The need to search for what we cannot know

Wittgenstein once wrote:

For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well.

We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say either.[1]


And later he concludes his tractatus with the words

6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.[2]

And Bertrand Russell summarises in his Introduction that

What we cannot think we cannot think, therefore we also cannot say what we cannot think.[3]

This may leave us in a state of paralysis when it comes to the need of change; but it may also lead us to use the mistakes we make as some form of beauty: as challenge and opportunity to work on unknown paths – not simply as path we did not know before but going beyond this, at path we did not even imagine that they would exist. Paradoxically it means to start from what is really given, unveiled from abstract thoughts and political-economic frameworks, starting from real reality as fundamental truth, and develop things from there.

Talking about economics, as we did end of September in Athens on occasion of the annual Euromemo-conference, we may see this as special challenge to move further with what is today called heterodox economics. Some reflections, trying to radicalise approaches, made at the end of the conference can be found here.


[1]            Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: 68

[2]            ibid.: 89

[3]            Russell, Bertrand, 1922: Introduction; in: Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: XX


Lectionis et Seminario – De sociali et politica in Europea

European Integration – a failed political and social union?

2017 S. BA-Course at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science.

A series of fifteen sessions delivered at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science. The series is looking at the process of European integration – a wide topic looked at under the guiding question if EUrope failed to deliver the ambitious perspective of establishing a political and social union. The answer is by the present author given in somewhat negative terms: we cannot really say that the EU-institutions failed to reach the target of a political and social union … – it is worse: such targets never existed. So, we have to be clear in our critique. This means not least that we are challenged – and may gain sufficient insight – to develop the EU to something meaningful – meaningful not for the people but a reflection by the people – men make their own history, but it is not only the nightmare of the past, it is also a matter of the conditions of the still present hegemons who employ gatekeepers of different kind – even if the princes today wear the clothes of normal people, it is very much about behind the veils of the most expensive princely garments.

The various sessions, of which the recordings [German language] are available, present the historical development, some key issues and relevant theories in a more or less narrative way.

Dulcinea …

PS: why we all need our Dulcinea … – or: carrying on the dream.
May-day not anymore … – back to everyday …!! ??
Facts are the enemies of truth
as Cervantes says in his defense … – And he says
it is the most severe frenzy to see life as it is and not as it should be.
Sure, there are two versions of it … the one idealistically glorifying things by what washing, the other demanding, fighting for the visions that are hidden as germs in the dung heap through which, according to Dulcinea, we walk.
And this is, why at the end, she beckons to be Dulcinea, not Aldonza anymore ….
… nous sommes …
– at least we have to try! Try together … as
only when everything is said and done, one is alone
[as I found it remarked in the Schiele-exhibition, at the moment in the Albertina]


or: learning and living and teaching Europe …

To be more precise: it is not May-Day but the evening before the 1st of May – Uli said the other day: it is in Vienna a special cultural event and if you are around you have to go to the town hall … – surely not the same as one year ago when I gathered on the Plaza de la Revolución in La Havana.

Indeed, I am around, teaching European Integration – latest on the 9th the recordings should be here.

So, may-evening then – I am sitting in a tiny park, munching my Simit while I am waiting for the volksoper – the people’s opera – to open its door.

Thoroughly enjoying the moment – anticipating the tale of the

Man from La Mancha

Sitting there, I am also thinking about the programme of the next days – teaching, writing, rushed trip to Bremen for a presentation and  … Vienna again …

Le nozze di Figaro

…. the upcoming performance …. – while waiting that day for the doors to open, I will most likely sit in the small resto-bar opposite of the venue, sipping some wine, tasting a canapé …

… May-Evening …. And I am asking myself if I am wondering or not: why is the one place named people’s opera, the other – the one for the higher echelons of society, the bourgeois – is called state-opera.

Les Distinctions

as Pierre Bourdieu called them – hadn’t been small at the end (as the German translation suggests) …, they had been about the nearness, even the identification with the centres of power.

L’état c’est moi

Not yet …. The evening of the first of May ….
…. And I am teaching about European Integration …. Indeed

Commodification of labour power and appropriation of surplus value cannot be thought of without an outside, by which they profit in social, economic and  ecological terms
(Brand, Ulrich/Wissen, Markus: imperiale lebensweise; Muenchen: oekom: 63)

Which is another formulation of what Dulcinea probably meant:

The world is a dung heap and we are grubs walking through …

So it is a long way until we will say

Je suis e aussi moi es nous sommes le peuples



isn’t there such discussion in political science and sociology? The EU is trendy and we all are creating and shaping Europe now.

Listening to what the leader says and looking at how they expand on it is as rich in content as what we are all asked do now.

Some of my earlier, though recent thoughts on the EUropean question can be found herehere and here.

Quo Vadis Europe

Part of the previous story is of course the question mentioned above … – and a small contribution to push the direction can be made here, where the

IASQ is calling scholars to support our Declaration that was published om March 8, 2017. The Declaration, titled The Post Brexit Declaration on Social Quality In Europe, deals with the pressing needs of European society after last year’s victory of the Leave camp in the Brexit vote.



forward, right- or upwards or where should we go?

Yesterday we stood a step back from the abyss … – today we are looking for The progressive way, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the EU.

It is frightening that the linked article, explicitly claiming a social democratic orientation, is even opened by a photo, making direct reference to the pattern that has in the meantime even a name: Trumpism or Trumponomics.
Is this really the way to go?
All this, including the address with which the pope addressed yesterday the heads of state of a somewhat crumbling EU-member states, comes just in time while I am preparing both, the teaching of an intensive course on European Integration at the University of Vienna, department of political science end of the coming month, and a debate at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foudation to which I want to contribute later this year.
There are some short reflections and questions that come to my mind.
  • Why can’t we move back, taking up on the traditions?
  • But do we really have to move forward instead, forgetting about the old wisdom that characterises linearity in economic thinking
  • There is more to be done, and in particular there is still some serious thinking to be done, resisting a subjectivist and voluntarist turn – be it to the right or also left populism, the one aiming on making nations great again, the other on making the EU great again.
  • And it is surely also about the rejection of platitudes, equalising right and left populism in a way in which earlier in history the thesis of totalitarism was put forward – there is surely left populism though it is surely an issue that needs some reflection – interesting is at least when ISI [import substitution industrialisation] is rejected while such sides rarely question the manifold ways of subsidies and new indirect protectionism of multi-speed policies. And equally interesting that such proposal of an entrepreneurial state is indeed something that made an earlier proponent, namely J. A. Schumpeter and his opus magnum highly contestable.
My tiny and humble contribution, planned to make the next 60 years something of which the positive results, which surely had been made already, are more then appreciated side effects of a structurally defunct model are outlined in the following:
Some of this employs my thinking in the realm of economics, under the title
– in close cooperation with Vyacheslav Bobkov from the Plekanov University in Moscow, currently as well with the College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou and it is also playing a role in some preparation of this years G20, I have to do.
Another strand is employing me already now, and especially from September onwards, when taking up work at the Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik/Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy under the title
Still, at the moment it is about teaching students economics – and a decisive challenge remains to resist the number-crunching mind snatchers in a tiny village at the coastline of Wales, even unable to communicate, but trying to creep into the CORE.
see also here for some small but important action