What do we do with the revolution – and what does the revolution do to us?

Peter Herrmann / Mehmet Okyayuz[1]/[2]

What to do with the revolution – and what does the revolution do to us?

The title of the following article is an allusion to the motto of attac’s coming Summer Academy

1918 – 1968 – 2018: In Favour of Change – That happened to the Revolution?

But the article presented here is about the orientation on the Battle for the Good Life, published on 23.12.’18, authored by Ulrich Brand. In our view, Brand takes up that SOAK motto by correctly pointing out that a revolution is already under way; however, in our view it is misleading to classify the change of life-style as any kind of revolution, being driven by such changes. Such arguments in favour of an anti-imperial way of life can be seen as new-Kantian categorical imperative:

Reasonable, conscious people of all countries, unite.


Instead of taking a sound economic analysis of global neoliberalism as point of departure, and deriving from there concrete plans to fight for a “good life”, Brand focuses on attitudes and behavioural patterns, suggesting that we reach from there a point leading almost inherently to the good life.

Admittedly, the path to a good life is naturally closely bound to patterns of everyday’s behaviour. The alternatives presented in the text by Brand – and also in the book which he elaborated with Markus Wissen – lead to a diffuse and individual, negative attitude, founded in and guided by “free will”. This can probably best be described as a denial of consumption: Consequently, we should not drive any SUV, not eat too much meat, preferably not fly, or at least limit this. The list can be continued, and all these quests are surely also commendable. But didn’t Adorno state already in his Minima Moralia that there is no real life in the wrong life. It may be that this statement comes – deliberately – eye-catching. Their basic content should, however, be changed in a constructive way so that structural preconditions, potentially leading to a good/better life, are developed from an analytical perspective – and this is especially true when addressing a readership such as the TAZ-constituency: the risk that dream images will be constructed which, at best, will settle the conscience. Just as the imperial way of life has been subjectively produced, reproduced and legitimised since the beginning of the 1990s at the latest, here the antithetical counter-conception is constructed in the same way.

Analogous to Lawrence Harrison’s “liberal” approach – he argues that underdevelopment is the result of a “mindset” (see Harrison, LE, 1985: Underdevelopment is a State of Mind, Lanham: Madison Books) – we find here a modified version: the breakout from the imperial way of life or from the global underdevelopment can also be the result of an attitude of refusal.


it is not just individual actions that maintain this life that is contrary to but solidarity and sustainability. There are also powerful structures of production that produce mobile phones, cars and food in capitalist competition, generating profits and growth. 

However, such statement is “fundamentally critical” only if it linked to outspoken demands for clear regulations and distribution structures, and asks even more for clear structures of production and its organisation. For example, the requirement that cooperatives can exist has to be secured not least by tax law; recognition of what we produce has to be accompanied by looking at the various damages, however, important is that such alternative perspectives soon lose the character of good, namely when results are forced into balance sheets and new accounting techniques … – An extreme mishap occurs when we look for “pricing of everything” (George Monbiot), which then suggests so-called green growth as way out. What is proposed here is, as well, quite concrete, though laborious. Last but not least, it is also about small steps and the ‘sweeping in front of your own door’ – for example, to work for the development of the Local Public Transport Network and cycle path networks instead of embarking on the dangerous “main road”; for example, it is about denouncing the overcrowding of shop corridors in supermarkets instead of accepting being exposed to the dangers of injury. Of course, these are also truisms and will hardly be considered as a critique of Brand’s critique of the imperial way of life. However, the difference is huge – now it is time for a bit of theory, otherwise it remains really a

we-know-it “Ökoelite”, telling society how to live so that climate change and other environmental problems are overcome.

In comparison – and acknowledging the dangers of such shortcut – the following points can easily be recognised as an important approach to concrete, that is, feasible, utopias.

First, Brand starts from the criticism of lifestyle and then sees ,even powerful production structures’. In contrast, in our opinion – strongly influenced by the French Regulation School – a set of four dimensions needs to be considered: [a] the accumulation regime, in a broad way defined as definition of what has value and the appropriate structuration of value; [b] the life-regime as a framework or “set-box” within which individuals can plan their lives – very different ways but in general limited by cornerstones such as paid employment, increasingly private social security [note this oxymoron of the “privacy of the social”] and many more; [c] the mode of regulation, generally not least an ideological and formal system, which ensures the implementation of the two regimes mentioned before. And here, too, there is a counterpart, namely [d] the mode of life – this is looking at what each individual really makes of life – taking into account the small print or observing the principle that terms and conditions apply.

Given this framework, it is possible to determine more precisely where we stand – and against which we must develop systematically our strategy: it is methodological nationalism and methodological individualism – this goes further than simply nationalism and individualism, for it is about the roots of these phenomena, without which just a left critique quickly reaches the limits. With these four dimensions in mind, it is also possible to illuminate the developmental path more systematically and to look at perspectives of the “no movement further this way” – five core areas will be mentioned, also aiming of replacing the Keynes Beverdige orientation on the five major evils: greed, illness, ignorance, misery and laziness. Although many challenges still need to be addressed, the five tensions are outlined as major economic and political challenges:

  • The overproduction of goods – globally and locally – turns into a production of very concrete, tangible bads
  • Huge public and quasi-public wealth meets with extremely unequal access options for the majority
  • The wealth of knowledge is trimmed by an orientation on skills
  • The individualisation of problems itself causes social problems
  • The complexity of governmental processes leads to the inability to govern, which in Germany is partly criticized as “Merkelogy” – the attempt of doing everything right by avoiding clear decisions.[3]

Admittedly a bit snappy, a remark remains to be added: even the discussion about the anti-imperial way of life, as brought forward by Brand, has something of that oxymoron of the privacy of the social – and unfortunately that is different and perhaps even contrary to the slogan that the private is political.

Sure, communism “is the simple thing that is so difficult to do” – this is how Brecht formulated, writing the role for Palagea Vlasova, The Mother. And so it is with every kind of better life. Anyway, we think more appropriate than those Christmas- and New Year wishes put forward in the article we refer to, are the following ideas and demands:

  • Conscious life – as a recognition and evaluation of successes already achieved instead of continued recalculations of what we know at least in principle [19.7% poverty and exclusion in Germany[4] are too much – but already 15% and even 10% were already too much.
  • As part of this: emphasis of existing opportunities emerging from the public use of public goods – e.g. more data access and control for everybody, considering them as public goods, instead of excessive protection of artificially defined privacy.
  • Lived equality and openness instead of closing “communities” in order to maintain consensus of the various kind – something that concerns gated communities in urban settlements as well various “critical” groups that are sealing themselves of against critical debates
  • Which translates in the need for an open and honest disputes and conflict culture against forced “burden of consensus”, aiming on a pseudo-peace culture.

Sure, it is not be meant this way – yet the fight for the good life nearly pushes its advocates to see Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Cronies as allies. They already live in such a rational world of sharing and doing good, of course far from a rights-based approach and far from the idea of producing something different and producing in different ways. They fear redistribution probably less than establishing rights-based systems that would block the possibilities of initial exploitation – that mode of accumulation, which easily determines the last fibres our way of life. It is precisely this notion that makes also Brands wish-list not much more than well-meant, and certainly not worthless, individualistic efforts. The testimony of such “revolution” will then be that it had been tried hard to reach the goal – everybody who knows about the rules of phrasing such documents knows what is actually means: trying to achieve a goal does not mean actually doing so.

[1] Social philosopher; UEF, Finland ; Corvinus University of Hungary; EURISPES, Italy; currently Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy [Social Law], Munich

[2] Social scientist; Middle East Technical University, Ankara

[3] These five tensions are first addressed in Herrmann, Peter, 2016: From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn – or: How many gigabytes has a horse ?; Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en la relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raúl Roas García), Havana [ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301815015_From_5_giant_evils_to_5_giant_tensions_-_the_current_crisis_of_capitalism_as_seedbed_for_its_overturn_-_or_How_Many_Gigabyte_has_a_Horse ] ; Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda; Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of the Trans-Pacific Section [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303549291_Growth_and_Development_-_Complement_or_Contradiction_Challenges_for_a_Global_Agenda]

[4] https://de.statista.com/themen/120/armut-in-deutschland/; 31/12/17


Off, perhaps some mooncake left just after the Chinese holidays

But in any case there is something when it comes to the moon …

… Is it perversity – or a dormant and clandestine wisdom? I was recently listening on YouTube to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, seeing the German advertisement link to a game: manufacture your own tank – the screenshot from the youtube-site

Digitisation … Perversity? Wisdom? Strange coincidence? ….- Knowing the text of O Fortuna and seeing this ad connected to it one wonders …
There is much to the entirety of the texts found in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern in Bavaria. And part of it is surely the tension in the ‘O Fortuna’ of which the text reads as follows – below in EnglishItalian and German – always posing the challenge to live a veritable life, even if it is often against the odds:

O Fortune

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
always waxing
or waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice

Fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
stand malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through trickery,
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate, in health
and in virtue,
is against me,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating string;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

O fortuna,
A guisa della luna
Nell’atteggiamento dell’incostante
Sempre tu cresci
O vai diminuendo
La vita detestabile
Ora perdura salda
E proprio ora (la fortuna)
Occupa l’ingegno con un gioco:
La miseria
Il potere
Dissolve come ghiaccio.La fortuna immane
E vuota
Tu ruota che giri
Funesto stato
Futile benessere
Sempre dissolubile
E velata
E su di me chi più si appoggerà,
Ora che per un gioco
Il dorso nudo
Porto per la tua cattiveria?La fortuna del benessere
E della virtù
Ora a me contraria
È un desiderio,
È una debolezza.
Sempre in corsa obbligata
Ora per di qua
Senza sosta
Sentite il battito nel cuore
Poiché a causa della fortuna
(Egli) acquieta la forza
Piangete tutti con me!
Oh Schicksal,

wie der Mond
von veränderlicher Position,
immer wächst du
oder schwindest;
das grässliche Leben
ist jetzt hart
und heilt dann
die Geisteskraft spielend,
die Armut,
die Macht
löst es auf wie Eis.

Monströses und
leeres Los,
du sich drehendes Rad,
üble Position,
unzuverlässige Gesundheit
immer auflösbar,
und bedeckt
Du stützt dich auch auf mich;
jetzt trage ich
deinen Schandtaten zum Spiel
den Rücken bloß.

Los der Gesundheit
und Tugend
jetzt gegen mich,
es ist beeinflusst
und beeinträchtig
immer im Frondienst.
In dieser Stunde,
ohne Verzug,
kommet zu jenem, der im Herzen geschlagen wurde4;
denn durch das Los
breitet es den Zufall aus,
klagt alle mit mir!

Living in and for academia – an international[ist] perspective

Published is a presentation given on the 4th of July in ChangSha, PRC, looking against the personal background from an academic perspective at the topic of international and global education. While sociology, economics, political science, law and arts are explicitly mentioned, philosophy remains as companion of all in the background. Highlighted is the need to regain and maintain academic integrity.

The video-recording, in some respect an extension to the interview published recently, can be found here.

Learned from the time I lived in Australia, and altered all this is not least about the statement that

I fully acknowledge the Right and Duty of the students to learn in a way that allows not only to administer their own life and land in a globally respectful way, to study the possibilities to work and connect with the world that is respectful against themselves, against their fellow beings past, present and emerging.

… no waiting anymore …

finally the short holidays are over, back to the students and the seminars, the really exciting side of teaching … so no waiting anymore, not even for Godot

Vien dietro a me, e lascia dir le genti:
sta come torre ferma, che non crolla
già mai la cima per soffiar di venti …
Dante Alighieri:
and there on the Purgatorio, Canto V

Artificial Intelligence – and the Reduction of Being

Both quotes are from Hannah Arendt’s Human Conditions, 43 and 41 respectively (Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press). Aren’t they saying much about what Artificial Intelligence is about – and how much it depends on the reduction of ourselves?

The unfortunate truth about behaviorism and the validity of its “laws” is that the more people there are, the more likely they are to behave and the less likely to tolerate non-behavior. Statistically, this will be shown in the leveling out of fluctuation. In reality, deeds will have less and less chance to stem the tide of behavior, and events will more and more lose their significance, that is, their capacity to illuminate historical time. Statistical uniformity is by no means a harmless scientific ideal; it is the no longer secret political ideal of a society which, entirely submerged in the routine of everyday living, is at peace with the scientific outlook inherent in its very existence.
This modern equality, based on the conformism inherent in society and possible only because behavior has replaced action as the foremost mode of human relationship, is in every respect different from equality in antiquity, and notably in the Greek city-states.

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 😉

questions are a knife

In the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then, that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions. A question is like a knife that slices through the stage backdrop and gives us a look at what lies hidden behind it. In fact, that was exactly how Sabina had explained the meaning of her paintings to Tereza: on the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth showing through.

But the people who struggle against what we call totalitarian regimes cannot function with queries and doubts. They, too, need certainties and simple truths to make the multitudes understand, to provoke collective tears.


Kitsch has its source in the categorical agreement with being.
But what is the basis of being? God? Mankind? Struggle? Love? Man? Woman?

Since opinions vary, there are various kitsches: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Communist, Fascist, democratic, feminist, European, American, national, international.


Shit is a more onerous theological problem than is evil. Since God gave man freedom, we can, if need be, accept the idea that He is not responsible for man’s crimes. The responsibility for shit, however, rests entirely with Him, the Creator of man.


“The Unbearable Lightness Of Being” by Milan Kundera