Reading history – slowly and in large steps

beMemorials are important as we are only by remembering, i.e.

consciously re-(-sur-)-facing

enables us visioning the future, needed to act today. All this is much more demanding than behaving.

Memorials are important, and perhaps even more so if they remind us and allow us questioning – as it happened recently, the second day, coming after a long time to Munich again. The first day I actually met a friend – a nice surprise call:

Time for a coffee?

I was sitting in the coffee shop at the Amalienstrasse anyway, so not much could have been nicer. We had been chatting – amongst others about the fame of places, and for Munich it unfortunately means not least that it is famous for the beer festival and the German dark ages of the last century …

The next day I strolled a bit around. Though I thought I would know those places, actually visited some with a group of students from Ireland, several years ago, I saw one that I passed as frequent as it remained unrecognised by me, all the times ignored. Was it because moving along Briennerstrasse/Maximilian Strasse did not make me expect much, just outrageous wealth?

“Im gedenken an die opfer der nationalsozialistischen gewaltherrschaft   –   verfolgt aus politischen gründen   verfolgt aus rassistischen gründen   verfolgt aus religiösen gründen   verfolgt wegen ihrer sexuellen identität   verfolgt wegen ihrer behinderung”

In my own translation

“In memory of the victims of the national-socialist tyranny persecuted for political reasons, persecuted for racist reasons, persecutedr for religious reasons, persecuted because of their sexual identity, because of their disability[1]

 

Written in the wall behind the pillar, accommodating the eternal fire

– all part of the monument which has been launched on November 8th, 1985 by the then Lord Major, Georg Kronawitter.

I was alerted by the words

BECAUSE …

Then I looked again, reading the entire text.

FOR political, racist, religious REASONS….

Indeed, for the German fascists it had been “sufficient”: being gay, being Jew …, all this has been a sufficient ‘reason’ to terminate the life of people, ‘arguments’ in a state which seemingly did not need arguments. A state that used its power arbitrarily – Max Weber comes to mind, speaking of the

“state” insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.[2]

Memorial – in German language the term carries some ambiguity with it. It simply means memorial, but can also be read as: “hang on, think!”

Had people really been killed because they were Jews, disabled ….?

Were they killed for political and the other names reasons?

Doesn’t this easily make us overlook the real reasons? What seemed to be arbitrary violence, was in fact a sophisticated system of an authoritarian state which was needed as backing of an economic system that was fatally wounded: a capitalism that was not really capitalism anymore but a system in which profit-making was not linked to profitable accumulation (which is a bad enough system anyway) but on the violent securitisation of profits made in a system in which finance is not about money but about the permanent reaffirmation of power.

******

This reminds us of what the quarterly view said, quoted in volume one of Marx’ The Capital; and it reminds us of what Saskia Sassen presented:

So I sort of want to throw out the notion that finance is a capability. And so when you look at some of the measures of its value today, for instance outstanding derivatives, a basic measure—a quadrillion…that money doesn’t exist, you know. Global GDP is something like sixty trillion. There is no— Quadrillion is many many zeros. I know that in Europe you have different designations. It’s more zeros than you’re used to in your average figures that you see with lots of zeros—it’s more than a trillion, let’s put it that way.

So I think one first step is to distinguish between traditional banking, which sells money it has (or it can borrow very quickly, whatever) and finance, which sells something it does not have. And in that selling what it does not have lies its creativity. It has to invent instruments. And secondly—and they go together—it has to invade other sectors. Because it itself does not have what it needs to produce.

******

And we may feel reminded when reading the manager magazine, as I did that day – in some way one may call it the gossip-journal of parts of the upper classes.

Finance not being equal to money, as much as life does not equal living. It is frequently suggested that there are two options, the one being about working to live, the other living to work. In this case there may be a third way, saying that life is work and work is living. Sure, this opens to a broad discussion. One point that can be made is that put forward by the old idealist, bit of a dream-dancer, Schiller, demanding

Reason also utters the decision that man shall only play with beauty, and he shall only play with beauty.

For, to speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

While this comes along as a nice suggestion, it urgently needs a material foundation that allows play of that kind. It requires a material situation that is marked not by resources that are merely enough to survive but is in need of amounts that are surely enough to live from.

The material side of ‘playing’ is surely not a problem for perverted highflyers, but they have problems, mental problem of lost grounding. So to the gossip-journal then, and really going into its going to the gossip section means to dive into the article on Ibiza,

as life-style island an international brand[3]

We see them removed from living not because of the need to merely secure life, but because their life needs to be stylised and branded – I am not really into any of it, I supposed it is like people who lost their hair, replacing it by a wig: artificial and more beautiful than reality is. And of course, it has to be a wig with brand-name – interesting by the way: assuming something, I checked Leo’s dictionaries. I see the following

 

 

Yes, brand – the trademark – is the also the term of the mark by which horses had been classified and ‘proprietised’ …: Oh glory, may be we should not think only of refeudalisation – see also here – but also about animalisation: the return to instincts as foundation and guideline. What makes it worse, more weird than it is anyway: we press the burning iron against our own skin and instead of feeling the pain we turn it into pleasure …

Oh,

Fuck me, I’m famous[4]

This is the new stoned of leisure society, as Tired Is The New Stoned of the postmodern work society, tired suggesting that one is extremely busy, even too busy to be really busy when it comes to working life – presence everywhere and anytime. It is like being too tired to actually sleep. And all this is also the illusion of singularity: be it singularity in the understanding of the Big Bang, or as claimed hyper-individuality.

Sure,

[t]he spreading luxury begins to be a problem for accommodation – for those who lack privileges. Because the personnel cannot commute between mainland and island and the rents are exorbitant, many spend the nights in the cars or on the balconies, let by enterprising Ibizians. For having a shower a membership In one of the gyms s recommended.[5]

And paradoxes, as usual, are included as the highflyers search for seclusion …, and of course it is not a problem as a

concierge service … offering any service to his moneyed customers, around the clock. The most have only one: anonymity.[6]

Also no problem as

It is easy on Ibiza to dive away, …, [in both ways:] hiding from the media and escaping from reality.[7]

Not being famous, not being rich and powerful? The solution may be found in another world

Yaşamak bir ağaç gibi

tek ve hür ve bir orman gibi

kardeşçesine,

bu hasret bizim.

Nâzım Hikmet

Translated into English

To live in solitude and free

like a tree but on the same time

like a forest in solidarity

this yearning is ours.

Nâzım Hikmet

******

But that solution is somewhat a paradox in its own terms – the going together with others and the withdrawal. The danger of escapism – actionism, saving life, searching tranquility of living, and in both respects depending eon others and the own personality.

As I wrote later those days to a friend back in China

I was reading the ‘manager magazine’ yesterday – only reading such stuff when I get it for free. Amazing to read about fascinating careers and enterprises … – most successful … and when I allowed myself a closer look I was thinking about ‘for what’? People doing things, making a huge fortune and that was it: no purpose, just following some ‘instinct’, struggling without knowing for what … – not sure if I can explain it well. But I thought: well, may be not so bad lacking that kind of wealth but being ‘content’ in some ways.

Again and again I feel obliged – in different contexts and different times, addressing different people – to mark the difference between living, life and now in addition the life style as stylised life – products changing their character, being commodities; it translates into the human being commodities: in the one case the human labour power, in the other case the stylisation of life – two ways of terminating living.

And as I wrote – as PS – to the colleagues with whom I share the responsibility in the Joerg-Huffschmid-Award.[8]

PS: Being now in the ‘rich city of Munich’ I cannot refrain from writing the following yesterday: Yesterday I arrived here I Munich, and with this, after living more than two years in China, in Germany. Piece, and especially joyfulness: In all the shops the window displays for the Oktoberfest, Munich’s beer festival, because ‘casual wear’ as dress code means in this case it should be authentic-colourful costume-like garb. There is bit of a problem with the pancake [well, ‘those years’ it was a kind of teasing trinity: piece, joyfulness, pancakes]: I will not mention the rent I have to pay for my tiny flat. One impression from today, early in the morning I want to mention: an elderly lady moved with her bike from waste bin to waste bin [well even at this stage not everything is completely privatised] … – it is probably her proactive approach to life, avoiding ending up as beggar – that is part of the first impressions, arriving in the rich city of Munich, the impression after teaching two years in China, where – under the leadership of a university with a supposedly high ranking – young, curious personalities are encouraged to ‘seize the world’ … , and seizing it according to which rules? Here you may get an impression.

And I remembered the headlines I red some time ago – also impressions, anecdotal ….

Die besten jobs für Renter – the best jobs for retirees

the other

Wiesn – die bittere Wahrheit – Munich Beerfestival, the bitter truth

Yes, once upon a time, in 1986, the Christian Democrats promised:

„Denn eins ist sicher: Die Rente“ – But there is one thing you can rely on: the pension.

You can rely on, you hardly make a living, you may just stay alive, and even for that you may need a job, and even then ‘living’, by way of going out for a pint,  having fun is limited – well, sure, there are surely also other ways of having fun, most likely equally liked; and it does not play a role that of indigenous Bavarians it is not about a pint but a Mass, but they also say:

“Ah geh weida, dees is doo mia wurschd, wia ma dees iatz auf Houchdeidsch schreibd, Haubdsach, schmegga duads ma, mei Mass Bier”

And I remembered a paragraph, taken from Freeland’s book on The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else:[9]

If you traveled to Mountain View to visit Eric Schmidt when he was CEO of Google, you would have found him in a narrow office barely big enough to hold three people. The equations on the whiteboard may well have been scribbled by one of the engineers who works next door and is welcome to use the chief’s office whenever he’s not in. And while it is okay to have a private jet in the Valley, employing a chauffeur is frowned upon. “Whereas in other cultures, you can drive your Rolls-Royce around and just sort of look rich and have a really good time, in technology it’s not socially okay to have a driver who drives you to work every day,” Schmidt told me. “I don’t know why, but you’ll notice nobody does it.”

This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. “Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out,” Schmidt explained. “We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person. Which I find sort of offensive, but it is the way it’s done.”

******

Back to square one of these reflections on antifascist memorials, reasons and the reasoning about life, living and branding lifestyles and the implied animalisation. Doesn’t all this show n an excellent way the real because and rationales: What happened:

  • the holocaust which was also a system of exploiting humans down to the bones
  • in a nutshell: the war of one country against the rest of the world, a slightly extended interpretation: the new division of the world amongst different political and economic powers
  • the establishment of a ‘culture of animalisation’, artificially breeding destructive and even self-destructive instincts
  • the breeding of culture of fear, emerging from the fear of complete disempowerment

are surely a frightening development – and the need of remembering, i.e.

consciously re-(-sur-)-facing

enabling us to vision the future, being needed to act today surely should also look at capitalism today. The meaning of the words of Brecht’s Epilogue from the parable play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui [written in 1941) have to be taken very seriously, even and because of Arturo Ui today changed names, wears different clothes and my be found on Ibiza, stylizing animalistic non-sense, i.e. dangerously breeding senseless instincts against human kind

Therefore learn how to see and not to gape.

To act instead of talking all day long.

The womb he crawled from still is going strong.

******

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denkmal_für_die_Opfer_der_NS-Gewaltherrschaft_(München)

[2] Weber, Economy and Society; page 54

[3] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[4] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[5] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[6] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[7] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[8] On the 6th of December there will be a public event, taking place in Berlin, handing over the two awards

[9] Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press: 123

 

 

 

 

 

Annunci

On studying, teaching, responsibility … and a bit on economy and economics

Students at Bangor College China asked me for an interview – some would say it is about god and the world – but that is not really an appropriate wording when it comes to talking with an atheist about studying, teaching and responsibility, is it?

It may well be of interests to a wider audience — trying to make sense of studying today. And it surely links to many other statements made on various occasions of looking for firm grounds in a world of flux.

The students:

采访:李雨欣 彭博 龚佳亮 刘佳浩

文字:李雨欣

编辑:章孛

responsibility – responsiveness: trying to avoid the wrong answer

Waiting for the results from Turkey …

… whatever the outcome will be

… daily bread, the worries about securing it … daily routines of getting it – while the ‘big events’ are overshadowing every step, not necessarily all the time present, and still often enough hammering into the brain, shouting over the routines and the daily bread and the worries about securing it … – hammering louder than the footsteps of any individual on the asphalt; different things going through my mind, also my CV came up a short while ago – together with the hammering of the boot-bearing thoughts …

I was wondering if we are now moving back to the stage of considering to delete part of it, hide away what we did and what we have reason to be proud of …? Not that I am fearful, worrying in the strict sense = considering to delete, while being afraid of being deleted. But the need to think about this as being possibly urgently advisable makes me feeling uncomfortable.

What and how can we worrying warriors and warring worriers teach young people, the future to stand up if we live under conditions that nature such ideas …?
Let us hope, not for me, surely a bit for ‘us’ who do not want to stand there as spectators but especially for those to which we committed out selves, for ‘those future social lifes’

Europe – Quo Vadis?

Nearly there:

The European Social Model – Chimera or Core of the EU?

Nearly finished the contribution I had been asked to write for a book – it emerges from the work of the scientific council of Attac. And I guess I know now very well what to say when giving the presentation in Cork next month – a follow up from last year’s Poverty Summer School at UCC.

The really relevant part for me, i.e. my own thinking is that the article will help to clearly spell out the myth of the “old welfare state”, thus allowing to clarify the foundation for a fundamental “revolutionary” form that is established on the objective development rather than the hope for a voluntarist to approach towards a renaissance of overcome model. Still, though we truly will need a revolutionary approach we face even within the capitalist framework a rather radical overhaul of thinking when it comes to social policy.

The “welfare state” is as such a not only a multifaceted mechanism, but also historically differentiated, specifically responding to the different phases of the capitalist process of generating value – I approached this issue on the earlier occasion of a presentation in Mikkeli, Finland.

The challenge of any social policy discussion is surely to protect the baby while handling the bathing water. And so it is especially the left that is challenged to “protect” the achievements of what is called welfare state while the more or less general austerity policies are the driving force of the political mainstream. To be clear (i) there had been huge improvements of the living conditions in the widest sense if we look at the secular development; (ii) it has to be equally clear that at this stage we have to search for clear means to simply protect against “system(at)ic rollbacks”.

Nevertheless, we have to be analytically clear about both, the severity of changes and also the actual reason and causes of these changes. As well known from Marx’ studies, the individual capitalist represents the class interest rather than reflecting individual morality. In this light much of the critique – also from positions that claim to fundamentally reject the current structures – are an expression of good will, but also an expression of mal-information. On of the recent examples of such short-sighted approaches had been the official address given by the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, to the European Parliament. Sure we may easily agree at first glance with his statement:

They (i.e. “our citizens in Europe”) feel that in general terms the economic narrative of recent years has been driven by dry technical concerns; for example, by calculations that are abstract and not drawn from real problems, geared primarily by a consideration of the impact of such measures on speculative markets, rather than driven by sufficient compassion and empathy with the predicament of European citizens who are members of a union, and for whom all of the resources of Europe’s capacity, political, social, economic and intellectual might have been drawn on, driven by the binding moral spirit of a union.

But as nice as all this sounds, it fundamentally underestimates the “compassion and empathy” of those “technicians” who actually use the guise of technicity to establish a strict rule of something that may even be called a “capitalist tributary world system”.

Austerity is not a moral, ethical retardation of individuals or “groups of individuals” that has to be and can be countered by moral appeals. Strictly speaking, austerity policy is then not an exception but a consequent expression of one of the two souls that characterise capitalism gaining dominance: To the extent and as long as capitalism – made possible by the technical development of the productive forces and expressed by a specific mode of production – could perform reasonably well in terms of production of wealth and could make profit based on the realisation-side of the overall economic process (distribution and exchange, in short linked to an understanding of wages as purchase power), social policy could be grasped by concepts as “productive social policy”, allowing to ask for the Costs of Non-Social Policy, as Didier Fouarge did 2003 in his Report for the European Commission’s Employment and Social Affairs DG.

However, this had been linked to a very specific constellation. Historically such constellations had been given nationally, leading to different development of national welfare regimes – this had been outlined earlier with reference to the Mikkeli-presentation. Although it had been left out of consideration on the occasion of that presentation, each of these distinct national systems had not least been part of a process of international re-ordering.

The thesis is that we find some similar pattern of European social policy development: in short: from a non-social policy with some marginalised measures towards a productivist social policy considering the costs of not having social policy and finally arriving at a new stage: not least (though not only)

  1. under the pressure of changing international constellations (EUrope in the world) and
  2. the changing also technical development of the productive forces, reserves for generating profit from a favourable pattern of distribution had been eroded.

This means (a) now profit has to be generated from production rather than in the sphere of realisation; (b) competition is now increasingly a matter of crowding out, not of performance, as it had been earlier the case (s. e.g. Zinn, Karl Georg, 2006: Mit Keynes zu einer „anderen Wirtschaft“. Zur Langfristperspektive keynesianischer Ökonomie; Beitrag zum Workshop “Keynesianische Ökonomie als alternative Ökonomie?” der Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung (Berlin, 24.-26.2.2006: 18); (c) political power – not least with its arbitariness – regains meaning and reminds fereqently of feudal structures (see e.g. Herrmann, Peter, 2012; in: NewPrincedoms …) and (d) though global centre-periphery structures remain meanigful, we find at the same time and increasingly processes of peripherialisation within the centres.

And it exactly this constellation that leads to austerity policies: we should be well aware of the obvious meaning of privatisation here: it is about “de-socialisation” which is a matter of shifting responsibility back to the “complete individual”, or as we titled it is about Pure Individualism (s. Claire Dorrity: Critique of Pure Individualism; in: Dorrity, Claire/Herrmann, Peter [eds.]: Social Professional Activity – The Search for a Minimum Common Denominator in Difference; New York: Nova Science, 2009). It’s critique needs to take the economic dimension into account that obliges us to recognise that the European Social Model actually only existed as an expression of voluntarism which had been celebrated and maintained as long as it had been profitable. As soon as profit can only be gained from production in the strict sense, or in other words: as soon as the profitability of realisation comes to an end, we find a shift in social policy terms, the trinity of

  • austerity,
  • harsh exploitation and
  • orientation on “social investment”.

But what can the latter mean under these conditions of pure individualism? It means that we come now definitely to the point of an ultimate Critique of Practical Reason: the individual “invests him/herself” – and ironically this is celebrated by the bourgeois press as success of creativity. And although all this is surely not the complete story, it is a major chapter in the book that opens in front of us: self-exploitation, precarity, neglect of long-term personal health in the hope of short-term survival.

Europe – Quo Vadis?

We all know the story, Peter asking Jesus Quo vadis? – The supposed answer had been Romam vado iterum crucifigi.

Europe is on the best way to crucify itself – but not by taking the route Beyond GDP serious. Instead, I crucifies itself by being too serious about the self-set strategic goal, spelled out in Lisbon:

to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world.

And Europe crucifies those who dare to oppose or at least do not submit themselves: academics, political activists and those who fall through the loops of the increasingly fragile net.

Much more could be said – and it will be said in the book contribution, on occasion of the Cork event and in a forthcoming article in Social Inclusion

Awkward Fame

A note had been sent today, somebody proudly announcing that he had been mentioend in speech of a high ranking politician. And isn’t indeed that we all have a little it of this: like the midge being drawn to the light – there seems to be the strive to be part of the grandesse of power. As much as we stand on the sholders of giants, allowing dwarfs to look far afield, we seem to be glad seeing ourselves contributing as footnotes in the thoughts of others.
So, being recognised by the highest figure in the state is surely enviable – notwithstanding the critique one bring forward to the very same state and representative.
And in my own way I enter the arena for competition: I am moving towards some hectic days ahead (some info here), into the middle of trouble. Solidarity meetings in Athens with striking workers, meetings with trade-unionists and activists, talks in the parliament and also talks about the need to provide sound scientific answers: perception, evaluation, classification, interpretation, conclusion – never forgetting the very basic toolbox of research in daily life. hectic and challenging but good to be able to do something that may also be quoted by presidents etc.,though probably more interpreted there as rioting, agitating and asking for too much of a change.
But in which way ever, we need a really fundamental change – and we need to take up the question of political responsibility. As Aristotle states in his Politics

For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony. But justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.

But what he did not say is that there will not be a philosopher king – we are not living in Kallipolis. In the real world values, theory, analysis has to mean something different – as Marx said already in 1843, in the Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical.

Thus, at the end the question will be who the giants are and how the footnotes really contribute meaningfully the body text.