slow death – of individuals and societies


a long way … from the priests on the Acropolis [ἄκρον (akron, “highest point”) and πόλις (polis)] to the gardens which had been the roaming place of the philosophers to the reality of today’s Europe …- back at the desk after returning from Athens, where we organised at the Harokopio University in Athens, with support of the Nicos Poulantzas Institute the Euromemo-conference under the title

Can the EU still be saved? The implications of a multi-speed Europe


I remember the recent reading of Juergen Roth’s Radetzkymarsch from 1932. It seems to be clear that we can speak of a kind of congeniality when it comes to death of individuals, stubbornly caught by their ideas and societies going through some agony before the final step:

He lived long enough to know how silly it is to say the truth. He allowe people making this mistake and he believed less than the jesters who talked about him in the wide realm of anecdotes, that his world would persist. [1]


He was old, and tired, and death already expected him, still life did not release him. Like a gruesome host it kept him at the table because he did not go through all the suffering that life had prepared for him.[2]

I leave it to the reader to find out why it returns right now to my mind ….: after having returned to Greece after the elections in Germany, after Macron launching his ‘Initiative for Europe. A sovereign, united, democratic Europe’ and while going on with the personal attempt to figure out how old and how European one has to be to understand the challenges and options that are showing up ahead; and how old and how European one has to be to misunderstand them. And how much it personally helps me not to know exactly how old I am, how EUropean …call it uprooting, or call it a bit of transcending the ‘conventional wisdom’ J.K. Galbraith wrote about in this book on the ‘Affluent Society’.


[1]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Er hatte lange genug gelebt, um zu wissen, daß es töricht ist, die Wahrheit zu sagen. Er gönnte den Leuten den Irrtum, und er glaubte weniger als die Witzbolde, die in seinem weiten Reich Anekdoten über ihn erzählten, an den Bestand seiner Welt.

[2]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Alt war er und müde, und der Tod wartete schon auf ihn, aber das Leben ließ ihn noch nicht frei. Wie ein grausamer Gastgeber hielt es ihn am Tische fest, weil er noch nicht alles Bittere gekostet hatte, das für ihn bereitet war.


The cat’s tale – the difficulty of academia then and now

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.[2]

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.


[1]  ; 27/07/17

[2]            IFLScience – The lighter sight of science: Schrödinger’s Cat: Explained;ödinger’s-cat-explained/; 27/07/17

At least somewhat ‘strange’ or: occupying the occupied

At least somewhat ‘strange’ – or at least remarkable: the fact of being occupied by social spaces and occupying social spaces, namely cities.

It is several years ago that I visited Vienna the first time, and I returned a couple of times. The first time was somewhat unpleasant – unpleasant in terms of disliking the place as exhibiting imperial power. Indeed, having known Budapest already, I joined in the popular saying: Budapest is the ‘nicer Vienna’. The nicer Vienna because it was seen as the city where people, real people, would live. One could surely move towards issues like the ‘Hungarian soul’: a bit of permanent resistance and suffering going hand in hand – Leiden, dass dann führt zu Leidenschaft und Leidenschaft, die Leiden schafft.

Vienna … a space that presented itself to me as occupying, remaining unapproachable, remote … . Anyway, what did it matter? It had been another business trip amongst many. Not so on one later occasion. Actually it may be that I went there for business but in the meantime a friend of mine, Viennese whom I knew for many years from Brussels, lived in Vienna again and I remember that I stayed in his apartment. Another district, in short: Working class Vienna. Much could be said … In a nutshell it was the experience that allowed me to occupy space. Sure, local knowledge helped – the ‘local guide’ who showed me also those places next to the ‘imperial exhibits’: the people’s park, one or the other coffeehouse: and as much as Vienna is shaped by the gallant Cafe Centrale, Vienna is characterised by those Kaffeehäuser that are a bit dingy, humming along with the croaking sound of the violin, the waiters apparently competing in ignoring the guests, the Volksbuhne and those spaces that are occupied the peculiar charm of bohemian, intellectual, critical debates …

Anyway, I returned later on different occasions, stayed in different quarters, though mostly in district VII and VIII. The city gained space, I gave it space in my life even if only for the short times of my stays, always remaining visitor even barely coming as tourist – it had been about short business trips to the government, to conferences, or as the last time for teaching … and of course unforgettable: one year the visit with my students and my friend Joe.

The city gained space, I gave it space in my life …. – even visiting the imperial places as the museum of history of arts – a specifically lost ground which, by the way, hosts also a beautiful collection of Pieter Bruegel’s the older works –, the Albertina and its private collection, the state opera, the Burgtheater and yes, the Cafe Centrale, I visited as well the people’s park, the People’s opera, and the several small galleries and theaters, local stages, the Kaffeehäuser and restaurants … Mixing, merging … becoming a place where the different circles of debates, culture, ordinariness are emerging as a new normal, merging as living space, lived space for some time – not necessarily to be agreed with, but to a large part challenging, demanding to be … occupied again and again.


And Budapest? – Yes, it is still, with its own eccentricities, the beloved place, also the place to meet a good friend …, and yes, there is the shadow of de-occupation: the city loosing its very specific charm which I learned to love, I tried to capture a little bit in the Diary from a Journey into another World: Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments.

Lectionis et Seminario – De sociali et politica in Europea

European Integration – a failed political and social union?

2017 S. BA-Course at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science.

A series of fifteen sessions delivered at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science. The series is looking at the process of European integration – a wide topic looked at under the guiding question if EUrope failed to deliver the ambitious perspective of establishing a political and social union. The answer is by the present author given in somewhat negative terms: we cannot really say that the EU-institutions failed to reach the target of a political and social union … – it is worse: such targets never existed. So, we have to be clear in our critique. This means not least that we are challenged – and may gain sufficient insight – to develop the EU to something meaningful – meaningful not for the people but a reflection by the people – men make their own history, but it is not only the nightmare of the past, it is also a matter of the conditions of the still present hegemons who employ gatekeepers of different kind – even if the princes today wear the clothes of normal people, it is very much about behind the veils of the most expensive princely garments.

The various sessions, of which the recordings [German language] are available, present the historical development, some key issues and relevant theories in a more or less narrative way.

Dulcinea …

PS: why we all need our Dulcinea … – or: carrying on the dream.
May-day not anymore … – back to everyday …!! ??
Facts are the enemies of truth
as Cervantes says in his defense … – And he says
it is the most severe frenzy to see life as it is and not as it should be.
Sure, there are two versions of it … the one idealistically glorifying things by white washing, the other demanding, fighting for the visions that are hidden as germs in the dung heap through which, according to Dulcinea, we walk.
And this is, why at the end, she beckons to be Dulcinea, not Aldonza anymore ….
… nous sommes …
– at least we have to try! Try together … as
only when everything is said and done, one is alone
[as I found it remarked in the Schiele-exhibition, at the moment in the Albertina]


or: learning and living and teaching Europe …

To be more precise: it is not May-Day but the evening before the 1st of May – Uli said the other day: it is in Vienna a special cultural event and if you are around you have to go to the town hall … – surely not the same as one year ago when I gathered on the Plaza de la Revolución in La Havana.

Indeed, I am around, teaching European Integration – latest on the 9th the recordings should be here.

So, may-evening then – I am sitting in a tiny park, munching my Simit while I am waiting for the volksoper – the people’s opera – to open its door.

Thoroughly enjoying the moment – anticipating the tale of the

Man from La Mancha

Sitting there, I am also thinking about the programme of the next days – teaching, writing, rushed trip to Bremen for a presentation and  … Vienna again …

Le nozze di Figaro

…. the upcoming performance …. – while waiting that day for the doors to open, I will most likely sit in the small resto-bar opposite of the venue, sipping some wine, tasting a canapé …

… May-Evening …. And I am asking myself if I am wondering or not: why is the one place named people’s opera, the other – the one for the higher echelons of society, the bourgeois – is called state-opera.

Les Distinctions

as Pierre Bourdieu called them – hadn’t been small at the end (as the German translation suggests) …, they had been about the nearness, even the identification with the centres of power.

L’état c’est moi

Not yet …. The evening of the first of May ….
…. And I am teaching about European Integration …. Indeed

Commodification of labour power and appropriation of surplus value cannot be thought of without an outside, by which they profit in social, economic and  ecological terms
(Brand, Ulrich/Wissen, Markus: imperiale lebensweise; Muenchen: oekom: 63)

Which is another formulation of what Dulcinea probably meant:

The world is a dung heap and we are grubs walking through …

So it is a long way until we will say

Je suis e aussi moi es nous sommes le peuples


How Europe slides down further …..

Taken from the Euroactiv-Brief

Today’s EU policy news, 28.10.2016, 5PM

Commissioner mocks Chinese and gay marriage

By James Crisp

Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger has mocked the Chinese, gay marriage, and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s divorce in a shock speech.

Oettinger is infamous for putting his foot in it. But after footage emerged today of the jaw-dropping tirade, it very much looks like Germany’s man in Brussels is guilty of a gaffe too far this time.

He said at a speech in Hamburg, “Last week Chinese ministers visited us […] nine men, one party, and no democracy.

“All of them in suits, single breasted dark blue jackets. All of them had their hair combed from left to right, with black shoe polish on their hair.”

Germany has a quota for female representation on company boards. “There is no quota for women [in China], and there were consequently no women [among the ministers],” Oettinger said to nervous laughter.

The source of the embarrassing footage claims they began filming after Oettinger used the term “Schlitzaugen” – slitty eyes – in reference to the Chinese.

We could not independently confirm he used the racist term on Wednesday. Oettinger’s communications advisor told us she had no comment to make.

To nervous laughs, Oettinger ploughed on. Discussing German politics, he sarcastically said, “Perhaps obligatory homosexual marriage will be introduced.”

He said that Gerhard Schröder, who now works for Gazprom, would have time on his hands after the collapse of his fourth marriage.

“Now he has time. North Stream 2 won’t be built and his wife has left,” he said, referring to the controversial plans for a Russian-German gas pipeline, which is under European Commission scrutiny.

Oettinger also bemoaned the loss of the good old days when everyone read a newspaper, instead of their smartphones. Soon we will have more committees than people, he added.

And it was all going so well for him in Brussels recently. Expect this story to run over the weekend.


Over the last year or so, a working group on Migration of the Scientific Council of attac –  Association Pour La Taxation Des Transactions Financières Pour L’Aide Aux Citoyens, elaborated a working paper on issues of Refuge and Migration. At the core of the work stood the elaboration of a document that evaluates and assesses the controversy of the topics Refuge/Asylum/Migration from a non-nationalist perspective. It can be seen as an important contribution against the raising nationalism and strengthening of right-wing movements in Europe, which is not least a futile ground of international terrorisms.
A short version of the document – in German language –  is now published in the journal Sozialismus (43/10): 26-30. The full document (also in German language), which is explicitly understood as working and discussion document, can be found by following this link.

KCK – klatsch, cliché, kitsch


Klatsch is a German term, though occasionally used in English. And when I first saw the headline
I admittedly clicked on it in a longing for some klatsch, gossip — distraction from the expected, though still worrying news, presenting Trump’s shocking speech of acceptance. Looking at all this development, there are three things that are specially worrying. Two are pointed out in an article in The Financial Times (17/7/2016):
This week, Republicans will endorse the first US presidential nominee since the second world war to reject America’s globalist consensus. It is hard to see beyond that stark fact. Yet it is only the second most troubling feature of Donald Trump’s rise. The bigger one is his impact on the health of American democracy. Even if Mr Trump is defeated in November, it will be hard to put the genie back into the bottle. Budding demagogues will have taken note. You can denigrate most of the people most of the time and still have a shot at the main prize.
The third point, of course not to be found even in the intelligent journals of the bourgeoisie, is that such extremes as Mr Trump make us easily forget the sound criticism of the past  the “health of American democracy”? — Sure, a very sick person appears to be nearly health, of we think about the decaying corpse. But …  I am not really in the American-style Moore films. Still, having recently watched the film
Capitalism, A Love Story
I really liked the beginning, forcing us to ask the question how people in 100, 1000 or more years will think about “our times”. The Trumps, Orbans and Erdogans being comparable with Nero, Cesar and hardly allowing to see the Cicero?


Glancing over the article

it showed the perfect match between reality and cliché – even in details:

While Trump family values may not be particularly honorable, they are perversely traditional. Melania Trump told the R.N.C. audience that “Donald is intensely loyal to family,” a claim belied by his own marital history — she is wife No. 3, and No. 2 was the woman with whom he cheated on No 1. Mr. Trump has children with three different women; he blames giving his wife too much responsibility in his business for his first divorce, and his wife’s wanting him to spend too much time at home with her and their daughter for his second.
Yes, hypocrites are not shrinking from slapping into their own face. I remember Milan Kundera about whom I chatted the other day with a friend:

Do you realize that people don’t know how to read Kafka simply because they want to decipher him? Instead of letting themselves be carried away by his unequaled imagination, they look for allegories — and come up with nothing but clichés: life is absurd (or it is not absurd), God is beyond reach (or within reach), etc. You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.


If there would not be so much bitterness coming up when thinking about recent events …, recent? Perhaps beginning in some strange way with the day when I left the French embassy in Rome: Charlie Hebdo …, a pilot crashing an aircraft with all passengers into a mountain, not being able to cope with his desperation, a “mysterious coup” in Ankara … – a friend wrote the other day that it is
not something a decent European academic can easily understand and digest
all this easily appears as kitsch – because
[i]n the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then, that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions. A question is like a knife that slices through the stage backdrop and gives us a look at what lies hidden behind it.
It is
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
that comes to mind – in global politics of “the making history”, and also in the daily work of teaching, something I frequently mentioned on these pages.
And when speaking of bitterness it is also the inability of asking questions … – VERBOTEN, as a french friend would say.


There seems to be a paradox when we are looking for answers – we can only find them with others, not searching alone, not moving alone, anti-totalitarian. And still
When I say totalitarian, what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously) ….
as we read also in Kundera’s book.
Doesn’t this mean that we need a radical rewriting of the scenario, instead of the US-lead and Hungarian-regionalist applauded tightening of the reactionary course? A socio-political course that is based on criminal offenses (watch here from the docu The Corporation.), executed by psychopaths (watch here from the docu The Corporation), the political “clowns” only their executors and implementers as we saw it earlier in history.

Attempts and Contributions

My modest contribution to a DIEM-meeting in Greece these days:
The Europe we know is dead – and it worked for a long time to forge the weapon that would work first to dig the grave and then to kill the ambitions. — The ambitions? We have to be careful: the ambitions, as ideas, had beens surely valuable and meant to establish a “good society”. But especially here in Greece, the home-country of Aristotle, we know what a good society really is: he Aristotle juxtaposes chrematistike and oikonomia, only the latter being concerned with a truly integrated system, and with this he refused moneymaking as end in itself.
Talking about oikonomia meant as well to accept the limits of growth.
Europe today – and it did not learn from Greece, not from BREXIT, Nice nor Ankara – is still based on the acceptance of what we may call Capitaloscene. And the following, written by Jason Moore, can capture it:

The decisive historical expression of Cheap Nature in the modern era is the Four Cheaps of labor- power, food, energy, and raw materials. These Four Cheaps are the major way that capital prevents the mass of capital from rising too fast in relation to the mass of appropriated cheap nature – when the delivery of such cheap natures approaches the average value composition of world commodity production, the world-ecological surplus falls and the pace of accumulation slackens. The centrality of cheap nature in the endless of capital can, then, be adequately interpreted only through a post- Cartesian frame that understands value as a way of organizing nature. In this, the law of value is co- produced through the web of life. We cannot make sense of value through a Cartesian sorting of “labor and nature” – commonplace in left green thought (e.g. Clark and York, 2005). Rather, be- cause value relations encompass a contradictory unity of exploitation and appropriation heedless of a Cartesian divide, only an analysis that proceeds from essential unity of humanity-in-nature can move us forward. The present argument, then, is a brief for such a post-Cartesian – I would call it world-ecological – reading of value. The goal is to focus our attention on the relations of the oikeios that form and re-form capitalism’s successive contradictory unities of the exploitation of labor- power (paid work) and the appropriation of a global zone of reproduction (unpaid work) from the family to the biosphere.

And furthermore this capitaloscene is about unpaid labour – only that made paid labour possible. …

Indeed, we need an antroponomic shift: a shift that is not a revival of the old idea. As said, this Europe is dead and we should be ready to burry it. There is a valuable heritage of ideas though and we have to select carefully And  we have to make use of the heritage of an enormous wealth that is available, though not used for the people and projects we need. We have too make “cheaps” a source for the future, valuable and to be paid for. And to accept the limits of growth means that the corpse of the most competitive Europe, celebrated 2000 in Lisbon, has to bear the child of a most cooperative partner in a world that serves the global citizen.

Europe is dead – long live Europe.