Changing the Vita Activa

Digitisation – Challenges between Changing Social Securitisation and Changing the Vita Activa

Recording of the Presentation at the Symposium ‘Digitalisation’, organised by the Academy of Sciences and Arts – taking place at the Faculty of Law, University of Salzburg, March 2nd, 2018.

In general, having worked on this topic for quite a while now, I see the following major questions that urgently require thorough systematic consideration:

  • In which way and to which extent is digitisation a matter that changes also the process and mode of production [not limited top robotisation]?
  • What are the conditions for pursuing forms or digitisation in the interest of users and the common wheal instead of being solely an instrument for new businesses?
  • Which different perspectives on law and justice are emerging from the new political- and socio-economic conditions that go hand in hand with digitisation?

Of course, this requires not least thorough and systematic classification and demarcation of the different aspects that are commonly loosely and vaguely subsumed under such catchall term as digitisation.

I am grateful to a friend, discussing life with her, helped me taking much of the mist of the topic, and also remaining aware, and feeling the challenges of real life, persisting when talking about the virtual one – 감사합니다 !

Artificial intelligence is like …
Poetry in translations is like
taking a shower with a raincoat on.

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 …