Scales falling from the eyes

Of course, change is undeniable, everywhere and at any time. And the same can be said in regard of things not changing at all, being the same everywhere and at any time. – It seems to be true for the big and also for the small matters. And sometimes we are not really aware of any of these; and/or we are not aware of the details, the question of the real meaning. Sure, there cannot be any clear answer, as there is always the perspective as decisively intervening variable. At stake here are at least issues as form, substance and perception: looking at the rainbow fish we see the sparkling scales,


though we have to ask what happened to the fish after he gave them away. Is it the same fish or not, and what – if anything – changed.

It is the question also if we look at language: so often we take words dispassionately, just as they are so well known – as it happened the other day, or I should say night, walking along the Leopoldstrasse, seeing the bakery’s light, the word Strassenverkauf – Street Trading: of course: the window where they would sell during the opening hours bread, roles and cake to the passerby – of course also the coffee to go: wiki-food for wiki-lives in a wiki-world where everything is possible:

I am expected to see the social and, to a large extent, even the real environment as a contingent. Everything could be different – and almost nothing I can change.[1]

wikiwiki – an invitation to play — wikiwiki – kiwi kiwi – Kipukapuka

Few meters on I hesitated, returned, reading it again, in a different way now – getting the impression of scales falling from my eyes: Isn’t there really some more truth in a reading that suggests that shops like this are trading in streets, shaping very much spaces, public spaces?

Here space is about living in permanent transition – space where pace matters …, as faster as better …, as further as worthier …

“Everything could be different – and almost nothing I can change“ is also about the paradox of a new world, suggesting

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, as Evgeny Morozov titles in his critical review.[2]

The paradox is that everything becomes transitory – and in the knowledge of this we make things to be replaced. The earlier Phoebus cartel meant to shadow light bulbs

The Phoebus cartel had an ambitious agenda. First, it stabilized prices at a fairly high level. The demand for lightbulbs was inelastic—that is, it changed little with the price of the object. Because as a rule consumers spent far more on electricity to power bulbs than on bulbs themselves, the price of electricity was the chief factor determining the demand for lamps. European producers reasoned that higher prices on bulbs would not depress sales while boosting profit margins per unit sold. General Electric particularly liked this policy, which allowed it to keep prices in the United States lower than European ones and so discourage challengers from the continent. In addition, the cartel provided for licensing technology among members, a system that earned GE substantial royalties. Finally, Phoebus pursued a far-reaching program of technical standardization. European firms had been producing electric lamps with a dizzying variety of voltage, longevity, brightness, and socket size. The cartel sought to regularize bulbs, setting up a central laboratory in Switzerland to which all members had to submit their goods. Few objected to the policy, as standardization lowered production costs as well as confusion among consumers. Another initiative, however, did not earn such universal praise. Phoebus (and in the United States, GE) systematically changed bulbs to allow them to produce more light per unit of electricity. This also cut the average life span of bulbs by about 20 percent, forcing consumers to purchase more of them. The cartel did not advertise the change, but when called to account, managers pointed out that the new bulbs provided more light per unit of power and so benefited customers. It was not clear, however, why consumers could not have chosen for them- selves between the new, brighter bulbs and the old, longer-lasting ones.[3]

The new cartel is about more. It is about making us to live lives in transition  – instead of furthering enlightenment, shadowing the being itself.

Occupied – being busy is the new and ultimate way … tired is the new stoned.


The other day I went with two friends after lunch around the corner – who could have resisted the question ‘We’ll go for an ice-cream?’ – ’Sure, best gelateria in town’ I smirked. There had been a more or less long queue, people well ordered entering the small place, ordering, being asked which ‘top-up’ they wanted to test – just a spoon full, moving on to the cash register and then we stood more or less in the way, enjoying ice-cream and company under the little awning – indeed, there is room in even the smallest cabin.

This is the pleasant of being caught in a machinery of shops, eateries, service centres …As it is a pleasant way to go for a cuppa in the shop next to the Institute – where they have coffee to Gogh.


…all trading in streets, highly social in their orientation on shaping spaces in which we move, or in which we are caught, not feeling in a position to move. Sure, supposedly we are acting purely as individuals, like the Smithian butcher, brewer, or baker of whom we know he following:

Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely. The charity of well-disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence.[4]

Even if we really behave like individual butchers, brewers and bakers, nolens volens we create spaces and publicness – being occupied by our occupations — and confronted with the challenge of occupying them – on this level the choice of ice cream in the small place around the corner and grabbing a sandwich at the window, ops Strassenverkauf – Street Trading.


Perception matters – perception of things, beings and being. And perception is not least about perceiving historical truth, truth of history, of change and stability and how it is seen. Martin Walser, being interviewed as one of the Zeuge des Jahrhunderts, states pointedly

As long as something is, it is not what it will have been at some time. – Solange etwas ist, ist es nicht, was es einmal gewesen sein wird.

And the same, cm grano salis, can be said when it comes to language:

As soon as we use words, we may use them in a way that is different to what they meant when they had been used originally. Yes, there is movement as well of language and its use and understanding.

Moving – Heraclitian movement is also about moving oneself, not (primarily) as self-movement for the sake of oneself, instead as actively moving oneself in order to move society in order to build a society that allows to move …

… indeed it is about the butcher, the brewer, or the baker.

Sure, so far

[w]e address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

But is it entirely true? Aren’t we also at times go to a craftsperson who is clearly distinctive from the replaceable machine, tool or vending machine – who ‘is what s/he works and works what s/he is’? Isn’t s/he like most of us hoping to be able and encouraged (today one would say empowered) to live in a society

where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

A passage that is still appreciated, even if Marx wrote these words in the German Ideology already in1845.


[1]       (Mir wird zugemutet, die soziale und weithin sogar die dingliche Umwelt als kontingent zu begreifen. Alles könnte anders sein – und fast nichts kann ich ändern.)

(Luhmann_Politische Planung-Aufsätze zur Soziologie von Politik und Verwaltung_1971_VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.pdf: 44)

[2]       (public affairs, 2013)

[3]       Wells, Wyatt, 2002: Antitrust and the Formation of the Postwar World; New York et alt.: Columbia University Press: 21

[4]       Smith, Adam, 1776: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [The Wealth of Nations]


At least somewhat ‘strange’ or: occupying the occupied

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

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

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

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

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


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

Strange … – or simple alienation

Walking along, moving on a narrow lane, along a wide line – wide, as in the Russian term Ясная Поляна, which cannot be translated , with its inherent link to wide and bright … white …, as witty? .. Imagine it is not an imagination but you move in a space that really transcends time and you and you live in a time that does not refer to any space … – where The Stranger is actually not a stranger anymore as we all are truly and everywhere and anytime at home.

The no-problem-society III – Beautification of living trying to gain space

No problem, of course – indeed, only if there is shadow, there will be light. And the one-sided view, so prevalent as it is so easy, allows to ignore seeing the ‘dark side’ – which of course is a problem for those actually sitting in the middle of the shadow. In other words, what really is at stake is – as so often – the old question not simply concerned with to be or not to be but where and how to be – the Shakespearean is relatively simple to answer as it is universal in the sense of the finality that is involved: a simple reduction of being on physical existence, the story around it nice, superstructural and though it is essential for the individual it is in terms of the social not much more than bric-à-brac. The other question deserves a more differentiated look as it is about power, and as such it is, equal to the question of value, fundamentally relational and ‘human’. Three quotes from Hannah Arendt’s book on the human conditions are providing some food for thought:

 Man, in so far as he is homo faber, instrumentalizes, and his in- strumentalization implies a degradation of all things into means, their loss of intrinsic and independent value, so that eventually not only the objects of fabrication but also ‘the earth in general and all forces of nature,’ which clearly came into being without the help of man and have an existence independent of the human world, lose their ‘value because [they] do not present the reification which comes from work’.[1]


The unfortunate truth about behaviorism and the validity of its ‘laws’ is that the more people there are, the more likely they are to behave and the less likely to tolerate non-behavior. Statistically, this will be shown in the leveling out of fluctuation. In reality, deeds will have less and less chance to stem the tide of behavior, and events will more and more lose their significance, that is, their capacity to illuminate historical time. Statistical uniformity is by no means a harmless scientific ideal; it is the no longer secret political ideal of a society which, entirely submerged in the routine of everyday living, is at peace with the scientific outlook inherent in its very existence.[2]

It is also about equality

This modern equality, based on the conformism inherent in society and possible only because behavior has replaced action as the foremost mode of human relationship, is in every respect different from equality in antiquity, and notably in the Greek city-states.[3]

While Hannah Arendt discusses these issues in the perspective of the general conditions of existence, it is not less, perhaps even more relevant in terms of social classes and groups – and the spaces provided for the development.

Sifting things onto the behavioural level is usual simple: the appeal to be optimist, the appeal to behave in a responsible and respectful way, to be emphatic – and even the non-utilitarian approach will soon reveal the real issue. And that is the objectivity of shadow, the objectivity of the shades of grey .., and the nevertheless somewhat finality of black. As we could see: defined by statistics, defined by the combination of different paint particles.

Indeed, as Arendt pointed out, action is not least a matter of speech, understood as consequential communication. However, as the issue had been previously about space and its creation, we can approach this way (some of) the underlying issue(s): real spaces are about real communication, at least about allowing real communication – honest communication as dispute. The true ‘art’ of the Greek polis in which communication was about dispute which was about having the better arguments – and of course: the better way of presenting. Surely different of compared to today’s common mutual confirmation and shown agreement – with the clenched fist in the pocket and shaking the head after turning around … no problem, just do what you can present – and today, more than ever before, you can present figures.

Even indicators and evidence are reduced on means of confirming and proving what we know, not helping us to understand complex patterns and reducing issues on simplified causal and mono-directional connections.[4]

Quality of any product or service is now defined by … – by what the producer or provider states it is about. Yes, it is reality defined for instance by the ISO, the new gods of the International Organization for Standardization claiming

We develop and publish International Standards.

It is simple: if we include for instance the failing of the product after three years in the definition of a standard of a lawn mover and if the product is failing after three years it may be said it is ‘good’. Lasting longer would actually not be ‘good’, missing to fail as promised.

Goethe’s Mephisto already knew:

To nonsense reason turns, and benefit to worry.
Woe unto you that you’re a grandchild, woe!
For of the law that was born with us, no!
Of that, alas! there never is a query.[5]

(Goethe, 1806)

One of the problems – perhaps this makes us feeling that things are ‘new’, that they are getting worse – may be that we witness some kind of exponential growth of stupidity: close a hole by digging another and dig another hole to close the second and …, with any new one we are not simply facing a spatial shift but instead a larger than the original one that we closed, somewhat unrecognised, piecemeal strategies to maintain some form of peace, friable and from the beginning inclined to emerge as smooth nonsense: beautiful and without substance and without even claiming any substance.

But if things would be as simple as they appear to be … but they aren’t if we allow moving forward and backward, acknowledging the dialectical, dual meaning of sublation and supersession. –What is this about then?

Recently I looked a bit into Artificial Intelligence, also watched some films (as e.g. Ex Machina, Her). I still think it is interesting – and something that, in different ways, goes beyond the ‘narrow topic’. There is a film ‘Io e Caterina’, in Italian, a comedy but it is about the relationship between a man and his robot. Another thing I saw recently at the airport in Helsinki: a ‘voting stand’ asking the esteemed user to asses the service. What is new, remarkable? The development: It begins with people meeting at the counter and expressing directly what they think of each other, possibly ‘feedback cards’ can be found on the desk. Then there is the ‘press button-feedback’ at counters: emoticons where we still are asked to ‘assess how people perform’. Now we have machines by which we can assess how other machines ‘behave’: how did you like the automatic self-check-in?

This links well to what I wrote earlier: marrying a robot.

The legal dimension of such ‘marriage between humans and robots’ is actually in the perspective of legal doctrine a fascinating question … ridiculous? not imaginable? The real problem with self-driving cars is … exactly the same – the need to redefine the legal subject and include a ‘body’ that is so far not capable of holding rights. Frightening? Sure, to some extent. However finding an answer may also open a way to redefine ‘rights of nature’ – a discussion we are pursuing in many Latin-American countries, in particular in Bolivia … – indeed, now the question seems to go beyond the differentiation between behaviour and action a sit had been posed earlier, with reference to Hannah Arendt. Now we are challenged to search for higher for higher forms of both, behaviour and action.

Especially as we can now move back to the question of spaces and spatial (not least urban) development. On of the core problems is that under the condition that requires everything has to be measurable, standardised everything has to be as well appear as reification, even more so: is reification and by this it is made tangible. What is more, this reification is on the one hand individualised as only as act of individuals who are ‘trading’ reified ‘things’ the social is constituted. What is more, the ex-ante-inclusion of social considerations into this relationship would actually make it impossible to function in the required way. This means not least that little profit coming from these individual relationships is better than large profits from social engagement. This is one of the explanations (admittedly amongst others that are not less important) that we find the global pressure on prices – the all-presence of ‘cheap stuff’, the need for the generalisation of the common law of business balance as matter that pushes all of us – well, the majority – downwards.

However, there are indications of limits having been reached, pushing to some new forms of bringing things together. ‘complete individualisation’ and ‘complete commodification’ are striving for their exoneration, for re-socialisation and de-commodification: at this stage it is about the socialisation of private space, not more, and not less: the shopping malls as destination of the outing; the coffee shop as living room and office – its flagship supposing that everything is

Crafted by hand and heart

where one can

Make every sip more rewarding

… and of course it is a place where the contradiction is life, stands at the core: the very person and hand and heart driven service offers that you can

Pay with your phone. And do so much more.


Such ‘imagined communities’, these changing cultures of coffeehouses, are now taking over even the traditional small nests of the old cultures, the nests of resistance as for instance the probably strongest defenders of the national coffee bar tradition and there are many other of these ‘communities’ now: other coffee companies, restaurants that change the concept of self-service towards self-production, the DIY.

And they are also emerging in other areas: the various ‘communities’ as and, allowing all of us putting us under pressure, establishing a climate of ‘digital self-monitoring – the self-tracing in cybernetic capitalism’[6], and also giving us the feeling of moving in a space of discourse where we are

… invited you to participate in the comments on his draft paper …

To view the paper and comments, please follow the link below:

Writing about this topical field – topical on the sense of current, it also in the understanding of dealing with a subject matter – is difficult as it is again and again dis-tracted into looking at the details: the dying system still being able not only to maintain but even to gain. Perhaps there is really not more in it? Let’s wait and see …



[1]            Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press: 156; with reference to Das Kapital, HI [Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, Abt. II, Zurich, 1933], 698

[2]            ibid.: 43

[3]            ibid, 41; see then also pages 159 ff., the chapter on The Exchange Market.

[4]            see Herrmann, Peter, 2014: Indicators – More than Evidence and Maths; in: Kondratieff Waves: Juglar – Kuznets – Kondratief; editors: Leonid Grinin (Russia), Tessaleno Devezas (Portugal), Andrey Korotayev (Russia); Volgograd: ‘Uchitel’ Publishing House

[5]            Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1806: Faust I, Vers 1972 ff; English translation

[6]            Simon Schaupp, 2106: Digitale Selbstüberwachung. Self-Tracking im kybernetischen Kapitalismus’; Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, 160 Seiten, ISBN 3939045292