Uncertainty as the highest state of insecurity

The following gives an outlook on a new publication, contributing to the work at the HIGHER SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SCHOOL IN GDAŃSK (WSSE) on Security issues in education and management, selected aspects of social security

Discussing increasing populism and right-wing political movements and social law together is commonly – and without any doubt importantly – dealing with issues of social legislation, employability and emphasising the importance of ‘honesty and reliability’ from the political side. And while globalisation is not condemned, it is at least in tendency suggested to be a centre piece of the present quarrels; migration, low-wage policies, capital-flight and tax competition are then highlighted as major issues. The present contribution aims on taking a wider approach, arguing that one of the major problems is the aggravation of a secular process that may be called – alluding to Karl Polanyi’s work – disembedding of law.

Centre-Periphery reversed

It had been a strange feeling or mood – returning Sunday around lunchtime from Helsinki – taking a longish walk from the railway station zoo through the park, passing the memorial fro Rosa Luxemburg at the Landwehr Canal, doing some text editing and having an early dinner in the canteen of the Berliner Ensemble, Brecht’s place of activity – then off to the Gorki theatre: Les Justes. En route passing the metro station at Friedrichstraße where I occasionally crossed the border for visits at the peace council an others …. a bit further the Humboldt university, where I gave one of my first public presentations as young academic …. the statue which Käthe Kollwitz made before I enter the theatre for the performance of the Albert-Camus-piece.

The is still some repercussion from Helsinki – opportunity for a short visit in the national gallery. There hadn’t been the great names – most of the names never heard outside of the country, the paintings more placid than those of the great names, depicting more the landscapes, unknown people and everyday’s life – the periphery one may say. Sure, they can also be found in other galleries  some time ago the New Pinakothek came up with a special exhibition:


But that is the point: it is more about a special exhibition – paintings that usually do not make the way in the main halls.and even there mostly it is the depiction accepted power,

Different in the museum in Helsinki. Much could be thought and said, at the end very much concerned with the fact that the centre of power is looking too often at the periphery of culture, distracting from “ordinary life”, from the worries and joys of people in their real life, that kind of life that is not about glory and that is not reflected in income statistics, employment figures and the like. And that life in which even angels may get wounded.

(Hugo Simberg: The Wounded Angel, from the Ateneum website)

It is the normality of what actually defines life: Kaethe Kollwitz, the hesitation in Camus’ piece when it comes to revenge while facing a real human being, not just the personification of a role, a specific vulnerability that is acknowledged and offers some special strength – that kind of strength that does not need huge power centres as materialisation of control, that does not need helicopters or massive “intelligence” for its protection,

(BND – the fortress of FRGs secret service – this part of the building sowing a fraction of the entire complex)

a strength that emerges from acknowledged truth. The open centres of exhibited power

loose centrality where they loose the respect of the seeming periphery: the real life; political and imperial power moves to the periphery where the actual meaning is emerging from the way in which people shape and share every day and everywhere, where we find confirmed that

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

And where we have to add that it is not only history but also the attraction of present power, the presentation of power in attractiveness, meaning beauty and might that takes this nightmarish character.

Still, it remains the question. often asked: can people be just in a world that is profoundly unjust? – All this surely something to reflect upon when we talk about populism.

A Year Ahead

Well, a bit strange year coming to an end, after commencing on September the 8th 2017: taking it as “year” extended by some days, shortened by some events standing in the way of “routine work” in the office at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in the Amalienstrasse 33 in Munich, standing in the way of life and living … – still several lucky events as concerts, visits of museums … or events in which I had been lucky enough to be able to do at least to some extent what I wanted to do — following the commitment of a dwarf

standing on the shoulders of giants, and even walking some distance with them, side by side.

It proved another time for me that the real – and really exciting – tension of working in academia is not so much about fundamental and applied research but between research and taking position in the biased debates of our times – the times of past, presence and future.

The list below provides gives a more or less small insight into what I could achieve, not mentioning the endless disputes with universities about references for former students, peer-reviewing (though being hesitant when it comes to accepting this task) and also not mentioning the frequent chats with colleagues becoming friends and …, well and friends becoming colleagues.

– The latter may deserve some explanation. While academic work seems to be in some way impersonal, strictly bound to rule and while this is to some extent actually true, it is important to acknowledge the most fundmental rule: any knowledge has to be aobut the acknowledgment of reality as ultimate point of reference. And reality is not primarily what we learn from textbooks, statistics, legal and administrative regulations – even economists, usually at least, do not look at figures for the sake of the figures. Instead, it is about how people act and interact …, and omit (inter)acting. Of course, it is about specific observations and observations of the specific. Nevertheless, it is also about gathering different perspectives, not those expressed in interviews but those expressed in life, or we may say in “open dialogue”. Of course, this is first and foremost a very vague approach. And as much as it may end in accidental contacts – easily ending in accidents of misjudgments due to not knowing background and context of the other – it is also something that emerges naturally when engaging with people around – and this is equally a source of possible accidents due to the limited outreach of contacts.

– Supposedly, the Brandhorsts, before buying paintings for their collection (which then became the Brandhorst museum in the Arts Areal in Munich), borrowed the pieces of art, kept them for a few weeks in their home where they received guests – the purpose was to gather loosely for some chitchat, together exploring the paintings and getting different perspectives. The end result: a new opinion, not algorithmitically defined, but by allowing something to emerge from the unexpected, also from the unknown. it is abitu to gather, merging to something, coming together.

Chats on the corridor of the institute, Wednesday’s for lunch in the Old Simpel or somewhere else: the Vietnamese restaurant next door, Limoni across the street, or the Bavarian around the corner, of course … – with so different people – I guess all this had been like I imagine those visits in the Brandhorst’s home, or like visits  to the Arts Areal in Munich, on my own, with others … – always opening the mind …, and asking only to accept one condition: a mind that is sufficiently open to further unfold – the magnificent blood of the orchards needs at least those burgeons that are ready to unravel, the light, seen somewhere in the background …


The list of what had been done, though still not all being dusted

Articles/Book Contributions

  • The Comedy of Big Data or: Corporate Social Responsibility Today, while Corporations wither away?, in: Tjaša Štrukelj/Matjaž Mulej/Grażyna O’Sullivan (eds.): Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance: Volume 2, The Tools for Practice; Palgrave (in print)
  • together with Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Korotayev, Andrey V. (eds.), 2017: Global Evolution, Historical Globalistics and Globalization Studies; Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Global Studies/Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Oriental Studies/The Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting International center for education and social humanity research; Volgograd: Uchitel
  • together with Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Korotayev, Andrey V., 2017: Introduction: From the First Galaxies to the 2040s; in: Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Herrmann, Peter/Korotayev, Andrey V. (eds.), 2017: Global Evolution, Historical Globalistics and Globalization Studies; Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Global Studies/Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Oriental Studies/The Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting International center for education and social humanity research; Volgograd: Uchitel: 5-8
  • Potentials for Taking a Strategic Role for Sustainable Sociability; in: Grinin, Leonid E./Ilyin, Ilya V./Herrmann, Peter/Korotayev, Andrey V. (eds.), 2017: Global Evolution, Historical Globalistics and Globalization Studies; Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Global Studies/Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Oriental Studies/The Eurasian Center for Big History and System Forecasting International center for education and social humanity research; Volgograd: Uchitel: 349-364
  • Csoba J., Herrmann P. “Losers, good guys, cool kids” the everyday lives of early school leavers. Monitoring of Public Opinion : Economic and Social Changes. 2017. No 6. P. 276—293. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2017.6.15
  • Erinnerung an Paul Boccara; in: Sozialismus. Monatlich Hintergründe, Analysen und Kommentare; Heft Nr. 1 | Januar 2018 | 45. Jahrgang | Heft Nr. 425: 64
  • Art, recherché, création et politique; À la mémoire de Paul Boccara; in : Economie & Politique ; Novembre/Décembre 2017 ; no 760/761: 30
  • Nationale Entwicklungen im Bereich Sozialer Sicherheit und des Sozialschutzes in Irland. 2017-18 – Jahresbericht
  • For Him Art, Research, Creation and Politics Were the Same Thing—In Memory of Paul Boccara; in: CASS: World Review of Political Economy (WRPE)
  • Precarity – it isn’t employment, it is the economy, stupid; in: ”Living standards of the population in the regions of Russia”; Moscow, forthcoming
  • Precarity – it isn’t employment, it is the economy, stupid – extended version of article mentioned before; forthcoming
  • (together withN.Bobkov/I.B. Kolmakov/E.V. Odintsov): Двухкритериальная модель социальной структуры российского общества по доходам и жилищной обеспеченности/Two-Criterion Model of the Social Structure of Russian Society by Income and Housing Security; in: Экономика региона/”Economy of region” (http://www.uiec.ru/zhurnal_yekonomika_regiona/o_zhurnale/); in print
  • About You – Bei Strafe des Frageverbots, ob man überhaupt ist; erscheint in Tarantel. Zeitschrift der Ökologische Plattform bei DER LINKEN
  • Preparatory work for The Development of the Concept of Universal Human Rights: A Critical Perspective; In: International Human Rights, Social Policy and Global Welfare: Critical Perspectives; eds.: Féilim Ó hAdmaill/ Gerard McCann; Policy Press, forthcoming
  • A foglalkoztatás precarity – A tőke felhalmozódásának előfeltétele – A társadalomtudomány szenvedélyessége; in: METSZETEK. Társadalomtudományi folyóirat; Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetem Politikatudományi és Szociológiai Intézet


  • Changing the Socio-Economic Formation: New Labour Relations, New Forms of Accumulation, New understanding of Intelligence
    • Changing the Socio-Economic Formation: New Labour Relations, New Forms of Accumulation, Artificial Intelligence and Sharing Economy
    • Value Theory – is there still any value in it? – is it still worthwhile to talk about it?
    • Migration between value and poverty chains
  • with Vyacheslav Bobkov: Digitisation and Precarisation – Redefining Work and Redefining Society (with Contributions from Australia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Russia; Springer
    • Own Contributions:
      * together with Vyacheslav Bobkov: Foreword: Digitisation and Precarisation – Redefining Work and Redefining Society
    • Economy of Difference and Social Differentiation. Precarity – searching for a new interpretative paradigm
  • Preparatory work, together with Laurinkari, Juhani/Unger, Felix: Documentation of the Symposium of the European Academy of Science and Arts and the Pellervo Society, Helsinki: Digitisation, Artificial Intelligence and Stultification of Society; also contribution: Digitisation – Employment – and What?


  • Digitalization, immigration and the welfare state, by Mårten Blix, Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017, 186 pp., ISBN 978 1 78643 294 0 (hardback) – European Journal of Social Work; 2018; https://doi.org/10.1080/13691457.2018.1434267
  • D’Aprile, Dorothee/Baur Barbara/Kadritzke, Niels (Red.): Chinas Aufstieg. Mit Kapital, Kontrolle und Konfuzius; Berlin: taz Verlags- und Vertriebsgenossenschaf; Edition Le Monde Diplomatique 23/2018; in: im Erscheinen in kritisch-lesen.de
  • Greve, Bent: Technology and the Future of Work. The Impact on Labour Markets and Welfare States; Cheltenham/Northhampton: Edward Edgar, 2017; ISBN: 9781786434289


see for some:


  • Phanresia, volume IV, in progress
  • Commencing Phanresia I-III audio-access, in progress
  • Commedia Della Vita or Pánta Rêi’s Firm Ground – blog entries, trying to inspire thinking – ongoing, usually twice per week


Well, the suitcases are packed … – off tomorrow with some hand-luggage, collecting the large bags on Friday …

Now, time to say good-bye – as done so often before,       and          again               and       again

and              even much later too.


There are two things to remember – and I am still grateful to the people teaching me: I will continue being scared; and I will continue even if, or probably better: because there is a light; and I am grateful for to the person that asked me many questions, allowing me to learn about the value of my freedom; and to those who stayed with me while disappearing

– Thank you – 고마워요! – 谢谢 – Köszönöm – Merci – Danke

It is far from being paradise …

– some thoughts on what is called populist success story.

Yes, it is far from being paradise …

… even if 可欣 wrote the other day

In my impression, Cuba is the place of beautiful scene and people. It’s a good choice … . Although my impression is only come from the movies. But I believe the beautiful sea and sunshine will be very helpful for good mood.

And indeed


…, yes, I enjoyed my stays there. And the small and large things: mainly people, chatting with them about their life – the ordinary and extraordinary. Language …, well a challenge as I do not speak Spanish, they do not speak … – well, they speak Spanish. Trying, Italianising the Spanish, Spanishising the Italian … The small and the large: the view across the ocean, walking along the Malecón, early in the morning, remembering the history of resting the USA – which in one way or another was a bit my personal history, and the monumental waves, sometimes reaching high, pushing the water across the dual-carriage way of the promenade. …

But on the occasion of my visits I did not only enjoy the scenery, the most exciting, vivid culture, the openness of the French ambassador, opening with the artists a mural on the walls of the embassy and … well, I experienced the difficulties, some but by no means all caused by the embargo, saw the poverty but also the pride, the commitment and hope of so many people whom I joined for the celebrations of the first of May – yes, some had not been too excited about getting up at three or four in the morning, and still they turned up, most if them committed.

Not paradise – this was also the topic of the very open, and very … confrontative debates for which I had been invited at the Centro de Investigaciones de Política International, and also the other year at the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales “Raúl Roa García”

Anyway, there is something we may think about, ca. one week after the elections in one of my ex-home countries which got the criminal B, back onto the main stage, and one day after the elections in Cuba. Admittedly there had been some banal hitches before the elections, not denied by the Cuba’s National Electoral Commission (NEC).

But there is another thing: the elections, the electoral process can well be taken as an anti-populist warrantor. Again, no paradise … but have a look, here in comparison of the system in Cuba and the USA.

The decisive aspect – as the little study states – is that

Cuba has different mechanisms to ensure popular participation both as electors and candidates.

Important is not only the high level of representation in Cuba, and the fact that it is truly a bottom-up process but also that it is very much about a discursive process not parties standing against each other but candidates developing on the local level together with the people their common programme. Well, there may be a bit of Jesuit-Franciscan element: elections understood as part of the camminare insieme, part of the work-walking together. Doesn’t such approach take much of the soil on which populism grows away: the soil of competing for power to govern the people, allowing to establish a solid ground, on which the people stand together?

– In this light many of the evaluations that had been published last week – looking at

Fear, Loathing And Poverty: Italy After The 2018 Elections

or asking the EU

When Will They Ever Learn?

and observing

Italy’s Ides of March

– have highlighted some relevant socio-economic issues, however they failed to acknowledge that democracy is not about serving the people but about the people saying and doing.

See in this context as well earlier, general reflections on populism and as well here.

And here more recent news on Cuba.


Populism in the Light of Political Economy – Tentative Reflections

The recording of the presentation on some

Tentative Reflections on Populism in the Light of Political Economy
during the
Workshop Political Economy of ‘Authoritarianism’ and ‘Right Wing Populism’
Organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation in Berlin on November 8th and 9th 2017
is now uploaded. Added are also some remarks I made during the debates.
The music at the beginning and the end is taken from
Mikis Theodorakis’ Zorba The Greek – Original Score By Film Music

not only a question of today

For the workshop on

Political economy of „right wing populism“ –  working on strategies for to dealing with it

organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation, my journey to Berlin commencing right now, I prepared a background paper which you may read below or you may access a PDF-version.


While it is important to investigate the role of socio-economic shocks and simplifying ‘analyses’ of populist demagogues, standing behind the immediate dangers of populist threats, the present contribution outlines the need for and contours of a thorough analysis of the current formation. Reference to a broadly understood and somewhat refined regulationist theory makes it possible to understand more clearly the explosive constellation of a bisected modernity and capitalist mode of production. However, in order to understand this ongoing and structural problem of populism as normal occurrence, rather than a bewildering exception, we have to go beyond Ulrich Beck’s understanding, suggesting that ‘[i]ndustrial society never was or can be possible solely as industrial society, but is always only half industrial and half feudal.’[Beck, Ulrich: 1986/1992: Risk Society. Towards a New Modernity, London et altera: Sage [German edition @ Suhrkamp 1986; first English publication 1992]: 107] There are two lines of bisection, namely that between social and private production and social production and private appropriation as contradiction that – as long as we remain within the system – can be answered in three different ways, namely fundamental progressive change, reaching stability through alteration or reactionary re-transformation. Thus, there is permanently in danger to manifest itself to One-sided and often violent constellations.

Part of the event is also a public discussion in the evening, titled
For the presentation during the workshop see here.

Peter Herrmann[i]

Populism in the Light of Political Economy – Tentative Reflections

In Preparation of the Workshop

Political Economy of ‘Authoritarianism’ and ‘Right Wing Populism’


Organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation

Berlin, November 8th and 9th 2017

Abstract                  3

Introduction                  3

Theory of Regulation – Defining Reoccurring Structural Mismatches                  6

Current Surges                  9

Production                  12

Consumption                  13

Distribution                  15

Exchange                  17

Trilemmas, Paradoxes and Contradictions                  18

Economics behind Populism – A simple Question of Demand and Supply?                  21

Conclusions                  29


While it is important to investigate the role of socio-economic shocks and simplifying ‘analyses’ of populist demagogues, standing behind the immediate dangers of populist threats, the present contribution outlines the need for and contours of a thorough analysis of the current formation. Reference to a broadly understood and somewhat refined regulationist theory makes it possible to understand more clearly the explosive constellation of a bisected modernity and capitalist mode of production. However, in order to understand this ongoing and structural problem of populism as normal occurrence, rather than a bewildering exception, we have to go beyond Ulrich Beck’s understanding, suggesting that ‘[i]ndustrial society never was or can be possible solely as industrial society, but is always only half industrial and half feudal.’[1] There are two lines of bisection, namely that between social and private production and social production and private appropriation as contradiction that – as long as we remain within the system – can be answered in three different ways, namely fundamental progressive change, reaching stability through alteration or reactionary re-transformation. Thus, there is permanently in danger to manifest itself to One-sided and often violent constellations.


Limiting ourselves to the economic dimension of populism, we have to avoid the trap of a narrow understanding of mainstream macroeconomics, aiming on alternative calculations of the standard performance models – what we need is an alternative to these models, not their alteration. It is about elaborating seriously political character of political economy and analyses of patterns of accumulation. Reference is made to the extended interpretation overview 1.

Accumulation Regime

‘stabilization over a long period of the allocation of the net product between consumption and accumulation’ which ‘implies some correspondence between the transformation of both the conditions of production and the conditions of the reproduction of wage earners’[2]

Living Regime

conditions of the reproduction of wage earners as over time stabilised relationship between subordination under systemic requirements and the wish for self-realisation

Mode of Life

personal ‘life style’ as adaptation to, combination of and interpretation of different requirements and options which includes the established and establishing of explicit relationships

Mode of Regulation

‘a materilization of the regime of accumulation taking the form of norms, habits, laws, regulating networks and so on that ensure the unity of the process, i.e. the approximate consistency of individual behaviors with the schema of reproduction’[3]

overview 1: extended regulationist approach

In a nutshell, the accumulation regime reflects the way in which ‘money is made and spent’ while the mode of regulation defines what is allowed, what is tolerated and what is forbidden and it also defines the social classes and groups to which those rules are applied in which way and strictness.

They have to be understood as entity, together with the living regime as conditions of life and the mode of life as ‘what each of us makes out of them’. All four dimensions, taken as entity, make up for the concrete hegemonic constellation.

It is such system that allows us to understand the complexity better as matter of defining and redefining frames of action – be it about fundamental change, reaching stability through alteration or reactionary re-transformation. Furthermore it allows us a clearer assessment along the lines of process, structure, essence and elementary character.

Processualism Essentialism

overview 2: frames of action

All this may well employ a phenomenological perspective – understood as being concerned with the perception and perceived perspective of ordinary people in their daily life, emerging from the concrete living regime, translating into a melding pot of various nodes of life. Stated less ambitious it is simply about different people with different backgrounds meeting each other, ‘defining the situation’. However, we are equally easy distracted by looking at phenomena, may be some of them can be taken as cynically entertaining – and they may well reflect, affirmatively or even critically – part of the mental confrontation of and divide between politicians’ and peoples’ life as the following little episode suggests: The heaviest storm since decades threatens people in Ireland, likely swapping over to the UK – The Guardian is headlining:[4]

Three people die as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland and Britain

Three victims named as Irish PM describes ‘national emergency’ as storm brings 100mph winds, with schools and colleges to remain closed on Tuesday


Ahead of her trip to Brussels for dinner with EU leaders on Monday night, Theresa May telephoned the taoiseach to offer her sympathy for the deaths caused by the storm.

One may translate it in the following way: people are dying, and leading politicians are meeting for the funeral meal, in this case ‘working out’ the plan of dividing cost and benefit of the larger funeral to come under the name Brexit. – Sure, curtailments like this are deceiving, though they may well serve as inspiration for further reflection. At least, when it comes to a warning in connection with possibly deceiving curtailments, we have to underline that a too dominant reference to socio-economic shocks, demagogic propaganda and the like can also be easily misguiding.

Theory of Regulation – Defining Reoccurring Structural Mismatches

A fundamental issue addressed by the regulationist approach is that of socialisation – a secular process that is by definition inherently linked to forms of individuation.[5] As such, there is a forceful link between the given conditions and what is made out of them, i.e. their acceptance, rejection and/or interpretative application. There are some major patterns I want to highlight – they reflect a societal shift as part of a general pattern of socio-cultural mis-development of curtailed and blurred enlightenment, establishing the commodity-defined market individual (hollowing out the citizen) while undermining affordable commodities being available on an accessible market. As such it goes obviously far beyond the current manifestation and is a fundamental pattern of a reductionist ‘conservative’ approach to enlightenment – which finally always had been seen as bourgeois concept. It is also in economic terms part of wider reflections as they are recurring at times of societal-economic crisis and changes within existing modes of production though presenting cases of possible system surges of immanent change. The thesis of the present reflection is that we find three principle ways, as they had been already mentioned earlier, namely fundamental progressive change, reaching stability through alteration or reactionary re-transformation. At stake is not so much the immediate ‘socio-economic threat’ but the interaction of socio-economic and socio-stratifying factors on three levels, namely the individual coping strategies with secular-global changes and their reflection on the micro-level (formation of social groups, classes and cleavages). Decisively, any stability can only be temporary.

With all qualification towards Parsons’ modernist approach, reference to the AGIL-dimensions is useful, the following version can serve as stimulation for further thoughts when read in conjunction with overview 1 presenting the extended regulationist approach.

overview 3: AGIL scheme[6]

Utilised in this way, not least as ‘open tool box’, we can move on and develop a multidimensional approach that brings together (and allows to integrate):


  • the more process-oriented structuralist approach of regulationist thinking and
  • the more functionalist approach as presented with reference to Parsons, and geared towards adaptation, goal attainment, integration and latent pattern maintenance


  • the societal
  • the social and
  • the personal level[7]


  • Socio-Economic Security, Personal [Human] Security, Social Justice
  • Social Cohesion, Social Recognition, Solidarity
  • Social Cohesion, Social Recognition, Solidarity
  • Social Inclusion, Social Responsiveness, Equal Value

Some explanatory note is required – not least as the factors are taken to some extent out of the framework in which they usually stand in the overall conceptualisation of social quality.[9] While they are usually used by suggesting an explanatory power in their own right, they are in the present context integrated into a wider context, not least to some extent modified by the fact of their integration into a functional context. We may also say that they are linked to an overarching pattern of the constitution of societies as hegemonic relationality. As such they provide a standard and they provide as well a friction surface on which the different forces strive for hegemony.


  • specific factors that can be distilled as decisively shaping contemporary development
  • acute socio-economic and socio-cultural shocks and ‘distortions’.

So far this provides only an analytical scheme. It is reasonably systematic, allows making out systemic features (going beyond contemporary seemingly obvious factors as they are manifesting themselves for descriptive analyses).[10]

Of central importance is the fact that we are dealing on the one hand with problems of societal integration that are at least in class societies normal, i.e. the problems of hegemony building and maintenance – we may even say that some forms of ‘populism’ are typical for what is commonly seen as ‘Western democracy’. On the other hand, however, we are dealing at certain stages or ‘turning points’ with aggravations or intensifications: in principle they are emerging from breaking points of and the growing discrepancy between the different layers outlined before.

In any case we can say that in a radical perspective populism is not the exception but the normal. In actual fact only exceptional conditions allow for some kind of temporary complete congruence between accumulation regime, living regime, mode of regulation and mode of life. The fundamental challenge is indeed the need to overcome a secular tension and alienation of the different aggregate levels of human existence. Speaking of a secular tension and alienation means that we urgently have to address also the question what this means for socialist strategies (and socialist societies).

Current Surges

At the moment the following core issues are seen as fundamental specific factors that are decisively shaping contemporary development and feeding into point IV of the before presented scheme:[11]

  1. de-firmisation – the tendency of the classical enterprise to loose its complex socio-economic meaning
  2. de-spacialisation – the blurring and changed intermingling of the different dimensions of ‘meaning’ of space
  3. de-classification as matter of shifting and questioning of social classes and strata
  4. de-formation – the tendency of known patterns of ‘educational formation’ loosing foundation and meaning
  5. de-legislation – the decreasing meaning of clear and durable legal frameworks and conditions, including the ‘charitiblisation of social rights’
  6. de-identification – occurring also as ‘big-brotherisation’
  7. de-personalisation – paradoxically occurring as overemphasis of individualism, taking forms as they are in sociology discussed as Infantilisation, Burn-Out Society, experience society, leisure time society, and the like[12]
  8. de-politisation – as part of a wider process that deals with life-style choices as the real choice, suggesting in the extreme case that the real choice is about withdrawing from politics, suggesting that it is ALDI-nativ- los: Bürger entlasten. Wir senken die Preise.’ – A pun: broadly translated as ‘there is no alternative to ALDI as it is ALDI that relieves pressure from citizens by lowering the prices’.[13] Continuing the pun in English language, we see that the synonym for terms like ‘relieve pressure form’, ‘unburden’, ‘relieving’ is ‘disengaging’. So – even if not necessarily intended, it is factually the orientation on individuals, not bothering about politics and policies as this is declared to be task of the ‘entrepreneur’, also highly individualist and stylised as charismatic personality. Should we say that it suggests the entrepreneur as new ‘father figure of the country’?[14]
  9. Characteristically all of them are fundamentally concerning the re-shaping of the economic formation and they are fundamentally re-shaping the four dimensions presented in overview 1. – Still, attention is at present especially directed towards changes of the accumulation regime that can be seen as central factors behind the emergence of populism. Again, we are mainly looking at the ‘allocation of the net product between consumption and accumulation’ and even narrower at the process of accumulation itself.

– The underlying definition of populism suggests this to be a set of politics offering pragmatic answers to questions emerging from disruption of a functioning accumulation regime, the ‘accepted’ balance of inclusion/exclusion, favourable for establishing a group as ruling class while maintaining the overall functioning of the system. – Some special attention should be paid to the formulation ‘favourable for establishing a group as ruling class’: what may broadly be seen as populist leaders and populist groups striving for power[15] is by and large a fraction of a more or less broad pool of potential power-holders (a) whose central goal is maintenance of the basic structure of the mode of production, (b) while often referring to an idealised ‘earlier’ version of it or even to a pre-stage,[16] (c) not least making within this context reference to communitarian patterns of ‘[self] governance’, often elevating this onto the level of the societal level and (d) that is inclined to accept explicit and massive exclusion for this purpose. As such, the populist potential and in particular its ideological seedbed and feeding trough are going much further than the known suspects as the Alternative für Deutschland, Fidesz – Magyar Polgári Szövetség (Hungarian Civic Alliance), Fronte Nazionale, Movimento Cinque Stelle, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice Party) etc. . In the wider perspective it is surely also about the various ‘exiters’ and separatist movements (Brexit, Catalonia, Lombardia, Veneto …), and furthermore ‘valley economies’, explicitly based in some form of social separatism.[17] Importantly, we are dealing with a fraction of the ruling class, not the ruling class as such as that is in any case a diverse group. In many cases somewhat outsider positions – previously strong groups hat are pushed back, or ‘new rich’, money-capital-strong while lacking ‘social capital’ and rarely also aspiring groups of new sectors – serve as pool for the charismatic leaders and their immediate followers.

The in many debates dominant orientation on accumulation by dispossession (Harvey) – suggested as path for investing excess capital – allows limited understanding of the long-term structural changes. Without denying the meaning of his work, Harvey does not provide a reference for the far-reaching changes. Instead, it is limited to providing a kind of repair-kit for investment- and rent-seeking capital to survive until the next burst of the bubble, and actually heavily contributing to its emergence.

Looking at the economic development we have to analyse concisely the different dimensions of the economic process, highlighting two basic facts, namely [i] that the capitalist system depends on accumulation, accumulation itself however is differentiated and takes distinct forms; [ii] that accumulation of capital is not the same as moneymaking – this includes the need of a differentiated assessment of surplus, added value, profit, rent … ; [iii] the clear definition of the actors accordingly and [IV] the translation of the ‘money making dimension’ into patterns of consumption and living regimes. – Taking these dimensions together, we can understand the real varieties of capitalism, going much further than the managerial notion that is commonly given to this debate.[18]


An important point of the new capitalist developments is in terms of the structure of capital a new stage of diversification. Even Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Group presents itself as being in favour of strict corporate social and environmental responsibility. In this case a comparison between the English and the Chinese version of the website is telling: whereas the English version is outspoken modest and presenting the enterprise as modest though ambitious player for innovation, the ambition expressed in the Chinese version is – still a bit subliminal – more aggressive, the ‘contribution’ having more the character of claiming a leading role. The slogan on the English SER-website is simple and general: ‘We are committed to fulfilling our SER and to realizing our goal of protecting the environment and creating a sustainable ecosystem and society.[19]

All this can be seen as part of a new surge of hegemonic identity politics, bringing together (i) new socio-global patterns of definition and distribution of resources, (ii) new conditions of capital accumulation, (iii) a cultural-generational shift and (iv) a new understanding of entrepreneurship. As such it is about the ‘what is produced’, namely not only the material good but also some kind of ‘meaning’ and ‘social reflection’ – all this in an international and global setting; and it is about the how of production, namely the redefinition of workers, entrepreneurs and rights. Taken together, we can speak of production of he scaffold for hegemony emerging within the productive sphere.[20]


At least in some sectors or linked to some products we find a remarkable shift of the use value, asking for its redefinition. The immediate character of the product, by the tangible, reified use is loosing part of its central character as defining force. As much as consumption is emerging as value in its own right (consumerism), we see the shift from ‘simple traditional mass consumption’ to products and shopping presenting a new sphere: a sphere that, in tendency, elevates the shopping experience itself to an unprecedented degree as ‘use value’, goods and the ‘shopping experience’ presented as something with which ‘people buy better versions of themselves, buying the brand but not the product’.[21] Such imagery market strategies are not limited to actual segments for luxury goods. Looking at shops as Primark and TK Maxx, we find a comparable feature: though the typical customer in those shops does most likely not dispose of a high income, still and perhaps even more so the focus is on underlining a supposed ‘freedom of choice beyond what is necessary’. – Having stated that this is a remarkable shift should not make us overlook that we are actually witnessing a feature of which some elements had been already looked at towards the end of the 19th century.[22]

There is some ambiguity coming with it. On the one hand we find a somewhat increasing complexity of consumption. Besides the emergence of the ‘prosumer’ in the conventional understanding, some fake prosumption can be also found in simple purchases – a catchy example is the market for mobile phones and computers: choice of technical specifications and an ever extending market for accessories. Also worth to be mentioned is the increasing outsourcing of services adjunct to certain purchases: check-outs and check-ins; extended feedback and rating opportunities help lines with the kindness of a computer voice[23] etc. – the customer as master is succeeded by the consumer as servant, though the golden chains are presented as sovereignty. On the other hand, the brand is at hand, offering simple mechanisms of reducing complexity and self-branding as opportunity for the formation of identity. What is systematically proposed as means of ‘anchor for the community of values’ in the world of consumption[24] can be seen as complement of populism in the definition of Nate Schenkkan et altera who suggest that

[a]t its core, it pits a mystically unified “nation” against corrupt “elites” and external enemies, and claims for a charismatic leader the power to voice the will of the nation. It is therefore fundamentally illiberal, rejecting diversity of identity and of opinion within society and discarding basic principles of modern constitutional thinking[25]

This matches perfectly the shifts that had been highlighted as central in respect of production and that we have to keep in mind for later, when we come to looking at exchange. And of course, the – real or feared – exclusion from consumerism can be easily integrated into frames of nationalist and/or scapegoat-politics, falling back on national identity as ultimate point of reference for individuals and societies.[26] Here and now, under the heading of consumption it has to be highlighted that we are also and not least dealing with consumption as factor of production, i.e. the ‘factors of production’ that are consumed during the process of production. What is often presented as change of the marginal rate of profit and its tendency to move towards zero,[27] is in actual fact to a large extent a matter of externalisation and accumulation by dispossession and decommodification, in particular ‘decommodification of labour power’.[28] In other words and leaving aside that much of the zero marginal cost society in the centre is only possible by the ongoing high marginal cost societies of the periphery, we find that the state and workers, often in precarious circumstances, are covering the difference between ‘in tendency zero’ and ‘in reality one’. May we say that part of the periphery in the centres is a pool from which populism may recruit followers? May we even say that for some the alternative appears to be about being prosumer of populism versus being consumed by the elite?


Part of it is the charitibilisation, including social projects also supported by small and local businesses.[29] One can possibly see ‘simplification’ and supposed ‘concentration on essentials’ as complementing strategy, going sometimes hand in hand with playing the card of superiority: ‘helper and supporter of the poor’: The visitor of the local pub[30] or the ALDI-customer joining the good-doers Bill and Melinda Gates – condition: those to be supported have to stay outside, continue being objects of exploitation.

Reference may be made another time to ALDI, however in this case a new strive, still only a pilot: the opening of a bistro. It is remarkable in some respect: the offered menus, changing on a daily basis, are not particularly cheap though the ongoing image of ALDI is that of a low price discounter. Of course, we can take as centrepiece of this development the opening of a new field of investment. Also part of the package is the advertisement effect (real or imagined: customers will see the food as product of ALDI-groceries); the offer of recipes, and with this as additional advertisement for ALDI-products and not least the offer of belonging – the previous image of being low-cost discounter is not contested but on the contrary ‘normalised’, moved to the centre of society (which is the actual place as buying at ALDI is not in any way indicating a low social status), the new image supporting that this simplicity is carried on with some pride. – In actual fact all this is an example par excellence for how hegemony works: it is about conflating the different and often opposing requests and options, seemingly transcending the contradiction between classes and strata. In this light, one has to be careful when it comes to pointing on the role of demagogues: Though, alas Trump surely managed with boldness what Berlusconi mastered with strategic aptitude as demagogues, their success rested on the ability of each of them to conflate the different sides of a contradictory system into a supposed integer workability of economic consolidation: it is the move from the ‘Yes we can’ to the ‘Yes we do’. – Leaving aside that Obama’s campaign did have some populist-like features and leaving also aside that drawing simple comparisons is never without problems, a difference in the appearance is interesting: In the ‘Remarks of Senator Barack Obama on New Hampshire Primary Night’ we find the sentence ‘We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.’[31] When it comes to slogans, Obama will be known for re-establishing the ‘yes we can’ as valid guideline, linked to the ‘call for support’. When it comes to Donald Trump, his campaigning will be remembered for twittering rants, and announcing practice, explicitly based on the notion of a Darwinian power of strength. – This is also the ultimate question of distribution: the power-based distribution following the slogan of the presidential campaign ‘Make America Great Again’, the right of the strongest blatantly proclaimed.


Some of the questions that would actually belong under the heading of exchange had been already mentioned earlier, under the heading consumption, and also under the heading distribution. A detailed attribution will not be elaborated here. Still, it is necessary to look briefly at issues of exchange in connection with populism: On the one hand it is about orienting on a supposedly undistorted market. Exchange can be used as focus for support of nationalist orientations in a multiple way, in particular

  1. seeing it in a romanticised way as place of free exchange amongst equals, undisturbed by monopolist elites
  2. locating free exchange of goods with use-value – valuable for the household economy of the proverbial Swabian housewife – within the framework of undistorted markets, standing against the danger of being taken over by exchange-value-snatching intruders
  3. leading to the suggestion of a communitarian closed market, where ‘insiders and outsiders’ meet on equal foot – the idealised frame for the new ‘tribesman’ (‘Volksgenosse’): honest national producers and honest national consumers meet for free and equal exchange, anything contradicting this image is pure distortion by external forces
  4. finally within this framework also open for international free trade, depending however on a harsh understanding of freedom, without any interference by regulation.

– It is of no interest at all that this imagery contradicts completely the reality especially of those locations where exchange takes place for the majority. Still, it is worth to mention that at least some grain of reality is contained. We can see at least glimpses of levelling: people from different strata buying in the same shops and various shops offering goods that identical in construction or even offering the brand-products in the increasingly prevalent outlet-stores. A thorough exploration of exchange processes has to determine the tensions between the different forms of accumulation and appropriation taking place. Populism finds especially in this field a wide range of open doors, allowing romanticising traditional communitarianism and allowing at the same time blaming victims. Of course, scrutinising this area can also open a field for anti-populist strategies, though it is decisive that this has to table not least the ‘costly side’ of ‘economic justice’.

Trilemmas, Paradoxes and Contradictions

Though it may be questioned if gobalisation plays a fundamentally decisive role, it can be said that it is definitely an influential factor. – This more or less hesitant formulation is required as one should not overlook that many major changes in the economic constellation are not mainly due or linked to processes of globalisation but follow a pattern of secular developments of capitalism.

Be it as it is, the contradictions of the present constellation are reasonably well captured by Deni Rodrik, pointing out some fundamental tensions under two headlines:[32] the one is that of the trilemma of the world economy: pursuing three goals, namely democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration, ends according to Rodrik in one goal being out of reach, notwithstanding the fact that all three are considered as desirable. In other words, only two of the three goals can be accomplished.


graph 1: Trilemma of the World Economyeee

The other is presented as paradox of globalisation, suggesting that globalisation undermines at some stage of development its institutional foundations. At stake are in particular the nation state and the non-institutional and non-market mechanisms of social and societal integration. With this, Rodrik emphasises the erosion of previously functioning mechanism of regulation and solidarity. This is in a way a new version of Karl Polanyi’s thoughts on the relation between market economy and market society.[34]

This translates into the reality of an irritating concurrence of extreme squeezing of any sources that allow generating an increasing amount of profit. On the other hand we find generous non-profitable investment in areas that are in many cases at most in a nonessential relation to the normal business-goal of increasing profit and that are also only vaguely occurring as advertising, reputation-gathering or the like. – Can they be interpreted as very vague and adventurous entrepreneurship, speculating on possible profit in the future? Or are they possibly expression of a generational change: completely lacking risk aversion and carrying on an infantilised attitude of ‘the winner catches all’ plus ‘immediate satisfaction’, the mind-set attributed to the ‘experience society’? Part of the explanation lies in the fact that we are witnessing a historical constellation that is from time to time recurring, seemingly unique though a pattern that reflects the need to reshuffle and readapt the elements of societal constitution. They had been outlined earlier as (i) new socio-global patterns of definition and distribution of resources, (ii) new conditions of capital accumulation, (iii) a cultural-generational shift and (iv) a new understanding of entrepreneurship. And of course, we have to ventilate the question of ‘philantropic entrepreneurs’ – the possible ‘Owens of the 19th century’, economically bound to the capitalist profit-making and ideologically oriented towards the good-doing in the framework of CSER.

One overarching aspect is seen in a shift of wealth that still needs to be clarified. Without suggesting that capital looses it’s meaning, we have to acknowledge another factor. Accumulation of capital did never occur simply as end in itself in strictu sensu. Even in its alienated and fetishised variety, the underlying goal was always control in its different forms (economic, political, cultural). And speaking of capital always meant and still means to refer to capital in the monetary and monetarisable form. Taking this into account, we face throughout history different patterns of the concrete meaning. The traditional range is particularly around productive capital, trade capital and finance capital. At the moment it needs to be clarified if and if so, in which way we can speak of data as capital, possibly a new asset. At stake is a new development that is not least of importance when it comes to the discussion of populism. The entire sphere is on the one hand a matter of accumulation processes and investment strategies. On the other hand another factor is closely linked: while the common notion is focussing on protection of personal data and securing privacy, it lacks attention that the question is much more complex: necessary is to distinguish clearly between

  • private versus public generation of data
  • ‘productive data’ versus ‘data consumables’
  • ‘productive data’ versus ‘data that are solely of private relevance’
  • private versus public use of data.[35]

In addition, it is always necessary to ask in a second step what ‘private’ and ‘public’ exactly means: issues of regulation play as much a role as the immediacy of control.[36] In any case we face a highly explosive and ambiguous constellation of control and exclusion that is also concerned with new forms of socialisation in terms of establishing possibly new ‘cleavages’ – including new forms of ‘privacy’.

Economics behind Populism – A simple Question of Demand and Supply?

– These aspects are easily overlooked, as it is actually difficult to integrate factors of living regimes and modes of life directly into the analysis of political economy – in part surely a problem of political economy as an increasing dismal science that often emulates the ‘academy’ or gets lost in crude politics. And it is equally difficult to overestimate relevant factors, drawing too much attention on new modes of life as central power for societal change. Though they can admittedly serve as driving force, this potentiality depends on given objective conditions. A detached analytical orientation on an ‘imperial mode of life’ and the reliance on an anti-imperial mode of life as counter force can easily feed into the pattern described earlier. Many of the alternative life projects are proposed by more or less well-off, often intellectual people. Without developing a differentiated analytical approach – here proposed by reference to accumulation regime, living regime, mode of regulation and mode of life – the presentation of an imperial mode of life[37] remains in danger to be voluntarist, orienting towards a socially unbiased strive for change.

Working within such a limited framework can be found as one main stream of arguments around populism. The formula is simple, and refers to demand and supply of populism, in the extreme case indeed calculated in a highly formalised way of a demand and supply funciton.[38]

We face the thorough need of going far beyond a multidimensional approach that remains on an eclectic level, considering economic, social and cultural factors as important, while seeing them as aggregation instead of relationing, i.e. taking a thoroughly relational perspective.[39] The former approach is likely not going beyond the analysis of socio-economic and socio-cultural shock-analysis.

Still, there is some reason to remain with one leg in the framework of the market model, however altering it in two respects. First, instead of referring to an imagined political market – as meeting point of political actors and political followers – as core of the considerations, a functionalist perspective is taken, looking at the demand of the socio-economic system. The question is now: What are the shortcomings, i.e. frictions that cannot be easily resolved within the temporarily stabilised system of the allocation of the net product between consumption and accumulation.[40] These frictions have to be severe enough to potentially undermine both the economic functioning and the political legitimation. Only from here we can move to the ‘political market’, exploring the political demand, i.e. the systemic small print that is showing up in the headlines. Concrete, commonly we may speak openly and critically about the problems on the market for accommodation and the fear or experience that apparently some refugees obtain of accommodation while nationals do not or have extreme difficulties. Face value, this may actually be a relevant point although the factual competition for accommodation social benefits is at most an exception in terms of non-nationals outrivaling nationals.

While remaining within the capitalist framework, we have to confront ourselves with the underlying economic question is concerned with the location and shift of competition. As such it is in actual fact about one fundamental issue of classifying capitalism as such, namely the fact exploitation is happening within the framework of ‘exchange between equals’ who meet freely and under the ‘same conditions of freedom’ on the market. Under conditions of globalisation this ‘free exchange’ gains a new twist. Let us take an often used framework: two companies competing with each other on one more or less narrowly defined market, i.e. also depending on the same factor input. Following scenarios may be looked at.[41]

Both companies are based in country A

  • in the first case, they compete on the national market, both employing workers from country A
  • in the second case, they compete by one employing workers from country A, the other employing workers from country B, characterised by comparable working and social standards
  • in the third case, they compete by the one employing workers from country A, the other employing workers from country C who are working in country C, characterised by harsh working conditions and extremely low social standards
  • in the fourth case, they compete by the one employing workers from country A, the other employing from country C, characterised by harsh working conditions and extremely low social standards – but these workers are now employed in country A, while the standards of country C are applied.

An additional difficulty emerges when we refer to a situation where the one company is legally based in country A, the other legally based in country B (more or less identical working conditions and social standards as in A) or in country C (much worse working conditions and lower social standards as in country A) respectively – where ‘legally based in’ means that they are in all these cases physically located in country A – not considered are other constellations, namely those where we are dealing with international competition between entities, producing in different countries but serving the same ‘domestic’ markets.

Employer Employees Employer Employees Socio-Political Status
A A A A consolidated
A A A B by and large consolidated
A A A C precarious
A A A D fragile
A A B A by and large consolidated
A A B B precarious
A A B C precarious
A A B D precarious
A A C A by and large consolidated
A A C B by and large consolidated
A A C C fragile
A A C D fragile

matrix 1: Constellations of Competition

Economic ruptures occur when the capitalist principle of equivalence is traversed. In such cases we find the decisive moment: we may say the law of value is verified and made obvious whereas the supposed determination of value as result of market exchange is falsified. Talking about inequality is not primarily about issuing the injustice of distribution and re-distribution though the issue of equivalence is raised as matter of ‘fairness’.[42]

Interpreting this as matter of demand-side factor of populism, the political challenge is about the way in which the ‘factor input’ is rebalanced in two dimensions: the one is the technological factor, usually captured as matter of rationalisation, and of outstanding meaning at times of major technological change; the other is the international and global aspect, concerned with working conditions and social standards but as well with the use of profits.[43]

Continuing from here, and suggesting supply side effects, we can say that the offer populism makes is the ruthless orientation on protecting vested rights – though the definition of vested rights remains unclear – at least it changes in accordance with different national settings. This is one of the reasons behind the differing national patterns in regard of the favoured groups and also in terms of those defined as ‘aliens’, ‘intruders’ or the like. An interesting peculiarity is mentioned by Timothy Garton Ash: Complains about and fears against intruding migrants come not least from the settled Indian communities.[44] In which way economic and political vested rights are linked and the weighing between them is relevant on the level of the analysis of concrete national and historical patterns. I am extremely hesitant to draw a distinguishing line and suggesting right-wing and left-wing variants of populism as for instance proposed by Dani Rodrik. He suggests that

[i]t is easier for populist politicians to mobilize along ethno-national/cultural cleavages when the globalization shock becomes salient in the form of immigration and refugees. That is largely the story of advanced countries in Europe. On the other hand, it is easier to mobilize along income/social class lines when the globalization shock takes the form mainly of trade, finance, and foreign investment.[45]

Critical points against such notion are about the fact that a distinction of this kind neglects at least four aspects:

  1. whereas there are surely differences between the main patterns in which ‘globalisation shocks’ appear, the underlying pattern is about globalisation as economic adjustments and rifts that are often closely linked to socio-cultural challenges and shifts but they cannot be juxtaposed – this had been also mentioned earlier, pointing on the need of a relational approach
  2. the differentiation between left- and right-wing populism focuses on the superstructure of the ‘challenges’, however it ignores (i) the fact that an defining and elementary characteristic of populism is its explicit and outspoken exclusionary character and (ii) the actual character and direction of the mobilisation – we may distinguish between ‘politics and promises for’ and ‘strategies for politics by and with’ the people
  3. the mobilisation aspect is very much a matter of the strategy used on the supply side, utilising certain forms of manifestation that do not [necessarily] have a strong link to the underlying objective factors
  4. finally, though there cannot be any ‘general interest’ within any society that is characterised by a fundamental and antagonist division, we can say that populism is primarily about class struggle between fractions of the ruling class, mobilising groups and people who can be in one or another way (e.g. ideologically and/or economically) affiliated whereas non-populist and in particular left movements understand reference to ‘the people’ in an inclusive way.

Having stated this, there are some issues that deserve some more consideration:

  • Can we clearly draw a line between social movements that engage the populace and entities that ‘instrumentalise people’?
  • It seems to be obvious that a shift of also of left groups towards populism may occur: original strategies may face hurdles and cause a change by which it is hoped to find a way to overcome especially externally caused difficulties.
  • Also some attention is needed in respect of the different facets of individuals that are actively engaging as populists and in respect of the character of their engagement. One might wonder if seeing them as strategic thinkers, with a conscious approach, isn’t overestimating these movements and people. Isn’t it more or at least equally likely that we are dealing with people who are (i) looking for their own personal advantage not by elaborated strategies but by a programme based on helpless fear and (ii) simply reacting, emotionally and helplessly being victim and looking for an escape out of the trap, without being able to wait that the hunter has to open the deck of cards? – This does by no means suggest that the situation is less harmless nor does it see populists as psychopaths. Instead, it actually suggests that we are facing individuals and groups that are completely erratic, and actually dominated by violent delineation against as ultimate means.
  • The latter point can also be seen in around the issue of spacialisation and despacialisation. One major issue is the one feature that is common to different groups:

What all these groups do have in common with the Catalan nationalists is their dislike, if not rejection, of the centralised authority of the state. Previous polls suggest most Catalans do not support independence from Madrid. But not unlike Scotland, a majority does appear to question the legitimacy of a distant central government that speaks a different language, hands down political diktats, levies unfair taxes and allegedly gives back less than it takes.[46]

As much as we are dealing physical space, the really decisive aspect is social control. And indeed this is a major challenge for any political strategy and action, formulated as question: how can we have a global orientation while only relatively small realms can sufficiently well observed and served? And how can we avoid the split between governed and governors that seems to be unavoidable with increasing scope. This brings us back to the first point if this section, the question if ‘[we] can we clearly draw a line between social movements that engage the populace and entities that ‘instrumentalise people’’. This question is a variation of the question if we can avoid a demarcation between governors and governed.

One point that causes necessarily problems when it comes to the development of strategies consists in the tension between the ‘need to deliver here and now’, the internationalist claim and the need to develop a clear and operationally relevant understanding of inequality within countries – and in particular within the so-called developed countries – and inequality between countries – not least recent developments of the emerging market economies lead to new patterns of global investment and also of distribution. But the real question is still the difference in the positioning of the different fractions of the classes.

Economically challenging is the ongoing debate about the division between – or should we say relationship of Oikonomia versus Chrematistike – again we face a complex issue as any kind of Oikonomia, the production of goods on the level fo subsistence is limited, any kind of good that is produced in a setting of division of labour is shifting in terms of value towards exchange value and with this in danger of emphasising chrematistike.

Finally and on the political level it has to be asked if the ‘Westphalian model’[47] has today any legitimate raison d’être or if there is the need and possibility to shift towards a new ‘global peace order’ that actually would decisively change the point of reference – finally one of the problems behind populism is the divergence between level of praxis and behaviour and the level of control of existence: while any kind of relevant action and praxis is in fact rather limited in time and space (leaving the joys of low fare fairy tales aside), we witness a permanent and immeasurable extension of the framing, reaching from strawberries 365 days per year to the quest for availability 24 hour per day. The problem with the strawberries may be for some that they actually cannot avail of them, but also for the others as much as alienation and the permanent tension that comes with it is gaining the dominance, leading to attempts living a wrong life rightly, paraphrasing in some way Adorno – we may recall the paragraph from the Minima Moralia here for fully understanding the relevance:

The trick is to keep in view, and to express, the fact that private property no longer belongs to one, in the sense that consumer goods have become potentially so abundant that no individual has the right to cling to the principle of their limitation; but that one must nevertheless have possessions, if one is not to sink into that dependence and need which serves the blind perpetuation of property relations. But the thesis of this paradox leads to destruction a loveless disregard for things which necessarily turns against people too; and the antithesis, no sooner uttered, is an ideology for those wishing with a bad conscience to keep what they have. Wrong life cannot be lived rightly.[48]/[49]


Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser take it as

given that populism often asks the right questions but provides the wrong answers[50]

thus suggesting that

the ultimate goal should be not just the destruction of populist supply, but also the weakening of populist demand.[51]

In general terms one may easily accept such statement. However, a serious limitation is given by the fact that what is suggested to be the right question is too often about matters showing up on the surface. And of course stating this we face also a very important issue for the development of political strategies. Though the degree of complexity and difficulty of economics is by and large overestimated and overstated, we cannot downplay the fact that it is much easier and plausible to figure out some evident threats and obvious discriminations – or issues that can be interpreted this way. Other issues – of structural kind and part of long-term patterns – are often not catchy. Furthermore policy-making – or the expectations toward policy-makers and activists are in some way and to some extent short-termist in character, making the development of long-term and inclusive policies difficult.


[1] Beck, Ulrich: 1986/1992: Risk Society. Towards a New Modernity, London et altera: Sage [German edition @ Suhrkamp 1986; first English publication 1992]: 107

[2] Lipietz, Alain, 1986: New Tendencies in International Division of Labour: Regimes of Accumulation and Nodes of Regulation, in: Production, Work, Territory; Scott, A.J./Storper, M. (eds.); London: Allen Unwin: 16-40, here: 19

[3] ibid.

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/storm-ophelia-irish-leader-urges-citizens-to-stay-indoors-during-national-emergency; 18/10/17

[5] Distinct from individualisation which is only one possible and as such distinctive form.

[6] Université de Lausanne: Projet BaSES. Apprentissage des notions de base en sciences économiques et sociales; Accueil→Sciences sociales→Théories (sciences sociales)→Le fonctionnalisme; https://wp.unil.ch/bases/2013/07/le-fonctionnalisme/; http://wp.unil.ch/bases/files/2013/07/agile.jpg; 01/11/17

[7] in the understanding of macro-, meso- and micro level.

[8] Factors of Social quality, here grouped according accumulation regime, mode of regulation, living regime and mode of life and linked to Parsons’ conception of AGIL:


·       Accumulation Regime

·       Socio-Economic Security

·       Personal [Human] Security

·       Social Justice

·       Goal Attainment

·       Living Regime

·       Social Empowerment

·       Personal [Human] Capacity

·       Human Dignity

·       Integration

·       Mode of Life

·       Social Inclusion

·       Social Responsiveness

·       Equal Value

·       Latent Pattern Maintenance

·       Mode of Regulation

·       Social Cohesion

·       Social Recognition

·       Solidarity

·       Adaptation


[9] For this see van der Maesen, Laurent/Walker, Alan (eds.), 2012: Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators; Houndsmills/New York: Palgrave MacMillan

[10] It deserves attention that empirical studies on socio-economic and socio-cultural background of ‘populist followers’ are often contradicting each other, being as contradictory as the populist elite and populist ‘programmes’ – see in this context the chapter on the reasons behind failing coalitions of populist movements in Janssen, Thilo, 2016: A Love-Hate Relationship. Far-Right Parties and the European Union; Brussels: Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation

[11] Referring to earlier point IV.

[12] See e.g. Stiegler, Bernhard, 2011: Infantilisation; Paris : JBZ & Cie, ; Schulze, Gerhard, 2005: the Experience Society; London: Sage; Han, Byung-Chul, 2015: The Burn-Out Society; Stanford: Stanford University Press

[13] others are e.g. ; http://www.horizont.net/marketing/nachrichten/Aldi-Sued-So-will-der-Discounter-mit-seinem-Frische-Programm-den-Wahlkampf-aufmischen-160663; 30/10/17; also https://www.aldinativlos.de/#/; 30/10/17

[14] A detail, as tiny as it is, is equally telling when it comes to the hegemonic system and looking for anchoring points for populists. It underlines the meaning of ‘entrepreneurial attitude’ and concerns the stylisation of individualist entrepreneurial spirit: presumably the representation of honesty and control. So even enterprises with a long tradition as medium- to large-seized performance advertise themselves as ‘private/family enterprise’

[15] to be distinguished from the followers

[16] as already the Narodniks in Russia, the Farmers’ Alliances in the US of the 1880s, followed in the 1890s by the Populist, the German fascists etc., in some way many of them carrying the notion of renaissance and return to simplicity of the life of the people with them.

[17] Remarkable is the following statement:

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.’

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

[18] see with further references: Herrmann, Peter, forthcoming: Social Policy Development in the International Context – Social Investment or a New Social Treatise?.

[19] http://ser.foxconn.com/home_index.action; 02/11/17

[20] A brief reminder may clarify this: this is on the general level exactly the same pattern that Antonio Gramsci was analysing in his studies on America and Fordism

[21] see https://blog.bufferapp.com/people-dont-buy-products-they-buy-better-versions-of-themselves; also: http://602communications.com/2011/12/selling-a-lifestyle/; http://tribedesign.com/services/tribe-branding-sell-brand-not-product/; 22/08/16; see also Klein, Naomi, 1999: No Logo. Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf

[22] see e.g. Veblen, Thorstein, 1899: The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions; Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications; 1994

[23] even such details are remarkable as they may prove human superiority.

[24] Die Zukunft soll kommen. Wir besetzen die Zukunft wieder positiv. Wir machen aus der gegenwärtigen Unübersichtlichkeit eine neue Übersichtlichkeit. Und wir machen Marken zu einem Statement und zu einem Anker für Wertegemeinschaften. Let’s do it! (Albrecht, Roland, 2017, 8th of March: Wie Marken zum Anker für gemeinsame Werte werden; in: Die Welt; ; https://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/bilanz/article162665419/Wie-Marken-zum-Anker-fuer-gemeinsame-Werte-werden.html; 05/11/17)

[25] Schenkkan, Nate et altera, (without date, 2017): Nations in Transit. The False Promise of Populism; Washington. Freedom House: 2; https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/NIT2017_booklet_FINAL_0.pdf; 05/11/17

[26] The question of identity politics is left out in the present contribution – not neglecting its importance, we can easily do so as its role is easily detectable in the framework suggested merger of the analytical dimensions of the regluationist, SQ and Parsonian approach, presented in footnote 8.

[27] E.g. Mason, Paul, 2015: Postcapitalism. A Guide to Our Future; London: Penguin; Rifkin, Jeremy, 2014: The Zero Marginal Cost Society. The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons & The Eclipse of Capitalism; London: Palgrave Macmillan

[28] Interesting is in this some of the work undertaken by Mariana Mazzucato on the Entrepreneurial State – in that context it had been shown from another side a tremendous amount of profit is facilitated by way of ex ante socialised cost.

[29] e.g. egger-Sozialprojekt Kinderzentrum Victoire Rasoamanarivo in Talata Volonondry in Madagaskar; http://madagaskar.eggerlokale.de; 31/10/17

[30] see previous footnote.

[31] Obama, Barack, 2008: New Hampshire Primary Speech; in: The New York Times. January 8th, 2008; http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/us/politics/08text-obama.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print; 02/11/17

[32] Rodrik, Dani, 2011: The Globalisation Paradox. Why Global Markets, States, and Democracy Can’t Coexist; Oxford: Oxford University Press

[33] Rodrick, Dani, June, 27th, 2007: The inescapable trilemma of the world economy; http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2007/06/the-inescapable.html; http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/WindowsLiveWriter/image.gif; 31/10/17

[34] see Polanyi, Karl, 1944: The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time; Boston: Beacon Press, 1957: e.g. 57

[35] see in this context the ‘Volkszählungsurteil’ – judgment concerning the population census. BVerfG · Urteil vom 15. Dezember 1983 · Az. 1 BvR 209/83, 1 BvR 484/83, 1 BvR 420/83, 1 BvR 362/83, 1 BvR 269/83, 1 BvR 440/83; https://openjur.de/u/268440.html; 05/11/17

[36] In respect of the latter we are dealing with different public, cooperative and communitarian forms.

[37] s. Brand, Ulrich/Wissen, Markus, 2017: Imperiale Lebensweise Zur Ausbeutung von Mensch und Natur in Zeiten des globalen Kapitalismus; München: oekom Verlag. Gesellschaft für ökologische Kommunikation; see also Brand, Ulrich/Wissen, Markus, 2012: Global Environmental Politics and the Imperial Mode of Living: Articulations of State–Capital Relations in the Multiple Crisis, Globalizations, 9:4, 547-560; http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14747731.2012.699928

[38] e.g. Guiso, Luigi and Herrera, Helios and Morelli, Massimo, Demand and Supply of Populism (February 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11871. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2924731; 02/11/17

[39] see Ash, Timothy Garton, September 18th, 2017: Does European Populism Exist? Presentation at the Minda de Gunzburg Centre for European Studies, Harvard; https://youtu.be/bJC7JAOccfw; 31/10/17; methodologically needed is a reference to Critical Realism, see e.g. Archer, Margaret et altera, 1998: Critical Realism: Essential Readings; London: Routledge; Bhaskar, Roy, 1975/1997: A Realist Theory of Science; London, Verso

[40] This formulation refers to the definition of the accumulation regime – for details s. footnote 2.

[41] In all cases we assume that legal obligations are acknowledged and followed up upon.

[42] See Clark, Andrew E./D’Ambrosio, Conchita, 2015: Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence; in: Atkinson, Anthony B./Bourguignon Francois [eds.]: Handbook of Income Distribution; Oxford/Amsterdam: Elsevier; 1147-1208; Starmans, Christina/Sheskin, Mark/Bloom, Paul, 2017: Why people prefer unequal societies; in: nature. Human Behaviour. 1, 0082 (2017) | DOI: 10.1038/s41562-017-0082

[43] Even if the latter is only a matter of perception, appreciating for instance reinvestment, responsibility of spending etc.

[44] see footnote 39

[45] Rodrik, Dani, August 2017: Populism and the Economics of Globalization; https://drodrik.scholar.harvard.edu/files/dani-rodrik/files/populism_and_the_economics_of_globalization.pdf; 03/11/17: 2

[46] Tisdall, Simon, 2017, 2 October: Ripples from Catalan referendum could extend beyond Spain; in: The Guardian; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/02/ripples-from-catalan-referendum-could-extend-beyond-spain; 04/11/17

[47] for a critique see Teschke, Benno, 2003: The Myth of 1648. Class, Geopolitics, and the Making of Modern International Relations; London/New York: Verso

[48] Adorno, Theodor, 1951; translated from the German by E. F. N. Jephcott: Minima Moralia. Reflections on a Damaged Life; New York: Verso: 39

[49] Here, the question of left and right populism may indeed be raised as it had been very much this kind of alienation that stood behind the ‘cultural revolution’ that culminated in the movements in the late sixties of the last century.

[50] Mudde, Cas/Kaltwasser, Cristóbal Rovira, 2017; Populism. A Very Short Introduction; Oxford: Oxford University Press:118

[51] ibid.

[i] Dr. [philosophy] (Bremen, Germany) habil [sociology] (Debrecen, Hungary). Studies in Sociology (Bielefeld, Germany – FRG), Economics (Hamburg, Germany – FRG), Political Science (Leipzig, Germany – GDR) and Social Policy and Philosophy (Bremen, Germany – FRG).

Currently he works for the Max-Planck-Institute for Social Law and Social Policy [Law-Section]. He is also adjunct professor at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Department of Social Sciences (Kuopio, Finland), honorary associate professor at Corvinus University in Budapest, Faculty of Economics, Department of World Economy.

His areas of teaching comprise economics, political science, sociology and law in connection with globalisation

where legal scholars and economist (should) sit at the same table

And of course, they should be joined by political scientists and politicians …

As usual, i am working on different projects, the one being the preparation of the workshop on The political economy of right wing populism, the other the question of digitisation and, of not anything else: continuing the work we started in February as part of the International scientific and practical seminar: “Occupation: Russian practice and international experience”: the book I am editing together with Vyacheslav Bobkov – we will discuss this further during the International Scientific-Practical Conference

“Instability Of Employment: Russian And International Contexts Of Changing The Legislation On Labour And Employment”

commencing tomorrow at the ФГБОУ ВПО “РЭУ им. Г.В. Плеханова” in Moscow

where I arrived a few minutes ago, coming from Anhui.

The following paragraph – the draft of a co-written contribution, that links to the different projects mentioned – may be worthwhile to be published here – taken out of its original context, valid in various contexts that characterise in my view much of the current situation in which economic greediness and acquisitiveness, political populism, and so-called hedonism alike are finding futile ground. So the para is the following:

… this is about the ‘major conflicts’ but also about the small print. One example may do suffice – in fact it is one that also shows that we are facing a thorough interpenetration, already going on for a long time, reaching seemingly unrecognised into the mentality: the common law tradition is increasingly eroding for a simple reason: “modern business” needs reliable frameworks for “mathematised rationalities” and “protestant ethics” – something that common law does not guarantee to the same extent as civil law (Romano-Germanic tradition). This is a particularly interesting example as it clearly shows the way in which accumulation regime and mode of regulation are entangled. This is expressed not only expressed in the fact of the legal regulations ‘for business’ as a system of systematic compilation and deductions (Leges Duodecim Tabularum or Duodecim Tabulae) but also in the regulatory system itself establishing the tradition of the “constitutional state” (Rechtsstaat).

Interestingly, this comes right now under pressure and is in different ways qualified, hollowing out the scope and degree of liability of the state,[1] the emphasis of individuality (including corporate social responsibility) and the accentuation of ‘governance’ as systematic deregulation of government. Such shifts can be found by way of “Global Governance”, characterised by different strands, entangled like the threats of a rope: (i) international and global organisations play increasingly a role and in tendency even openly contesting state power; (ii) not strictly “statutory” in character, there is a tendency of strong think tanks developing power positions that go far beyond the traditional role of opinion leaders: the World Economic Forum, The Bilderberg Conference and the Club de Madrid are examples, all characterised by the fact that leading representatives of big business, [former] members of governments and some mainstream ‘trendy’ academics are part of these undertakings; (iii) the traditional lines of division and distinction are frequently blurred and contested – here it is about socio-economic strata but also about boundaries of states, regions etc.; (iv) non-binding, often “think-tank-like” left-intellectual-liberal proposals; (v) critical and clientelist claims (iv) new ethics also being brought forward in organisations as the WEF, IMF, WB and Bilderberg. – It has to be said that all this does not replace objective societal structures and division; much of the effect can probably be seen as reflection of changing processes of politisation: the trend of a flattening can be seen on the one hand, establishing mechanisms of ‘presentationalism’ as dominant feature, supporting the emergence of a post-factual; on the other hand we find the push and pull effects when it comes to redefining politics as administrative issues, solely bound to factuality and rules.[2]

[1] This is still relevant even if we accept that even the Rechtsstaats-traditon strongly emphasised “The Limits of State Action” as the title of the work by Wilhelm von Humboldt suggested (see Humboldt, Wilhelm von, 1792: The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action); London: John Chapman, 1854)

[2] one has to acknowledge that there is ontologically and epistemologically a close kinship between post-truth and evidence based politics and policies, both dissecting complex truth.

The need to search for what we cannot know

Wittgenstein once wrote:

For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well.

We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say either.[1]


And later he concludes his tractatus with the words

6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world alright.

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.[2]

And Bertrand Russell summarises in his Introduction that

What we cannot think we cannot think, therefore we also cannot say what we cannot think.[3]

This may leave us in a state of paralysis when it comes to the need of change; but it may also lead us to use the mistakes we make as some form of beauty: as challenge and opportunity to work on unknown paths – not simply as path we did not know before but going beyond this, at path we did not even imagine that they would exist. Paradoxically it means to start from what is really given, unveiled from abstract thoughts and political-economic frameworks, starting from real reality as fundamental truth, and develop things from there.

Talking about economics, as we did end of September in Athens on occasion of the annual Euromemo-conference, we may see this as special challenge to move further with what is today called heterodox economics. Some reflections, trying to radicalise approaches, made at the end of the conference can be found here.


[1]            Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: 68

[2]            ibid.: 89

[3]            Russell, Bertrand, 1922: Introduction; in: Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1921: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness With an introduction by Bertrand Russell; London/New York: Routledge, 1974: XX

Ho Paura


Weird-alternative analysis of the results of the German elections

Yes, it is five minutes before midnight …

… here in Germany had been elections [without me, I temporarily lost voting rights as I lived too long outside of the country – actually I think it is justified]. Anyway ‘I took part’, not least seeing the various posters – it least those by Aldi, highlighting that there is no Aldi-native

Consumo ergo sum – I wrote this slogan many, many years ago –a ctually in the last century. With such posters it reaches a new stage: the political citizen now even closer to the consumer … . Wolfgang Streeck also speaking since some time of the market citizen.

Well, I am admittedly more or less good in losing ground – leaving my thoughts to seemingly abstract levels …, but perhaps it is not so abstract at all: all the independence and populism …, isn’t that very much about this: having lost ground – transparency being closed behind the door, the only ground on which we can stand and move is consuming and individually struggling to survive = to manage life as the space for real living is limited.

There is a paradox I cannot solve for myself – it is in some way linked to the experience I made while being in China: the experience of living there, and also the experience of looking from there back: to Italy, Ireland etc. We struggle for life, to survive and apparently the only way and place of and for living is very much the wee space we have with other individuals. Initially nothing wrong with it, of course: we are individuals and being together with other individuals – camminare insieme, perhaps also in honest disputes with those near to us, is indeed also some kind of satisfaction of the social instincts – or less profane: the social being that is reflected upon by Aristotle and the many who followed him. But coming back to the sentence ‘Initially nothing wrong with it …’ suggests that there may be something wrong with it: isn’t it also potentially the futile ground for small seedbeds of hedonism and communitarian ideologies of seclusion, NIBY-ideas? Isn’t it in this way the ground on which populism finds its roots? If so, it is not so much abbot charismatics leaders but about the search for the private being political and the political being a matter in which every individual needs to have a say. The alienation of Aldi-nativlos, the alienation of a society that offers identity only by consumption shouting for a solution – offered by communitarian self-love and the loving those who are next to you. It is about the age-old recommendation as we know it from Mark, 12:30-31

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;’ this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Admittedly there may be other interpretations of this, but at least it allows a populist version’: it is only the one who is above you and those who are immediately around you. This is of further relevance, of course, at times where identity-building via consumption faces the limits – increasing inequality and increasing poverty are much more than they seem to be at first glance: it is not ‘only’ about loosing control over life [basic socio-economic security], but even more the loss of control over living beyond the    immediate  neighbours: the [fear of the] loss of social inclusion, social cohesion and social empowerment, the loss of personal (human) security; social recognition; social responsiveness; personal (human) capacity as elaborated in Social Quality Thinking. It is the economy, but on the surface it appears to be the community.

…, and in this weird constellation of competitive, hedonist consumers we loose the control not just over our individual behaviour [well fortunately not everybody turns to Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam and its political-populist variations … though too many do]. But we have these difficulties of ‘emphatically socialising’: call it controlled, rational empathy if something like it can exist. Many [not all for sure] my of the students throughout the years – really young people or youngish as myself – wanted to escape this individualism. And seemingly they could not – that was my impression: they did not want this consumerism, this ‘success’, this ‘ranked education’ – they were modest, curious, open but always faced those walls of our times. One of the walls: not being taken serious, pushed into the world of ranked competition …, and even young lecturers, just having entered that world, still verbally remembering their lovings from ten years or so ago, pushing and pulling those who are young now, into that direction. I tried to get closer to some, tried to organise a jour fixe to get known to each other, went for class trips to other countries, yes admittedly to incite them a bit: YOU HAVE RIGHTS – YOU AS STUDENTS [mind the plural], MAKE THEM KNOWN, CHALLENGE US … very limited success. There are many small and large case-studies to it, I should have written the third volume of my bio … , following up on the Briefe zwischen Welten and the Diary from a Journey into another World

Anyway, there is a wider perspective on it I will later engage with this and you can read it in a bloge-entry under the title

where legal scholars and economist (should) sit at the same table

[Pianificato il: 25 Ott, 2017 @ 17:40] It is about the changes I see – and that brings me closer to my take on the results of the elections but also on the independence question in Catalonia and the like: really looking from outside, though knowing a bit from inside: having been active in political struggles and canvassing in Germany, being member of a party in one of the neighbouring countries [where we have had elections to the senate], also looking back at ‘my Irish years’, but also looking at the time I spent in Australia [there the question of aborigines and PNG played a major role], there is something that goes for me MUCH beyond the current issues: populism, independence, the helplessness of being ‘voll muttiviert’[1] as one of the celebratory banners of the CDU suggests…; the … can one even say dictatorial behaviour of Madrid, the mal-functionings in Catalonia … the aggressiveness and ignorance of Trumpism, shown another time and also shown as part-defeat  … all these are serious issues but when we look at this as an attack against democratic institutions, I am wondering: did they ever really exist? Do we really have anywhere REALLY democratic institutions? The problem I see more and more is: how can we bring together the Rechtstaat, equality and direct peoples’ saying and rule. This trinagle may be a bit of an extension of Rodrik’s ‘inescapable trilemma of the world economy’ …

And it is a triangular tension that we easily put aside, simplifying things, finding answers before we really think about what the questions are.

Yes, a better government for Germany – one that is not a minority government with a highly problematic turnout, independence for Catalonia and others. But how can we guarantee that such democracies – small and large – are respecting the rights of others AND how can we ensure that such democratic entities respect ‘equality within it’s the borders’. Looking at independent and democratic Germany speaks volumes, if not libraries.

– Well, but for me: more philosopher than politician, more economist than lawyer: the crucial questions are the following two: how to overcome inequality on the different levels, i.e. from the local to the global, and how can we guarantee that by tackling the core = production, not the distribution — that the latter does not work had been shown often enough: e.g. by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pope’s appeals of the camminare insieme. Walking together is fine – if it is on the same layer; if it is about sitting in one and the same boat, the one giving the orders and the others still pulling the oared, there is something wrong.

Well, whatever happens in the near future – in Catalonia, Bavaria, Germany, Europe – I am afraid here remains much to be done to reach at real change.

And this is also something I brought with me from China: name it deep respect for the students and distaste of this system that keeps us in its fetters …; it makes me a bit sad, jaundiced, hurt …. somewhat feeling ashamed and afraid: with so many moves, the tiny moves against accepting these fetters and the fear of just forcing fetters on others, not being able to fully respect and support the students’ modesty, curiosity, openness … All the walls that surround them, while being forced to walk like cattle to the trough of competitive success may be for a tiny number pointers on the way success, for many it may well be the harness of the live that makes real living difficult and for another and increasingly large number it may well be wall they duplicate as wall against a fortress Europe, closure towards Mexico and the like …

Well, much could be added – also about ‘The enjoyable lightness of being’ that we can still find – a phrase linking to the title of a book, a Chinese friend made me aware of: Kundera’s ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being’ – an amazing book we still did not digest. A book that still employs our mind. Actually reading it, and talking about it brought many things back to me: all the stuff that moved me and my generation so many years ago: existentialism, Marxism, communism, anarchism – there was for me much of that ‘in the air’ during the more than two years; and the air here, being back in Europe now, is soaked by it too.


[1]            A pun: merging Mutti Merkel and motivation.

responsibility – responsiveness: trying to avoid the wrong answer

Waiting for the results from Turkey …

… whatever the outcome will be

… daily bread, the worries about securing it … daily routines of getting it – while the ‘big events’ are overshadowing every step, not necessarily all the time present, and still often enough hammering into the brain, shouting over the routines and the daily bread and the worries about securing it … – hammering louder than the footsteps of any individual on the asphalt; different things going through my mind, also my CV came up a short while ago – together with the hammering of the boot-bearing thoughts …

I was wondering if we are now moving back to the stage of considering to delete part of it, hide away what we did and what we have reason to be proud of …? Not that I am fearful, worrying in the strict sense = considering to delete, while being afraid of being deleted. But the need to think about this as being possibly urgently advisable makes me feeling uncomfortable.

What and how can we worrying warriors and warring worriers teach young people, the future to stand up if we live under conditions that nature such ideas …?
Let us hope, not for me, surely a bit for ‘us’ who do not want to stand there as spectators but especially for those to which we committed out selves, for ‘those future social lifes’