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.

Annunci

… revisiting tea leave readings …

Some time ago some musings had been published in this blog under the tile

science – new readings from the tea leaves

[www . freeastrology123.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/tealeafreading1.jpg]

Without any doubt, one gets easily caught, i.e. we all make easily some mistakes, follow simplifications and do so even without being aware of it; moreover: even circumspectly proceeding in our activities, we may end in some trap. Still, especially such general awareness should encourage being [self-] critical and it should also push our attention towards the roots.

This is important as such developments occur as a somewhat new methodological imperative – I talked about it during the third IsarKanalLecture, titled ‘Digitisation – Meta-Methodological Reflections‘. There I positioned besides methodological individualism and methodological nationalism the

Methodological Solutionismus as Strategy of Technizism, going hand in hand with permanent strategies of externalisation and relative downgrading of living standards.

Of course, there are two ways of looking at it:

  • the one is part of the wider process of infantilisation, seeing it as part of a phase that will soon get in a mature form on its feet, being well able to firmly walk and stand
  • we may call the other part of denialism – suggesting that such deviations are part of cultural and intellectual development – usually phases that are as short-lived as they are noisy for that period of time.

Sure, there is always some truth in the so-called country sayings – making weather predictions possible that are definitely correct – correct in 100 % of the cases. However, every country-person, doing some farming, knows that at some stage this is not enough, well formulated in the 11th thesis on Feuerbach,

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it

here adapted:

Every farmer will make some jokes while being at the cook-and-bull-story but will get serious when walking out on the field to get the work done.

Getting serious means at least the following – keep in mind that it is also some metaphorical talk:

  • It is about dealing with contradictions here and now, not even thinking about the beautiful world of harmony where everything’s and everybody’s wings are clipped, ready to be stored away
  • It is about the deep world, ‘measured’ by deep exploration – or as neighbour Andy, when I lived in Ireland, said: ‘All these measurements telling me about the chemical composition of the soil are grand – and still, I have to get the Wellies on, walk across the field and take a deep breath to know what exactly I have to do – in academia it is about reading books, engaging with complicate stuff instead of holding one of these fancy books in the hands, where looking at the title tells the entire content … – mushrooming, filling book stores, cash registers and too often emptying brains
  • it is about reduction of complexity not by way of simplification through wing-cutting but by exploring the path of El Cóndor Pasa – that means it is about actors and contradictions in daily life. Taking time to be solved while there is no time for any delay.

This [way of] presentation may also help to approach two rather fundamental flaws we witness in two disciplines – academic issues but relevant as it is not least by this thinking that we are disciplied in our daily life.

I.

Positive law and its extension into procedural law is always challenged by its own tendency to push aside questions that are concerned with right[eousness]. One point for the exploration is the thought that Gustav Radbruch formulated in his short ‘Fünf Minuten Rechtsphilosophie‘ in the following words:

Es gibt also Rechtsgrundsätze, die stärker sind als jede rechtliche Satzung, so daß ein Gesetz, das ihnen widerspricht, der Geltung bar ist. Man nennt diese Grundsätze das Naturrecht oder das Vernunftrecht. Gewiß sind sie im Einzelnen von manchem Zweifel umgeben, aber die Arbeit der Jahr- hunderte hat doch einen festen Bestand herausgearbeitet, und in den soge- nannten Erklärungen der Menschen- und Bürgerrechte mit so weitreichen- der Übereinstimmung gesammelt, daß in Hinsicht auf manche von ihnen nur noch gewollte Skepsis den Zweifel aufrechterhalten kann.

In translation:

There are therefore legal principles which are stronger than any legal statute, so that a law which contradicts them is not applicable. These principles are called natural law or the right to reason. Certainly they are surrounded by many doubts in detail, but the work of the centuries has worked out a solid existence, and in the so-called declarations of human and civil rights with such far-reaching agreement that in regard to some of them only deliberate scepticism can maintain the doubt.

II.

The other mechanism of disciplining is about economics: positive economics, equally focusing on procedural aspects, in this case dealing with exchange processes is caught in a similar vein, unable to deal with contradictions, – correctly, though not rightly – presuming equal exchange as core of the entire process determining value. However, here we are concerned with valuation – an individual issue: Everybody is allowed to highly value a palace and then pay for it – just a matter of personal choice, complementing the fact, pronouncedly highlighted by Anatole Frane:

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

Individualisation, the reduction of a complex and contradictory social relationalities to individual, isolated acts, performed by isolated individuals that relate to each other only by way of individual contracts is the ultimate way to avoid talking about value as it is produced, defined as social value due to the fact that the process of production is itself by and large a social process, its market-defiition only ex-post used as tool for the calculation of what had been defined a long time earlier.

There is a lot of fight in a seemingly simple flight.

… to the point …

Well, you may say I am burning in the Heraclitean Fire, carried away and not doing what the academic world-order asks me to do – moving on with the metaphor, one may add: this little bit of disobedience is like playing with fire, a dangerous not to say: life threatening game.

So to the point, reading Erwin Chargaff’s

Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature.

He refers on page 171 to another work by himself**, which he wrote earlier and where he contended:

The fashion of our times favors dogmas. Since a dogma is something that everybody is expected to accept, this has led to the incredible monotony of our journals. Very often it is sufficient for me to read the title of a paper in order to reconstruct its summary and even some of the graphs. Most of these papers are very competent; they use the same techniques and arrive at the same results. This is then called the confirmation of a scientific fact. Every few years the techniques change; and then everybody will use the new techniques and confirm a new set of facts. This is called the progress of science. Whatever originality there may be must be hidden in the crevices of an all-embracing conventional makeshift: a huge kitchen midden in which the successive layers of scientific habitation will be dated easily through the various apparatuses and devices and tricks, and even more through the several concepts and terms and slogans, that were fashionable at a given moment.

Chargaff’s book had been published in 1978, he was, as widely known, professor in biochemistry, he emigrated from fascist Germany … – and one may ask if it is purely by accident that with this background already

[a]s early as 1949, this eminent scientist described certain irregularities in the composition of DNA and formulated the concept of ‘complementarity’ – later referred to as ‘Chrgaff’s rule’ and still later as ‘base pairing’ – which was the most important single piece of evidence for the double-helical structure of DNA’ [from the book-cover blurb].

‘Back to the fire’ – what he states, looking at methods, can cum grains salis also said for today and social science: where ‘methodology’ chapters in theses too often present methods, not showing any awareness of the difference between method and methodology, where publications and universities and people are ranked on the basis of algorithms and where entities are cut into pieces, making us forget the following:

The insufficiency of all biological experimentation, when confronted with the vastness of life, is often considered to be redeemed by recourse to a firm methodology. But definite procedures presuppose highly limited objects; and the supremacy of “method” has led to what could be called by an excellent neo-German term the Kleinkariertheit (piddling pedantry) of much present-day biological research. The availability of a large number of established methods serves, in fact, in modern science often as a surrogate of thought. Many researchers now apply methods whose rationale they do not understand. [170]

*****

End of term, and of the academic year – students, sometimes inviting lecturers, celebrating; preparing for holidays, but also asking for references, preparing the next career moves.

I have to admit, I am am happy that some say they did not ‘invite me to their celebration’ but invited me ‘to celebrate with them’; and I also have to admit that it is an honour to be seen by some as 老师, as lǎoshī – a bit like the hojam as we use it at ODTU in Ankara.

An unwritten chapter for the

Diary from a Journey into another World: Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments

to be closed.

======

** Chargaff, E. 1965. On Some of the Biological Consequences of Base-pairing in the Nucleic Acids. In: M.D. Anderson (Ed.), Developmentn.l and Metabolic Control Mechanisms and Neoplasw. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, p. 19.

 

 

Methodology – some general questions

I uploaded a lecture I gave today,  25th of December 2015 to Students at 中南林业科技大学班戈学院/Bangor College CSUFT
中国湖南省长沙市天心区韶山南路498号. Changsha, PRC

 

Though the lecture refers to the work of a group of students and their work on essays (mostly concerned with “Studying Abroad”), some fundamental issues of methodology are raised and may be of interest when doing research in economics and political economy.

They may be used in different ways as a kind of “propedeutico”.

Reference to the books mentioned:

References in the text:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Peter-Herrmann/e/B00J6WB43A/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Briefe-zwischen-Welten-Peter-Herrmann/dp/3867418667/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451083202&sr=1-15

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diary-Journey-into-another-World/dp/386741775X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451083276&sr=1-1&keywords=herrmann+Diary

Studying, Responsibility and Ethics

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.
Albert Einstein

I uploaded a series of presentations given to students of economics at 中南林业科技大学班戈学院/Bangor College CSUFT in Changsha, Hunan Province in China.

The title/subject of the course these presentations introduced is “Learning Skills” – the recommended book rather stupidifying, assuming students are naive, pursuing a formalist approach to learn – and moreover reducing academic work on the approach: “Give me an answer. We will then look for the question.” It is also the way in which we ignore what is attributed to Einstein’s wisdom, namely that
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
I tried in these lectures to raise awareness of the importance of questions, working towards an preliminary or introductory understanding of methodology.
And I tried also to make students aware of the need to counter the
 The lectures used in particular arts and history (and a bit of arts history) as means to delve into different aspects of the relevant topics. – Although there are a few references immediately to my Economics course her ein China, the presentation is relevant (and can be understood) beyond this.
The videos can be found here – they also show the used slides (sorry for the audio-quality – but one gets used to it after a while).
The last lecture, given shortly after the attacks in the middle of November 2015, draws particular attention on ethical aspects and questions of responsibility.
Revised versions of the slides can be found on my researchgate site at