- Edition Le Monde diplomatique
- Chinas Aufstieg
- Mit Kapital, Kontrolle und Konfuzius
ELMAR ALTVATER DIED
It talks about him as an
Inspiring critique of the capitalist economy
This he truly was – as such he encourages me to dedicate the presentation to him: as quest to me and to the students to take up this challenge of critical thinking.
Living in China means as well getting used to a highly advanced level of internet-penetration in large parts of daily life. Often this is perceived as contradicting prevailing traditional ‘life styles’ and attitudes. At first glance this has not much to do with the future of social policy, or does it? – Social policy faces the difficult task of bringing an institutional system and ‘life worlds’ together. With globalisation and digitisation there is an additional challenge: the reference to the nation state and standard forms of labour are increasingly loosing or changing their role, or at least changing it. Is there any common ground for small island nations like Ireland and unimaginable countries like China?
Well, much can be said about China – not the issue here and not for me at the moment. Still, I am wondering if a country and continent [sorry, all links are to articles in German language]
- that penalises beggars by asking them for an estimate of income in order to reduce social benefits
- that penalises homeless people by fining them for sleeping rough
- and where charities are now limiting their good-doing to nationals.
[Bei der Düsseldorfer Tafel bekommen alle Bedürftigen Lebensmittel. In Essen vorübergehend nur noch die mit deutschem Pass. – photo dpa]
should really worry about a Chinese investor, who steps substantially in at Daimler Benz? Carrying in his luggage the gift of advanced technologies for electric cars, a gift that does not promise venom-free driving, but is at least a small contribution to reduce emissions. – It would be more desirable to think about possibilities to move with this to cooperative advantage instead of maintaining comparative advantage as guide, – Sure, here state regulation could take new forms.
Less complains here I suppose than about google as potential competitor on the market of car manufacturing.
Two of the many points that should be mentioned in detail:
Quoted from the first article, in translation:
The spokesperson of the job center … says that persons who re receiving basic basic social income would not depend on begging.
It is the old flam that here is no poverty [a] because everybody has the right to receive that kind of income and [b] it is sufficient for a decent life. But it is as well a matter of defining begging as smiliar-to-employment activity.
In all these contexts [there are similar cases, also in other German cities, the issue of donations is coming up: basically it says money – also goods – given to people who are begging, also food and other support people receive from charities – are legally ‘donations’ [non-deductible] to the recipient, i.e, beggar.
So, playing this bitter game a bit further we arrive at the state where actually income may soon be defined as donation, the employer soon being defined as good-doer, and the employee …
Well, NOW I think it is time to return to the China issue: I discussed with a colleague more or less extensively about Corporate Social Responsibility – the project to co-author an article finally failed, admittedly it was my fault: I simply could not accept that paying business tax can be seen as corporate social responsibility … .
And all this is much about a topic I discuss occasionally with my colleague here, in a nutshell the old, and still unresolved question about justice and right. And John Stuart Mill, in Volume X of his Collected Works [Essays on Ethics, Religion and Society], in particular writing on the ‘On the Connexion between Justice and Utility’ is at least stimulating, asking us to think about social and individual.
Is it far fetched then if the gist of my presentation, titled
is the necessity to think about the a radical ‘new beginning’ when it comes to thinking about social and welfare issues?
Now lean back and think a bit: In the presentation I mention towards the end that one of the most serious problems with the ‘new economic and juridical normal’ is the -delegalisation, ops: the fact that we find a substantial trend towards charitibilisation: the replacement of social rights by charitable activities ….
 The German term ‘Geschenk’ translates into English as ‘gift’, the German term ‘Gift’ translates into English as venom, toxic, poison.
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’.
YES WE CAN
though there is some small print we should not forget – an example may show what this is about.
This is the title of a presentation of which the recording is online now.
It had been given during the
INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC-PRACTICAL CONFERENCE on INSTABILITY OF EMPLOYMENT: RUSSIAN AND INTERNATIONAL CONTEXTS OF CHANGING THE LEGISLATION ON LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT in Moscow at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics [October 26-27 2017]
- de-firmisation of working frameworks
- hybridisation of work or to be more precise employment
What are and what can be the answers? We see precarisation as one route, not suggested but actually taken. But it is a route based on two questionable presumptions: the first is that work has to be organised as labour and the second is that society has to and can bear and even accept major inequalities.
[Part of] The discussion is also recorded and focuses on issues of developments in China..
There is no intention on my side to engage in a wider or deeper debate on Chinese issues – it would require volumes, acknowledging successes, failures and contradictions now and then. And there is surely no intention to deny one or the other, be it in absolute terms or in the light of comparative reflections.
Still, having arrived in Moscow, I dare looking briefly back. The 19th CPC National Congress, having taken place the recent days, marks a shift in the orientation of which the meaning will be seen in the future. The congress suggested as main, i.e. ‘principal contradiction’ the country faces now is the society being
between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing need for a better life.
Previously – for 36 years – the maxim was seen as being caught between
the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social production.
Sure, even commenting on this can only be an attempt to make us thinking about what is at stake – actually far beyond China. And any commenting is of course facing the danger of ‘loosing due to translation’. A bit of comfort for me is looking back at some experience in daily life, the glimpses into Chinese life and perhaps a bit of the mentality – glimpses, surely not more.
Well, then, isn’t there potentially a ‘mental’ or ‘intellectual typo’? Shouldn’t it read peoples’ instead of people’s. In the second case there is an individualist undertone while the challenge is really the life of the people, not people.
Sure the resolution of the congress has inscribed this new project:
addressing the development’s imbalances and inadequacies, and push[ing] hard to improve the quality and effect of development
into the party’s constitution. Important is now to see emphasis that constitutions are about processes, not structures. We are dealing with the constitutive process, the formation. And with this it remains to be seen if the apostrophe will be shifted into the right position, to promote a course that is worth to be carried on by a party that claims to be left. At stake is indeed the peoples’ life as foundation of people’s life – seemingly a tiny difference though remarkably one that is decisive for the meaning of the social.
Looking back at the experience of teaching in the PRC up to recently there is the tension not just in the party’s document and in reflecting on it. Surely, some of my students would go for moving the apostrophe into the right place. And surely, this means not least confronting an Americanised and Europeanised orientations of the educational system.
Sure, there is the wider question, looking back much further. Here we have to ask if Deng had actually been right – or completely wrong. First we have to eat, that stands before any moral considerations are made – well known from Brecht’s Three-Penny Opera. The ‘Deng-question’ remains, better to say, the question Deng did not sufficiently consider: ‘What kind of moral will those, being well fed, while others receive little more then the bread crumbs, develop?’
There is no reason to question successes – over the last years more than breadcrumbs had been made available for many. Equally, as appalling as developments in Higher Education is in ‘the West’ are, there are exceptions and there are increasingly counter movements: claims for higher quality, for
an education … [that] will teach you how to think, not what to think
to use the words of Jazreel Goh, education marketing director of the British Council in China. More than glimpses of hope?
The hopes I personally have, and it means to take up on and support the excitement I see in the eyes, I hear in the voices, I read in the words of so many students; the hope that they withstand the strangulation that is still going on.
Looking back … – or looking forward? There is no real need for marketing directors but there is a need for academics being aware that they are and will always be students and for students that are aware of being academics, not future bean counters or Wall Street-pedestrians [follow the links for the interviews that are in these articles] – I found it striking that the congress paid a lot of attention to the economy and its development, while it neglected by and large many of the questions that are ore fundamental, namely those dealing with the actual processes of production and its ‘what and how’.
 This far beyond may well be taken as part of the interpretation of the outspoken claim to be a global payer.
 I dare to say that the congress was apparently clear on the question of education – but in a very unfortunate direction towards competitiveness, undermining ‘deep quality development’.
It seems to be relatively easy to deal with Schroedinger’s cat – the question is well known:
Schrödinger wanted people to imagine that a cat, poison, a geiger counter, radioactive material, and a hammer were inside of a sealed container. The amount of radioactive material was minuscule enough that it only had a 50/50 shot of being detected over the course of an hour. If the geiger counter detected radiation, the hammer would smash the poison, killing the cat. Until someone opened the container and observed the system, it was impossible to predict if the cat’s outcome. Thus, until the system collapsed into one configuration, the cat would exist in some superposition zombie state of being both alive and dead.
The one way of dealing with it is to open the box in order to see if the cat is alive or not. However, it is a way of dealing with the problem by actually denying it as checking, giving ‘empirical evidence’ in actual fact changes the conditions to such an extent that, what had been the question at the outset is actually redefined: the conditions from which the question emerged are not anymore given.
The other way is to admit that there is no answer and that there cannot be any answer for ever. One could see this as a purely academic issue – though this is probably seen differently by the cat – being eternally in a situation of not knowing if her is dead or alive which must admittedly a hugely unpleasant state of existence. And both ‘easy answers’ prevail when we are looking at academia, in particular universities: researching, studying and teaching. One question may be asked though: what is if we simply look at the tale, not the entire cat but also not something that exists only as chimera?
Some reflections on the development of third level education today can be found here, impressions and reports, resulting from having worked in China for two years at a ‘joint venture’ between a EUropean and a Chinese university, and reflecting more general trends than really anything like ‘this is China’. And also reflecting on a general trend of supposed academic education where one learns not to agree with but to follow rules, where you have to like numbers but yu do nit have to like maths … – at the end where you should end with a major that makes sure that the cat is dead while the mice are dancing a bubble dance, appealingly majoring in accounting without understanding the economy of which it takes account.
 IFLScience – The lighter sight of science: Schrödinger’s Cat: Explained; http://www.iflscience.com/physics/schrödinger’s-cat-explained/; 27/07/17
- We cannot change our core Roman, or were it Greek ? values, as we subdued them by European enlightenment,
- Smith and Bentham triumphing over Kant and the French tricolore,
- leveling the field for the yanks who returned with their reinterpretation to Europe and …
- … and allow today Merkel’s Schäuble to squeeze the Greek like lemons
- and “allow” Orban’s barbed wires to cut into the veins of migrants who leave war and starvation behind before they can enter Europe
- the inner and outer periphery on which the centre can establish its affluence …. –
- reflecting these values of individual freedom = precarious jobs
- and equality = not allowing anybody to sleep under the bridges of Paris … – don’t we remember:
La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.Le Lys Rouge [The Red Lily] (1894)
- and fraternity = the soup kitchens that take the place of the rights that the universal declaration of human rights failed to guarantee ….; where fraternity means redefining sleeping rough by offering a “pillow” near to the churches, softening the hardship by the pretension of a better world, the other world – and for the time being through charity, still leaving space for the question: is there a link between the (name of) the train station Termini in Rome and “its offer of sleeping rough in its protection” – the termination of dignity?
difficulty Chinese students face, particularly in the arts and social sciences, is in adopting the critical thinking that the Quality Assurance Agency insists master’s level courses must inculcate
centre on China’s Confucian cultural tradition
In particular in recent times remarks are concerning in particular the catholic church … . Though there is on the one hand the fear when it comes to religious fundamentalism, many initiatives taken by the current pope are celebrated – and indeed I joined a little bit in, asking in the title of a contribution for the Primavera vaticana?, i.e. Vatican Spring. Now there had been the one celebrated ‘Spring’ in the recent times which turned out to be the beginning of a hot autumn. And though there are the surely critical remarks and initiatives as not least in the Evangelli Gaudium and the Laudatio Sì and also the recent proposals in connection with abortion and divorce, one should not overlook that these can well be a threat: on the one hand a kind of Trojan horse; on the other hand a suicidal fuse, provoking fundamentalist catholics to start a palace coup. Well, in any case, much could be said and documented, also on the modern way inquisition – I found an article recently, and of course did not store it, post it …
With all this, I find another thing pretty interesting point: I received a hint on a BBC cast, specifically on China, even promising the unveiling of the Secrets of China. A young presenter. Indeed, she reveals some interesting stuff, gives some insight into real life of some people. I think she is much too positive in some way: on young people, the gambling addiction etc, youth issues – too positive and somewhat naïve. So I checked up on the presenter as I found it interesting to see such a young presenter being so …, well, in some instances ‘critical (which can be translated into conservative) about how young people live today’, the life of her own generation. The result – if this is her: she walked some … let’s say: ‘strange paths’, and if she would not have been as lucky as she has been, she would be at this stage in prison, undergo a drug detox treatment or already at the stage of addiction therapy – or worse: without it; in some way she is still behaving in the same way though she has now other ways with exactly the reputation these starlet producers provide and is now starting a career as ‘everything’: documentaries, fashion, activism …, as a veil and wrap of nothing else than the old habits, now ‘authorised’ by the Holy grail of BBC, fashion magazines and others ….
There is no reason to contest what is stated; and there are also some moments where one mentions the genuine approach and ‘empathy’ of the documentarist. The actually shocking about this is that it is not really about China: it is a ‘slow motion picture’ of many developments [including cosmetic surgeries, gaming and computer addiction, drugs, a lost youth, the pressure from careerism and (threat of) unemployment] which in western societies are now regretted, and faced with helpless despair, currently in part taken over in China, where inequality can easier be seen as ‘we’, the folks in the wild west are usually somewhat used to it, intoxicated by the Hello-press or to overlook it or are not able to see it easily as they happen in secret corners or where we cannot see them due to ‘commercial censorship’. We are somewhat used to it to such an extent that we often do not even hesitate when reading the paper like the Corriere della Sera: The edition of September 3rd showed on page 6 an article on Le tragedie in uno scatto, horrible photos, including the famous from the Vietnam war, showing the naked child, screaming and running away from the US-Napalm-bomb source of its pain and on page 7 we see an ad: Emporio Armani. – Yes, if reading the name it may sound a bit like the story about an armed empire, the arms being those of designer and finance capitalism – and we know that ‘this economy kills’ as Francis said. Sure, if you ‘join the wrong forces’ and are on the losers end, they will still gain, literally make profit after sending you to jail – saying all this in connection with a critique of the China-series is just saying this and has nothing to do with China, let alone the defence of any political past or presence. Still, it is worthwhile to read the ‘official critique‘ of the series … – there is surely some good reason for stating that
‘Professional media practice,’ the Xinhua commentary reads, ‘should be to interview sociologists… and education experts to give authoritative explanations; but the BBC has not done this.’ Instead, they say the programme ‘selectively uses non-mainstream phenomena to give subjective judgements the impression of objectivity.’
What we can learn from the series, though not necessarily outspoken, is that there is a China that is now kept out of the roundelay of the centre states in different ways. Andre Gunder Frank’s thesis, suggesting the Development of Underdevelopment has surely not completely lost its value also for analysing today’s (under)developments. And surely the series could have shown (it is stated in parenthesis) that it is exactly this fact leading to many of the problems: an over-stressed youth extreme inequality and so on: the attempt to build another armed empire or even to take over the existing one even if the arms are not the traditional ones but now those of brands and designs. But when it comes to talking about empires, it is still too often forgotten that the Most Violent Nation is indeed to be found in another corner of the world – and the violence there is really penetrating the entire society, coined by a high degree of feeling supremacy as ultimate characteristic of the state and the nation. This surely is somewhat different to what we read in the Diplomatic Words of Wisdom.
It may be far fetched, but interestingly: the UN-resolution on Debt Restructuring (I did not find it, only reports on it) had been adopted by a majority but against countries where the most important forces are referring to be servants of religious faith, in particular USNA and FRG. And it is a country where Christianity plays a major role, also in the reference of the relevant power holder (Hungary), now beginning to move military forces to the border to ‘solve’ the problem of migration. And …, well, it was also the Christians who did not allow critiques in West Germany of the 1970s entering state services, Christians who are again attempting to close Corvinus university in Budapest (or at least the relevant part of critical work there) while they are putting up barbed wire and engaging the army against migrants … and who make (with reference to god and the good will and hope) empty promises which let people end up on the street…
i had been told the following:
Happy to have a daughter ….- you get a son in law – with it a house; so different to the olden times where you had been so happy to have a son, and with it a breadwinner….
Wondering myself if this fundamental change or change of labels… – and if this is just about China …?