Questions of a customer who reads …

There is a poem, written by Brecht:
I recently wrote about academics who may also have some special questions.
Perhaps it could also be ‘re-writtten’, like this … as
Questions of a customer who reads …
What is it one can find in a shop, for instance in a small town like Confolens, FR:
The shop: it is Lidle, German company
a chain soaring across more and more countries
distributing Asian food
produced in Germany
sold in France
with English-language label
– where did they produce the package,
from where did they get the oil for the plastic
from where the truck to transport the stuff to the train
which railway company brought the stuff to …
and from where are the workers who uploaded and unloaded the trains and trucks ..?
Who looks after the kids of the workers – are there creches maintained by the enterprise, public facilities or what solution is there for them?
Where do the owners of the enterprises pay taxes
– if they pay taxes at all
And what do they do with the profits …?
Who prepares the meal for the workers if they have to work all day long?
And what do the boss and the worker talk about
if they meet on the soccer pitch …?
There would be so many more questions to be asked – though Lidle has a shop, not a school, and a school has not time to go to shops, there are too many models to be learned about, not leaving space for reality, the pace not allowing to think too much …

Responsibility versus Success?

“All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life has sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold
Had you been as wise as bold,
Your in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been in’scroll’d
Fare you well: your suit is cold.’ Cold, indeed, and labour lost: Then, farewell, heat and welcome, frost!”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Responsibility and Success, at times and in some cases may stand in contradiction, at least tension to each other … – while the cat is chasing its own tale, not being sure if it is dead or alive.
… It is said of medical doctors that they cannot perform well unless they overcome a certain kind of empathy – some interventions cause instant pain, providing relief in the longer run. Is that the same with doctors in economics and even social science in general?
In any case the question to be asked is more specific as empathy as such is a rather empty and shallow notion as long as it is not specified. And specifying means here as in most of the cases to ask the simple question for which in particular Marcus Tullius Cicero was getting famous:
Cui Bono – for whose benefit?
Reading the other day an interview, made with a former …, shall I still say colleague?, brought this question back to me. I do not want to question the interviewees qualification, have no doubts that he is committed – but that may make things even worse.
If finance and stock analysis is such an advanced discipline, I feel obliged to ask why in 2007 a crisis manifested, actually already visible for some time for attentive observers? And it had been a crisis in particular around finance and stock markets.
I also feel obliged to wonder how it is possible to elevate a tiny fraction of the economy, an actual tool of the entire socio-economic processes, making it a major?
Sure, I agree with the emphasis of students responsibility – but it is not about them entering life – students are surely already living and perhaps we, as teachers, should think more about keeping them alive, not killing these lives by subordinating them under the rules of the ‘Lehmans of this world’.
Reading, as said to students
You are not far away from productively enter society and the real world. For that, you  will need to be as ready as possible to become accomplished and successful professionals.
shows in my reading a bit of disrespect – at least as student, I and many of my generation, would surely not have accepted such suggestion – though what is presented in the interview is surely view on young people and on life reflecting very much an negative approach to academic work: first work and then think about what you are doing. First act, and then reflect on the issues of responsibility – and even more: you may come to the conclusion that you don’t have to. There is surely a complex issue at stake – unfortunately very positive experience of the Polytechnic Secondary School education in part of Germany, finding roots in Henry Holmes Belfield’s foundation of the Chicago Manual Training School [founded in 1883] are surely more valuable than orienting on professional skills training, without sound academic foundation.
Yes, it is indeed time to take on responsibility …. – I returned to Europe – the interviewee once talked about one of my ‘homelands’, namely Italy. At least there he was right, stating that the country is in a mess. But he also celebrated another of my ‘homelands’ Germany and the U.K. suggesting that their success was very much due to austerity measures … – well, there is a point in it: the relative wealth of both is founded in austerity which can be taken as externalisation of cost and privatisation of gain: social inequality in Germany is increasing; an increasing number of people, though in full-time employment, do not earn enough money to make a living; after a full working life, the old age pension is mot secure; the health system is deteriorating, although the private contributions are extremely high. the UK took another way: exiting the EU, hoping to be thus in a position to avoid any obligation under the gelding ’solidarity’ – Indeed, Cui Bono as in both countries the rich are getting richer and more infueotnail! Being in Europe now – a bit of a tour de force through Italy, Germany, France, The Netherlands it is very visible what it means … – and there are too many facets that would need to be highlighted.

I take a short passage, from the end of an article I am currently finalising [‘Plattformökonomie – flexi, ein Schritt vorwärts oder zwei Schritte zurück?’] … Sorry, it is I German language ….***

Ein Eindruck vom mehrfachen Druck

Ein Eindruck sei hier am Schluss gegeben – dies meint auch: eine eindrückliche Verdeutlichung des Gesamtzusammenhanges. Es handelt sich um ein persönliche Erfahrung des Autors – gemacht im August 2017: Ziel des Fußweges war die mehr oder weniger zentrale Geschäftsstelle einer Krankenkasse in einer größeren deutschen Stadt. Der Weg führte an den verschiedenen Geschäften der Ketten vorbei: einschließlich etwa Esprit,[1] TK, Starbucks, Karstadt, H&M, s.Oliver,[2] Victorinox, Subway, Zara, Primark, Nespresso, Manufactum, O2 – auch der ‚discounter’ Lidl, alle nun auch in den Zentren mehr oder weniger reicher Städte Deutschlands zu finden.

Vor dem discounter kniet ein Bettler, im danebenliegenden Kaffee wird der Verkäufer der Straßenzeitung von der am Tresen stehenden Verkäuferin vertrieben, in der Geschäftsstelle der Krankenkasse wird die Summe des Versicherungsbetrages genannt – es handelt sich um mehr als 16% des Einkommens. Im Falle der Einkommenslosigkeit sind es immer noch um knapp 180 €. – Glücklich, wer da noch beim discounter kaufen kann oder gar auf andere Weise den Wert der eigenen Ware Arbeitskraft senken kann, etwa durch die Inanspruchnahme des Foodora- oder Uber-Dienstes, möglicherweise bei einem Urlaubsaufenthalt, erschwinglich durch den solo-Unternehmer, der als Pilot arbeitet und die Airbnb-reduzierten Unterkunftskosten – die letzte Warnung: spätestens wenn der Trevi-Brunnen oder Ähnliches zum Verkauf angeboten wird,[3] sollte man sich fragen, ob die Grenzen nicht wirklich überschritten sind. – Déjà vu, das letzte Geschäft, welches ich nun auf dem Rückweg sehe – wohl Zufall, ebenso Zufall, wie die aufschimmernde Erinnerung an einen Platz in Rom, den ich vor einigen Jahren überquerte – selbst im Zentrum des katholischen Wohlgefallens ist bekannt, dass Wohlfahrt in der Konkurrenzgesellschaft Grenzen hat.

But I may submit something else to the discussion here – the short story written by L.N. Tolstoy: Master and Man – there is a no need to buy into the religious part of it. Many aspects are making if a good read – the main story line, and the little ramifications.
Reading the short story the light of finance, there is one crucial sentence, and should not be forgotten when looking at the tool of finance – and applying tools without knowing sufficiently about the entire context:
Vasili Andreevich stopped, stooped down and looked carefully. It was a horse-track only partially covered with snow, and could be none but his own horse’s hoofprints. He had evidently gone round in a small circle. ‘I shall perish like that!’ he thought, and not to give way to his terror he urged on the horse still more, peering into the snowy darkness in which he saw only flitting and fitful points of light.
Indeed, limited perspectives don’t allow much – there is always good reason to take wider perspectives on studying, responsibility and life.
*** Too lazy, and not trusting google-translation, I still dared – the result is reasonable, here inserted without changes made.
An impression of multiple pressures An impression should be given here – this also means: an impressive clarification of the overall context. It is a personal experience of the author – made in August 2017: the goal of the footpath was the more or less central office of a health insurance in a larger German city. The route took us past the various shops of the chains: including Esprit, TK, Starbucks, Karstadt, H & M, s.Oliver, Victorinox, Subway, Zara, Primark, Nespresso, Manufactum, O2 Also in the centers of more or less rich cities of Germany.   In front of the discounter, a beggar kneels, in the coffee next to it, the seller of the road is expelled by the saleswoman standing at the counter, in the office of the health insurance the sum of the insurance amount is called – it is more than 16% of the income. In the case of loss of income, it is still around € 180. – Happy, who can still buy at the discounter or in some other way reduce the value of the own goods labor, for example through the consumption of the food or over-service, possibly for a holiday stay, affordable by the solo entrepreneur, who as Pilot works and the Airbnb reduced accommodation costs – the last warning: at the latest when the Trevi well or the like is offered for sale, one should ask whether the limits are not really exceeded. – Déjà vu, the last business I see on the way back – coincidence, just as coincidentally, as the glimmering memory of a place in Rome, which I crossed a few years ago – even in the center of the Catholic prosperity is well-known that welfare In the competition borders.

[1]            Ja, es ist ein bemerkenswerter Geist, der da über allem schwebt. Und wie Namen, Images und Design eine immer prägendere Rolle spielt, was unter anderem durch Halbbildung ermöglicht wird.

Yes, it is a remarkable spirit that floats above everything. And how names, images and design play an ever more prominent role, which is made possible, among other things, by semi-education.

[2]            Es fehlt nur das an das S angehängte t um dem Ganzen etwas Heiligkeit zu anzuhängen.

The only thing missing is the t attached to the S to add something holiness to the whole.

[3]            Vom Teilverkauf in der Form von Besichtigungskosten, gig-sightseeing-tours etc. abgesehen.

 From the partial sale in the form of sightseeing, gig-sightseeing-tours etc. apart.

On studying, teaching, responsibility … and a bit on economy and economics

Students at Bangor College China asked me for an interview – some would say it is about god and the world – but that is not really an appropriate wording when it comes to talking with an atheist about studying, teaching and responsibility, is it?

It may well be of interests to a wider audience — trying to make sense of studying today. And it surely links to many other statements made on various occasions of looking for firm grounds in a world of flux.

The students:

采访:李雨欣 彭博 龚佳亮 刘佳浩



Protestocatholicism …. or … Cathoprotestanism …

Teaching is over now – most of the exam papers corrected and time …, to look forward. Teaching always is caught in the tension: dealing with the ‘real realities‘ on then hand and with ‘clear’ theories and the supposed ‘objective, value-free’ analysis of the reality on the other hand – and in economics it is even worse than other disciplines: the ‘objective reality’ being the reality of rational individuals. If it would be only for my neighbours and colleagues: I know that humans are not rational actors. Some are not acting, some are solely actors, some are not rational – and the worst category are the irrationally acting actors …
Well, leaving this aside …, or actually no: taking it from here, there is always also the point that even the ‘rational systems’, as central banks, money, exchange values etc are never following the books – it is not because they have their own lives but more because text books create ‘an own life’: the life of a world as it should or could be, the life of a world that had been imagined by some as political programs etc.
Two issues, the one like to pure doctrine when it comes to banking and central banks: be they independent or not, they are usually considered to be public bodies, committed to the common wheal etc. Still, in one way or another, i.e. more or less explicit, these banks serve – in most if the cases – public AND private interests, usually without being specified.
However, sone specification can be seen in the generally agreed upon ‘holy trinity’: maximisation of employment, stabilisation of prices, moderating interest rates.
But ….. where is the challenge addressed that Dani Rodrik poses as irresolvable trilemma: we cannot have democracy AND sovereignty AND global integration.
In fact – this is indeed part of the story –  we see that over the recent years and even decades the overall goal of controlling inflation is positioned over the goal of maximising employment. Stating this, it is necessary to ask as well: why maximising employment if we are already producing large surpluses?
From there it is worthwhile to look at the second issue: the question of value, valuation and valorisation. It haunts me for a long time, always asking myself and perhaps even more so: talking about values, calling for living along the lines of the cardinal virtues …- beh, forgotten what the quarterly reviewer said?
“Capital is said … to fly turbulence and strife, and to be timid, which is very true; but this is very incompletely stating the question. Capital es- chews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vac- uum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent, will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent, certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., posi- tive audacity; 100 per cent., will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave trade have amply proved all that is here stated” (T.J. Dunning, 1. c, [Trades’ Union and Strikes,] pp. 35-36; from: Marx, Karl, 1867: Capital; Volume I; in: Karl Marx/Frederick Engels. Collected Works; Volume 35; London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1996: 748, footnote 2)
Still, working currently in the ‘mainstream’ [or to be more precise: trying to swim against it], I am looking at questions of digitisation, all the new economic forms emerging in that context, linked to primarily in the issues about technical developments but more about relations of procession and the mode of production. Profitability plays a role and …, exactly the issues around value, valuation and valorisation. in the context of a paper I am still developing not least in connection with the preparation of the G20-discussions I am wondering of it is time to change perspectives in political economy. Famously Max Weber centre-staged an issue that was already issued – more en passant – by Marx: the question of the protestant ethics. Marx saw it, of course, as matter of the superstructure, without denying its importance whereas Weber saw the emergence of this ethics system as driving force.
My question is a different one at this stage: instead of counterpoising catholicism and protestantism, we may have tops of a merger, we may call it
Protestocatholicism …. or … Cathoprotestanism …
The reflection behind it? Well, quoting from the paper – work in progress –
Early capitalism was characterised by the fundamental ambition to follow the principle of exchange of equivalents – inequality existed at the point of departure but after ‘free individuals entered the economic sphere of exchange – they had been equals. The ten new capitalism stood against the feudal system that was based on violence. However, looking at the situation today, we see that the foundation is not simply and solely about the different points of departure. The economic process of the data economy is itself a violent relationship that has little to do with equivalence: it is the violence of withholding information, utilising the directional power of information, the enforcement of conditions, perfectioning of control etc.
A world which has lost much of the foundation in reality and where, indeed, values seem to be virtual, even if they are presented by concrete numbers as Peter Wahl pointed out already some time ago:
Even if every business transaction was protected by derivatives, the real economy-based proportion would still be less than 5%. Therefore, by far the largest portion is used for speculative trading. Buyers and sellers no longer have anything to do with each other. Dealers with not the slightest interest in wheat purchase large quantities of grain forwards in order to sell them profitably when the contract matures. Only a very small proportion of this business actually refers to material objects such as grain, gold or oil – the BIS assumes this proportion to be approximately 1%. The predominant proportion concerns financial products. There is practically no end to fantasy in developing derivatives: meanwhile, the system has achieved such a complexity that there are derivatives dealing with derivatives of derivatives.
Protestocatholicism …. or … Cathoprotestanism … – just another form of indulgence payments, from old violence to new violence.
And in any case, this violence is real.

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.

Easter Maths?

Of course, there had been a good reason for Ciro Guardaccione, saying

This is a fantastic thing, I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything

the background for this statement being a recent step made by the Vatican  on which teleSUR reported in an article on April the 12th:

On Monday Pope Francis opened a free laundromat for people living on the streets in Rome.The Pope Francis Laundry, located in an abandoned hospital near the Vatican, was opened to “restore dignity to many people who are our brothers and sisters,” according to a statement.

It is good news, those, who are preparing for the Easter celebrations, going then to mass, make take into their hearts.

Still, doing the maths I am a bit hesitant when it comes to joining into any jubilee, or asking for extending the Misericordiae Vultus, even if the pope also rejects harshly hypocrisy, stating:

“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association’,” the head of the Roman Catholic Church said.

He said some of these people should also say, “‘my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life’.”

Of course, we see that the church under the current leader is working on the issue:

The Vatican passed its first legislation against money laundering and terrorist group funding in 2011. At the Vatican Bank, Pope Francis has brought in new leadership, increased transparency and limited access to the bank to diocese and other Catholic organizations to further fight against money laundering. Under his watch, the bank also disclosed its very first annual financial report in 2013 (the bank released a second annual report last year).

But there some issues remain on the agenda that raise doubts and the question if we are actually facing a double hypocrisy: arguing against hypocrisy in the world while standing on hypocritical feet makes two right? And though knowing too well, that selling the assets and feeding the poor is not the solution, issues as the following remain on the table:

So far, at least, and if we can believe the satires, the son, when going to the cross, was joined by two people: Dismas, the penitent thief, and Gestas, the impenitent thief, the latter supposedly asking for salvation, the first asking to be remembered, the first very much behaving according the ‘life style’, that was much later named utilitarian – and on which I reflected recently. It surely is over-interpreted, still, there remains the question why Dismas was supposed in the left side of Jesus

the latest issue of The International Journal of Social Quality

A bit of advertisement – the copy of a mail I received via a mailing list:

Dear Colleague,

We are pleased to announce that the latest issue of The International Journal of Social Quality has recently been published by Berghahn Journals. 

In this issue, the articles consider multiple approaches as they address societal issues such as the challenge of sustainability, gender parity and equality, the digital revolution and its effects on labor markets and Corporate Social Responsibility. This issue also includes an article by Steve Corbett that examines the 2016 Referendum on the United Kingdom’s (UK) European Union (EU) membership. This article will be free to access until March 15!

Please visit the Berghahn website for more information about the journal:

Current Issue: Volume 6, Issue 1

Editorial: Brexit, Sustainability, Economics, Companies’ Responsibilities, and Current Representations

Free Article – until March 15
The Social Consequences of Brexit for the UK and Europe: Euroscepticism, Populism, Nationalism, and Societal Division
Steve Corbett

Humanosphere Potentiality Index: Appraising Existing Indicators from a Long-term Perspective
Takahiro Sato, Mario López, Taizo Wada, Shiro Sato, Makoto Nishi and Kazuo Watanabe

Gender Parity and Equality in the Sultanate of Oman: A Case in Education for the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
Faryal Khan and Maricel Fernandez-Carag

Social Quality: Regaining Political Economy
Peter Herrmann

An Exogenous Path of Development: Explaining the Rise of Corporate Social Responsibility in China
Ka Lin, Dan Banik and Longfei Yi

How Our Collective Representations Affect the Future of the European Union
Jan Berting

Be sure to recommend IJSQ to your institution’s library:

Free Sample Issue: