Honestly: Would you buy a used car from this man?

Would you buy a used car from this man?
Supposedly it originates in an anti-Nixon Poster from 1960.
Here is another question, seriously:

Can one as academic recommend students, honestly interested in understanding the world, eager to learn to a university that presents itself this way?

Well, the undue application procedure – one of many – did not allow me to remain silent … – so a letter went as well to this crowd:

Dear something – or somebody, I find it always extremely disrespectful to be approached by a machine, writing on a very personal issue, namely the assessment of the personality of a young man or woman who is looking for a responsible position in our societies. Furthermore it is highly unprofessional as mails of such format are often ‘auto-spammed’ – yes, machines with artificial intelligence know the difference between AI and AB [artificial bashfulness]. Also, using a no-reply address as sender lacks professional circumspection, not considering the rights of the recipient to move away from the address, change it or the like …

In the mail I received I found the sentence:

We require the use of the online recommendation process since it is the most efficient method to submit a recommendation to the Office of Admissions. The applicant’s file will not be processed until your recommendation has been submitted.

You should add: ‘for us’ as this what you respect instead of students and academic colleagues: Hobsons and FSBs convenience and efficiency, i.e. business-interest, distinct from academic requirements and standards. It is for you the most efficient way, not considering that you [i.e. Hobsons/FSB] shift your responsibility and workload on a person [i.e. individual academics] that is supporting students by offering a free, i.e. unpaid service to you [i.e. Hobsons/FSB] facilitating your work of evaluation. If you would imply external evaluators, it would be a rather expensive undertaking for you, while currently we as academics are covering these. – Sit down, please, and think twice about the truth of the meaning. I did not need the over forty years experience to come to this conclusion, but this time surely allowed me to witness an decreasing respect of academic and human standards in what is still called Higher Education. Sending letters that do not allow to clearly identify the sender, actually – from my understanding – sent by some company on behalf of a university, is suspicious.

BTW, the procedure in this case, if compared with that of other universities, is for the referee one of the worst and most complicated I ever came across  there had been several in over forty years. Furthermore, even the boxes that have to be completed for the referee-data are not allowing for differences in national systems etc. – more lack of international experience and professional standards on your side.

As stated on the website of the Dean [https://www.fuqua.duke.edu/about/our-dean], accessed on the seventeenth of January 2018, 21:08:
Checking Boxes is Not Enough in Ensuring Diversity – this, taken cum grano salis, is also applicable when it comes to dealign with applications and asking for references. There is good old request: FROM WORDS TO ACTION. You see … much to be done
I dare to hope that students learn other business models too at FSB, and learn also some respect – Alfred Marshal already made us aware of the need of such education, not boxing young people.
Sincerely worried about the future of Third Level Education in your country [unfortunately Fuqua School of Business is not known which also means I did not know where it is located before checking on the web – seemingly you assume everybody knows it, it is just another fault],
Peter Herrmann, respectfully still classified as human being
Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
Students, presenting such work as Hobsons and FSB do, would surely fail my courses.
And I dare to add: it is tremendously sad, that these things, the undue tyranny of administrations in non-administrative areas, are too often just swallowed and only few academics rebuke this bold takeover of universities, just complaining and moaning in silence …
PS: After writing ad sending this epistle I received a phone call – definitely a positiver sign, though at the end confirming that there are different departments of the university or actually agencies that are not part of the university dealing with issues, after they get some rather general information – the one seize fits all kind of, indeed ‘advancing business’ though far from acting as force for any good  that goes beyond personal or the institutions interest. Exactly the pattern of that teaching of economics that brought us the crisis of which we will celebrate in September the the anniversary – Happy Birthday Crisis, enjoy the profits you make out of squeezing honest people, mind the adversaries.

trying to open the box


Looking at how academic institutions deal with applications by students – and with lecturers who support their endeavour – when it comes to applications there seems to be little hope: one meets ignorance, lack of respect and unqualified ways of handling procedures – I referred to this issue earlier.. I suppose part of the problem is also that we usually accept such misbehavior and move on, allowing ‘them’ to move on their way. Hopeless …

“HOPE is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.”
– Pandora’s last words

With this attitude I wrote the letter/mail to some completely ignorant universities: if asking for a reference that supports students to follow their path of curiosity, has any meaning, there are some institutions that themselves delve in complete lack of meaning.


Dear colleague, I am writing to you after overcoming some hesitation and also after reflecting if there is any point in it.

Still, for the sake of students and due to my commitment to academia and academic standards I feel obliged to follow up on the way your university is dealing with applications. If there is any claim on hour side to be an academic institution of reputable rank and with an international standing, at least revisiting the following is highly advisable – to say the least.
Lecturers today are encouraged to move, and some actually manage to be engaged by different universities and research institutes – for my part I can humbly state that I had been in the lucky situation of being involved in teaching and research in different countries, linked to various institutions, amongst them those with high international standing. However, this also means that e-mail addresses change. Apparently, so I had been informed, your institution requires students to submit contact details of lectures whom they nominate for their recommendation, valid at the time of teaching. In other words, I had been teaching students who asked me for a reference after I left the respective university – and still the students are asked to provide contact details from an outdated position. In this light, what is really outdated is the requirement you set. It shows that your institution does not reflect standards of todays academia, and instead follows somewhat ‘provincial’, ‘parochial’ ideas. – I may add, that historically at least in Europe, the mobility of academics had been the norm, the settled, academic the exception – settled in terms of space usually also meant settled in thinking, lacking openness to exchange and innovation.
Now, moving on to the next point: In several cases it is [was] possible for me to keep the e-mail address from an earlier position. One option to deal with this is to check different mail accounts. Sometimes it is possible to forward mails; and another option is to set an automatic reply, informing and asking the sender to use a different e-mail-address. I had to chose with one of the accounts the latter option. So, the request for a reference, sent by our university to the one ‘official’ mail address, was answered by such automatic reply, providing an alternative address. Although the mail from your institution was not sent by a completely automated system and replies had been received, the responsible department or person did not consider to react in an appropriate way. On the contrary, later a reminder was sent to the same, inactive, address. This behaviour from your institution shows in my opinion cum gram salis the same attitude as that mentioned previously. It is highly disrespectful, ignoring the serious interests of students and showing no collegiality to academics. It is even topped by the fact that I once set a mail to the relevant department of your institution, using the ‘dormant address’. The rely I received gave apt evidence of the fact that the mail I sent was not properly read.
I may then add: the standardised ‘questionnaires’, used to ask to assess students, are substandard. In general I think it is questionable to use multiple choice questions and similar for such assessment – it is about young personalities and not machines or fat-stock. Still, if such approach is used, the design requires a bit more reflection. If a student of mine, would submit such questionnaire which I had been asked to complete, as part of exams, that student would end, on a generous day, with a very low grade.
Again, the way your institution is currently handling – at least – this part of the application process is simply appalling and lacks any respect towards students and those lecturers who are in a position to support their curiosity about learning. This part of their learning experience provided by you is apt to undermine such curiosity, and teach that studies you offer may not deliver what they promise.
Sincerely disappointed
Peter Herrmann


Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy/
Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik
[section social law]
– Research Fellow –
skype: …
QQ: …
University of Eastern Finland (UEF)
Department of Social Sciences
PL 1627
70211 Kuopio
—-Corvinus University
Institute of World Economy
Faculty of Social Sciences and International Relations
Fővám tér 8
1093 Budapest
Active Member of the European Academy of Science and Arts

Mocking and Roots

Returned from Rome – not only known as Santa Sede, but also known as one of the main “sites of antiquity”, seen as cradle of civilisation. Sure, it may be contested if such a claim is actually legitimate – there had been many antiquities and consequently there are many places that can be equally seen as such main sites. Having been there – this time actually not as long as on other occasions – I had been drawn immediately and tensely into this question. Perhaps it is our new office, if you want you may say the ultimate tension between times: an old building (though not reaching as far back as antiquity, a most elegant interior: with columns, arches and nearly monumental vases and statues, and at the same time accommodating one of the most modern social and economic research institutes. But all this …, does it go hand in hand? Is it compatible at all? On my facebook-site I surely made several disrespectful remarks – and I am not tempted to deny them. And I also made several remarks that simply reflect some general criticism: immeasurable wealth in the face of increasing world-poverty … With all this one should surely not simplify things – even personally I know a reasonable number of people: honestly faithful, honestly working for human rights, for combating poverty, trying to build up a just society. Actually the other day a leading figure of the Italian catholic church plead for a stronger influence of his organisation in politics – let us even assume that  he is a god-willing, honest person. But there we are in the middle of a first fundamentally critical point: This organisation claims not only influencing the state – we surely have to admit that there are several organisations, with different political couleurs, claiming the same. But this organisation, the Holy See as calls itself, calims TO BE the state, at least a state. What we easily overlook begins – symbolically – with the Vatican’s own Euro coins, and being surely expressed by the huge number of embassies. Actually walking through Rome, in most varied places, you find the embassies, the Diplomatic Mission to the Holy See. Btw., I think our Finish embassy has the most stunning location, overlooking Rome … Sure, btw. – but there is another point to it: next to it, there is a wall – narrow, just a small protection for the tourists that are roaming across this space: in memory of Garibaldi. On the wall you can read the Roman constitution – and there is surely a reason to mention and celebrate Garibaldi and the modern constitution in one breath. Literally, standing there, looking across the city, the Holy See is at your back – and you may want to say, it is in a position that is left behind. But you have to say: the church is a kind of backbone of this current system. There is no simple answer – on the cover of a book I bought in the Gallery of Modern Arts (Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna), I read:

Ogni epoca, per trovare identità e forza, ha inventato un’idea diversa di “classico”. Cosí il “classico” riguarda sempre non solo il passato ma il presente e una visiona del futuro. Per dar forma al mondo di domini è necessario ripensare le nostre molteplici radici. (Salvatore Settis: Futuro del “Classico”; Giulio Einaudi editore; 2004 [nuova edizione])

I think it is in some way remarkable that I bought the book in an arts gallery: arts seems to be much better able to reflect its origins without sticking to it like the fly in the trap, sweetened by honey, pleasing like Adonis, in Greek mythology the god of beauty and desire and dazing like opium. If life, real life, would support us in every day to live history in this “dialectical way”: keeping the valuable, but push the overcome part on the rubbish heap of history, mutual respect would surely be easier to reach. But as long as organisations claim to be states … All this has surely another dimension too: if and to the extent to which the church did have a legitimate role society it had been at times that are in social science frequently looked at in terms of cooperative, associational, communal … . There is much transfiguration going hand in hand with this – the golden ages of harmonious communities have never been really prevalent, at least not during those times that we may consider as sufficiently known. Nevertheless, there surely had been times preceding the modern state. and this brings us to a critical point, looking at many of today’s political movements, not least some of those claiming very critical positions against the current mainstream. Again. I do not want to question the credibility of these claims. Nor do I want to claim knowing the answers. To be honest, I am still looking for the exact question. At least I feel uncomfortable, looking at solutions based in values, in good will, in general feelings and partial analysis, not considering the fundamental changes of the productive systems. New quest for salvation: in old religions, revived Evangelism or new claims of excellence are unlikely to help. As said, I had been in the Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna. Entering the exhibition-hall, there is first a fascinating …, installation: The floor of the entire hall is a mirror, a broken mirror. Old statues standing on it … Can we say: Antonio Allegretti’s “Eva dopo il peccato” (1881) in desperation of what she lost? Giacomo Ginotti’s “Euclide” (1883) not understanding that the blueprints he made, didn’t work out? Alfonso Balzico’s “Guiletta” (1884-1886) hesitatingly-amused by looking at what emerged and could have been known by everybody? And the same Balzico’s “La Civetta” (1856-1860) even openly positioning herself beyond these worldly trivialities? Still, for all of them it is still very much a game – a bright light still shining – not victims like those who did the actual work, the ones, for which the hope of the regeneration of the soul, which is supposed to happen every seven years, doesn’t exist. It may be pure incidence that I communicate these days with Rainer about an article he sent in connection with some debate on some writing on religion: Hearing the Voice of God. Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann studies how American evangelicals experience the friend they have in Jesus (article by by Jill Wolfson; July/August 2012). He asked me for my opinion on it:

…. In the meantime I have had a look at the text you sent. It looks as if there is quite a lot in the book in question that is in one or another way complementing the book “Gewinn in alle Ewigkeit” (Fleischmann). The first impression is striking: “Society outside [outside of the life of the sect] doesn’t exist.” And subsequently there is immediately a second point for debate: In which way did “our generations” – at least some of us – supported a development which is actually at least in analytical terms well reflected in Thatcher’s statement that “there is no such thing as society.” It is this question, so difficult to answer and even so difficult to ask: the search for personality as social being, linked to the point that the social is not just subordination and adaption. Looking at it in terms of class analysis: How can we understand Marx’ notion of a “class for itself” as development towards respecting personality, avoiding that everybody has to look individually for meaning in some dialogue: bound to an authority, without necessarily being a religious issue but easily being religious. ….

Is that really so different from how he interprets the text? His thoughts are mainly concerned with the freedom of thought, the freedom from dogmatic incrustation and the nearness to or distance from the state. Yes, indeed, the critic of the history of religion needs surely a new approach. And surely it is about how we produce and reproduce out daily life: the goods we need, the means we use and the way we produce and live together – in a way, distribution is only second stage here. That is part of what real critique of political economy is about.