changing face

Patterns of revolution change …
– at some stage it had been the increase of the price of bread, causing the upheavals in France, or at least being a string contributor; now things changed
more changed: At some stage it had been about directing ager against the nobility, now it is against the fellow consumer … – apparently too small to mention details of history matter, indeed.

Looking back in order to enhance looking forward

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.[1] 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.[2]

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’.


[1]            This far beyond may well be taken as part of the interpretation of the outspoken claim to be a global payer.

[2]            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’.

Sure: Shock !! – But also Surprise ??

Yes, he made it – and the world is surprised, and comes increasingly to the conclusion that it should not be surprised. Demograph’s a joining democrats, looking for reasons behind the success of demagogues – not just in Trump’s empire to be; and illusionists reflect on the majestic power of the new magician, money. We (can) know since long:

No thing in use by man, for power of ill, Can equal money. This lays cities low, This drives men forth from quiet dwelling-place, This warps and changes minds of worthiest stamp, To turn to deeds of baseness, teaching men All shifts of cunning, and to know the guilt Of every impious deed. But they who, hired, Have wrought this crime, have laboured to their cost, Or soon or late to pay the penalty.[1]

Of course, we may set moral standards against it – and we do this also for a long time as. And with Aristotle we can

seek to define wealth and money-making in different ways; and we are right in doing so, for they are different; on the one hand true wealth, in accordance with nature, belonging to household management, productive; on the other money-making, with no place in nature, belonging to trade and not productive of goods in the full sense. In this kind of money-making, in which coined money is both the end pursued in the transaction and the medium by which the transaction is performed, there is no limit to the amount of riches to be got.[2]

But when it comes to chrematistike, we see another law and are dealing with a disjoined pattern as

there is another kind of property-getting, to which the term money-making is generally and quite rightly applied ; and it is due to it that there is thought to be no limit to wealth or its acquisition.[3]

And as much as it is about money-making, it is also about power-buying. Mr Trump knew well and he bought himself into power – importantly he did so not by bribery (as far as known) and not by the pure impact of a massive propaganda show (which he surely knew to instrumentalise). The real reason is the utilisation of objective factors that shape society,[4] permanently establishing and re-establishing this hegemonic block which is grounded in exclusion and externalisation going hand in hand; and gojg hand in hand with inclusion of some kind. – Indeed, this is a power-basis that is massively making us believe in our own hangmen.

Looking for a concise understanding of this, it is perhaps more interesting to look at the question if

(…) California (will) Leave the US Following Trump’s Victory?


Not the answer is of central interest (as is in the case not the answer what finally will happen to the Brexit).

In particular two points are for a long-term perspective more crucial.


The first quickly to be captured, and we could even leave it with the term short-termism. Still, expanding a bit on this we have to see that ‘strategic decisions’ are increasingly taken as matter of ‘filling gaps’. The fact that gaps are becoming wider, opening more frequent and opening more and more in different spheres are clearly indicating the simple though often forgotten fact of the incoherence of capitalism – and velocity is part of it: the turnover ratio of political ideas reaches the turnover ratio of capital as it both does hand in hand with the headless chicken: high velocity, looking for and picking up corns as fast as possible, as many as possible and wherever it is possible as this is the only way to obtain what is there: here and now as the tomorrow may exist, but does not have anything it can promise and actually secure. Thus rational is to go for the hic and nunc: get the job, even if it is only a project for limited time; consume what you can consume now as this is the only way of guaranteeing that it is there, yu are there and the resources are there.

The question of class – and the supposed dissolution of class-structure – should be relocated into this context. The thesis of the levelling middle-classes (as we find it with reference to James Burnham and Helmut Schelsky)[5] is carrying far – and is conceptually also underlying many debates on precarisation. According to the latter we find – in short – as one of the main features of current developments the lack of stability and security as a ‘phenomenon’ that is increasingly emerging as progressively ‘moving to the centre of society’. At first glance this is surely the case and an increasingly worrying issue. However, should we stop here? Or should we move on[6] to the thesis of ‘proletarisation’? In social science relations are too often reduced to … relations, not acknowledging the relational character. The concept of relationality cannot be discussed in full length, but one of its implications has to be highlighted – one that is also in Marxist class theory not sufficiently considered. Of course, we find at the centre the issue of the property of means of production and, taking it in a wider understanding – the control over the means of production.[7] One important, though underexposed, socio-economic aspect of this is a complex dialectic of inclusion, externalisation and exclusion – a topic that has been developed in the political perspective by Antonio Gramsci and Nicos Poulantzas though.


Taking up on such economic perspective brings us to the second aspect, where we are talking about the importance of emphasising the fact that inclusion and exclusion go hand in hand not as matter of being alternatives and not as matter of different spaces or groups. Leaving ‘peripheral’ and ‘niche aspects’ aside, the fundamental pattern is characterised by the fact on overall inclusionary character of development that not only creates new arrays of exclusion but – beyond this fact – depends on its ‘internal exclusion’. The mechanism is well-known from the making of the working class, which is based in the double freedom: disposition of other the labour power and lack of disposition of any alternative commodity for sale than exactly the labour power – Marx elaborated this in chapter 6 of the first volume of Capital.[8] We can formulate this in another way – from the side of a specific sort of ‘externalisation’: In order to be able to externalise executing own labour, by employing workers, it is necessary to grant the same bourgeois rights to the worker, making him/her bearer of the same individual rights. This is the continuation and completion of the bourgeois revolution against the feudal system of which Frederick Engels characterised the first stage by writing that the first needed

the kingdom of free competition, of personal liberty, of the equality, before the law, of all commodity owners.[9]

This means that “Power Relations” as matter of “’Exclusive Inclusion” – as I attempted in the chapter under this tile, writing about precarity – are thus at the centre of attention.[10]

As much as ‘neo-liberalism’ emphasises the need of open markets, and unregulated free-trade we have to acknowledge that this is indeed a strategy of such exclusive inclusion. The fact that this takes place and shape under conditions of a multilayered system: within nations (understood as national economies as captured by the German term of the ‘Nationalökonomie’), within regions (as we can see it for instance in the systematic perihperalisation of the Mediterranean belt of the European Union and globally as attempt to codify the wider centre-periphery-relationship by the Trade Agreements (e.g. TTIPP, TPP, TISA …). To make things a bit clearer – though seemingly more complicated – these three layers (spatiality) are going hand in hand with at least temporality (“pay tomorrow”), substantiality (“pay in another currency”, as for instance expressed in the relationship growth-environment) and not least sociality (“let others pay” – social classes and stratification).

What for instance Jeremy Riffkin and Paul Mason discuss as ‘overcoming capitalism’ – the one by prefiguring the The Zero Marginal Cost Society, the other by directly stating that The End of Capitalism has begun, suggesting for some as Thomas L. Friedman that The World is Flat, is surely not a straightforward process – and it would be foolish to reject what is said. And it would be equally foolish to solely continue by criticising the existing patterns. This said, does not mean to deny the need starkly uncover the old questions and to actually look at current escalations. However, it does mean to see this not simply as escalation of the system crisis (which it is though). Important is to see these developments as part of the overall renegotiation of “ins and outs”. But it means to emphasise that the development is not about exclusion alone. Instead – looking at Brexit and especially Califrexit clearly shows it – leaving is about allowing to stay. Califrexit is a project aiming on securing privileges, not a project against the ultra-conservatism of the future Trump-system. Thus we read in the mentioned Telesur-article

“In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment and the the detriment of your children,” said Independence group “Yes California” on its website.

Yes California argues that the state’s population and economy, the sixth biggest in the world, “compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states.” The group claims that a split will give the state more control over its trade, security, as well as support diversity and the environment. It is pushing for a vote on the issue in 2019.

Understandable … ? To get a clearer picture we may want to dare a closer look at this ‘sixth biggest in the world’, presenting itself as luxurious, as egalitarian, as open:

This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. ‘Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out’, Schmidt explained. ‘We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person.’[11]

Don’t THESE Trump-adversaries have something of the modern slave-owners? Without doubt there is a huge danger looming, and we have to stay alert, being aware of the fact that this step of Trumpism may be the first to something that is much worse. Indeed, there is good reason to return to the question

What Produces Fascism: Preindustrial Traditions or a Crisis of the Capitalist State?

– a question that Geoff Eley already posed some longish time ago. But there is equally good reasons to watch out for the savours: The ‘old conservatives’ like the Merkels, Hollands and Renzis are not really there to offer an answer. The answer can be found, though, if we realistically look for the germs:

On the occasion of two conference – the Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en las Relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raul Roas Garcia), Havana, looking at the Development

From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn – or: How Many Gigabyte has a Horse?

and at the Shanghai Forum, China and Latin America. The Development Partnership of Trans-Pacific-Section looking at

Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda

I outlined an approach that works around

five giant tensions, namely the overproduction of goods and the turn of goods into ‘bads’; societal abundance versus inequality of access; abundance of knowledge and its misdirection towards skills; the individualisation of problems and their emergence as societal threat and the complexity of government and the limited scope of governance.[12]

Deeper analysis is necessary, the search for a fundamental change of thinking in economics too – something that will also be a major challenge for social quality thinking.[13]


[1] Sophocles, 442 B.C.E.: Antigone, translated by E. H. Plumptre. Vol. VIII, Part 6. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001;

[2] Aristotle, app 335 BC: The Politics; Translated and with an Introduction by T.A. Sinclair; Harmondsworth/Baltimore/Victoria: Penguin, 1962/1972: 43 f.

[3] ibid.: 41

[4] saying utilisation’ does not necessarily mean that this is happening consciously, with a ‘strategic reference’

[5] These references are too often forgotten – finally sociology and social science joined short-termism …

[6] … or return …

[7] The discussion of managing classes will be left out here.

[8] Marx, Karl, 1867 Capital, volume 1, chapter 6:

[9] Engels, Frederick, 1880: Socialism: Utopian and Scientific;

[10] Precarity – An Issue of Changed Labour Market and Employment Patterns or of Changed Social Security Systems; in: Herrmann, Peter/Bobkov, Viacheslav/Csoba, Judit (eds): Labour Market and Precarity of Employment: Theoretical Reflections and Empirical Data from Hungary and Russia; Vienna: WVFS; 2014: 11 – 66; here 25 ff.

[11] Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press

[12] see also Herrmann, Peter, 2015: Crisis and no end? Re-embedding Economy into life and nature; in: Environment and Social Psychology (2015)–Volume 1, Issue 1: 1-11;

[13]            see Herrmann, Peter, forthcoming: