Principiis obst! Mind the beginning!

We talked a couple of times about Hannah Arendt – point of departure was actually something that seems to be very distant from her work: criteria that constitutional courts can refer to when taking decisions. And of course, taking the perspective from the legal doctrine is different from that taken by others. Funnily enough, legal doctrine translates into German as Rechtsdogmatik – suggesting something like dogmatic law, of even dogmatic thinkers on legal issues?

At some stage I mentioned some literature to my office mate – stuff I would think being important on this topic. Books, some more or less legalist, at least coming from sociology of law, philosophy of law, and perhaps stuff philosophising on justice – we both laughed when I dared to say – mind, to a jurist:
law is not interested in justice, hardly knows about it. what we share – legal scientists and economists – is a more or less blind interest in coherence. that may be rather simple: you put numbers and articles and even laws, we put numbers on goods and people – no matter on how bad the goods are, no matter how deep personalities are buried behind the figures.
 We laughed, knowing that it is reality and when it is lived reality it is harsh.
After such books, and after working a bit on our different tasks, I interrupted the silence:
Right, there is another one: Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition. it is probably the most comprehensive book she wrote, and from reading this, it is possible to understand the others …  to least the one on he Eichmann-trial and the banality of evil.
 A short chat, a couple of days later, we had been sitting for lunch – just across the street. Else a rather dull, grey day. I don’t know why she asked me about Hannah and Martin Heidegger … – I said what I knew, and part of it, actually part of the question had been already about Heidegger’s relationship to the fascists.
The romantic relationship between the two philosophers was known as a difficult one – and apparently the relationship between Heidegger and the fascists had not been so clear …
– can one say it was part of this banality of evil? We talked about it, the time, the difficulty of admitting that it is difficult. For me it is again and again emotionally a difficult matter, having known comrades, colleagues, friends who went through that hell – making impossible to accept that those had been ordinary people.
It could be him
I pointed on the table to the left
or her
my eyes moved to the right. I looked into her eyes:
It could be you — or do you know if it is not me at some stage?
It was loud, the snowfall was not too bad and I proposed to leave. I opened the brelli:
Let’s go to the LMU. I do not know exactly where it is …
– did you ever hear about the Geschwister Scholl?
She did not – and I told her the bit I knew, talked also about Anne Frank, my visit in the Anne Frank House, im Amsterdam. I remembered, at the end of the museum little notes, one asking
Why do we feel such a pity for this one child, knowing that there had been so many more being brutally slaughtered. – it is because we hardly can cope with this one, bearing the large number would crash us completely. 
After a while we found one person who could help us finding the way – and a little while later we find the little memorial – I had to swallow, as usual when being confronted with my past which is not my past and against which I had been fighting. I managed, we entered – we walked along the exhibits, I have had the impression getting slower and slower. And for my part I was wondering if it was right to put all this weight on her shoulders. Or if it was my duty? Or …just something like a waste of time?
 After we left, we stood a while at the bottom of the broad stairs …
Do you know, I fell sometimes so … riven, so unsure, insecure …
She talked about Korea, the occupation by the Japanese … – and I had to ask sincerely and honestly to forgive me for not knowing anything about her country. A bit later, when we walked back to the Institute, I remembered Albert Einstein – I used this reference to underline what I said before, and already while we have had lunch:
I cannot guarantee that I would be as brave as these people – I would like to be, but would I be as strong as they had been? Albert, with all his knowledge, he was one of the enablers – finally his contribution mad it possible that the USA developed the nuclear weapon. And he did so intentionally, ‘knowing’ that the bomb in the hands of the US would better than it would be in the hands of the fascist Germany. Later, when he knew better, namely that it had been used so senseless, the US playing with the muscles without any military need and humane consideration, he changed not just his mind but concentrated much of his effort on condemning .., well part of his own deeds. – Braveness …
The morning of the same day I submitted another recommendation letter for  student – the boxing exercise – the mail to the university is already prepared but I have to wait, sending it:
Earlier I just submitted a recommendation – and I dare to make a recommendation to your institution:
Be professional and serious, and do not breach confidentiality law – there is much improvement for you, actually I was near to recommend to the student not to go further with the application due to your highly unprofessional way of treating students.
Sincerely worrying about the quality of academic standards I remain
Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
The evening I went to a presentation at the institute:
„Jenseits der Praxis? Die aktuellen Vorschläge für eine Reform des Gemeinsamen Europäischen Asylsystems (GEAS) aus rechtlicher und praktischer Sicht“
 A very clear presentation, also highlighting some fundamental flaws – followed by a ‘soft debate’, leaving some important points out,
Principiis obsta. Sero medicina parata, cum mala per longas convaluere moras.
Mind the beginning| Too late the remedy is prepared when the evil became stronger simply by time.
Ovid wrote it, thinking Remedia Amoris – what then about the self-loving academics …?
Today, I went for my usual walk  the first time that I really was getting aware of the name of the one street I passed so often: Ackermannstreet – the city of Munich still celebrating this loyal property of a man who had to go to court because of misappropriation,
This day I did not listen to my usual lectures and audio-plays, I remembered my last visit in Athens. After that visit I wrote:
a long way … from the priests on the Acropolis [ἄκρον (akron, “highest point”) and πόλις (polis)] to the gardens which had been the roaming place of the philosophers to the reality of today’s Europe.
It is a way full of the tensions: on the one hand the small academies of free thinking – free and ready for the hemlock; on the other hand the abduction, about which Maria Mies wrote in the one book on Europe I edited [Mies, Maria, 1999: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Peter Herrmann (Ed.): Challenges for a Global Welfare System: Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: 153-171].
Studying the history – sine ira et studio – as Tacitus said.
Also making history without hate and zealousness? There is always the danger then of abduction: the legal doctrine, expressed in the constitutional state, the state under the rule of law is turned into the one-sided application of law, its consistency the utmost and only validation. The economic doctrine, being caught in the mirage of closed systems, the equations make equal what is different, and not able to see that not figures but power matters.
Life goes on – only not forgetting its complexity and ambiguity can make us free. [I could not find the link to the one, the eleventh song].

A strange competition ….

It seems at least that underlying the main topics of public debates – growth, competitiveness, sustainability, ratio (as in rationality), digitalisation and globalisation, of course – we find some matter that may be called by the apparent misnomer “competition in self-degrading”. It does not really sound better than the more appropriate “nomer” which then should read nationalism, often in its most crude and primitive form. – A quick “synoptical view”, linking few articles I came across in the more or less recent press (like in printing press). Some of it is not so much about reading between the lines, more about reading the small print.


So, in the beginning stands the word; and it says that

many young people started their businesses out of an interest, instead of a market need, which increases the risk of failure.

The report found 29.2 percent of the males and 37.6 percent of the females cited personal interest as one of the main factors for their decision to start a business.

This, to me, sounds at least equally worrying as the complains about working conditions, bribery and some of those aspects that are supposed to deal with human rights here in the Country of Aurora – without any intention to deny their relevance. And I do not refocus, supposing that we should strike a balance and count (breach of) rights here and there. Though yes, the ignorance of some Westeners is remarkable, personalising things or seeing them more as “failure and weakness n individual cases. Still, it is never wrong to look “Trumps special wall”, saying

‘No Way’ to Toyota Plant in Mexico

Of course it is relevant even if said just by one person, dangerously entering the stage, important even if it would be only for the reason to find out about his nasty followers as

[f]rom Mr Trump’s perspective … things are working well: Fiat Chrysler said it may have to pull production from Mexico. Ford, which has already cancelled a $1.6bn plant in Mexico, is now discussing compensation with suppliers.”


Yes, freedom is such an important issue when it comes to Human Rights – the freedom for the market, and we find the old story of preaching water, while drinking – fermented grape juice, this probably the more appropriated term, finally point on the process of rotting that stands behind this concept of freedom:

Donald Trump has called for tariffs of 35 per cent on cars imported from Mexico to the US, and has criticised companies that move manufacturing south of the border, with tweets directed at General Motors and Toyota.

Self-degrading in terms of showing the lowest instincts in place – by no means a new issue as it for instance getting clear from Domenico Losurdo‘s article on the

Bürgerliche Gesellschaft und Staat: Hegel, Marx und die zwei Liberalismen (Bourgeois/Civil Society and State: Hegel, Marx and the two liberalisms)

And of course we should talk about the need to do something immediately and in the singular cases, seeing that

NHS faces ‘humanitarian crisis’ as demand rises

And nevertheless, if it is true that the word stands in the beginning, we should take it from here: the vocabulary of gain as leading motive, as marked by Karl Polanyi – seeing it as the turning point

Nineteenth century civilization alone was economic in a different and distinctive sense, for it chose to base itself on a motive only rarely acknowledged as valid in the history of human societies, and certainly never before raised to the level of a justification of action and behavior in everyday life, namely, gain. The self-regulating market system was uniquely derived from this principle.

The mechanism which the motive of gain set in motion was comparable in effectiveness only to the most violent outburst of religious fervor in history. Within a generation the whole human world was subjected to its undiluted influence.[2]


This word was step by step translated into numbers, which mark today the

The testing struggles of American teens

On the one level this is the issue Hannah Arendt looked at, stating in her book on the Human Condition that


the situation created by the sciences is of great political significance. Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being. If we would follow the advice, so frequently urged upon us, to adjust our cultural attitudes to the present status of scientific achievement, we would in all earnest adopt a way of life in which speech is no longer meaningful. For the sciences today have been forced to adopt a “language” of mathematical symbols which, though it was originally meant only as an abbreviation for spoken statements, now contains statements that in no way can be translated back into speech.[1]

The analysis of the

The Rise and Fall of the Washington Consensus as a Paradigm for Developing Countries

by Charles Gore clearly shows that this problem also and increasingly applies to the “good-willing”, “good-doing” policy approaches:

These changes have certainly made the Washington Consensus more humane. But at the same time, the SHD approach has had the eff􏰀ect of conserving key features of the world- view of the dominant paradigm. Although its di􏰀fferent values have emphasized di􏰀fferent indicators and weighting systems, particularly to capture levels of human development and poverty, these measures have reinforced a focus on short-term performance assessment.


But here I also reached the point of talking about competition in self-degrading. Similar studies and complaints and fears in so may countries – and it does not really matter that we find similar claims when it comes to countries (or national NGOs, social group … …) claiming for “their populace” or “their constituency” the “highest unemployment, poverty, homeless rate …”, or the most severe problems with racism, lack of solidarity, democratic deficits, bureaucracy or bailing out the multimillionaires profit sources … , or the least support for alternatives, the closest and strictest and responsive and exclusive (as in exclusion) … .

All these are too often seen in just one respect:

“We’re losing ground – a troubling prospect when, in today’s knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world,” says US Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “Students in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Minnesota aren’t just vying for great jobs along with their neighbors or across state lines, they must be competitive with peers in Finland, Germany, and Japan.”


Yes, indeed, we are living in an era of globalisation. And with all the issues around privatisation even those who are in its favour should never forget that they ultimately can and do only gain by relying on the state – this is pointed out by Mariana Mazzucato, writing about

The Entrepreneurial State

It is of course important not to romanticize the State’s capacity. The State can leverage a massive national social network of knowledge and business acumen, but we must make sure its power is controlled and directed through a variety of accountability measures and diverse democratic processes. However, when organized effectively, the State’s visible hand is firm but not heavy, providing the vision and the dynamic push (as well as some ‘nudges’) to make things happen that otherwise would not have. Such actions are meant to increase the courage of private business. This requires understanding the State as neither a ‘meddler’ nor a simple ‘facilitator’ of economic growth.

And here we may come to another issue that is relevant when talking about globalisation as we can know that:

Company has invested more than $10 billion overseas so far, with gross value of assets reaching $40 billion

State Grid Corp of China has signed a deal to purchase a minority stake in Greece’s power grid operator ADMIE, a move to further extend its international reach.

The company will purchase a 24 percent state in ADMIE, Greece’s state-backed Public Power Corporation’s subsidiary, …

An interesting detail (and I am definitely not talking about the figures) is here the following:

Being part of Greece’s international bailout, ADMIE operates more than 11,000 kilometers of high-voltage power cable in Greece, earning an operating profit of 155 million euros last year, with a regulated asset base of 1.4 billion euros and a total debt of 490 million euros.

So, indeed there are complex new structures not only of cross-interlocking, but emerging new entities, still nameless, as any attempt to call them PPP, global control, interdependence, global governance or the like is all too closely linked to past and present. – In the beginning is the word, but nobody should say that this defines for ever the same language code.


All this does not fit into any model of linearity or mathematical formula …

The old political economy, even of an Alfred Marshall[3], would have been more knowledgeable on this than the “modern” entrepreneurs that had been envisaged in the article, quoted at the beginning of these few thoughts.

At the end there should still be the person to be reproduced as such, and with all the irrational joys and disturbing worries and sorrows.

– It this person (as in personality) that enlightenment – as humanist (though unlike as in humanitarian) movement – wanted to bring on stage.

And as history is made up of contradictions and paradoxes, it may be most appropriate to quote at the end the “self-enthroned antichrist”, leaving aside if he could rightly claim so, and surely not suggesting that this Übermensch would be the incarnation of true humanism:

Those who keep silent are almost always lacking in delicacy and courtesy of the heart; silence is an objection, swallowing down necessarily produces a bad character — it even ruins the stomach. All the silent are dyspeptic. — One sees, I do not want crudeness to be undervalued, it is by far the most humane form of opposition and, in the midst of modern over-indulgence, one of our foremost virtues. — If one is rich enough for it, it is even a matter of good fortune to be in the wrong. A God come down to earth ought to do nothing other than wrong — to take upon himself not the punishment but the guilt, that alone would be divine.

It had not been Zarathustra, saying this.

— At the end of the day, all this is the essence of what my students should have learned from the lectures during the last semester, their first encounter with academics. One could say not much for an entire semester. But one could also say: if some people in Washington, London, Berlin/Frankfurt …, and yes: Beijing would have not forgotten these simple facts we would still have many problems, but many of those fundamental problems we do have, we would not have and we would not have to join the legions of people and peoples, mourning about their own hardship being the most severe … .


[1]            Webber, Jude, 13.1.2917: ¡No pasarán!; FT-blog LatAmViva; Your Weekly briefing on the region

[1]            Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1958: 3 f.

[2]            Polanyi, Karl, 1944: The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time; Boston: Beacon Press, 1957: 30

[3]            Even remaining “Non-Marshallian”, an interesting academic article by Geoffrey Hodgson, asking “Alfred Marshall versus the historical school?

How to write a bestseller and get a Pulitzer Award?

I am not sure if I missed something, or if it was just a rumor about some things that went wrong around that time?

What makes capital provision work so well in America is the security and regulation of our capital markets, where minority shareholders are protected. Lord knows, there are scams, excesses, and corruption in our capital markets. That always happens when a lot of money is at stake. What distinguishes our capital markets is not that Enrons don’t happen in America—they sure do. It is that when they happen, they usually get ex- posed, either by the Securities and Exchange Commission or by the business press, and get corrected. What makes America unique is not Enron but Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York State, who has doggedly sought to clean up the securities industry and corporate board-rooms. This sort of capital market has proved very, very difficult to duplicate outside of New York, London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo. Said Foster, “China and India and other Asian countries will not be successful at innovation until they have successful capital markets, and they will not have successful capital markets until they have rule of law which protects minority interests under conditions of risk… We in the U.S. are the lucky beneficiaries of centuries of conditions of risk… We in the U.S. are the lucky beneficiaries of centuries of economic experimentation, and we are the experiment that has worked.”

From: Thomas L. Friedman: The World is Flat; New York: Picador: 2007: 332 f.

Well, the Friedmans, be it Thomas or Milton don’t understand that we face what James Galbraith calls

The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth

as reviewed here.
One important point is, and that is another way to think about the end of the normal, the need to question the normal or at least part of it. Three (we always strive for trinities) essential parts of the normal were: growth, growth, and some form of regulation – and indeed Friedman talks about such regulation. But what he does not say is that this had been about marginal forms of social distribution, limited control of excesses and in particular/not least about securing the conditions of and for growth. It is interesting that even this is now largely taken away. As we know since recently, namely the leak of the TISA-Annex on the Annex on State Owned Enterprises the role of securing the conditions of and for growth is now under the increasing pressure of being finally, formally and completely handed over to the ‘market’. This is globalisation not simply by imposing specific structures and conditions on other countries but by establishing the control
Freedom and democracy – the flattening of the world by fattening the few global players.

Does one ‘super-corporation’ run the global economy? Study claims it could be terrifyingly unstable

The Network of Global Corporate Control – Research Article

The Network of Global Corporate Control – Annex

Indeed, I took up on some of the issues of the supposedly flattened world not only recently in Havana (here for for a background paper), but now again during the Shanghai Forum, presenting on Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda– more information can be found here.

Conference Announcement: Crisis, State and Democracy. Working with Nicos Poulantzas’ theory to confront authoritarian capitalism

The preparations for the

International Poulantzas Conference

Crisis, State and Democracy. Working with Nicos Poulantzas’ theory to confront authoritarian capitalism
are now more or less concluded. It will kA place the 12th and 13th of December in Athens at the Panteion University.Nicos Poulantzas has been one of the most important scholars in the field of theory development in the areas of the state and its development. His contribution linked in a creative way different strands from the Marxist discourse. Being a passionate activist, his contribution is especially meaningful as he aimed on making theoretical reflections relevant for the further development for emancipatory politics. Nevertheless, his work has been underexposed in the context of debates on European (dis-)integration. In the light of the crisis and the process of increasingly authoritarian politics it is even more important to utilise this pool of knowledge, in order to better understand the contradictory character of the process and to elaborate alternatives that opens perspectives towards a radical socialist transformation to a democratic society.So far the information from the transform website where further details can be found.