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


Ho Paura


Weird-alternative analysis of the results of the German elections

Yes, it is five minutes before midnight …

… here in Germany had been elections [without me, I temporarily lost voting rights as I lived too long outside of the country – actually I think it is justified]. Anyway ‘I took part’, not least seeing the various posters – it least those by Aldi, highlighting that there is no Aldi-native

Consumo ergo sum – I wrote this slogan many, many years ago –a ctually in the last century. With such posters it reaches a new stage: the political citizen now even closer to the consumer … . Wolfgang Streeck also speaking since some time of the market citizen.

Well, I am admittedly more or less good in losing ground – leaving my thoughts to seemingly abstract levels …, but perhaps it is not so abstract at all: all the independence and populism …, isn’t that very much about this: having lost ground – transparency being closed behind the door, the only ground on which we can stand and move is consuming and individually struggling to survive = to manage life as the space for real living is limited.

There is a paradox I cannot solve for myself – it is in some way linked to the experience I made while being in China: the experience of living there, and also the experience of looking from there back: to Italy, Ireland etc. We struggle for life, to survive and apparently the only way and place of and for living is very much the wee space we have with other individuals. Initially nothing wrong with it, of course: we are individuals and being together with other individuals – camminare insieme, perhaps also in honest disputes with those near to us, is indeed also some kind of satisfaction of the social instincts – or less profane: the social being that is reflected upon by Aristotle and the many who followed him. But coming back to the sentence ‘Initially nothing wrong with it …’ suggests that there may be something wrong with it: isn’t it also potentially the futile ground for small seedbeds of hedonism and communitarian ideologies of seclusion, NIBY-ideas? Isn’t it in this way the ground on which populism finds its roots? If so, it is not so much abbot charismatics leaders but about the search for the private being political and the political being a matter in which every individual needs to have a say. The alienation of Aldi-nativlos, the alienation of a society that offers identity only by consumption shouting for a solution – offered by communitarian self-love and the loving those who are next to you. It is about the age-old recommendation as we know it from Mark, 12:30-31

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;’ this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Admittedly there may be other interpretations of this, but at least it allows a populist version’: it is only the one who is above you and those who are immediately around you. This is of further relevance, of course, at times where identity-building via consumption faces the limits – increasing inequality and increasing poverty are much more than they seem to be at first glance: it is not ‘only’ about loosing control over life [basic socio-economic security], but even more the loss of control over living beyond the    immediate  neighbours: the [fear of the] loss of social inclusion, social cohesion and social empowerment, the loss of personal (human) security; social recognition; social responsiveness; personal (human) capacity as elaborated in Social Quality Thinking. It is the economy, but on the surface it appears to be the community.

…, and in this weird constellation of competitive, hedonist consumers we loose the control not just over our individual behaviour [well fortunately not everybody turns to Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam and its political-populist variations … though too many do]. But we have these difficulties of ‘emphatically socialising’: call it controlled, rational empathy if something like it can exist. Many [not all for sure] my of the students throughout the years – really young people or youngish as myself – wanted to escape this individualism. And seemingly they could not – that was my impression: they did not want this consumerism, this ‘success’, this ‘ranked education’ – they were modest, curious, open but always faced those walls of our times. One of the walls: not being taken serious, pushed into the world of ranked competition …, and even young lecturers, just having entered that world, still verbally remembering their lovings from ten years or so ago, pushing and pulling those who are young now, into that direction. I tried to get closer to some, tried to organise a jour fixe to get known to each other, went for class trips to other countries, yes admittedly to incite them a bit: YOU HAVE RIGHTS – YOU AS STUDENTS [mind the plural], MAKE THEM KNOWN, CHALLENGE US … very limited success. There are many small and large case-studies to it, I should have written the third volume of my bio … , following up on the Briefe zwischen Welten and the Diary from a Journey into another World

Anyway, there is a wider perspective on it I will later engage with this and you can read it in a bloge-entry under the title

where legal scholars and economist (should) sit at the same table

[Pianificato il: 25 Ott, 2017 @ 17:40] It is about the changes I see – and that brings me closer to my take on the results of the elections but also on the independence question in Catalonia and the like: really looking from outside, though knowing a bit from inside: having been active in political struggles and canvassing in Germany, being member of a party in one of the neighbouring countries [where we have had elections to the senate], also looking back at ‘my Irish years’, but also looking at the time I spent in Australia [there the question of aborigines and PNG played a major role], there is something that goes for me MUCH beyond the current issues: populism, independence, the helplessness of being ‘voll muttiviert’[1] as one of the celebratory banners of the CDU suggests…; the … can one even say dictatorial behaviour of Madrid, the mal-functionings in Catalonia … the aggressiveness and ignorance of Trumpism, shown another time and also shown as part-defeat  … all these are serious issues but when we look at this as an attack against democratic institutions, I am wondering: did they ever really exist? Do we really have anywhere REALLY democratic institutions? The problem I see more and more is: how can we bring together the Rechtstaat, equality and direct peoples’ saying and rule. This trinagle may be a bit of an extension of Rodrik’s ‘inescapable trilemma of the world economy’ …

And it is a triangular tension that we easily put aside, simplifying things, finding answers before we really think about what the questions are.

Yes, a better government for Germany – one that is not a minority government with a highly problematic turnout, independence for Catalonia and others. But how can we guarantee that such democracies – small and large – are respecting the rights of others AND how can we ensure that such democratic entities respect ‘equality within it’s the borders’. Looking at independent and democratic Germany speaks volumes, if not libraries.

– Well, but for me: more philosopher than politician, more economist than lawyer: the crucial questions are the following two: how to overcome inequality on the different levels, i.e. from the local to the global, and how can we guarantee that by tackling the core = production, not the distribution — that the latter does not work had been shown often enough: e.g. by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pope’s appeals of the camminare insieme. Walking together is fine – if it is on the same layer; if it is about sitting in one and the same boat, the one giving the orders and the others still pulling the oared, there is something wrong.

Well, whatever happens in the near future – in Catalonia, Bavaria, Germany, Europe – I am afraid here remains much to be done to reach at real change.

And this is also something I brought with me from China: name it deep respect for the students and distaste of this system that keeps us in its fetters …; it makes me a bit sad, jaundiced, hurt …. somewhat feeling ashamed and afraid: with so many moves, the tiny moves against accepting these fetters and the fear of just forcing fetters on others, not being able to fully respect and support the students’ modesty, curiosity, openness … All the walls that surround them, while being forced to walk like cattle to the trough of competitive success may be for a tiny number pointers on the way success, for many it may well be the harness of the live that makes real living difficult and for another and increasingly large number it may well be wall they duplicate as wall against a fortress Europe, closure towards Mexico and the like …

Well, much could be added – also about ‘The enjoyable lightness of being’ that we can still find – a phrase linking to the title of a book, a Chinese friend made me aware of: Kundera’s ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being’ – an amazing book we still did not digest. A book that still employs our mind. Actually reading it, and talking about it brought many things back to me: all the stuff that moved me and my generation so many years ago: existentialism, Marxism, communism, anarchism – there was for me much of that ‘in the air’ during the more than two years; and the air here, being back in Europe now, is soaked by it too.


[1]            A pun: merging Mutti Merkel and motivation.

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’

The Womb he crawled from

The womb he crawled from is still going strong.

We find these words in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, written by Bertolt Brecht. Most timely a reminder, findig ourselves at the doorsteps of the votes in Turkey and France. And while knowing about the meaning of highly emotional performances of a hate preacher like Trump, we should never forget that all this, what is called populism, has a very rational background, and a very rational meaning:

Man sollte nicht vergessen, dass die Funktion des Faschismus, entgegen seinem ‘irrationalem’ Diskurs,  darin besteht, das kapitalistische Geschäftstreiben ganz ohne ‘Bremsen’ sich fortsetzen zu lassen. In diesem Sinne trägt der Faschismus die kapitalistische, oder besser: bürgerliche Rationaliät zu ihrem Gipfel. Insofern die ‘Religiösierung’ der Gesellschaft dazu beitragt, diesem Ziel nahezukommen, gehört sie mit zu den Zielen faschistischer Politik.


One should not forget that the function of fascism, not withstanding its ‘irrational discourse’, is to allow the capitalist system to unfold wither ‘barriers’. In this light, fascism, carries the capitalist or we may say even more precise: bourgeois rationality to its utmost peak. As fr as ‘religionisation’ contributes to rech this goal, it belongs to fascist politics.

Mehmet Okyayuz

And we should not forget, that all this is also including the ‘slow killing’ of all the ‘Me’s, who are Daniel Blakes‘, and where fighting back is about anger and understanding a system where life, becoming life in austerity – not only in Britain – is ‘consciously cruel‘; and were people actually begin to fight back, instead of accepting to be charitably crucified.

Populism – more than a political trend?

The debate on populism and he New Right surely needs considerations that go beyond political and institionalist considerations, not least looking at the political economy in which it stands and that stands at firm wall behind it. In preparation of a workshop later this year, organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, I developed some reflections which surely need further elaborations but may be already at this stage worthwhile tobe read. The beginning goes like this.

The fundamental first question is if we can still speak of a political left and right. And a definitive affirmation is underlying the main argument of the following. The reason for raising this issue is not the general ‘totalitarianism doctrine’ but its specific resurgence based on the view of both, left and right, being populist-authoritarian – as such, the currently fashionable argument is actually not referring to any concept of totalitarianism in the normally suggested understanding. Instead, Dalio et altera insinuate that ‘[p]opulism is a political and social phenomenon that arises from the common man being fed up with 1) wealth and opportunity gaps, 2) perceived cultural threats from those with different values in the country and from outsiders, 3) the “establishment elites” in positions of power, and 4) government not working effectively for them. These sentiments lead that constituency to put strong leaders in power.’[1] They interpreted this as ‘a rebellion of the common man against the elites and, to some extent, against the system.’[2] There is on the other hand too little concern with more detailed analysis, i.e. an analysis that engages as well openly in the contradictory nature of the shifts in the political landscape, and the fact that we should not be simply concerned with ‘enemy bashing’ but instead – looking at the details – we have to move towards searching for concrete utopias as alternative.[3] In fact that requires also that the left fully returns to sound arguments, not denying any problems nor suggesting arguments on the basis of moral sentiments.

And the further elaboration – as far as it stands now – can be found here. Of course, start of a debate, not final statement on an issue.


[1] Dalio, Ray et altera; Bridgewater Associates, 2017, March 22: Populism: The Phenomenon; Bridgewater. Daily Observations: 2;; 31/03/17

[2] Ibid.

[3] see in this context an interesting study, on Italy, problematising the background in the overall political patterns, past and present, not least issuing the secular changes of the political culture: The Economist. Intelligence Unit, 2017, March 24th: More fragmentation: back to the first republic?;; 31/03/17; see in this context also Anderson, Perry, 2017, March: Why the system will still win; in: Le Monde diplomatique;; 02/04/17; Anderson, meaning populist movements from>>>> the right speaks of ‘anti-systemic movements’



Congratulations Mr Trump …. , while living in interesting times, it is a good occasion to remember

“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

These are the first words, at beginning of the synopsis of the film V for Vendetta:
The film opens with a recitation of these words as a flashback sequence brings us to early 1600’s England. Guy Fawkes is captured and executed for his attempt to blow up Parliament, a plan he hoped would restore Catholic rule to a Protestant throne. …

It is worthwhile to remember ad to watch, indeed even if Mr Trump is not in Britain …

The Next Round?

I just heard/read the news from Istanbul. Sounds like another terrible round …, and still it is the old story? So they write:

— Ataturk Airport is “one of the most secure airports in the world,” CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes says. But the airport has been “very overwhelmed for several decades with terrorism from PKK.”

— The White House issued a statement: “Ataturk International Airport, like Brussels Airport which was attacked earlier this year, is a symbol of international connections and the ties that bind us together.

It is difficult to make any “negative” comments in face of what is just a human tragedy. But still I am wondering if what I read should be easily translated into:
White House and Erdogan together against PKK and the others … – it is a worrying constellation and is a worrying constellation looking at it in the wider perspective of BREXIT, and some “progressives” now claiming we should habe more exits, return to localism …
And we in academia follow, pretending excellence, striving for rankings and serving leisure interests?