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 …


Gach rud is fearr! …

Quick info – just in case: My phone does not work at the moment, thus I also cannot be reached via ordinary phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp or WeChat …

here the little “novel” to it:
Why not reachable? Here you see, first by taking a quote from Graeber’s book:
3. what duct tapers do
Duct tapers are employees whose jobs exist only because of a glitch or fault in the organization; who are there to solve a problem that ought not to exist. I am adopting the term from the software industry, but I think it has more general applicability. ”
On the social level, duct taping has traditionally been women’s work. Throughout history, prominent men have wandered about oblivious to half of what’s going on around them, treading on a thousand toes; it was typically their wives, sisters, mothers, or daughters who were left with the responsibility of performing the emotional labor of soothing egos, calming nerves, and negotiating solutions to the problems they created. In a more material sense, duct taping might be considered a classic working-class function. The architect may come up with a plan that looks stunning on paper, but it’s the builder who has to figure out how to actually install electrical sockets in a circular room or to use real duct tape to hold things together that in reality simply don’t fit together the way the blueprints say they should.
Passi di: David Graeber. “Bullshit Jobs”. iBooks.
(it had been nice chatting with you)
and of course, everything noticed …
(Here are the minutes of the chat
Sunday …
Duration …)
no success, but a lengthy chat with I…, from Portugal, now in Ireland, chatting in German as my phone provider … and probably miserably paid .. but for the time being she likes it – Gach rud is fearr! – everything is good …
Some “tiny things” though — may be it is just a matter off paranoia …
  • There was another Apple-message popping up, from M… – USS – Unknown Supervising Subject ??? I…’s and P…’s big brother…?
  • “probably miserably paid” … – we surely have to think more about precarity and voluntariat – taking the latter term from piece written by Geoff Schullenberger in 2014 in the Jacobin. The point I want to make – as I did already on various occasions – is the following: as relevant as issues of social security, uncertainty are as consequence of a managerial strategy of undermining social rights, the really important thing seems to me the aggressive restructuration of the conditions and strategy of capital accumulation, characterised by the fact that “capitalism dissolutes itself” – something many would welcome, though the real and serious problem is the direction it currently does. A lengthy quote from the Jacobin-article may be allowed:

Coursera’s founders are no doubt aware that translation, no less than software engineering, is traditionally a paid activity done by trained professionals with specialized knowledge (particularly when it involves the kinds of technical vocabularies used in many college courses); otherwise, they would not have sought the considerable financial resources of the Carlos Slim Foundation to facilitate translations of its courses into Spanish in January.

But who needs Carlos Slim’s billions when you can have the courses translated free of charge by “a tight-knit community of committed individuals” enthusiastic about “helping millions of learners” and, well, helping Coursera expand its profit margin?

While joining Coursera’s “community” does not resemble a job in the “getting paid” aspect of things, it does require you to sign a “Translator Agreement,” which makes clear that the relationship between Coursera and members of the GTC is subject to employment law insofar as it ensures Coursera’s complete and perpetual ownership of value produced by employees — or rather, “volunteers” — but in every other respect, it is not a job, just a way to be nice.

  • While talking to I… – actually we had been really chatting a bit (the old Irish country boy  coming through), I was not only thinking about a possibly enthusiastic young women, who did not see any future in Portugal, exited to migrate to the country with forty shades of green, only lacking the sun (that is what she said); I was also thinking about her social security, health services, old-age pension etc. – at least most of those jobs ARE badly paid; and living in a country that refuses to accept the tax-money owed by her employer Apple (a random collection of reading: here and here and here and here), money that could well be used to develop a sustainable infrastructure instead of violently enforcing unsustainable growth)
  • Last, not least and not finally: as I… could not help me, sending me to a shop here in Łódź, I hoped … – la speranza è l’ultima cosa a morire – Nadzieja umiera ostatnia – the hope is the last thing to die …, well, being the last thing does not change ultimate death: they could not help me either, suggesting they could send it for repair and …

Most likely they will have a brief look and replace it with a new one – for 1699 Złoty, it is new, but coming without the box and without cable for charging and without warrantee, A new one in a box, comes with cable and warrantee …., we sell it for 2229 Złoty. that is for the 7, the 8, brand new with box and everything is 2979 Złoty

Everything = even this thingy-thing called Rip-Off, theatre, show

Taking this together – and adding some other things about that I will talk early December (being announced here on the 3rd of December) I suppose Graeber is wrong, saying “BS-jobs don’t pay”. In fact they, part of them do … until the bubble birst, again destroying human lives or this time opening for the 99% re-occupying public space …   under penalty of victory of V.

By Enrique Dans from Madrid, Spain – We are legionUploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30480799


Precarity – It Isn’t about Employment, It Is the Economy, Stupid…

From the printer
Herrmann, Peter, 2018: Precarity – It Isn’t about Employment, It Is the Economy, Stupid…
No3 (209)/2018: 73-73
Издается с 1992 года Выходит 4 раза в год
DOI: 10.24411/ISSN. 1999-9836
(scroll for English abstract)

На прекаризацию обычно ссылаются как на проблему заня- тости и увеличения неуверенности и нестабильности су- ществования труда в качестве безопасной и предсказуемой основы социоэкономической безопасности – впоследствии мы обнаруживаем нестабильность включения, цельности и полномочий (и/или понимания). Намекая на лозунг «Это эко- номика, глупыш», который использовался в президентской компании Билла Клинтона в 1992 году, данный лозунг исполь- зован в заголовке публикуемой статьи: «Прекаризация – это не безработица, глупыш». Этот тезис звучит в таком объ- еме в обсуждении прекаризации как нестандартное понима- ние экономики, основанное на четырёх базовых принципах: денежная прибыль, экономический рост, конкуренция и заня- тость. Реальный вызов заключается в обращении к ограни- чениям данного базиса из четырёх частей, который преобла- дает в современной социологии, а именно методологический индивидуализм, методологический национализм, методоло- гический солюционизм и методологический презентизм. Объект исследования. Анализ неустойчивой занятости. Предмет исследования. Изменение методологических требований.

Цель исследования. Выявление недостатков существую- щей методологии социологии и перспективы альтернатив- ных направлений методологии.
Основные положения статьи. Определение метода пре- каризации в рамках меняющейся экономической формации.

Ключевые слова: неустойчивая занятость; методология со- циологии; экономика и общество; социальное качество; труд.


Precarity is commonly referred to as matter of employment and the increasing insecurity and instability of obtaining labour as secure and predictable foundation of socio-economic security – subsequently we find instability of inclusion, cohesiveness and empowerment (and/or perception). Alluding to the slogan «the economy, stupid» which had been guiding Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, the slogan brought forward is here «Precarity – it isn’t employment, stupid». The thesis is that much of the debate on precarity is referring to a curtailed understanding of the economy, based in four main pillars: monetary gain, growth, competition and employment. The real challenge lies in addressing the limitations of the quadriga that dominates modern social science, namely methodological individualism, methodological nationalism, methodological solutionism and methodological presentism.

The Object of the Study: Analysing precarious employment
The Subject of the Study: Change of Methodological Requirements
The Purpose of the Study: Identifying flaws of existing methodology of social science and perspectives for alternatives The main Provisions of the Article: Locating precarity within the framework of a changing economic formation

Keywords: precarious employment; methodology of social science; economy and society; social quality; work.

Digitisation – Employment – and What?

The recording of the keynote presentation on Digitisation, Employment, and What? is already online. It is an attempt to socio-locate the challenge of today’s productivity puzzle and had been given on occasion of the symposium in Helsinki, organised by the Pellervo Society and the European Academy of Science and Arts, today on the 18th of September 2018.

Usual beginning is about “I do not know where to start” – all is so terribly confusing, a multitude of extremely different things.

There seems an obvious reply in the present case,

  • at least for digitisation – the apparent omnipresence of issues that are in one or another way about digital stuff – from the CD-player to the computer on four wheels
  • also for AI – the fact that it is not entirely clear is part of AI itself: there seems to be something that we, humankind, came up with and that is now “beyond our capacities” – the Frankenstein of Intellect if you want
  • and what seems to be equally clear: precarity in the vein of decreasing employment – another time we hear in different rhythm the old melody: there is not enough work anymore. But if we listen around we hear also something else – something we also heard for many times throughout history: There will never be an end, though there will be many changes.

Having said earlier that presentations are often started with something like “I do not know where to begin”, waiting for an Ariadne who may help. At present, my point is a different one, namely “I do not where it will end”. It is the famous Alice-in-Wonderland-situation, leading elsewhere to the conclusion “but I would not start from here”.

employment – precarity – or what

Precarity of Employment – Precarity of Capital Accumulation – Helplessness of Social Science

Thoughts from the Panel during the 28thEconomic Forum, Krynica-Zdroj, Polonia:
Flexible Employment: A way to a global chaos or to a new model of labour market stability?

a brief note, while already on the way back to Munich …

And the changed title is:

Panem et circenses – but who bakes the bread?

There is no reason to carry owls to Athens – they are there, and at least also one is in Krynica, in the park

– repeating what is well known, e.g. speaking about growth and employment and looking for ways for its enhancement. Opposing is often naively just about rejecting it without thinking about viable alternatives. The core of my contribution in Krynica can be summarised in the following table and a short para, trying to get a bit closer to the ground of things:

(Click to enlarge)

and in the one paragraph:

Precarity can only be meaningfully looked at, if understood as one of two sides of the accumulation regime: there we are dealing with employment issues, around generating value; and we are dealing with accumulation as realising value by combining factors of production and by recombining in different ways use value and exchange value. The one is a matter of production, the other of distribution and exchange. The problematique emanates from the fact of what we may call a “realisation paradox”: Though the market is needed to make surplus real, it is only the productive sphere that makes it possible. The outcome is the “destruction of time“ in the sphere of production, in order to be artificially extended in the sphere of consumption. It should not surprise if one feels reminded of the process of production which consumes raw material, i.e. destroys nature in order to establish artificial consumables.

– I would not suggest that capital/capital accumulation is in a more precarious situation than employment/the employment regime and social securitisation; however, there is good reason to look at (parts of) this under the heading “sex, drugs and crime”.

On the new title: such an event has something of exactly the Panem et Circenses, trying to make us forget that somebody has to bake the bread ….
Follow the link for the recording of some schort remarks.

Privatisation through the backdoor


on New Deal For Irish Families, states at the end of his article

Real choices for mothers and their partners requires a social investment state that supports families throughout their life course.

Of course, at first sight it is laudable but then …


Would it not be even more laudable and plausible to establish another reference as the words of Bertrand Russels who suggests in his In Praise of Idleness

that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried further than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently.


(l)eisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered possible by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.


Isn’t the rhetoric of “social investment”, seen in connection with targeting choice between family and career, not only wrong by way of reducing social policy on a labour market instrument, but also by way of misguiding the understanding of work? Isn’t it with such social investment perspective also established as private matter through the backdoor? Instead of paying for childcare privately the state (or possibly private public partnerships) ar paid in kind, through the work they do instead. Redistribution of wealth has to go hand in hand with redistribution of  work. Indeed, Nicolas Bueno in his short Introduction to the Human Economy makes a point that is surely interesting enough to overcome the idea of social investment as a social policy. He writes

Once human beings are delivered from being thought of as mere producers of economic value, a part of the time and energy that was before only dedicated to producing goods and services can be used in order to create something else. But what can individuals create with their human potential? Human benefits.


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