Academia Now and Then

I am wondering if and in which way we can and have to speak of changes in the academic world.

Putting it into a question one could ask:

Can living in the academic world be compatible with working academically?

It has something religious – similar to the questions, leading to and accompanying the Reformation, criticizing the institutionalised church in order to rescue faith.

It has something ancient philosophic-economical, where we find the contrast of Oikonomia, roughly  use-value oriented and resource-respecting management of the household  and Chrematistike, roughly the exchange-value oriented money-making, money becoming as fetish a use-value.

If we are generously accepting that different sides are justified, instead of insisting on a romanticised ideal, there still remains the

cui prodest, cui bono?

To be precise, it is not just the question who benefits. Centre-stage we have to ask

Where do we find systemically and what are the leading motives?

Looking at the distribution of income within the sector of Higher Education is revealing. And understanding that this is not the only sector where power is abused is frightening. And that power is often abused not just for private benefits, but where dependents are guided into wrong directions is a disgrace …

And there are still people speaking about freedom of thought and speech? Well, we see, it is not just a matter of a finger …, it can also be about having a different approach or uncovering injustice or speaking about it. And then people hear they should think outside of the box …?

Well, there is something biblical in all this as we know from Genesis 26 ff. – still encouraging some to ask Why can’t we do what we like to do?

The Church and Economy

I just finished the draft of another article which may one day end up in a small collection of theological writings – actually already my three volumes “Writings on Philosophy and Economy of Power”

New PrincedomsGod, Rights, Law and a Good Society and Rights – Developing Ownership by Linking Control over Space and Time are reasonably full on this topic.

This time it is on Liberation Theology, a contribution written for an edited volume on Social Pedagogics in Latin America (Edited by Jacob Kornbeck and Xavier Úcar)

While writing, I came across this passage, from an article by Rachel Donadio in the New York Times (Francis’ Humility and Emphasis on the Poor Strike a New Tone at the Vatican; 25.5.2013:

“The economy has picked up again here,” said Marco Mesceni, 60, a third-generation vendor of papal memorabilia outside St. Peter’s Square. “It was so hard to sell anything under Benedict. This pope attracts huge crowds, and they all want to bring back home something with his smiling face on it.”

Much could be said – and is said already – on this pope, his charisma and his meaning for the development of catholicism; and much had been said about unintended consequences of action. In this case it is amazing in which way and to which extent we – even being pope – cannot escape commodification. of course, there is also a meaning for papal politics in it: the demand to take up responsibility in the world in which we live.

Indeed, we may then be grateful to read in the same article:

He has repeatedly returned to the euro crisis and the suffering it has caused in Greece and the Catholic countries of Southern Europe.

“If investments in the banks fail, ‘Oh, it’s a tragedy,’ ” he said, speaking extemporaneously for more than 40 minutes at a Pentecost vigil last weekend, after a private audience with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the architect of Europe’s austerity policies. “But if people die of hunger or don’t have food or health, nothing happens. This is our crisis today.”

Still, all this remains very limited: as important as moral statements are, it is important to work towards real redistribution, public responsibility and a new approach towards global economy, based in human rights:rights that have to go beyond protection and need to be enhanced by a fourth generation of Human Rights.

Reality – perversion, reversion, revision 

The discussion on privatisation, retrenchment, alteration, economisation, marketisation etc. is not new – nor is it a matter that can be easily access when looking at the figures. Actually we find contradicting figures, and it is frequently emphasised that the problem is not “less spending” but diverted spending.

Looking at the figures, and concisely analysing them as matter of facts and trends, is surely of utmost importance, finally we are talking about the future, and that means not least that we are talking about out children.

Apropos children: European societies claim, though in different ways, to be especially child friendly: indeed, nostri carini bambini; Children, our future; and even the notion that we only borrowed the world from them …
Here, social care and social security is also a crucially important issue. And as much as the state is still often represented in the figure of Leviathan, the Vater Staat (state as father), Uncle Sam, the personification of a sovereign that actually can only claim his sovereignty from the people as legal sovereigns, there is of course also a mother to all of this, and of course: the caring part, looking after the children and not only considering the blunt material aspects but reaching out with her TLC – the tender loving care.
Part of it is in Finland the Edelliset äitiyspakkaukset, i.e. Maternity Package. It is part of the Finish policy, nowadays seen as part of the national culture and surely there are many things that can be discussed (including the fact that the 2014 package contains condoms which may be misunderstood in this context). More serious, the point that it had been known for a ling time as MATERNITY package, instead of being seen as package for the children or Parental Package …
Now to globalisation: This package had never been free. Actually (terms and conditions apply) people could chose this package or a cash payment of 140 Euro, and trusting the figures, approximately 95 % chose the good value for money instead of the money pure – as said: there is the “cultural dimension” to it.
Anyway, that it is much appreciated can also be seen in the initiative by three young fathers: namely Anssi, dad of Otso, Anton, dad of Thilde and Max and Heikki, dad of Ronja and Joel.
Oh yes, we see, Finish men can also develop this TLC-attitudem, act as “mother state” to its citizens. And they offer it globally:

GET YOURS FOR $459 (limited time pre-order offer)

Much can be said – among the many things ultimately: there is a serpent creeping around Europe, filling every pore with he toxic venom of consumerism, commodification of everything … — and it will only be stopped by reviving the specter that had been haunting Europe in the middle of the middle of the 1800s.

moving – settling – borders

Moving, settling, exploring spaces … such ways of overcoming borders and habits are, possibly paradoxically, all about drawing borders. Questions of individual responsibility by some, issues of management and coordination, intercultural mis-understandings …, and in addition other things play a role and all are coming together. And of course, in some way the most important things are at the end “positions and titles” as means of distinction, possibly of increasing meaning in a world where the material means of distinction re apparently fading away: income being increasingly precarious for an increasing number of people, thus inept to serve as distinguishing factor; employment is for a growing number of people and for long times of life a matter of projects and grants, and subsidies and temporary incomes … – a rather bleak future if we think about the social welfare systems still being bound to nationality and industry patterns of employment. Surely, at least for many somewhat exciting times: living in different cultures, exploring different work and also lea sure time activities – I mean settling and exploring, surely different from living for some time in another place. Worlds that had been previously hidden, simply exotic being now part of the hoc and nunc. Part of the one and global capitalism? Or part of the one and global silent move against it? Latin-America – a spring of hope? Really becoming the new, or even the new-new world?
Leaving personal contacts and experiences aside – or limiting them on exploring Rome, this new-new world is something that is actually also relevant, present … … – well, it is surly a new challenge to learn now about the reality of a world that is so full of contradictions and anachronisms that goes far beyond my pervious experience. I am not sure yet …- Rome, the Vatican, their interwoveness ….?
It would be too much even for a long letter: a state (Italy) that didn’t have a revolution – and in consequence a city where even today members of the “nobility” have their special places and palaces where they are having their “clandestine dinners”; vestiges of a fascist system that had been so completely different from the German, though being part of the society that is characterised by an unworldly political ruling class that seems to be more “theatralic” than anything else (the more or less recent experience with the comedian as successful candidate being the tip of that iceberg) – and on the other hand devastating poverty, a bureaucracy that is so stark that is paralyses everything – paradoxically in this  way undermining itself, so that there seems to be no rule at all; an economy with some positive performances in some pockets, but as national economy simply being a disaster.
The need for a new, a moral economy? In a smart society or as condition for a smart society?


Moving to another topic then:
Two days ago I retuned from a short trip: Euromemorandum – “alternative economists”. I returned late, arriving about midnight from the airport at the train-station. I sent a message to a friend:
“City well looked after, security increased – so ready for my short stay … the mind is now set for being surrounded by spirituality, though perception of reality cries more for mercy for the poor, less celebration of the holy …” – obvious alluding to the canonisation that took place yesterday.
Having written before “the reality of a world that is so full of contradictions and anachronisms that it is going far beyond my pervious experiences” is also a matter of the presence of the church. Leaving aside that

there are two churches at each junction – one to speak a prayer before crossing the street, allowing to to ask for mercy; one to thank god for having survived

(merci Jaqueline; guess this is the French way of characterising Italian enlightenment), I am now directly involved in some discussions about and also with the Vatican – surely for me as atheist remarkable: not just a new world, with at times (admittedly unexpectedly) open spaces for debate, and with major substantial questions that employed me already for a longish time, but are for different reasons now more pronounced. The one reason is the physical nearness, namely the direct contact to one of the Vatican universities; the other reason the current pope with statements “condemning amoral capitalism”, but also some real measures, for instance concerned with the Vatican bank. So, all this is about the somewhat new DIRECT confrontation with the old question: morality and economics. Aristotle, Smith, Mills, Keynes …. – just a few. And of course with all this the issues of social policy. No, I’m not getting religious with all this, I appreciate some thorough discussions and not least I face the challenge to “defend my position”, actual strengthen it in some respect and being challenged to extend arguments by looking for instance at Aquinas. So much I did not know – no surprise there; but also so many illusions even I have had about the church which is at least for me some surprise; and surely many insights that I should have had before editing the book on social policy and religion.

But honestly, it is not about a ‘hostile defense’ but a move further – may be it is part of the dialectical movment that we needed the failed enligthenment first to reach a new level of renaissance – I leave it open what it exactly it may mean, and some answers my be found in the book I am just preparing, the working title being

Opening Views against a Closing World View.

And with all this it is not just settling in the new world here – but it is the confrontation with the new global patterns.
As I wrote some time ago – after I visited Cuba – in a mail:

I get increasingly the impression that we have to think much further when analysing the economic challenges ahead: Indeed, as much as the organic combination of capital changes, we may also see the organic combination of means of consumption changing in the same direction: its shrinking. More means needed to achieve the same effect. Sure, there is not much new about this: theory of marginality, Pareto optimum etc. all worked on this. Though what may still be new is the following: this way we can econometrically calculate a kind of “double-helix” that reflects the two dimensions of the accumulation regime, i.e.
“[a] system of accumulation describes the stabilization over a long period of the allocation of the net product between consumption and accumulation; it implies some correspondence between the transformation of both the conditions of production and the conditions of the reproduction of the wage earners. It also implies some forms of linkage between capitalism and other modes of production. [. . .] A system of accumulation exists because its schema of reproduction is coherent . . .” (Lipietz, 1986, p. 19)


It may be an oversimplified – but I thought about it the other day in Berlin, when I passed a shop in the middle of a densely populated housing estate.
The one poster in the shop announced the opening hours:

Monday from 7:00 until Saturday 23:00 24 h open

(yes, by the way: the new German word for offen is open)
The other poster ( I translate):

For reasons of noise control we kindly ask to use the trolleys only within the shop and the parking area.

Yes, indeed, the local residents have a right to be protected – and the question may be asked if the church does enough by keeping the Sundays for the prayers; while leaving the streets during the weekdays to the preachers of money …
… and leaving now even death openly to commerce. At least this is what some shop windows of funeral homes suggested:
Presented is a world that nearly invites to passing over to the world of …. – yes, actually it is not so expensive making yourself reappearing as diamond with certificate of authenticity …