Small Print on Freedom of Opinion and Speech

It had been again and again an issue over the last two years or so, I spent in China: does it exist? How is it oppressed? and not least: But ‘we/they in the west’ can say what we want’.


though there is some small print we should not forget – an example may show what this is about.



Of course, there is never then side or the other only, never the ‘deep-black’ or the ‘bright-white’[1] – and there remains and increases the concern when it comes to Mr Trump. There is another concern – and the reader may know that it haunts me in very general terms.

Trump then …, or actually today not but Francis and both in Rome. We learn from telesurtv

Trump curiously gifted the Pope a book of Martin Luther King’s writings, while the Pope returned the gesture by giving the U.S. president a copy of his climate change encyclical.

Now I am posing the question again: honesty, symbolic politics and meaning: what is the possible meaning of a pope’s words on climate change, as long as he allows a person like Trump to cross the doorsteps? A person, passing on words of a pacifist who pursued the ideas of non-violence, while building violent walls of nationalism against his opponents. And actually the formulation should be more precise: as long as the Vatican is itself a fortress, securing its ‘monarchial power’ behind a high and barely surmountable wall (leaving aside that I occasionally walked in and out without hassle, though hardly entering its centre).

– BTW, it should not be forgotten that a large part of the ‘black movement’ in the USNA actually pursued the ideas of a strong world power, however one that is black and white … obviously a long way to go for the really colourful for all.


It may be seen as tiny detail, though of huge interest – symbolically. Looking at Frances schedule for the 24th we see the following:


What does it say? First the leaders – then the people. And in the rome case, ‘audience’ means two sides speaking, in the other it means: one side talking, the other listening … – In the one case it had been about

… cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations …

In the other case it was about bringing two brothers together:

Il segreto della strada che conduce a Emmaus è tutto qui: anche attraverso le apparenze contrarie, noi continuiamo ad essere amati, e Dio non smetterà mai di volerci bene. Dio camminerà con noi sempre, sempre, anche nei momenti più dolorosi, anche nei momenti più brutti, anche nei momenti della sconfitta: lì c’è il Signore. E questa è la nostra speranza. Andiamo avanti con questa speranza! Perché Lui è accanto a noi e cammina con noi, sempre!

– may be as excuse for previous meeting or may be as hoping for the cunning of reason?

Well, walls …

  • —-

[1]            not talking about bride, bribe bridling ….

Sure: Shock !! – But also Surprise ??

Yes, he made it – and the world is surprised, and comes increasingly to the conclusion that it should not be surprised. Demograph’s a joining democrats, looking for reasons behind the success of demagogues – not just in Trump’s empire to be; and illusionists reflect on the majestic power of the new magician, money. We (can) know since long:

No thing in use by man, for power of ill, Can equal money. This lays cities low, This drives men forth from quiet dwelling-place, This warps and changes minds of worthiest stamp, To turn to deeds of baseness, teaching men All shifts of cunning, and to know the guilt Of every impious deed. But they who, hired, Have wrought this crime, have laboured to their cost, Or soon or late to pay the penalty.[1]

Of course, we may set moral standards against it – and we do this also for a long time as. And with Aristotle we can

seek to define wealth and money-making in different ways; and we are right in doing so, for they are different; on the one hand true wealth, in accordance with nature, belonging to household management, productive; on the other money-making, with no place in nature, belonging to trade and not productive of goods in the full sense. In this kind of money-making, in which coined money is both the end pursued in the transaction and the medium by which the transaction is performed, there is no limit to the amount of riches to be got.[2]

But when it comes to chrematistike, we see another law and are dealing with a disjoined pattern as

there is another kind of property-getting, to which the term money-making is generally and quite rightly applied ; and it is due to it that there is thought to be no limit to wealth or its acquisition.[3]

And as much as it is about money-making, it is also about power-buying. Mr Trump knew well and he bought himself into power – importantly he did so not by bribery (as far as known) and not by the pure impact of a massive propaganda show (which he surely knew to instrumentalise). The real reason is the utilisation of objective factors that shape society,[4] permanently establishing and re-establishing this hegemonic block which is grounded in exclusion and externalisation going hand in hand; and gojg hand in hand with inclusion of some kind. – Indeed, this is a power-basis that is massively making us believe in our own hangmen.

Looking for a concise understanding of this, it is perhaps more interesting to look at the question if

(…) California (will) Leave the US Following Trump’s Victory?


Not the answer is of central interest (as is in the case not the answer what finally will happen to the Brexit).

In particular two points are for a long-term perspective more crucial.


The first quickly to be captured, and we could even leave it with the term short-termism. Still, expanding a bit on this we have to see that ‘strategic decisions’ are increasingly taken as matter of ‘filling gaps’. The fact that gaps are becoming wider, opening more frequent and opening more and more in different spheres are clearly indicating the simple though often forgotten fact of the incoherence of capitalism – and velocity is part of it: the turnover ratio of political ideas reaches the turnover ratio of capital as it both does hand in hand with the headless chicken: high velocity, looking for and picking up corns as fast as possible, as many as possible and wherever it is possible as this is the only way to obtain what is there: here and now as the tomorrow may exist, but does not have anything it can promise and actually secure. Thus rational is to go for the hic and nunc: get the job, even if it is only a project for limited time; consume what you can consume now as this is the only way of guaranteeing that it is there, yu are there and the resources are there.

The question of class – and the supposed dissolution of class-structure – should be relocated into this context. The thesis of the levelling middle-classes (as we find it with reference to James Burnham and Helmut Schelsky)[5] is carrying far – and is conceptually also underlying many debates on precarisation. According to the latter we find – in short – as one of the main features of current developments the lack of stability and security as a ‘phenomenon’ that is increasingly emerging as progressively ‘moving to the centre of society’. At first glance this is surely the case and an increasingly worrying issue. However, should we stop here? Or should we move on[6] to the thesis of ‘proletarisation’? In social science relations are too often reduced to … relations, not acknowledging the relational character. The concept of relationality cannot be discussed in full length, but one of its implications has to be highlighted – one that is also in Marxist class theory not sufficiently considered. Of course, we find at the centre the issue of the property of means of production and, taking it in a wider understanding – the control over the means of production.[7] One important, though underexposed, socio-economic aspect of this is a complex dialectic of inclusion, externalisation and exclusion – a topic that has been developed in the political perspective by Antonio Gramsci and Nicos Poulantzas though.


Taking up on such economic perspective brings us to the second aspect, where we are talking about the importance of emphasising the fact that inclusion and exclusion go hand in hand not as matter of being alternatives and not as matter of different spaces or groups. Leaving ‘peripheral’ and ‘niche aspects’ aside, the fundamental pattern is characterised by the fact on overall inclusionary character of development that not only creates new arrays of exclusion but – beyond this fact – depends on its ‘internal exclusion’. The mechanism is well-known from the making of the working class, which is based in the double freedom: disposition of other the labour power and lack of disposition of any alternative commodity for sale than exactly the labour power – Marx elaborated this in chapter 6 of the first volume of Capital.[8] We can formulate this in another way – from the side of a specific sort of ‘externalisation’: In order to be able to externalise executing own labour, by employing workers, it is necessary to grant the same bourgeois rights to the worker, making him/her bearer of the same individual rights. This is the continuation and completion of the bourgeois revolution against the feudal system of which Frederick Engels characterised the first stage by writing that the first needed

the kingdom of free competition, of personal liberty, of the equality, before the law, of all commodity owners.[9]

This means that “Power Relations” as matter of “’Exclusive Inclusion” – as I attempted in the chapter under this tile, writing about precarity – are thus at the centre of attention.[10]

As much as ‘neo-liberalism’ emphasises the need of open markets, and unregulated free-trade we have to acknowledge that this is indeed a strategy of such exclusive inclusion. The fact that this takes place and shape under conditions of a multilayered system: within nations (understood as national economies as captured by the German term of the ‘Nationalökonomie’), within regions (as we can see it for instance in the systematic perihperalisation of the Mediterranean belt of the European Union and globally as attempt to codify the wider centre-periphery-relationship by the Trade Agreements (e.g. TTIPP, TPP, TISA …). To make things a bit clearer – though seemingly more complicated – these three layers (spatiality) are going hand in hand with at least temporality (“pay tomorrow”), substantiality (“pay in another currency”, as for instance expressed in the relationship growth-environment) and not least sociality (“let others pay” – social classes and stratification).

What for instance Jeremy Riffkin and Paul Mason discuss as ‘overcoming capitalism’ – the one by prefiguring the The Zero Marginal Cost Society, the other by directly stating that The End of Capitalism has begun, suggesting for some as Thomas L. Friedman that The World is Flat, is surely not a straightforward process – and it would be foolish to reject what is said. And it would be equally foolish to solely continue by criticising the existing patterns. This said, does not mean to deny the need starkly uncover the old questions and to actually look at current escalations. However, it does mean to see this not simply as escalation of the system crisis (which it is though). Important is to see these developments as part of the overall renegotiation of “ins and outs”. But it means to emphasise that the development is not about exclusion alone. Instead – looking at Brexit and especially Califrexit clearly shows it – leaving is about allowing to stay. Califrexit is a project aiming on securing privileges, not a project against the ultra-conservatism of the future Trump-system. Thus we read in the mentioned Telesur-article

“In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment and the the detriment of your children,” said Independence group “Yes California” on its website.

Yes California argues that the state’s population and economy, the sixth biggest in the world, “compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states.” The group claims that a split will give the state more control over its trade, security, as well as support diversity and the environment. It is pushing for a vote on the issue in 2019.

Understandable … ? To get a clearer picture we may want to dare a closer look at this ‘sixth biggest in the world’, presenting itself as luxurious, as egalitarian, as open:

This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. ‘Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out’, Schmidt explained. ‘We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person.’[11]

Don’t THESE Trump-adversaries have something of the modern slave-owners? Without doubt there is a huge danger looming, and we have to stay alert, being aware of the fact that this step of Trumpism may be the first to something that is much worse. Indeed, there is good reason to return to the question

What Produces Fascism: Preindustrial Traditions or a Crisis of the Capitalist State?

– a question that Geoff Eley already posed some longish time ago. But there is equally good reasons to watch out for the savours: The ‘old conservatives’ like the Merkels, Hollands and Renzis are not really there to offer an answer. The answer can be found, though, if we realistically look for the germs:

On the occasion of two conference – the Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en las Relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raul Roas Garcia), Havana, looking at the Development

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?

and at the Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of Trans-Pacific-Section looking at

Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda

I outlined an approach that works around

five giant tensions, namely the overproduction of goods and the turn of goods into ‘bads’; societal abundance versus inequality of access; abundance of knowledge and its misdirection towards skills; the individualisation of problems and their emergence as societal threat and the complexity of government and the limited scope of governance.[12]

Deeper analysis is necessary, the search for a fundamental change of thinking in economics too – something that will also be a major challenge for social quality thinking.[13]


[1] Sophocles, 442 B.C.E.: Antigone, translated by E. H. Plumptre. Vol. VIII, Part 6. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001;

[2] Aristotle, app 335 BC: The Politics; Translated and with an Introduction by T.A. Sinclair; Harmondsworth/Baltimore/Victoria: Penguin, 1962/1972: 43 f.

[3] ibid.: 41

[4] saying utilisation’ does not necessarily mean that this is happening consciously, with a ‘strategic reference’

[5] These references are too often forgotten – finally sociology and social science joined short-termism …

[6] … or return …

[7] The discussion of managing classes will be left out here.

[8] Marx, Karl, 1867 Capital, volume 1, chapter 6:

[9] Engels, Frederick, 1880: Socialism: Utopian and Scientific;

[10] Precarity – An Issue of Changed Labour Market and Employment Patterns or of Changed Social Security Systems; in: Herrmann, Peter/Bobkov, Viacheslav/Csoba, Judit (eds): Labour Market and Precarity of Employment: Theoretical Reflections and Empirical Data from Hungary and Russia; Vienna: WVFS; 2014: 11 – 66; here 25 ff.

[11] Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press

[12] see also Herrmann, Peter, 2015: Crisis and no end? Re-embedding Economy into life and nature; in: Environment and Social Psychology (2015)–Volume 1, Issue 1: 1-11;

[13]            see Herrmann, Peter, forthcoming:

KCK – klatsch, cliché, kitsch


Klatsch is a German term, though occasionally used in English. And when I first saw the headline
I admittedly clicked on it in a longing for some klatsch, gossip — distraction from the expected, though still worrying news, presenting Trump’s shocking speech of acceptance. Looking at all this development, there are three things that are specially worrying. Two are pointed out in an article in The Financial Times (17/7/2016):
This week, Republicans will endorse the first US presidential nominee since the second world war to reject America’s globalist consensus. It is hard to see beyond that stark fact. Yet it is only the second most troubling feature of Donald Trump’s rise. The bigger one is his impact on the health of American democracy. Even if Mr Trump is defeated in November, it will be hard to put the genie back into the bottle. Budding demagogues will have taken note. You can denigrate most of the people most of the time and still have a shot at the main prize.
The third point, of course not to be found even in the intelligent journals of the bourgeoisie, is that such extremes as Mr Trump make us easily forget the sound criticism of the past  the “health of American democracy”? — Sure, a very sick person appears to be nearly health, of we think about the decaying corpse. But …  I am not really in the American-style Moore films. Still, having recently watched the film
Capitalism, A Love Story
I really liked the beginning, forcing us to ask the question how people in 100, 1000 or more years will think about “our times”. The Trumps, Orbans and Erdogans being comparable with Nero, Cesar and hardly allowing to see the Cicero?


Glancing over the article

it showed the perfect match between reality and cliché – even in details:

While Trump family values may not be particularly honorable, they are perversely traditional. Melania Trump told the R.N.C. audience that “Donald is intensely loyal to family,” a claim belied by his own marital history — she is wife No. 3, and No. 2 was the woman with whom he cheated on No 1. Mr. Trump has children with three different women; he blames giving his wife too much responsibility in his business for his first divorce, and his wife’s wanting him to spend too much time at home with her and their daughter for his second.
Yes, hypocrites are not shrinking from slapping into their own face. I remember Milan Kundera about whom I chatted the other day with a friend:

Do you realize that people don’t know how to read Kafka simply because they want to decipher him? Instead of letting themselves be carried away by his unequaled imagination, they look for allegories — and come up with nothing but clichés: life is absurd (or it is not absurd), God is beyond reach (or within reach), etc. You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.


If there would not be so much bitterness coming up when thinking about recent events …, recent? Perhaps beginning in some strange way with the day when I left the French embassy in Rome: Charlie Hebdo …, a pilot crashing an aircraft with all passengers into a mountain, not being able to cope with his desperation, a “mysterious coup” in Ankara … – a friend wrote the other day that it is
not something a decent European academic can easily understand and digest
all this easily appears as kitsch – because
[i]n 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.
It is
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
that comes to mind – in global politics of “the making history”, and also in the daily work of teaching, something I frequently mentioned on these pages.
And when speaking of bitterness it is also the inability of asking questions … – VERBOTEN, as a french friend would say.


There seems to be a paradox when we are looking for answers – we can only find them with others, not searching alone, not moving alone, anti-totalitarian. And still
When I say totalitarian, what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously) ….
as we read also in Kundera’s book.
Doesn’t this mean that we need a radical rewriting of the scenario, instead of the US-lead and Hungarian-regionalist applauded tightening of the reactionary course? A socio-political course that is based on criminal offenses (watch here from the docu The Corporation.), executed by psychopaths (watch here from the docu The Corporation), the political “clowns” only their executors and implementers as we saw it earlier in history.

Attempts and Contributions

My modest contribution to a DIEM-meeting in Greece these days:
The Europe we know is dead – and it worked for a long time to forge the weapon that would work first to dig the grave and then to kill the ambitions. — The ambitions? We have to be careful: the ambitions, as ideas, had beens surely valuable and meant to establish a “good society”. But especially here in Greece, the home-country of Aristotle, we know what a good society really is: he Aristotle juxtaposes chrematistike and oikonomia, only the latter being concerned with a truly integrated system, and with this he refused moneymaking as end in itself.
Talking about oikonomia meant as well to accept the limits of growth.
Europe today – and it did not learn from Greece, not from BREXIT, Nice nor Ankara – is still based on the acceptance of what we may call Capitaloscene. And the following, written by Jason Moore, can capture it:

The decisive historical expression of Cheap Nature in the modern era is the Four Cheaps of labor- power, food, energy, and raw materials. These Four Cheaps are the major way that capital prevents the mass of capital from rising too fast in relation to the mass of appropriated cheap nature – when the delivery of such cheap natures approaches the average value composition of world commodity production, the world-ecological surplus falls and the pace of accumulation slackens. The centrality of cheap nature in the endless of capital can, then, be adequately interpreted only through a post- Cartesian frame that understands value as a way of organizing nature. In this, the law of value is co- produced through the web of life. We cannot make sense of value through a Cartesian sorting of “labor and nature” – commonplace in left green thought (e.g. Clark and York, 2005). Rather, be- cause value relations encompass a contradictory unity of exploitation and appropriation heedless of a Cartesian divide, only an analysis that proceeds from essential unity of humanity-in-nature can move us forward. The present argument, then, is a brief for such a post-Cartesian – I would call it world-ecological – reading of value. The goal is to focus our attention on the relations of the oikeios that form and re-form capitalism’s successive contradictory unities of the exploitation of labor- power (paid work) and the appropriation of a global zone of reproduction (unpaid work) from the family to the biosphere.

And furthermore this capitaloscene is about unpaid labour – only that made paid labour possible. …

Indeed, we need an antroponomic shift: a shift that is not a revival of the old idea. As said, this Europe is dead and we should be ready to burry it. There is a valuable heritage of ideas though and we have to select carefully And  we have to make use of the heritage of an enormous wealth that is available, though not used for the people and projects we need. We have too make “cheaps” a source for the future, valuable and to be paid for. And to accept the limits of growth means that the corpse of the most competitive Europe, celebrated 2000 in Lisbon, has to bear the child of a most cooperative partner in a world that serves the global citizen.

Europe is dead – long live Europe.


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 …