Ode of Joy and the Tragedy of Europe

In the tragedy Fiesco, or the Genoese Conspiracy Schiller’s Moor says at the end of the fourth scene the words

The Moor has done his work – the Moor may go.

And perhaps the times we are asked to say the same to the masterpiece chosen to be the EUropean anthem.

A piece of music, bringing together the genius of Beethoven as composer and the Schiller as poet.

For Beethoven it had been the culmination of his work, for the first time bringing the human voice into the tonal language. And for the listener it is at first glance an impression of the utmost humanist idea.

Beethoven as composer made an important step in the history of music – and surely expressing a fundamental change of society: Rather than being composer to the court or to the church, he had been free composer, realising his music for a market, following his own gusto, following but as well shaping the Zeitgeist – which at the time had been surely sparked by revolutionary ideas. And it is this new freedom reflected in the ‘Ode to Joy’ – humanist in the deep understanding of the values of the time:

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Words, however, are not much more than empty notions.

Looking at those values at the time we also have to consider time – that time. And that time had been very much about the celebration of the individual, responsible to him-/herself (though she had been very much oppressed, considered as ‘not-existent), seen as rationally and morally responsible. However, this responsibility had also been founded in the idea of independence: not the relational personality as we may interpret it in the spirit of Aristotle. But the individual whose action is only later compounded by an ‘invisible hand’. We may say the hierarchy up to hitherto given ex ante by god(like beings) emerged now ex post by the new godlike law of the market. An interesting feature is developing from here, full of tensions – and looking at the Ode of Joy we can see the joy of independence, the new freedom of the artist who did not need a mediator between the self, the emotions and the world but could act immediately: express immediately the feelings. On the other hand we know too well that a new mediator came up: the unknown other, competitor on the market or customer.

But the laws that had been mentioned before had been ‘created’ not only by following the laws of the market but also by permanently creating the market: production on demand and production of demand. An endless circle, though a circle in need of overtaking itself, the production of demand coming out on top.

And then, on the formal level, we can still claim that EUrope follows this ambitious notion of  Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Translated into 2011-plain text:

Free movement of capital, goods and services and workforce – Equality of participants on the market – conspiracy of the governing bodies

No doubt, analytically each of them is a complex field, often also a minefield.

* The free movement is surely limited by ‘converse economies of scale’: though we usually discuss economies of scale as matter of an exorbitant growth of seize, reaching a level that is beyond operational scope, we find in particular the advantage of large scale operations when it comes to such ‘free movement’ …;

* of course it is not only the equality of participants o the market(s) – equality is not less relevant for the non-participants: in all countries their number grows, we find the equality amongst those in precarious situations, the equality of an increasing number of people whose basic human rights as for instance the right to organise themselves in trade unions is limited ….;

* and we find many in fact joining the conspiracy fair while claiming fundamental opposition.

And of course, we find other movements too:

* major efforts to control the freedom by way of social responsibility and even social obligations …;

* the equality amongst those who are ready to live together by way of examples of what a better life could look like …;

* and the fraternity of those who stand together: in their protest and their visions … .

At least we can be sure that today Beethoven and Schiller would be an unhappy couple, seeing what ‘their Europe’ looks like. She lost …. – he gained. She had been the Europe of vision and passion, bringing together ευρύς (width) und οψ (sight). He left a state of actual weakness – severely hurt by the one-sided orientation on a single market and single currency which became end in itself, serving the perpetuation of a system that lost its own foundation. We may of course characterise the situation as crisis of finance capitalism – and that is surely correct. However, we may also say that this is actually only the technical side. Behind this we find a more fundamental crisis of the capitalist mode of production – and we surely have to go a ling way to fully understand its meaning.


At least something from a recent mail to a colleague in England (slightly modified):

“Thank you both, your formulation is little misleading I suppose

the worst (for capitalism) is still ahead of us

Let us hope it is still ahead – the worse for capitalism is its end and that can only be good.

You are surely right, saying that we have to question existing institutions. And moreover we have to question certain ideologies. But all this means we have to be even more careful and mind thinking about bating water, endangered little children, hens and chicken …, and not least we have to look for the tap from which the water comes and the egg that surely plays a role too.

What I want to say is the following: I am frequently afraid that there is one issue that remains dealt with in a very casual way: the role of politics, polities and economics.

* Two examples. Reading in a Wagenknecht/Geissler interview in Die Zeit


This is what my world would have to look like: priority of politics over the finance world and economy. Furthermore: a global Marshall Plan by the rich countries and an international market society, based on the ethical foundation of the social, ecology and peace. (1)

I am getting alert, at least having a question, though not claiming to have the answer as well: A major progress of capitalism (an ECONOMIC formation) has to be seen in its ability to overcome arbitrariness and violence of all systems hitherto.

* The debate about Human Rights, the rights of indigenous people is in my opinion to a large extent misleading as it is very much based on the idea of individualism … . And we surely have to look for ways of defining truly social rights. This is in some respect simple: sufficient material resources etc. And of course, it is also about the right to choose the “own” productive/economic system. So far so simple. But then we are confronted with the question of how to reconcile this with communitarian oppression and ‘nationalist exclusiveness’ of the traditional systems. And there still is a question which I may put forward in a cynical  way: Talking about different life styles, modesty etc. is rather simple …. as long as we can be sure that it does not mean to die with 40 or 50 (average). Recently I had been talking to a well-known human rights activist from Turkey – and it had been so difficult to look into her face and to say: Yes you are right, you have to claim your right as a people. And nevertheless, you are wrong with all your nationalism … . A discussion, now more moderate, we have also in Ireland; and in some respect one can see it also here in Germany where apparently the difference between Ossis and Wessis is still more important (for many) then the “difference between rich and the poor” (an expression that only captures part of the surface).

May be I am too much structuralist and also too much idealist that …. – that I do not see that we actually may need a “morally different capitalism”: the “patrons of the good”, a new Gaius Cilnius Maecenas alias Bill and Melinda Gates … – this is what I mean with “fundamentally reconsidering the mode of production”. It would be too simple to mean talking about “New Princedoms” literally; but I think it is also too simple to see an Economic Leviathan. Sure, the “abnormal normality” (or normal abnormality?) is frightening and remarkable: people begging, people falling outside of health protection … . What is not less remarkable is the “new normality”: indeed, the small (“Tafeln”, soup kitchens …) and the large (B&M-Foundation …) good doers, the permanency of “sales”, closing down (and immediately opening again or not) sales, the 1-Euro-shops, discount bakeries, book-shops with permanent special offers (“returned books sale” …), “swap markets” based on lack of resources …but as well: the raise of biologic/organic food, fair trade (yes, also in the large chain shops and supermarkets) ….

Short stories if we take them on their own; I guess long stories if we take them as chapters of a book, perhaps a new volume of world history.

Questions only …, but I suppose important enough to be asked and to be answered at some stage.


And to be clear again, at least trying to be clear: I am convinced that we cannot move on by simply using the old concepts: seeing a development from liberalism to neoliberalism to ultra(neo)liberalism. I am convinced that more has changed, that we are not concerned with a “fundamental alteration” of the previous stage. I am conventionalist in so far that I think we are still facing a capitalist system. And as such, the system is – amongst others – characterised by (i) the production of surplus value, somewhat independent of the production of the production of exchange value; (ii) the need of the production of use value, which is under the conditions of  capitalist production however “added value”, not necessarily depending on exchange value (iii) and in many cases actually independent of it as it emerges in spheres outside of the market, (iv) providing the foundation of a rather fundamental division of labour (and power) within societies and between societies. And as much as these fundamental patterns remain in place as true seems to be that the relationship between them are socially dislocating their relational positions, “crossing borders” like undergoing a tectonic movement without actually breaking at their core. This is at least one of the major reasons behind the limitations of moral appeals and small-scale solutions in the search for a better world. And it is equally a major reason behind the limitations of a morally-based corporate social responsibility. The concept of an ongoing accumulation by dispossession may be one of the entrance doors for further consideration. Paul Boccara reflected on this under the heading of a modele anthroponomique. And I published some considerations in the my chapter in the book I edited under the title All the Same – all Being New and also in the chapter I wrote together with Sibel Kalaycioglu in the book we edited under the title: Precarity. More than a Challenge of Social Security. The problem remains to find a fundamental origins and shortcomings of methodological individualism of life.

In an interview with Federica Matteoni, Michael Hardt has a simple answer: The current crisis did not arise from the separation of the real economy and a fictive sphere of the finance capital as real- and finance economy are today inseparably linked. Such insight seems to be trivial and/or ignorant especially if we read further:

What seems to be new and challenging for me in connection with this crisis is that the capitalist production in general moved towards taking a a fictive character.

This sounds good and is surely in some way true – but it does not help us any further. As said, one point may be that looking at an ongoing accumulation by dispossession is sufficient to explain what is going on. The important point is that it really and fundamentally sticks to value production, thus allowing to analyse surplus value as surplus value, i.e. as moment that is inherent in the economic process, i.e. the process of production. Hardt, contrary to this, suggests to leave this area half way: fictive capital is one thing, fictive value another, and a fictive real economy will remain a hoax. Possibly it works for a while but only to fall even deeper – and here we arrive at the current crisis as it is: the separation of the real economy and a fictive sphere of the finance capital.

If we want to turn the notion of a move towards a fictive character of the economic process productively, we may speak indeed of the re-appropriation of politics by those forces who have control over economic resources rather than controlling the economic process as productive process which is based on the commodification of labour power and the with this possible production of surplus value. If we really move further down this road of interpreting the current situation as re-appropriation of politics by those forces who have control over economic resources we have to be aware of the fact that we can actually not continue with ease speaking of capitalism. At least concepts as neo-liberalism or as well the proposed shift from a fordist to a post-fordist accumulation regime, including the shift Towards a Schumpeterian Workfare State as proposed by Bob Jessop would not have sufficient power for explaining the current situation and development.

At this stage this cannot be discussed further – the aim being only to table the question in which way we can utilise Marxist analysis, be it by way of analysing the current capitalist system or by way of looking for the fundamentally new character of capitalism, focusing on the economic question, i.e. the question of value production.

A short remark may be added. Suggesting at least for some time that the thesis of re-appropriation of politics is correct, we can actually explain the hype around topics as greed, the ‘new interpretation’ with which people like Sarah Wagenknecht approach the ‘social market economy’ but also the queer developments of capitalists like Bill Gates presenting themselves as revolutionaries. Not least important as with all this we easily arrive again at claiming rights as matter of being good like god – rather than rights being derived from a society based on the production of goods, i.e. commodities.

Remains a double-A: accumulation versus appropriation. And remains the search for a triple-A: overcoming accumulation not by appropriation but by acknowledgement: the acknowledgement of

Fraternity, Equality and Liberty

or in other words

People’s Liberty – Equality – Fraternity


In this context it may also be worthwile to revisit the concepts that had been discussed at earlier times in history – and that may be especially meaningful when it comes to discussions on legislative systems. Interestingly, the French revolution introduced the principle of fraternity – and it is important to note that that it had been the last in a row, after emphasising liberty as the core value, interpreting it as a matter of equality which would lead to a ‘modern brotherhood’. In actual fact, it had been very much a brotherhood with two connotations: the one merging into the paternalism of the enterprises, the capitalist patron replacing the earlier master of the guild-system; the other merging into the solidarity based system of the working classes. Subsequently, solidarity – and it had been solidarity in the second meaning – had been seen by some as synonym for fraternity. And subsequently refers to the terminological synonymisation but also to the fact that only some used it in this way. And there had been a good reason for being split on this topic, indeed. Originally solidarity – as juridical rather than as social and political concept – had been the commitment of members of a group to cover the dept of one of their members. In other words, the new understanding based the social and political meaning on an economic concept, carried economy into the socio-political realm. This means that we are facing a radical shift, a radical approach as well to the economy.

Pierre Leroux, in his work De l’Humantié from 1840 elaborated this, positioning solidarity against the principle of charity and also against contractualist approaches as they had been put forward for instance by Hobbes and Rousseau. In his understanding he rightfully argued against the latter by highlighting their principal stance of seeing people as in principal atomised individuals; where as charity had been characterised by forcefully putting the individual under a community, continuing the view on the community as given by the almighty will of god rather than seeing it as genuinely human and humane. Following Leroux consequently to the end, we see the tyranny of the secularised individual versus the tyranny of the divine community. Tertium non datur? Leroux saw the ‘third way’ in solidarity: a just society based in genuine social existence. Taking up what had been said before (at the end of the previous paragraph), we see that solidarity in this perspective had been a germ for an ‘alternative’ economy: an economy based on common property – the germ of socialisation its its true meaning.

Surely a long way to go, from the joy, where we still ask for approval of the creator

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Leroux’ creator could only be the self-creator, the social authority emerging from true social existence.


Coming back to Europe then, and the efforts to permanently ignore this depth of the crisis it does not make a difference if He enters the stage as Iron Lady, frankly stating that

One cannot rely on the fact that things that are said in advance of elections, is maintained afterwards (Angela Merkel in 2008) (2)

and ready to claim:

that we will not allow that something being technically possible is not utilised by the state (Merkel in 2008 during a canvassing event in Osnabrueck on the topic of surveillance) (3)

But even she, i.e. Merkel knows

Democracy is not always a matter of individuals deciding but it usually is the business of opinion making by many. (4)

Occupy? Sure, but not simply by building a wall of defence. What we need is a positive outlook – a new approach to understanding

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity


People’s Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Sure, there had been the version of history where Europe appears only as victim – and this is what she was.

Fighting against this is a matter of thoroughly thinking about strategies and we all have to acknowledge what Merkel said in 2007 (mind, she is scientist and in this case she definitely knows what she is talking about)

Banging the head against a brick wall won’t work. It finally always means that the wall will win. (5 [see photo 19])

But equally sure, she had been also the one looking further and following this Europe is not least a matter of joining Frigga Haug in the debate and work on a Four-in-One-Perspective.

And surely this is well linked into the ongoing work on Social Quality

The latest step of which is the publication of Foundations 3rd Book

Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators


There remains, at the end of 2011, and looking for ways in 2012 surely also an outlook which fits well under the

Ode to Joy

And when the announcement on the website to yesterday’s performance of Beethoven’s work states

on occasion of the turn of the year it is nearly a must

we may join in it: It is a ‘must’ to look for the positive power of its suggested

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity.

It is a ‘must’ to remember these two great and idealist German thinkers.

And it is also a ‘must’ to remain alert – referring to Slavoj Zizek, writing in the New York Times – we see that

at Bar 331, the tone changes totally, and, instead of the solemn hymnic progression, the same “joy” theme is repeated in the “marcia turca” ( or Turkish march) style, a conceit borrowed from military music for wind and percussion instruments that 18th-century European armies adopted from the Turkish janissaries.

The mode then becomes one of a carnivalesque parade, a mocking spectacle — critics have even compared the sounds of the bassoons and bass drum that accompany the beginning of the marcia turca to flatulence. After this point, such critics feel, everything goes wrong, the simple solemn dignity of the first part of the movement is never recovered.

But what if these critics are only partly correct — what if things do not go wrong only with the entrance of the marcia turca? What if they go wrong from the very beginning? Perhaps one should accept that there is something of an insipid fake in the very “Ode to Joy,” so that the chaos that enters after Bar 331 is a kind of the “return of the repressed,” a symptom of what was errant from the beginning.

Sure, looking at what we (too easily) call neo-liberalism should not be underestimated – and we surely have to criticise positive historicism, its representatives as Comte, Mill, Buckle and much later Rostow for their short-sighted utilitarianism; but we should equally be aware of the dangers of metaphysical historicism, reaching from Plato over Hegel and Toynbee to … those who remain in the marcia turca of carnivalesque parades. – Comte and Plato, Mill and Hegel, Hayek and Habermas …., all shaking hand with each other.

Only when put back on its feet, when freed from all the bombastic pomp, the joy will be a real one, one for all of us and one we find in very day’s life, without the danger of turning into tyranny. Until that day we may simply enjoy such events, taking the greatness they have as animation for acknowledging the part we can take – acknowledging the claim to participate.

We may like it or not, the way leading us there will still be a stony one, overcoming the bombastic pomp depending on solidarity amongst different, overcoming the artificial divisions rather than pretending equality where it does not exist. Yes,

Be embraced, millions!

But there is still a way to go – and a question to ask:

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
when tomorrow comes…
Tomorrow comes!


(1) So müsste meine Welt aussehen: Priorität der Politik gegenüber Finanzwelt und Ökonomie. Außerdem: ein globaler Marshallplan der reichen Länder und eine internationale Marktwirtschaft, deren ethisches Fundament das Soziale, Ökologische und Friedenspolitische ist

(2) Man kann sich nicht darauf verlassen, daß das, was vor den Wahlen gesagt wird, auch wirklich nach den Wahlen gilt

(3) Wir werden nicht zulassen, dass technisch manches möglich ist, aber der Staat es nicht nutzt

(4) Aber Demokratie ist nicht immer eine Sache von einsamen Entscheidungen, sondern in der Regel ein Geschäft der Meinungsbildung vieler.”(Interview with the Berliner Zeitung (7//11/07)

(5) Mit dem Kopf durch die Wand wird nicht gehen. Da siegt zum Schluss immer die Wand.

2 pensieri riguardo “Ode of Joy and the Tragedy of Europe


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