is much advanced, not limiting itself to overcoming borders, but having moved further, by simply moving them away, as long as it is advantaging itself.
What makes it so difficult to accept the contradictoriness as something very normal?
Two o’clock at night – well, not yet. I have to levee to the airport at two – Teresita is still up, asks if I want a coffee. Of course I want and some water. Few minutes later the driver enters the kitchen, and we enjoy the coffee together. There is not much time left. A last hug, I have to lean down, sense the warm skin … the little luggage I have is already in the car – an old Moscovitch, still in the road. We reverse, and I see a built-in gadget, showing the driver green, yellow and red lines, with it the distance to objects in the back. Unexpected, added to the original — I look up, there is still a mirror, having lost its original function of looking back. But wait, it looks back, much further than any mirror would allow, holding a rosary …
… Accepting this contradictoriness will allow us to enjoy “our stew”, to respect the baci e abbracci with some people as much as the respectful and somewhat distanced bow of other people and look together for those contradictions and tensions that need to be rebuked.
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