At least somewhat ‘strange’ or: occupying the occupied

At least somewhat ‘strange’ – or at least remarkable: the fact of being occupied by social spaces and occupying social spaces, namely cities.

It is several years ago that I visited Vienna the first time, and I returned a couple of times. The first time was somewhat unpleasant – unpleasant in terms of disliking the place as exhibiting imperial power. Indeed, having known Budapest already, I joined in the popular saying: Budapest is the ‘nicer Vienna’. The nicer Vienna because it was seen as the city where people, real people, would live. One could surely move towards issues like the ‘Hungarian soul’: a bit of permanent resistance and suffering going hand in hand – Leiden, dass dann führt zu Leidenschaft und Leidenschaft, die Leiden schafft.

Vienna … a space that presented itself to me as occupying, remaining unapproachable, remote … . Anyway, what did it matter? It had been another business trip amongst many. Not so on one later occasion. Actually it may be that I went there for business but in the meantime a friend of mine, Viennese whom I knew for many years from Brussels, lived in Vienna again and I remember that I stayed in his apartment. Another district, in short: Working class Vienna. Much could be said … In a nutshell it was the experience that allowed me to occupy space. Sure, local knowledge helped – the ‘local guide’ who showed me also those places next to the ‘imperial exhibits’: the people’s park, one or the other coffeehouse: and as much as Vienna is shaped by the gallant Cafe Centrale, Vienna is characterised by those Kaffeehäuser that are a bit dingy, humming along with the croaking sound of the violin, the waiters apparently competing in ignoring the guests, the Volksbuhne and those spaces that are occupied the peculiar charm of bohemian, intellectual, critical debates …

Anyway, I returned later on different occasions, stayed in different quarters, though mostly in district VII and VIII. The city gained space, I gave it space in my life even if only for the short times of my stays, always remaining visitor even barely coming as tourist – it had been about short business trips to the government, to conferences, or as the last time for teaching … and of course unforgettable: one year the visit with my students and my friend Joe.

The city gained space, I gave it space in my life …. – even visiting the imperial places as the museum of history of arts – a specifically lost ground which, by the way, hosts also a beautiful collection of Pieter Bruegel’s the older works –, the Albertina and its private collection, the state opera, the Burgtheater and yes, the Cafe Centrale, I visited as well the people’s park, the People’s opera, and the several small galleries and theaters, local stages, the Kaffeehäuser and restaurants … Mixing, merging … becoming a place where the different circles of debates, culture, ordinariness are emerging as a new normal, merging as living space, lived space for some time – not necessarily to be agreed with, but to a large part challenging, demanding to be … occupied again and again.


And Budapest? – Yes, it is still, with its own eccentricities, the beloved place, also the place to meet a good friend …, and yes, there is the shadow of de-occupation: the city loosing its very specific charm which I learned to love, I tried to capture a little bit in the Diary from a Journey into another World: Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments.


Social Quality — The Book

Book announcement 

A New Perspective on Social Development

Edited by Ka Lin and Peter Herrmann

160 pages, 21 figs., 26 tables, index

ISBN 978-1-78238-897-5 $39.95/£25.00 Pb Published (July 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-898-2 eBook

Social quality thinking emerged from a critique of one-sided policies by breaking through the limitations previously set by purely economistic paradigms. By tracing its expansion and presenting different aspects of social quality theory, this volume provides an overview of a more nuanced approach, which assesses societal progress and introduces proposals that are relevant for policy making. Crucially, important components emerge with research by scholars from Asia, particularly China, eastern Europe, and other regions beyond western Europe, the theory’s place of origin. As this volume shows, this rich diversity of approaches and their cross-national comparisons reveal the increasingly important role of social quality theory for informing political debates on development and sustainability.

Ka Lin is Docent at the University of Tampere, Senior Researcher and Docent at the University of Turku, Professor and Director of the Social Policy Research Center at Nanjing University, Professor and Executive Director of the MSW Center of Zhejiang University, and Deputy Director of the Center for European Studies at Zhejiang University. He is also Vice President of the International Association on Social Quality and Editor of the International Journal of Social Quality.

Peter Herrmann is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland, Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of World Economy at Corvinus University of Budapest, correspondent to the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Munich, Associate Member of the Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting, and Member of the Scientific Committee of Eurispes. Currently he lives and works in Rome.