science – new readings from the tea leaves

It is surely getting exciting now – on the back-cover of the book
Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think
authored by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler we read:
Breaking down human needs by category – water, food, energy, health care, education, freedom – Diamandis arm Kotler introduce us to dozens of innovators and industry captains making tremendous strides in each area: Dean Kamens’ Slingshot, a technology that can transform polluted water, salt water or even raw sewage into high-quality drinking water for less than one cent a liter; Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE which promises a low-cost, handheld medical device that allows anyone to diagnose themselves better than a board certified-doctor; Dickson Despommier’s ‘vertical farms,’ which replaces traditional agriculture with a system that uses 80 percent less land, 90 percent less water, 10 percent fewer pesticides, and zero transportation costs.
Now, I am not scientist but social scientist – and some scientists insist that there is a difference, science being the only ‘precise’ and ‘reliable’. Admitting that I am social scientist ‘only’, and thus speaking so to say as layperson, I still dare to conclude that something is odd:
zero transportation cost means the stuff grows from nowhere, just being there as the famous honey and milk rivers, the roasted pigeons just waiting to find a open throat and probably we all standing there, mutated to cows.
Oh, lads, mind: there is huge difference between scientific analysis and reading tea leaves as there is a difference between peoples’ visionary dreams and nightmares that are only profitable for minorities.
And that
[t]he authors also provide a detailed reference section filled with ninety graphs, charts and graphics offering much of the source data underpinning their conclusions
reminds a bit of the claim of most of religions: you have to believe, even if you cannot see it. And in case of doubt we make things visible.
What makes all this even more interesting is that New Princes, self-nominated, as for instance Ray Kurzweil and Sir Richard Branson are full of praise of the book – those are major players of RIP = RIp-off Profit businesses, exactly those who followed the Thatcherite programmatic of There is no such thing as society, which seems to translate well into – ‘We, the Soeders, Thatchers, Blairs, Zuckerbergs – sitting e.g. in Davos  on the Bilderberg, making sure that humankind’s future will end with stultified individuals, bleating like sheep.
Who ‘they’ are? – Here is what
Chrysta Freeland
writes in her book
PLUTOCRATS .THE RISE of the NEW GLOBAL SUPER-RICH and the FALL OF EVERYONE ELSE [39 f.]:

The best known of these events is the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, invitation to which marks an aspiring plutocrat’s arrival on the international scene—and where, in lieu of noble titles, an elaborate hierarchy of conference badges has such significance that one first-time participant remarked that the staring at his chest made him realize for the first time what it must be like to have cleavage. The Bilderberg Group, which meets annually at locations in Europe and North America, is more exclusive still—and more secretive—though it is more focused on geopolitics and less on global business and philanthropy. The Boao Forum, convened on Hainan Island each spring, offers evidence both of China’s growing economic importance and of its understanding of the culture of the global plutocracy. Bill Clinton is pushing hard to win his Clinton Global Initiative a regular place on the circuit. The annual TED conference (the acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an important stop for the digerati, as is the DLD (Digital-Life- Design) gathering Israeli technology entrepreneur Yossi Vardi cohosts with publisher Hubert Burda in Munich each January (so convenient if you are en route to Davos). Herb Allen’s Sun Valley gathering is the place for media moguls, and the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival is for the more policy-minded, with a distinctly U.S. slant. There is nothing implicit, at these gatherings, about the sense of belonging to a global elite. As Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED talks, told one gathering: “Combined, our contacts reach pretty much everyone who’s interesting in the country, if not the planet.”
Recognizing the value of such global conclaves, some corporations have begun hosting their own. Among these is Google’s Zeitgeist conference, where I have moderated discussions for several years. One of its recent gatherings was held in May 2010 at the Grove, a former provincial estate in the English countryside whose three-hundred-acre grounds have been transformed into a golf course and whose high-ceilinged rooms are now decorated with a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture. (Mock Louis XIV chairs—made, with a wink, from high-end plastic—are much in evidence.) Cirque du Soleil offered the five hundred guests a private performance in an enormous tent erected on the grounds; the year before that, to celebrate its acquisition of YouTube, Google flew in overnight Internet sensations from around the world.

But mind …
Annunci

Leisure Time

It is Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, Seollal in Korea, where the Olympic Games may be part of what they claim to be: a step to the peaceful unification of two countries, which would be a real and global platinum medal – and it is about celebrating and leisure time. Let us join in this difficult matter.

… unfortunately human nature improves slowly, and in nothing more slowly than in the hard task of learning to use leisure well. In every age, in every nation, and in every rank of society, those who have known how to work well, have been far more numerous than those who have known how to use leisure well. But on the other hand it is only through freedom to use leisure as they will, that people can learn to use leisure well; and no class of manual workers, who are devoid of leisure, can have much self-respect and become full citizens. Some time free from the fatigue of work that tires without educating, is a necessary condition of a high standard of life.

 

 

[Marshall, Alfred, 1890: Principles of Economics; MacMillan and Co., London, 1930: 718]

slow death – of individuals and societies

 

a long way … from the priests on the Acropolis [ἄκρον (akron, “highest point”) and πόλις (polis)] to the gardens which had been the roaming place of the philosophers to the reality of today’s Europe …- back at the desk after returning from Athens, where we organised at the Harokopio University in Athens, with support of the Nicos Poulantzas Institute the Euromemo-conference under the title

Can the EU still be saved? The implications of a multi-speed Europe

 

I remember the recent reading of Juergen Roth’s Radetzkymarsch from 1932. It seems to be clear that we can speak of a kind of congeniality when it comes to death of individuals, stubbornly caught by their ideas and societies going through some agony before the final step:

He lived long enough to know how silly it is to say the truth. He allowe people making this mistake and he believed less than the jesters who talked about him in the wide realm of anecdotes, that his world would persist. [1]

**********

He was old, and tired, and death already expected him, still life did not release him. Like a gruesome host it kept him at the table because he did not go through all the suffering that life had prepared for him.[2]

I leave it to the reader to find out why it returns right now to my mind ….: after having returned to Greece after the elections in Germany, after Macron launching his ‘Initiative for Europe. A sovereign, united, democratic Europe’ and while going on with the personal attempt to figure out how old and how European one has to be to understand the challenges and options that are showing up ahead; and how old and how European one has to be to misunderstand them. And how much it personally helps me not to know exactly how old I am, how EUropean …call it uprooting, or call it a bit of transcending the ‘conventional wisdom’ J.K. Galbraith wrote about in this book on the ‘Affluent Society’.

***************

[1]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Er hatte lange genug gelebt, um zu wissen, daß es töricht ist, die Wahrheit zu sagen. Er gönnte den Leuten den Irrtum, und er glaubte weniger als die Witzbolde, die in seinem weiten Reich Anekdoten über ihn erzählten, an den Bestand seiner Welt.

[2]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Alt war er und müde, und der Tod wartete schon auf ihn, aber das Leben ließ ihn noch nicht frei. Wie ein grausamer Gastgeber hielt es ihn am Tische fest, weil er noch nicht alles Bittere gekostet hatte, das für ihn bereitet war.

 

Opening Views against the Closure of the World

New Publication, open for preorders

Opening Views against the Closure of the World

Author: Peter Herrmann (EURISPES – Istituto di Studi Politici, Economici e Sociali, Rome, Italy, and others)

Book Description: 
The chapters of the present book analyze contemporary societal challenges and changes in light of the social quality approach and French regulationist thinking. This means overcoming as much as possible existing boundaries of social science in some main areas:

  • interdisciplinary approaches are important, but should be pushed beyond the mainstream concept, aiming at an integrated social science approach
  • critique of economism is important, though we should not forget that the question is not about “how much” but about what kind of economy
  • increasingly obvious is the lack of social integrity of contemporary growth policies, but less obvious is what is needed to fundamentally change the scene
  • treating globalization as a matter that goes beyond widening and deepening relations of countries and regions around the globe, seeing it as a news stage of world systems

By working along these different frontlines, the chapters take up important issues that can be found in different areas as ”growth beyond GDP”, human development”, “quality of life”, “world systems” and the like. In the end, it is about looking at the current political-economic patterns and the possibilities they entail when it comes to the claim that “another world is possible”. (Imprint: Nova)

for further information

Qualità sociale e sostenibilità

On the occasion of the preparation of the EXPO which will take place in Milan, I attended on the 5th of December 2013 a conference which brought different research strands together. The different strands are all concerned wight he major topic of the forthcoming EXPO, which is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life
The presentation, of which the transcript will also be published under the title
“Qualità sociale e sostenibilità”
can be found here.

Further information on the preparations of the EXPO can be found on this website of the Fondazione Feltrinelli.
My special Thank You goes to Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti and Nadia con Jacobi, Department of Political and Social Sciences – University of Pavia and Human Development, Capability and Poverty; International Research Centre, IUSS Pavia