Honesty Lost?

Tyranny of Lost Honesty

Truth Or: About Clouds and Roads


Only Problems of Academics?

The Moral of the Story is …



Tyranny of Lost Honesty

Not cruelty is the attribute of tyranny, but the destruction of the public political realm, monopolised by the despot by claiming ‘wisdom’ … or based on thirst for power, i.e. insisting on citizens looking after their private concerns, leaving it to him, the ‘ruler, to take of the public matters’.[1]

Of course, there are good reasons for proper referencing, based on sound and serious work with books, how, otherwise, should we climb up on the shoulders of giants ….., to borrow from Isaac Newton.

But if serious work is ridiculed by paranoia-infected, formalist series-killers of intellectual freedom one may have to think if one should change discipline, from giant-climbing to em–powerwalking, enabling the intellect to breath again … Or as Frédéric Gros writes:

Many others have written their books solely from their reading of other books, so that many books exude the stuffy odour of libraries. By what does one judge a book? By its smell (and even more, as we shall see, by its cadence). Its smell: far too many books have the fusty odour of reading rooms or desks. Lightless rooms, poorly ventilated. The air circulates badly between the shelves and becomes saturated with the scent of mildew, the slow decomposition of paper, ink undergoing chemical change. The air is loaded with miasmas there. Other books breathe a livelier air; the bracing air of outdoors, the wind of high mountains, even the icy gust of the high crags buffeting the body; or in the morning, the cool scented air of southern paths through the pines. These books breathe. They are not overloaded, saturated, with dead, vain erudition.[2]

At least such setting comes to mind if a publisher, and not only one, is now asking to mention, when inserting tables, matrices etc. something like “own calculation”…. – next step up the ladder of mental tyranny: every sentence requires a footnote: this sentence had been written by myself …. .

The policing ideas are surely not coming from mentally healthy people, who’re are able to make use of the qualification the surely have. It may be that they are actually not coming from people at all – instead emerging from weird apparatuses, independent as a quasi-demon, reminding of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice:

Sir, my need is sore.

Spirits that I’ve cited

My commands ignore.

To the lonely

Corner, broom!

Hear your doom.

As a spirit

When he wills, your master only

Calls you, then ‘tis time to hear it.[3]

More boxing …, the concept against which I argue since some time ….

What is astonishing is that we factually – we = at least too many in academia, factually = in too many cases of writing, administratively and political-economically defining performance – simply accept the bending of law, perhaps with a grumble and an acquaintance, more or less certain within, but factually without counter-censorship and without demanding two, nevertheless, generally valid legal principles:

  • the acceptance of innocence until proven otherwise
  • the obligation of the plaintiff to prove the accusation

It is much safer to celebrate civil liberties than to defend them; it is much safer to defend them as a formal right than to use them in a politically effective way. Even those who would most willingly subvert these liberties usually do so in their very name. It is easier still to defend someone else’s right to have used them years ago than to have something yourself to say now and to say it now forcibly. The defense of civil liberties – even of their practice a decade ago – has become the major concern of many liberal and once leftward scholars. All of which is a safe way of diverting intellectual effort from the sphere of political reflection and demand.[4]


Truth Or: About Clouds and Roads

In the piece The Roads Around Pisa, Karen Blixen wrote

How difficult it is to know the truth. I wonder if it is really possible to be absolutely truthful when you are alone. Truth, like time, is an idea arising from, and dependent upon, human intercourse. What is the truth about a mountain in Africa that has no name and not even a footpath across it? The truth about this road is that it leads to Pisa, and the truth about Pisa can be found within books written and read by human beings. What is the truth about a man on a desert island? And I, I am like a man on a desert island.[5]

Why? Why can truth be characterised this way, as part of walking together one road? And why can one feel this way, deserted, (a)lone(ly) on an island? One reason behind it will be that we are not really acknowledging the fact that we are ourselves only by others – call it ubuntu if you need a name, though remain aware of the fact that it is probably a term that can only be understood by people who ubuntued instead of growing up Western-ly enlightened (or should we say something like who Montesquieu-ed?).[6]To ubuntu then is about knowing the wings of freedom it gives, also feeling the marks of strangulation that come with it, and knowing that no arithmetic sum can be gained to measure its value.

Truth, as much as it is about ‘objective facts’ which includes social facts as approached by Durkheim in sociology, existing independent of any consciousness, is importantly also itself a social fact, on the one hand by being result of our common action, on the other hand by being important element of and for our common action: experiences we have – together with others, or at least together in one space – are the foundation of further experience, further action, further contest, be it contest between people or between people and the objective environment which itself is changed depending on how we approach it, what we do with our experience of it. Though this may sound difficult, it actually is trivial. Go out one of these winter days, just wearing a t-shirt, at the side of your friend who is properly wrapped up … . You will start to feel cold (most likely at least); s/he will say that you are silly, you will physically eventually suffer, may have to stay in bed, put up the heating etc. … it will not necessarily be warmer when you go for a walk next time but, as small as it may be, there is some contribution also from here with regards to global warming. So, yes, there is some reason for saying

If a butterfly flip its wings in one part of the world it is able to cause storm in another part!

Now, there is also some link from here to the referencing. Without denying in any way the need for proper referencing, it is easy to see that it is simply breeding lies when it is getting over the top. The following illustration tries to show this:



Of course, any knowledge comes from somewhere, and thus anything we state comes from somewhere. This ‘somewhere’ develops by way of differentiation, roles historically and individually into some form of formal education [which is also the education in form(alitie)s], cascades up the stream of higher education in humanities and finally evaporating into general knowledge, be it general academic knowledge or ‘general literacy’. Thinking, writing, discoursing surely needs referencing. However, it only makes sense if it is about a definite reference as quote or paraphrasing or reflection of … in the sense of ‘see’ and ‘conferatur’. It does not make sense as matter of claiming ‘property’ where t property does already exist = it does to make sense to say: this is said by me (there are exceptions: to reclaim property: “This is what I said, the other took it from me.” or: “This is what I say, even if all others do not accept it.”)  Strangely enough, publishers and academics are easily accepting extremely sloppy references taking the form of name and date stated, without letting the reader know why they forget mentioning the ‘cf.’ It equally accepted to refer to …, let’s say

Kant, Immanuel. Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. Trans. John T. Goldthwait. University of California Press, 1961, 2003

This had been taken on the 12/15/18 8:25:45 AM from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant

@ from Wikipedia and similar things can be found in books, journals … – oh folks, the Kant who wrote the ‘observations’ in 1764, published 1799 in English language was in 1861 simply dead as a doornail.

– Over-Referencing is surly not much more than an intellectual masturbation of pity bourgeois, not knowing much, having read a lot and completely lacking the courage to say the little they may think quasi-independently, or lacking the courage to think independently …. Or is it about pushing academics – and all of us – finally to take Whithead’s words in Process and Reality

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradi- tion is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

literally. That is surely equally misleading …

Only Problems of Academics?

As such, these are indeed problems of academics – and let’s face it: many widely abused their power by reputation, the lack of control of performance and ethical standards, one of the “highlights” the former minister for education resigning over PhD-plagiarism.

This is of course already something that goes beyond the academic world and effects everybody – as matter of such people being in positions where they decide for instance over the future of our children. Coincidentally, while writing, I receive a mail from the Council of Europe, talking about

Students as suspects? – The challenges of counter-radicalisation policies in education in the Council of Europe member states

But there is even more to it: it is the spirit that pervades in such attitudes: such request for permanent proof, such spirit of distrust is lurking behind so many forms we have to complete, so many authorisations we need – it is the spirit of tyranny Hannah Arendt was talking about starting from the assumption that we are all criminals while giving us an opportunity to show that we are not – it is the opportunity within a strangulated public of a surveillance state.

Far reaching, indeed, and a matter of The Struggle for Law, about which Rudolph Jhering writes[7]and which is really relevant even when it comes to The Tip and how to deal with it – as the same author writes[8]

Ob die hier gemachten Vorschläge Aussicht auf Verwirklichung haben? Man giebt uns Deutschen Schuld, dass wir einen Stein im Wege, an dem wir uns stossen, ruhig liegen lassen — Jeder verwünsche ihn, aber Niemand nähme sich die Mühe, ihn aus dem Wege zu räumen oder, wenn er für ihn allein zu schwer sei, Andere zur Hülfe herbeizuziehen. Das Trinkgelderunwesen ist ein solcher Stein, Jeder klagt über ihn, aber Jeder lässt ihn liegen. Der Vorwurf, den wir gegen den Stein erheben, richtet sich gegen uns selber; wer eine Unsitte bloss verwünscht, anstatt für seinen Theil mitzuwirken, sie zu beseitigen, klagt sich selber an — für das Bestehen einer Unsitte ist Jeder, der nicht den Muth hat, ihr entgegenzutreten, selber mit verantwortlich, Niemand hat das Recht, sich über sie zu beklagen, als derjenige, der sich das Zeugniss ausstellen kann, seinerseits Alles gethan zu haben, was in seinen Kräften stand, um ihr ein Ende zu machen. Jeder meiner Leser kann sich damit in Bezug auf das Trinkgelderunwesen sein eigenes Urtheil sprechen.

Thanks to Deepl.com

Do the proposals made here have any prospect of being implemented? We Germans are blamed for leaving a stone in our way lying quietly – everyone desires it, but no one takes the trouble to remove it or, if it is too heavy for him alone, to bring others to help. The unbeing of tips is such a stone, everyone complains about it, but everyone leaves it lying. The reproach which we make against the stone is directed against ourselves; he who merely curses a bad habit, instead of cooperating for his part in eliminating it, accuses himself – everyone who does not have the courage to oppose it is himself responsible for the existence of a bad habit; no one has the right to complain about it, as he who can give the testimony has done everything in his power to put an end to it. Each of my readers can thus speak his own judgment with regard to the tipping misdemeanour.

(Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator)

The Moral of the Story is …

Kant, in his Metaphysics of Ethics summarised it in a short sentence – the simple thing, of which it is so difficult to get it right:

… he who first makes himself a worm, does not complain when he trampled under foot.


[1]    Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben; München/Zurich: Piper, 1981, new edition: 215; translated from the German edition; the 2nd English edition: Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Introduction by Margaret Canovan; Chicago: University of Chicago Press; second edition 1998 does not contain the passage in this way

[2]    Passi di: Frederic Gros. “A Philosophy of Walking”. Apple Books.

[3]    Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1797: Zauberlehrling [The Sorcerer’s Apprentice]; translation by Edwin Zeydel

[4]    Mills, C. Wright, 1956: The Power Elite; Oxford University Press, 2000: 334

[5]     Passi di: Isak Dinesen. “Seven Gothic Tales. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)”. Apple Books

[6]     Of course, making such statement evokes the need to qualify it, stating at least: such characterisations have to be taken with care, they are based on out limited knowledge, they are ideal-types/idealisations and as such they are also based on the current view, neglecting for instance several ‘ubuntu qualities’ and also individualist aspects in both our histories.

[7]    Jhering, Rudolph von, 1879: The Struggle for Law

[8]    Jhering, Rudolph von, 1882: Das Trinkgeld

Marsh …

We, in academia, are promised the Garden of Eden, though getting there is not about eating oneself through the thick wall of gingerbread – instead it is about the tedious and painstaking work of climbing up the ladder of disciplined work, or with other words more like the way up to Calvary (or more frequently known as Golgotha), todays crown of thorns being the expectation that young applicants for academic jobs should be proven successful applicants for grants, successful in teaching in particular Phd-students, by possibly contributors to some form of community but most importantly: publishing in very specific journals and having successfully concluded their degree at one of the “outstanding” = high-ranking schools.
  • Much had been said, suggesting even the Suicide of Social Science
  • is being said as for instance in the NBER WORKING PAPER, titled PUBLISHING AND PROMOTION IN ECONOMICS: THE TYRANNY OF THE TOP FIVE (by James J. Heckman Sidharth Moktan)
  • and will be said increasingly, even more convincingly in a new approach, testing the calculations of published articles – the founders of this more or less recent initiative state in the editorial
  • This is what they actually want to overcome, or at least to oppose with the new publication/journal

Lack of reproducibility is seriously undermining the credibility of science as a whole. By extrapolating the findings of isolated checks, one may expect a substantial fraction of published articles in scientific journals to contain findings that simply do not hold. But we do not know which articles are affected – they usually remain uncovered.

Grunow, Martina, Hilmar Schneider, Gert G. Wagner, and Joachim Wagner (2018). Editorial. International Journal for Re-Views in Empirical Economics, Vol 2(2018-2).
DOI: 10.18718/81781.6

  • This is what they actually want to overcome, or at least to oppose with the new publication/journal
The really strange thing is: apparently we all know and we are still proving unable to do better: socio-moral envy? hoping to come to a position where we are the able to do good?
And in order to achieve any of our supposed dreams we are educated and educating that we should be proud entering the stage with people like – …
… – the other day it had been as scales would shed from my eyes. I cannot recall exactly why I came across Steve Bannon – vaguely I do remember that it had been in the context of the Harvard Business School, one of the celebrated temples, educating all the High Priests of today’s business world – the new-religious title is MBA which presumably stands for Master of Bullshit Arrangements (I suppose a higher variation of what David Gaebler calls Bullshit Jobs – that is the topic then for two public talks first half of December).
Naiv as I am, not knowing every – in human(istic) terms – irrelevant existence, I checked a bit on this Steve B. – anything easier than wikipedia? (I know, yes I really do …. )
November 6th, the afternoon – searching for Trump on the WP-sites
177 hits
23 hits
(川普) 8 hits (Trump) 3 hits
(Трамп) 28 hits (Trump) 12 hits
29 hits
It is a nice picture, right? It is somewhat remarkable that these people succeeded while doing the long march across the marsh – and they did not only succeed personally but they did so in ways that we are supposed to take them and their institutions as the ultimate “standard of success”. Isn’t it not timely to look for other idols?
Yes, these people did and they succeeded collectively as “neoliberalism” did – this ideology is well captured in a book by Kean Birch, titled A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism, elaborating the problematique by questioning the one-term-catches-all-use in a more differentiated way, also analyzing the long time of its steady development – yes, that agenda succeeded with its long march across the morass, whereas the solid ground of the current establishment swallowed most of those who were serious about Rudi Dutschke’s plea for The long march through the institutions
By Smartartone100 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42674174

never blame students for what lecturers and politicians do to them

A widely known problem is that students today have – supposedly – problems to read: are unwilling, only printed on exams and subsequently the reeding they need for proceeding. My personal experience suggest something different: if students have space: literally by way of sufficient “quality location”, time and mental space, not being pestered by problem-solving urgency, allowed to foster critical thinking (as Robert Cox outlines it in the piece from 1981: Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory; in: Millennium – Journal of International Studies 1981; 10; 126-155 DOI: 10.1177/03058298810100020501) most of them would love reading more, more widely, critically working with texts.

However, if politicians educate teachers who then educate students and then these students become politicians, educating teachers who then educate students who then become politicians … … … – it is quite natural that after going a couple of times around, policy documents and texts books look very much alike, nit even reaching the intellectual level of A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies.
Though already from 2011, a document issued by the Irish government can be taken as example for such dummies=stultification-strategy, showing on page 7 the following:
It reminds me that at some stage “Communications“, issued by the European Commission had not been allowed to be longer than 20 pages – politicians are not reading longer documents …  the paradox then and there: instead of producing one document with 30 pages, two documents with twenty pages each had been produced … , and so forth and so forth … at least the printing press being extensively used. The crux of “maths”: making two documents out of one 30-page document dos not mean having two 15-pages docs. because additional space is needed for the cross-references and the like. though we end up with something like 30 divided by 2 = 20+20 = 60, or in short: 30 divided by 2 equals 40. There is a German term “Milchmaedchen-Rechnung”, literally “calculation made by a dairymaid”, meaning fallacy, naive. Perhaps it should be changed, the new term being Commissioner- or Politician-Calculation.
May be it is still better then producing one document that is so much simplification of everything that it requires a guideline to show the reader the way through (though to sweet) nothingness.
In any case, please, never blame students for what lecturers and politicians do to them.
Some voluntarily, some lazily, some being forced .., and some still resisting.

Avoiding Trivialities

The “Times Higher Education” published recently a piece by Adam Graycar, titled
(see also here).- one of the few occasions that I comment on any articles, briefly making two points:

All right and important. I still would like to add one point, subdivided: (i) generally, doesn’t result-oriented, mostly empirically-oriented (“evidence-based”) research as standard expectation and kind-off methodological ultimate ratio contribute very much to such competitive orientation even before it comes to considerations concerning publication? I suppose such research is more inclined to competition than “fundamental research” (“Grundlagenforschung”). (ii) isn’t already the entire system of (mass)education as PRIMARILY “vocational training like education, driving (future) researchers into the direction of competition-driven instead of knowledge-enhancement driven? – This begins already when looking at the way of dealing with applications by students for courses – see some experience-based views.

The reason for mentioning it here is a short discussion I have had here in Helsinki in connection with a PhD-student. I was wondering that his work is cumulative and also based on/linked to earlier publications, co-authored with others. In Finland, at least it is a possible. I know about “collective/collaborative work” – actually my own diploma thesis in a cooperative manner.
Sure, there are terms and conditions as especially the need to sign and thus confirm that some part is the individual work …
My habilitation can be considered as cumulative. Now, here in the Finnish case it is about cumulative and collective. Shouldn’t that be the norm, also considering that cumulative is not only about the past, but also about “a stepping stone”, part of an ongoing cumulation and growth. Doesn’t the opportunity to co-author a thesis also acknowledge and highlight that any – tiny or large – work is part of a collective effort, actually the strive if humankind for truth? Making such exception of co-authoring cumulative work as thesis could be a tiny to overcoming individualist competition as foundation of academic work, too often resulting in arrogance or failure.
Indeed, Dante expressed it succinctly, reflecting the need to think about social and societal practice:
considerate la vostra semenza: fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza.

How serious(ly stupid) they are

… or: the de-academisation of academia.
The other day I received a mail – one of many of this kind, though this time I have had a closer look as it had been addressed to
Dear Xiaoming,
Greetings from Journal of Accounting and Marketing!!
Bit strange – though I get admittedly occasionally mixed up with names of my Chinese colleagues, Xiaoming did not ring a bell at all. Also admittedly I (= Peter) published recently something on accounting, I was a bit surprised as my take on accounting is not necessarily that which suits the mainstream. Anyway, I was reading on. The usual rubbish and spam. Noting about three different URLs is surely not a matter suitable for establishing trust. The fact that the URL fur submissions is a hidden behind the term MARKETING is surely not suggesting that all this is about serious academic stuff. Also their reference to something that I supposedly wrote, read by them with great interest and appreciation …
Well, Mrs. Nancy Lisa, Managing Editor, Journal of Accounting & Marketing … E-mail: accounting@journalinsights.org – you surely deserve more and other than a personal reply, marking your stupidity. You would even deserve more than a blog-post …. (though you may read this also with great interest and appreciation … – One day you may even have to read your-journals …
… and still there is a big
As bad as such publishing spammers are, there is another dimension to all this: the de-academisation of academia. Another example, side by side with others mentioned  earlier, we may also look at
about whom The Economist reported a while back. There is an interesting detail that deserves attention:
… one study found that for every dollar spent to comply with government rules, voluntary spending on bureaucracy totalled $2 at public universities and $3 at private ones. Robert Martin of Centre College in Kentucky, a co-author of the study, says the real reason for the growth in spending is that administrators want to hire subordinates, thereby boosting their own authority and often pay, rather than faculty, over whom they have less power. Bureaucrats outnumber faculty 2:1 at public universities and 2.5:1 at private colleges, double the ratio in the 1970s.
Should we be surprised to see that
[o]ne result of all this is growing “resistance, anger, grumpiness, and eventually backlash” to the proliferation of diversity officials.
Well, in this light Nancy is probably just a poor person, not willing and not able to see that she is actually a cogwheel of a machinery that is not much else then a mafia of today’s time. – … scrupulous … stultification!


It may be that future referencing look like this, at least I felt obliged to add the underlined part while having written an essay for publication

Herrmann, ongoing [a]: Is it really about Industry 4.0.?; https://www.researchgate.net/project/Is-it-really-about-Industry-40; [b] Wandel des Wirtschaftens – Wandel des Rechts. Forschungsskizze zu Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik; https://www.researchgate.net/project/Wandel-des-Wirtschaftens-Wandel-des-Rechts-Forschungsskizze-zu-Sozialrecht-und-Sozialpolitik; 29/12/17; some of the references had been added by researchgate and are completely irrelevant to the work and/or content would be fundamentally criticised and even rejected. Actually thus confirms parts of what had been stated: the complete lack of competence of the algorithm jugglers and the lack of real power of users as those references cannot be manually deleted)

The paragraph I referred to reads as follows:

This pattern applies – cum grano salis – to many areas, and of course, it means higher efficiency, thus lower cost, the possibility of establishing user-friendly and comfortable use of services and purchase of goods, in selected cases even giving the customer/service user some space for interaction and increased influence, opening roads towards part-individualised services/goods. All this going hand in hand with decreasing prices. However, there is a price to be paid, and there are two different charges levied. The one is a – possibly twofold – pressure on working conditions; twofold means that pressure is increased on those who are directly involved as for instance UBER-drivers, foodora-deliverers but also hotels [individual or chains] that are engaging with booking.com. The other bill has to be paid by people and strata who are only peripherally concerned – we may even think about the click-workers on click-farms, boosting the image of their customers by making virtual reality to faked realities. The other reason is that the increased freedom and power of the customer/user is in actual fact more illusionary than anything else: one crucial point is that even the attempt to make use of the options requires a pre-empt formulations, making thus sure that ‘the system’ is able to process the data. In other words, increased variety is more qualitative than quantitative.

Adding a bit of the background: I am not extensively working with my researchgate-site, and the same applies to academia.edu which actually had been established a long time by my university in Budapest. Recently I saw by accident references to documents and texts as reference which had not been added by me, some of them I didn’t even know. I contacted the ResearchGate Community Support, complaining. I even received an answer whited not always been the case:

Thanks for contacting us. You are the only collaborator listed, so you are the only person who can add research items to this project.
If you are referring to the references (34), these are automatically added using the publications that you have added to your project. To remove the references, you need to remove the publication that you added as an update.

So, the first thing that can be said: they a liars – obviously they are also collaborators, to be more precise, a system that is not thought through is collaborating. On the point that this system is not thought through, the following my be said, quoting from my answer:

Thanks …, from the perspective of an academic researcher this is not reflecting how things should work. In the extreme – as known from an English case, doing research on fascism/right wing policy it ended up in the most contested position appearing as most outstanding work in this field of research. – It was not a researchgate-related case but shows that your management should revisit policies that are going into that direction.

Just showing up is thus sufficient, substance, positions of researchers are erased from the agenda. and still it has something of the Berufsverbote we had been fighting – be it under terms of Berufsverbote, McCarthyism, censorship or anything the like. All this is worrying enough.

There is still another point that deserves mention. Those days with the little encounter with the ‘community’ I wrote a mail to a friend in China:

I made yesterday a somewhat funny experience: the midwife saying something, i.e. ‘ I am obliged to inform you …. – but from my own experience …’ – so after her midwife-business was done, I asked what this would actually mean: ‘I am obliged …’. Who and what would oblige her. The professional organisation, the medical professionals, some administration …. – she did not know. All was based on some statistical surveys, not a matter of experience. – Doesn’t acceptance begin with such small things? Doesn’t it begin as well with people like myself simply completely accepting the requirements … put up by national ministries, by other universities like Bangor, Warwick, LSE etc,, by ministries from other countries … ? As said, difficult and there is probably no ‘one answer’. Refusing on some occasions to comply, I actually had to pay thousands of Euro over the years leaving aside other payments like being ignored, censored, bullied or not being accepted for certain jobs based on ‘political’ reasons. Still, this is also something linked to the issue of knowledge versus skills. Skills … it is something for computers and robots … – but knowledge …
And real knowledge is …, well another experience from one of the recent days, when I went to the opera in Munich. I met one guy who works there – after ??? some five years at least, he still remembered me …, bit of chatting, also about the performance – during the pause he said: you will enjoy the third act — one must really be a very good side and dancer to be able to sing and dance wrongly. – Similar to what Picasso once said – something like: it took me three years to learn painting like the classical painters, and it took me many more years to learn painting like a child.

The world isn’t flat – though accepting that some people suggest it would be is sad to say the least, and seeing them making a career and having the power to algorithm-ise the careers of others and the way knowledge develops is appalling. The fact that major journals do it, should for researchgate and similar a motivation to do better instead reproducing the publishers ‘artificial bashfulness’, borrowing a term from from Hito Steyerl.

laborious joy

It is a while back already … a small …, well, lets say dispute with Laurent:
A propos, I am very happy with your article. Of course you have problems  to explain your thoughts (you know this) but according to me what you said is very interesting.
I know that you are to some extent right with what you say about my difficulties to explain certain things; however the other half is that we – probably all of us – unlearned accepting that reading and understanding is WORK, the stuff just flying at us is usually unruly rubbish, lacking depth and appearing nicely, deceiving. People jump into the water and … did you ever jump into a pool at the shallow end …, only sometimes you get away with it,
Yes, yes, and in Dutch we should say  tja, tja
Right, reading and understanding is ‘work’. Right. But……it can not be an argument  to write something what can be better articulated.
took a while, Ja Ja …, oder: na eh [that could be Bavarian I guess …]
I think again 50/50, it is too often wrong that things are expressed in simple ways, leaving out the needed provocation, and that was part of that article too. In general, from my current experience: we have a major ’translation problem’, actually two problems – and this is important, without joke:
myself, being a hybrid, face again and again the problem that it is nearly impossible to understand things as soon as we ‘leave the box’. There are things in economics we cannot even think, articulate  in law and vice versa. Add political science and sociology and …
Second, I talked the other day with a colleague from Bolivia – she is also working here and asked me for some advise: she has to review an article for a book, the author being from Peru. There we have entirely different understanding of certain legal facts, paradigms etc. The author uses a more or less narrative style. However, somebody else in her project does not understand that and will not accept it, as he is academic in the area of law, strictly. So, while highly qualified, he has at times a narrow approach as well when it comes to putting things into forms. Now, you can do this, it is easy to ’understand’ ,…, and mostly wrong. I guess this is also part of …’s [or who ever wrote it] article on CSR. There had been in the first version [the one I know] at least certain things that cannot be written this way in an international journal: they had been simply wrong – so to be skipped or to be ’translated’ – and such translation would mean: the reader has to work it out. – Sure, in that case, the reader had to be informed about the Chinese context ….
This … had been a more or less great though rare pleasure in China: being together with a Chinese friend, and getting ‘permanently into trouble’, knowing that we need[ed] to work out what we mean. Dictionaries only tell shadows of truth — thus, coming back to the work, somewhat ruthless debate would be good, daring to dispute things, to disagree and speak about it and come to a conclusion …. . It may even end in lasting love if this is the correct term …
—— —— ——
The afternoon of the very day, after sending the last mail I was standing in the Lenbach Haus, the issue returning to me while looking in the one room at some paintings

Carl Friedrich Lessing: Eichenwald mit rastendem Jaeger, 1839

Joseph Wopfner: Haensel und Gretel, 1875

Adolph Henrich Lier: Buchenwald im Herbst, ca 1874

I would say ‘nothing special, though lovely capturing for the moment’. And of course it is hopeless to convey the clandestine, inner beauty by reproducing these works. Also as such beauty is one of the moment, the mood: permanent because immortal and nevertheless quickly elapsing as any shadow does with the change of the light by which it is aroused. It is the mood of the spectator that is part of the spectre.
The question of the said moment, linking paintings and the conversation is somewhat straightforward, presuming that the reader accepts that reading is more than the deciphering of sequences of letters – extensively discussed in semiotics anyway.
Paintings do what academics are expected to do – isolating certain matters, cutting the environment off in order to be able to cut the matter itself into pieces. That is what we see in the paintings: it does not give us any idea of the forest – where it is, its seize, its location in the universe … this way a lot of information is cut-off: not accessible.
  • It is like the surgeon – during some heart surgery the heart is somewhat disjoint from the body, its functions taken over by an artificial machine …, it is no problem, for some time …
  • It is like the economist who calculates opportunity cost when looking at the feasibility of the investment in a new technology – calculations may be for instance conjoined with what is called demographic scenarios, or with an estimated behavior of a competing investor or with any other variable. Even a Richard Thaler or Eleanor Estrom are depending by and large on such contractions – stimulating and still it remains cut off realities.
  • It is like a lawyer, looking at what exactly was happening, but taking it as action, at most as behaviour without being able to understand the entire ’scene’ as part of complex societal practice.
—— —— ——
Have a look at the paintings then – though isolating a small scene, delving enormously into details [especially the one by Lessing applying an extremely fine brushstroke; but also Bear’s, seemingly presenting a broad lash] maintain somewhat magically the universe within the painting
Fritz Baer: Abend im Walde, ca 1914
— the light, the movement … , magically, and requiring to work, with this arriving at the real joy of being spectator and magically e-merging as part of the spectre, playing in the best of its meanings   …
… yes, it may well be that this made life so laborious before the disenchantment, so-called at is still left us with its own bifurcation. And this work makes some prone to populism, and others obsessed to pretended clarity, in particular clarity dressed up in digits.

Easily ending in the death of the theorist and the emergence of data and algorithms in digital social researc.and then in boxing humans.

Sorrows of Young Werther – not only

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To nonsense reason turns,

and benefit to worry.

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

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

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

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



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

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

[3]            Frey: PUBLISHING AS PROSTITUTION? Choosing Between One’s Own Ideas and Academic Failure; http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp_iew/iewwp117.pdf

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

… to the point …

Well, you may say I am burning in the Heraclitean Fire, carried away and not doing what the academic world-order asks me to do – moving on with the metaphor, one may add: this little bit of disobedience is like playing with fire, a dangerous not to say: life threatening game.

So to the point, reading Erwin Chargaff’s

Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature.

He refers on page 171 to another work by himself**, which he wrote earlier and where he contended:

The fashion of our times favors dogmas. Since a dogma is something that everybody is expected to accept, this has led to the incredible monotony of our journals. Very often it is sufficient for me to read the title of a paper in order to reconstruct its summary and even some of the graphs. Most of these papers are very competent; they use the same techniques and arrive at the same results. This is then called the confirmation of a scientific fact. Every few years the techniques change; and then everybody will use the new techniques and confirm a new set of facts. This is called the progress of science. Whatever originality there may be must be hidden in the crevices of an all-embracing conventional makeshift: a huge kitchen midden in which the successive layers of scientific habitation will be dated easily through the various apparatuses and devices and tricks, and even more through the several concepts and terms and slogans, that were fashionable at a given moment.

Chargaff’s book had been published in 1978, he was, as widely known, professor in biochemistry, he emigrated from fascist Germany … – and one may ask if it is purely by accident that with this background already

[a]s early as 1949, this eminent scientist described certain irregularities in the composition of DNA and formulated the concept of ‘complementarity’ – later referred to as ‘Chrgaff’s rule’ and still later as ‘base pairing’ – which was the most important single piece of evidence for the double-helical structure of DNA’ [from the book-cover blurb].

‘Back to the fire’ – what he states, looking at methods, can cum grains salis also said for today and social science: where ‘methodology’ chapters in theses too often present methods, not showing any awareness of the difference between method and methodology, where publications and universities and people are ranked on the basis of algorithms and where entities are cut into pieces, making us forget the following:

The insufficiency of all biological experimentation, when confronted with the vastness of life, is often considered to be redeemed by recourse to a firm methodology. But definite procedures presuppose highly limited objects; and the supremacy of “method” has led to what could be called by an excellent neo-German term the Kleinkariertheit (piddling pedantry) of much present-day biological research. The availability of a large number of established methods serves, in fact, in modern science often as a surrogate of thought. Many researchers now apply methods whose rationale they do not understand. [170]


End of term, and of the academic year – students, sometimes inviting lecturers, celebrating; preparing for holidays, but also asking for references, preparing the next career moves.

I have to admit, I am am happy that some say they did not ‘invite me to their celebration’ but invited me ‘to celebrate with them’; and I also have to admit that it is an honour to be seen by some as 老师, as lǎoshī – a bit like the hojam as we use it at ODTU in Ankara.

An unwritten chapter for the

Diary from a Journey into another World: Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments

to be closed.


** Chargaff, E. 1965. On Some of the Biological Consequences of Base-pairing in the Nucleic Acids. In: M.D. Anderson (Ed.), Developmentn.l and Metabolic Control Mechanisms and Neoplasw. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, p. 19.




Of course, capturing an entire eeast history, present time and future development in one sentence, or even in three, cannot tell everything. Still, the following three sentences from an article in the Times Higher Education surely say  lot, making clear what we mean, when we speak about neo-colonialisation and when Rosa Luxemburg presented her thoughts on the ‘inner colonilisation’:

In the aftermath of colonialism, the development of higher education was characterised by publicly funded national universities. However, while the number of public universities in the region doubled from approximately 100 to nearly 200 between 1990 and 2007, the rate of growth in the private sector in recent decades has been much faster. According to the 2009 World Bank report Accelerating Catch-up: Tertiary Education for Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of private universities and colleges, including for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, mushroomed from 24 to an estimated 468 over the same period.

Three things may be added, the first referring to another article from the same source, simply outlining the catastrophic consequences of public “savings” in Higher Education, undermining quality.

The second is an “offer” from a famous publisher of (High Ranking) journals:

Throughout October and November, we’re providing a number of great offers around Open Access Week, including discounts on article publishing charges (APCs) for over 35 journals, and a chance to win one of eight APC credits, meaning you can publish your article OA for free.

So we are doing the work for free as authors (and peer reviewers and colleagues discussing issues), then we are expected to pay for publishing and finally publishers make a special offer:

This month we your rate of exploitation is reduced.

Is this already the result of lowering educational standards? “We at T&F think you are so dumb that you will not see how we are fooling you.” Sure, the other point is that the invasion of the body snatchers, the kraken of inner colonisation moved already so far that we apparently do not have much choice.

Well, coming to the fourth issue then – this is a personal one. To be precise the experience a friend mentioned the other day  – and I sincerely hope and believe my dear friend does not object to finding his words here. So, look at his report from a recent visit to the library, after not having been there for a while:

I was shocked and nearly cried!
Along the wall there were maybe 30 journals that looked like
decoration.. The room was filled with
tables where you can plug in your computer.
Oh, I long for the days that I would spend hours browsing through
journals that were on the shelves.  I would go once every three
months to catch up on what was going on in sociology, political science,
policy and economics.  Not one journal.
I found more good articles to read by accident, browsing, than those I
came specifically to read.  No surprises any more. The academic
experience is utilitarian.

In a way you may see the following as part of a “personal countermovement”. I donated the books that remained from a larger personal collection in order to make them publicly available. I am waiting currently for the press release and will post it here as soon as I receive it. And I how it will a place where readers find books by accident, where they find surprises that stimulate and enhance free research.