A short article, published in the magazine Sozialextra, is now i open access available, looking back at the history – the ideological change – behind what is again and again called neoliberalism and austerity policies:
TINA said, There is no such thing as society.
Eine kleine Gedenk-Schrift an die geistig moralische Wende der wilden 1980er
I suppose that it presents a view on the history of “social policy”, neoliberalism and austerity that is important to understand the deeper meaning of what is actually going on today – deeper meaning in terms of the underlying ideological shift, rooted in a development for which some (to least a matter of age, though not only) of us are responsible – nolens volens. And it deserves as such attention, not least when we discuss perspectives.. – I thought it is important enough to present at least a rough translation – deepl.com as aching transition tool, with some minor corrections; And als leaving the formatting, referencing a nit chaotic spread across the text. At least you will get the gist of it …
TINA said, There is no such thing as society
A small commemorative writing on the spiritual-moral turn of wild-west in the 1980s
So there is no alternative, because there is no society – and anyone who knew Margaret Thatcher a little bit, also knows that what she said in 1987 in an interview with a women’s magazine was by no means an unfortunate statement.
Once upon a time …
Today we are complaining about exactly what she said already then. If today anything historical appears at all with the reference, it is a general regret: egoism (sic!) is getting worse and worse, ‘greed’ was even the cause of the crisis and then – yes, only then – neoliberalism has dismantled the remnants of society: The dismantling of the welfare state, austerity, capital-friendliness or even citizenship are then quickly at hand, and if a person has to travel a little, he or she quickly gets tired, because wherever one goes in Europe, for example, the situation is supposedly particularly bad: Oh, our state of careemergency – Il numero sempre crescente di disoccupupati – qu’est-ce que l’État fait pour s’occuper des enfants – Accommodation? Who can still go for that?…. – Buteveryone knows that it’s not so bad ‘everywhere there’, because it’s especiallydramatic only in one’s own country. Irony aside, the urge to bring things to the point of one place and one time, more precisely: the urge we feel to reduce issues on the here and now, is strong – and yet this is precisely also part of the policy that was already embarking on a social restructuring at the end of the 1970s: it was the point of methodological nationalism. And with the news of the ‘weare the poorest’ the foundation was laid for special diligence, but also for the special willingness to accept political changes. Basically, the policy of sticks and carrots advocated by ‘Chancellor Bismarck’ also works here. Itis, however, more than remarkable that the so-called Bismarckian social insurance was in the end decisively enforced by the efforts of the then Minister of Trade – it can even be sharpened: Bismarck held the whip in his hand and those interested in trade, distributed pieces of sugar.
… and now it’s coming true.
It may bea coincidence that the re-release of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchersintroduced exactly this time – according to the imdb database it is about the fact that
In San Francisco, a group of people discover the human race is being replaced one by one, with clones devoid of emotion. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077745/; 23.02.19)
So the screen was free for a spectacular game, which followed – but then it followed not only on the screen, but on the massive stage called society, even if this allegedly did not exist at all.
Just a little something
relative stabilization of the post-68 period of success, although as an
unstable tension field (seehttps://www.buko.info/http/kongress/buko31/deutsch/groups/68_zeitstrahl.pdf; 23.02.19)
Opening the exit door
1979: Takeover of the government by Margaret Thatcher; takeover of thegovernment by Labour (Leonard James Callaghan).
Since 1980 in various speeches Kohl's demand for a 'spiritual-moral turn',
‘spiritual renewal’ …
September 1982: Landtag election in Hesse with the first Landtag mandates
for the Greens
October 1982: Vote of no confidence against the Schmidt government and
March 1983: Bundestag elections, with considerable profits for the CDU/CSU and the first entry of the Greens.
1982 a first rejection of the EU's 'poverty reduction programmes
1995 Judgment of the European Court of Justice confirming that the EU in fact has no social policy competence
1997: EU treaty definition: Poverty reduction is labour market policy and anchored in the Amsterdam treaty.
Blocking the return path
2006 Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market2
2012 – according to Wikipedia: “Helmut Schmidt, who had been overthrown, said in 2012 in retrospect in an interview that there had been no change at all, but that the social-liberal policy had been continued and “only thepersonnel had been replaced”. (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geistig-moralische_Wende; 23.02.19)
It can’t be
A look at the mixture of those years of change must come as a little surprise, for the first impression was quite positive: just as the students had turned against the muff of thousand years, the new regulators resisted the dust that had been stirred up in less than half of a century. However, this wording should be corrected immediately: (i) It is probably more correct to speak of new founders of the old order, because at least some of the old founders had died or were expelled, such as Alt-Nazi Kiesinger. (ii) It was also about the fact that the dust whirled up was just the dust left behind by the fathers of the new founders – from Vietnam to Pinochet-Hayek’s Chile.
The success and lasting effect of the ’68ers are not at issue here – but with all the necessary caution, one can probably speak of a relatively successful implementation of the welfare state concept: here, too, the whip played a role – in the form of a civil war on several fronts;but the carrots seemed large enough to ensure at least a temporary peace. For Germany at least it has to be said: what presented itself as a social sector was not without problems – at least three moments should not be forgotten:
- The 2ndGerman ‘socio-economic miracle’ was above all the result of a rather aggressive export orientation – and thus it basically dug its own grave.
- Last but not least it was possible to outsource or hide large part of the problems – only later this should become really virulent: Poverty did not exist – it was officially “clere by definition”, classifying welfare payments as poverty being overcome.
- Germany – above all, together with Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK – also made its mark in the 1972 hesitant European policy of social order, which shows its true essence cum grano salis only in retrospect, and one must admit (at least to some of the ‘doers’) that none of them opened the exit door, but suddenly all of them were in a kind of social cold.
What lasts long won’t be good for long.
The ‘free, not success-bound’ orientation as a regular task (see Scherr in this issue) found a symbolic supplement through the programme and project policy, which indeed offered partly exciting openings5– but the sadly exciting aspect was exactly the wrong reluctance6– subsidiarity was seen by professional representatives as a possibility of securing the existence of new areas of experience and also used to open up new ones, but at the same time there was no strength, who used this as a basis for a relevant policy at the EU level and finally demanded EU responsibility – for the projects there was no scope for influence, the profession was busy with day-to-day work, colleagues from the academic world usually lacked access, as there were hardly any relevant project calls and the exceptions demanded bureaucratic effort and the courage to speak a foreign language – the welfare associations were overburdened, because the EU’s day-to-day business demanded a lot and moreover, it had been caught in nitty-gritty such as the treatment of stamps with a welfare surcharge under European tax law. Government representatives interpreted these activities more as an excuse for abstinence, because after all there was no EU competence. Border-wise we can say that it was a hike in terra nullius: the land that does not belong to anyone, which thus became the land ofthe dispossessed as well. An internal land seizure then took place, bit by bit, linking further activities more and more to the ‘core tasks of the EU’. In plain language: where most of the social affairs was already outside, the border trees were lowered: Competition was now the magic word – by no means presented as an exclusion of the social. Everything should be even better, and now, at last, truly EU-Romanian, for example through the free movement of services. That cannot be7seen as denying the social sector, can it? Rather, ironically the full recognition of the social has been achieved: social service providers as equal economic partners, for example alongside Deutsche Bank and Hoch&Tief or Flixbus.
- see for example Herrmann, Peter, 2000: Social work and European integration – dangers of confusing the left with the right shoe; in: New practice. Zeitschrift für Sozialarbeit, Sozialpädagogik und
Sozialpolitik; Neuwied: Luchterhand, Issue 6: 601 – 607; Herrmann, Peter, 2009: Die Europäischen
Union als Programmgesellschaft. The European Social Model, Social Policy and the Third Sector
- Herrmann, Peter, 1995: Subsidiarity and the wrong restraint or: On the meaning of European poverty
programmes; in: Intelligence Service of the German Association for Public and Private Welfare, Frankfurt/M., Issue 2: 79 – 86
- Herrmann, Peter, 2011: The End of Social Services? Economisation and Managerialism; Bremen:
European University Publishing House
Who once looks into the metal bowl …
So it was visionary exactly in the way it happened: Kohl and Thatcher spread with their slogans the main ingredients for an ‘alchemistic circle soup’, which systematically redefined the social space as we knew it and actually let parts of the profession run in circles. Basically, we have a constellation again where trade policy and general social order policy have to come together. The EU’s fortress policy of global trade follows the usual cross-paths of a fortress wall that is only closed from one side. Moreover, it is currently also a question of far-reaching structural shifts – keywords are digitization, service capitalism, trade capitalism and financial capitalism, at least in the Western centers, and at the same time so-called Brazilianization. The crucial thing is that in this way a ‘climate’ is created which is much more radical than what is repeatedly called neoliberalism. The abandonment of the social space was more skilfully promoted than any policy of cutbacks, savings and restructuring could have achieved: It is a kind of ‘inner emigration’ – almost exactly we are writing the fortieth year of this counterrevolution: it was against the demonized socialists, clarifying in advance
Our aim is not just to remove our uniquely incompetentGovernment from office—it is to destroy the socialist fallacies— indeed the whole fallacy of socialism—that the Labour Party exists to spread.8
That was easily visibly translated as the actual combat task, far beyond serving the short-term interests of the economic bosses. In fact, the view of the economy was seen much more fundamentally – Kohl, for example, turned out to be a kind of Gramscian and stated in the government statement
The ultimate fate of the market economy is decided – beyond supplyand demand.9
- Speech to Junior Carlton Club Political Council (4 May 1976) https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/103017
- Excerpt from the government declaration: https://www.1000dokumente.de/pdf/dok_0144_koh_en.pdf
Here, too, it wasn’t simply about the real problems,10but also about the problems that had been made or, more precisely, those that allegedly didn’t exist.
“The new poverty is an invention of the socialist jet-set.”
STERN, July 24, 1986
It is significant that they are often negative statements; critiques which, as it were, also describe negatively what the conservatives did not want to be, was the main programmatic point: socially and responsibly – as early as 194911– Thatcher pleaded for the Swabian housewife who later became known through Angela Merkel. According to this, national budgets also have the primary goal of not incurring debts.
Above all, however, they did not want to be socialists – remarkable when one considers that the predecessor of this a-social era, Schmidt, said that there had been no turning point anyway (see box); and equally remarkable that then the ‘third way’, which was later allegedly longed for with Tony Blair in the UK (1997) and Gerhard Schroeder in the Federal Republic (1998) – shortly before the election – in an article in the Financial Times (international edition; passim), with the tenor that a change was necessary to secure the continuation of the conservative way. Basically, the “masterpiece” was done: the social space was abandoned, a sign was hung on the door:
Careful, don’t look back! Poisonous deposits!
And new strangleholds were trained purposefully (see Bohnenberger in this issue) – they were supposed to prepare themselves for private services, competition, division, and stress for ‘social customers’ and ‘providers’, dressed up as zeal, among other things, and finally to accept the good wishes of TINA.
These ‘socialists’ have overlooked many things, including the fact that they have paved the way for an alternative of false demagogues (see Butterwegge in this issue).
- Admittedly, Kohl mentions some of the core problems in the government declaration with a certain systematic approach, including those of a kind that not only concern obvious facts but also those of amore techno-political nature (monetary and budgetary policy, etc.).
11Speech at her adoption meeting as Conservative candidate for Dartford (28 February 1949);https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/100821; 24.02.19Prof. Dr. phil., Sozialphilosoph, News. Thoughts. Provocations www.esosc.eu. Part of the literature is freely accessible via https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Herrmann
 Thatcher, Margaret, interviewed by Douglas Keay (1987, September 23). Interview for Woman’s Own; Thatcher Archive (THCR 5/2/262): COI transcript; https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106689; 17/06/18
 OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, p. 36-68; http://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/2006/123/oj; 24.02.19
 Zu dem letzten Punkt: Farrant, Andrew, et al. “Preventing the ‘Abuses’ of Democracy: Hayek, the ‘Military Usurper’ and Transitional Dictatorship in Chile?” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, vol. 71, no. 3, 2012, pp. 513–538., http://www.jstor.org/stable/23245188.)
 Strike depositions, anti-trade union activities, legal violations, bans on employment, war with/against the RAF