Lectionis et Seminario – De sociali et politica in Europea

European Integration – a failed political and social union?

2017 S. BA-Course at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science.

A series of fifteen sessions delivered at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science. The series is looking at the process of European integration – a wide topic looked at under the guiding question if EUrope failed to deliver the ambitious perspective of establishing a political and social union. The answer is by the present author given in somewhat negative terms: we cannot really say that the EU-institutions failed to reach the target of a political and social union … – it is worse: such targets never existed. So, we have to be clear in our critique. This means not least that we are challenged – and may gain sufficient insight – to develop the EU to something meaningful – meaningful not for the people but a reflection by the people – men make their own history, but it is not only the nightmare of the past, it is also a matter of the conditions of the still present hegemons who employ gatekeepers of different kind – even if the princes today wear the clothes of normal people, it is very much about behind the veils of the most expensive princely garments.

The various sessions, of which the recordings [German language] are available, present the historical development, some key issues and relevant theories in a more or less narrative way.

Annunci

old stuff …, and the summit …

Sure, it would be worthwhile to post some photos now (yes, these meetings have their most enjoyable beautywatch from ca minute 5:32), (though I remember a more exciting performance I visited some years back, Tan Dun was the head behind some “organic compositions“) or the first reports from the Hangzhou-meetings …,

But it is usually clear in advance what happens – and critique was raised earlier.

And anyway, something  else comes to mind .. and came to my mind these two days. It is so often that we talk about these big institutions, and is so often that we talk about checks and balances …, and indeed, I would not be as optimist as others when it comes to the diminishing power of the IMF … there are surely these centers of power, machine like, making individuals functioning like cogwheels (and earning pretty well by doing so). And even the big shots are very much only representatives. Or as we read in the Economic Manuscripts.

… here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.

Still, we should not forget that the power is not least with real people. Sure, there are networks, there are academics involved and there are even spaces for open debate .. but at the end it is a small number of of people who control all this. Obvious in the economy and in politics.

And there is in exactly this context something else that is interesting – and that is easily forgotten. Yes, there is all this hype about technologies, gadgets and the control by algorithms. And although we know that the control is “owned”, that there are real people making money out of it, we easily forget this over the fear, thinking about a data-octopus, being uncontrolled and gathering all the data, data then controlling themselves …, and us, selling friends. Yes,

Facebook sells your friends

And although the article is already from 2016, and thus many things changed, it is still worth reading, nicely showing the actual faces of the authors of Facebook … – or should I write: the faces of the actual authors of Facebook.

Yes, all these algorithms have authors, as much as all these political institutions have heads with faces and brains ….es, with complex networks, protecting their ambitions:

Even as Apple became the nation’s most profitable technology company, it avoided billions in taxes in the United States and around the world through a web of subsidiaries so complex it spanned continents and went beyond anything most experts had ever seen, Congressional investigators disclosed on Monday.

… but that is not least something for tomorrow, back in the classroom … (as it was for yesterday)

 

PS: Yes, and not only Merkel made a photo with her mobile — though I am not sure if it was posted on FB 😉

The Devil, the Detail and the Devil’s Home

It is often said that the devil can be found in the detail – and this is not contest here as general rule. However, we should never forget to think about the place where the devil can be found, namely the devil’s home.

The Council of the Economic Advisors is looking in an issue brief from April 2016 at the

While we talk in the meantime extensively about inequality of wealth and the unbelievable affluence of the super-rich, and while we look with disgust at the Panama-papers, there is indeed something in the report that is more appalling  and actually the showing the real issue that is covered by all those scandals, clearly apparent from the report: the real inequality is still the inequality in the control of means of production though, though those means changed over the years they appearance – it may be true that

we are about to make the transition from a society in which energy was the engine of progress, innovation and productivity to one where data and the information technologies that underpin it will be the engine of progress.’

(Degryse, Christophe, 2016: Digitalisation of the Economy and its impact on labour markets; Working Paper 2016.02; Brussels: ETUI: 9 f.; with reference to Babinet, Gilles, 2015: Big Data, penser l’homme et le monde autrement; Paris: Le Passeur)

The inequality not in terms of money but in terms of capital is the decisive factor, so the analysis should really look at The Capital of the 21st Century, and not just at the distribution of money – students are at least sometimes told that there is a difference between money and capital.

This means as well that we have to be careful, resisting the attractive models that are easily offered – resisting in the dialectical way of overcoming the shortcomings while maintaining the potentials. Joe Stiglitz looked recently at the

Monopoly’s New Era

surely raising important issues. However, this makes us easily forget the systematic character, the law if you want, that stands behind the development. It is not the Sshumpetarian entrepreneur who develops with inventiveness and courage the empires, be they empires of steel barons or information gurus. As long as we believe in such magic powers, we easily find ourselves in the trap of distributing income, forgetting to consider the need to question power. Brecht’s words

The womb is fertile still from which that crept

are also valid in this context, not least making us alert of the dangers, posed by capital looking for spheres for investment and war. Indeed, taking it from my forthcoming publication “Security in insecure times” (which is linked to the presentation I made in Gdansk)

… we find as well the mention if the immediate security threat: Paul Krugman, in a conversation with Tony Atkinson on Inequality and Economic Growth at the Graduate Centre of City University of New York speaks of ‘a large public work stimulus programme known as the second world war’ (15/05/16; minute 1:18:13 ff.).[1] And in his opinion page/blog in The New York Times, Krugman contends that ‘World War II is the great natural experiment in the effects of large increases in government spending, and as such has always served as an important positive example for those of us who favor an activist approach to a depressed economy.’

And indeed, we have sufficient evidence of the aggressiveness, be it in international relations, regionally in Latin America or in the name of national democracy.

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[1] Btw, going hand in hand with a rejection of trade unionism.