Sorrows of Young Werther – not only

It had not been just the young Werther plagued by sorrows, and among the many concerned are academics – some old, some young; some knowing, some innocent; some forced and some voluntarily … .

[scan from: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust – Der Tragödie Erster Teil, mit Illustrationen aus drei Jahrhunderten, ed. by Hans Hanning, Berlin: Rütting & Loening, 1982, 2nd ed., p. 123
Teufelspakt_Faust-Mephisto, by Julius Nisle]

All this is by no means new, the fine-tuning changed while the symphony itself is still the old lyre …

Career settings – career is a nice word actually: ‘a person really made a career’, we say it is somebody reached ‘high ranks’, and to get to the heights one has to make a career, i.e. move along a given path. Going back to Latin and Italian it is about the via cararia – the carriage road, the path on and along which the car – carrus – chariot moves. And it is about carrying, of course.

A brief outline then, if one gets an important part of the picture – surely not the complete one:

First step, getting the weight that needs to be carried – well prepared, and well wrapped:

Influence and manipulation in Teaching Economics – Backgrounds and Examples[1]

– There is at least an abstract in English language – and there is also an article on the topic[2]

Next step, prostitution[3] – it is not about what one says but how and where one says something.

And mind, see the progress: from the wrapped being presented, it is now about oneself, the young academic, wrapping.

Well, the end of the career? For some … the eternal wrappers, stepping higher and higher, the chariot being increasingly beautiful, the golden grids appearing as louvre – is it by accident that this is also the name of the great galleries in Paris?

For others the story ends …, well one may say Wertherian, i.e. by suicide – the way that social science goes too often[4] – actually the other side of prostitution – or its other side.

And indeed, there is some cunning of reason in the fact that this obituary on the academic freedom is published in a journal with access-by-payment-only … – Well, the Goethe, in his Faust, was clearer than Hegel with his hope for the cunning of reason, writing

To nonsense reason turns,

and benefit to worry.

And we basically have to fail if we maintain reasoning by simple reason, accepting that we are not quantum mechanic beings but real ones.

And still, exactly therefore we have to look where and how exactly the cat moves – accepting also that it cannot be understood if we use those concepts that are hidden behind the eclipsed reason.

Sure, some leave the wrapping post and move on as rapper – against the rapists.

The answer history will give ????   – well, it may be that you have to go for it



[1]            Silja Graupe: Beeinflussung und Manipulation in der ökonomischen Bildung Hintergründe und Beispiele; Duesseldorf: FGW – Forschungsinstitut für gesellschaftliche Weiterentwicklung e.V.

[2]            Silja Graupe. The Power of Ideas. The Teaching of Economics and its Image of Man; in: Volume 11, Number 2, © JSSE 2012 ISSN 1618-5293

[3]            Frey: PUBLISHING AS PROSTITUTION? Choosing Between One’s Own Ideas and Academic Failure;

[4]            Holmquist, Carin and Sundin, Elisabeth(2010) ‘The suicide of the social sciences: causes and effects’, Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 23: 1, 13 — 23


… 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.



academic bloomers

Something is going wrong in academia – is it a matter of the publishing sector or the awarding system? A sentence in Bruno F. Frey’s article on ‘Publishing as prostitution? – Choosing between one’s own ideas and academic success‘ (Public Choice 116: 205–223, 2003) does not provide the answer, though it importantly poses the question.

A well-known example is Akerlof’s “Market for Lemons”, which was rejected by the American Economic Review and the Review of Economic Studies as being “trivial”, and by the Journal of Political Economy for being “too general” before it was accepted by the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which was instrumental in him winning the Nobel Prize.

Will we be able to contribute to the debate during the next days in Shanghai, addressing conference on

Responsible leadership, global citizenship and the role of education – what might the last 10 years tell us about the next 10 years?

organised at theThe Sino-British College, USST, 上海理工大学中英国际学院 ?

Working from rather different perspectives and interests on the contribution, titled “‘Chinese Higher Education in an International Sitting: Progress and Challenges’” (together with Fan Hong/Rzepka, Remi) was already a challenge. The gain for me, against the odds: becoming even more aware of the difficulties to “put students first”.

If I will still be able total up on the new plan: writing an textbook for economics from and for the lifeworld perspective of which the fundamental is that another world is indeed, possible if it trust in the honesty “grand narrative of small people” as main bulwark against strives and lies of old and new princes, West and East.

see also