Uploaded also this text now, dealing with the Vatican Spring on ‘my’ researchgate-site – kind of old stuff, though still of interest I suppose, reflecting on the limits of a ‘new catholicism’. As such it is also relevant as reflection of the limited meaning of religious ‘revolutionary claims’.


revista interdisciplinar revistaentelequia.wordpress.com

Peter Herrmann *



Tanto en los discursos de —o acerca de— la economía como en los discursos de —y acerca de— la ética se puede observar una evidente abstinencia mutual, y esto independientemente de la orientación política. Y si un lado reconoce la existencia del otro, suele ser más para identificarlo como su antagonista. Este prefacio, que se centra en la pregunta de si un ‘nuevo fantasma recorre el mundo’ desde la elección de Jorge Mario Bergoglio como máximo Pontífice —el espectro de una orientación católica fundamentalmente renovada— se propone discutir ese ‘despertar’ sugerido por muchos comentaristas desde una perspectiva más amplia. Al adoptar un punto de vista más amplio, llegamos a la conclusión de que existe una cierta necesidad de increpar al individualismo y al economismo desde una perspectiva ética, pero que esos reproches quedan muy cuestionables mientras no analicen y critiquen los fundamentos estructurales de tales ‘aberraciones’. Y concluye que seguramente existe la necesidad y el espacio para un ‘renacimiento de la ética’, pero que esto sólo se puede alcanzar por medio de la intervención colectiva y de procedimientos legislativos, no por la dicha de la oración. Si el cambio pretende ser sostenible, deberá de ser drástico, mucho más que ligeros rasguños en la superficie; y si el cambio pretende ser justo, deberá de ser estructural en lugar de moral.

Palabras clave: Iglesia Católica, ética, economía, reforma, sociedad.

A new spectre is haunting now the world??

Vatican Spring?

The following is the abstract of an article that is nearly completed, to be published in a book edited by Arno Tausch, and being concerned with the development of catholicism. A pre-version, i.e. an unedited version will soon be sent on request.


Both, discourses in and about economy on the one hand, in and about ethics are very much caught in mutual abstinence. This applies independent of the political orientation. If the one side is acknowledged by the other it is more in vein of a counter-spirit. The following, of which the focus is the question if there is, following the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope, a new spectre haunting the world – the spectre of a fundamentally new catholic orientation – tries to discuss this supposed awakening in a wider perspective. By taking a wider view it comes to the conclusion, that there is surely the need for a rebuke of individualism and economism from an ethical perspective, but that such reprimand remains questionable as long as it does not analyse and criticise the structural foundations of such ‘aberrations’. And it concludes that there is surely need and space for ‘renaissance of ethics’, but that can only be reached by collective intervention and legislative procedures and not by praising joy. If change aims on being sustainable, it has to be drastic instead of scratching at the surface; if change aims on being just, it has to be structural instead of moral.

Backyards – Courtyards*

Sure, what Brecht used in his theatre and his theoretical considerations as Verfremdung, i.e. (a specific kind of) alienation has also its linguistic version, comes for across as linguistic Verfremdung.

Having previously spoken of the backyards, the Italian term is perhaps more telling: we speak of the

 cortile interno.[1]

And I also said

there may a good reason to finally open the also doors of the Villa Doria Pamphilj.

Finally then, I contended that

the others, the unknown, the unnamed, the dwarfs and voles didn’t take anything, in first instance.

In social science we know very much about the difficulty which is only in words easily overcome:

the individual being nothing without the social being nothing without the individual.

 Or we may of course also say

the social being nothing without the individual being nothing without the social

For instance we can refer to Norbert Elias. He stated

[t]hat the human being is a process is certainly one of the most fundamental of people’s experiences, but it is usually suppressed from thinking because of the overwhelming tendency of thought to reduce processes to state conditions.[2]

And he continued metaphorically

[o]ne may say that a person passes through a process, just as one says the wind blows, although the blowing is, of course, the wind.[3]


Applying this relational aspect together with the thought of processuality, the story looks more difficult than social science commonly admits, even more so if we include the socio-hierarchical dimension. To put it into a simple (though difficult to answer) question: Can we really imagine development that starts from the premise of not taking anything as primary cause in the first instance? Can we imagine the beauty of a palace like the Villa Doria Pamphilj with initially open doors? – Or would that mean denial of causality?

In any case, there had been nearly always the two sides anyway, up to hitherto not really coming together, always contrasting the two sides, celebrating the one, barely mentioning that another had been involved, and even necessary. And the decisive questions had not been asked by many – Brecht however did:

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates?

In the books you will read the names of kings.

Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?


And Babylon, many times demolished,

Who raised it up so many times?


In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?

Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?


Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.

Who erected them?


Over whom did the Caesars triumph?

Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?


Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,

The drowning still cried out for their slaves.


The young Alexander conquered India.

Was he alone?


Caesar defeated the Gauls.

Did he not even have a cook with him?


Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.

Was he the only one to weep?


Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.

Who else won it?


Every page a victory.

Who cooked the feast for the victors?


Every 10 years a great man.

Who paid the bill?


So many reports.


So many questions.


Two examples added, and possibly showing in a very drastic way the bloodshed on which much of bellezza, gloria e lustro are established.

Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze – there is somewhere at one of the houses surrounding the square a memorial plaque, reminding that the place where we see no the palace and the square had been offering at least a place where people lived. It describes as well that this offering a place had been actually not more, and even that is somewhat understating the reality: it had been a location which had been characterised by the nearness of the Arno: Mud, mosquitoes … –and of course the subsequent epidemics. Beauty then, with the building of the palace, replacing the misery, power emerging where the powerless lived.

– They are still on the reading list, but there is probably a good reason for Umberto Eco writing two separate volumes: one on Storia della bellezza, the other on Storia della bruttezza.

Tiny additions can be made to this short excursus to Florence, historical details, not (necessarily) following a chronological order and perhaps not even entirely true – as the real truth has to include asking all the questions of reading workers of which Brecht only mentioned a few.

Anyway, the Piazza della Signoria had been at some stage during antiquity also a roman theatre – some of the buildings structures apparently still showing signs of this period. And these theaters had been closely linked to the imperial idea of the panem et circenses – bread and games, of which we easily forget that many of these games had been actually deciding over life and death. And isn’t it striking that such a place is the birthplace of the early republic – the res publica, indeed claiming to give bread and games to the people, actually being the bread and games of the people.

And it still is also the place where Girolamo Savonarola had been executed in 1498. It surely says something that Claiming the Triumph of the Cross had been the crime for which he lost his life about the time when the Medici reclaimed power. And probably it had been claimed that all this had been in the name of the people – surely using other words than today’s court systems do.

In this light we have to be careful when we refer to the origin of bread and games. Juvenal used it in his satire X to reprimand the people’s numbness.

iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli

uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim

imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se

continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat,

panem et circenses.

Giordano Bruno, Girolamo Savonarola, Galilee Galileo … – even if they had not been really the people, they are examples for what happens if people are interested in more then bread and games.

Finally entering the palace, we find not just the overwhelming beauty, nearly not allowing us to see the scaffold behind it, the foundation on which it had been erected. The room where Niccolò Machiavelli had his office while being secretary of the new republic, actually employed by developing a strategy for the new prince, not enlightened as Frederick II suggested in his anti-Machiavelli. And as true as it is that Machiavelli’s position had not been clear (finally he also wrote the Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio), it is also true that during his time as servant of the republic the doors of his office showed to the Signoria, the rulers, and not to the people. And there had been still the door to chapel … – a new state, competing with the church and still being its servant, trusting its support … – So true even if we consider the work in the Stanza della Guardaroba – a collection of globes and maps of which the accuracy is even for today’s eyes of surprising precision: didn’t this clear view contradict the ongoing apotheosis. Or it is especially then true, showing the tensions between the new state, the ancient state, present in the two marble pillars, taken from a Roman temple, and the bridging Christianity. The claim of the latter had been clear: the universal state of god, the church speaking of

 umanesimo cristiano, umanesimo integrale, nuova cristiano

only really accepting universality and universal human rights with the Vatican II discourse in the early 1960s.

And in the middle of all this there had been another detail: a hidden room, the workshop of an alchemist, working on the new universalism – it had been known and mentioned in laments of Sophocles which had been mentioned elsewhere. .

Renaissance overcame the lament – instead, now gold and not least its monetarised form had been celebrated and ultimate goal. If it had not been achieved …

… another detail shows the Mephistophelean way: an invisible door leading to another hidden room, even more unknown and only having an entrance, not an exit.

It is the metaphor of what we know from the 24th chapter of Capital

At the historical dawn of capitalist production, – and every capitalist upstart has personally to go through this historical stage – avarice, and desire to get rich, are the ruling passions. But the progress of capitalist production not only creates a world of delights; it lays open, in speculation and the credit system, a thousand sources of sudden enrichment. When a certain stage of development has been reached, a conventional degree of prodigality, which is also an exhibition of wealth, and consequently a source of credit, becomes a business necessity to the “un- fortunate” capitalist. Luxury enters into capital’s expenses of representation. Moreover, the capitalist gets rich, not like the miser, in proportion to his personal labour and restricted consumption, but at the same rate as he squeezes out the labour power of others, and enforces on the labourer abstinence from all life’s enjoyments. Although, therefore, the prodigality of the capitalist never possesses the bona fide character of the open-handed feudal lord’s prodigality, but, on the contrary, has always lurking behind it the most sordid avarice and the most anxious calculation, yet his expenditure grows with his accumulation, without the one necessarily restricting the other. But along with this growth, there is at the same time developed in his breast, a Faustian conflict between the passion for accumulation, and the desire for enjoyment.

The second example, namely the Duomo in the same city. The plan, Brunelleschi submitted for the building of the cupola had been apparently so bold that there had been two reaction amongst the members of the jury: one group said that it would be impossible to build and somebody else should be granted the mandate; another group agreeing that the submission would be extremely bold – but presenting something of this kind would mean that one can only be completely convinced that there it must be possible – so they pleaded for granting the work to Brunelleschi. As the first group finally surrendered, the impossible architectural work had been undertaken. If one believes the legend, it could not be explained until today how this magnificent dome had been actually erected and one version claiming the explanation is that a “scaffold” of sand had been offering the support while the building work had been done; later the poor had been told that inside there would be coins … – so they found eager people doing the dirty work of cleaning the inside, thus actually making this beauty possible. Today, the beautiful fresco does not even allow to presage that something like this could have happened. It may be a rumour – and in any case there is one question to be added to those asked by Brecht.


Taking then the terms together: backyard and cortile interno, we arrive at the different dimensions:

  • Backing something
  • Being internal, and thus element, i.e. elementary
  • Yard, providing the playing ground

And with a tiny alteration we may arrive at inferno on the one hand and courtesy on the other – a kind of arch that seems to characterise historical development, expressed markedly in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto where we read

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

If we read the text carefully we see that it is an in-depth analysis, arguing on four dimensions, looking at

  • the accumulation regime
  • the mode of regulation
  • the living regime
  • the mode of life

These are four dimensions that clearly mark the dialectical relationship between the different levels: there is no economic determinism – instead we are dealing with people who are constituted as actors, responsible for their own life; but it also argues that the hegemonies are not simply a result of one class being superior. The hegemonic power is established by linking the two, the accumulation regime and the living regime, wage labour being the major brace; mode of regulation and mode of life, the major brace being consumption which makes many political scientists speak of ‘political markets’ and stands behind the notion of the so-called consumerist societies.


Walking through Rome then (and it could be any other place), we actually walk in two dimensions: following the footsteps of the great men of history and on the backs of those who had to provide the floor on which these people could walk.

Though the fundamental structure is very much the same throughout history – captured in the German Ideology by emphasising that

[t]he production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life

the patterns, the design of these historical carpets varies.


I talked recently with Birgit who said that some generous spending: e.g. for renting a car without chasing the best offer is not least about “buying time”, gaining leisure time as pleasure time. And after chatting a bit about this, she asked

But what are people coming to Rome want to buy? What is the special pleasure, the experience they are looking for when coming to the so-called eternal city?

No lo so ma sospetto – it is really only an assumption, or a mosaic, a patchwork that possibly merges to some entity, entirety …

… eternality. In any of the areas, perhaps even more those that are closed to the eyes of tourists, it seems that development stopped – better to say: that development took place as maintenance. Not the conversation we find in museums but the functioning of a system with at least many traditional, archaic patterns. Coming here somebody may easily feel in some way time-displaced –and living here is in some respect not so different: it is a bit like living in an encapsulated world with its own laws. Approaching it from another end we may take Norbert Elias’ words who looks at an

era during which functions of protection and control of the individual, previously being pursued by the tighter associations of birth as clans or village, estate owner, guild or estate are transferred on highly centralised and increasingly urbanised statuary associations (Staatsverbaende). In response to this shift the individuals, when grown up, leave these tight, local associations based on birth and providing protection. Their cohesion is lowering according to the increasing loss of the functions of protection and control. And the individual being is within the wider, highly centralised and increasingly urbanised state societies to a larger extent depending on his/her own positioning. There is an increasing mobility of the individuals – understood as local and as social mobility[4]

And actually – sure, using a broad brush, being in danger of missing many other parts – much of what Elias says about the traditional settings – is the admirable charm of the Roman eternity. But what makes it even more charming is that fact that all this is merging closely with modernity: yes, there are buses and not horse carts though many people complain about them; yes, there is a developed system of police and public administration not the antique system of legionaries – and there is still the campanalista even in the city. Referring to campagna, i.e. the countryside, and perhaps not knowing, at least not being aware of two other close links: campanile is the Italian term for bell tower; and campagna also translates into campaign, even if it may only be a campaign for the dole vita.

– Is it then surprising that within the confines of Rome there is the real eternal city, the city state of the Vatican? Indeed it is simple to draw a line:

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth! Break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.[5]

Hic Rhodos – Hic Salta

 But what are people coming to Rome want to buy? What is the special pleasure experience here in the so-called eternal city?

Well, perhaps it is then the experience of being gladiator in the urban jungle, knowing that even in the confines of the Colosseo there are no lions; knowing that the modern emperor will with all his pomp finally not emerge as new Caesar or Nero.

And still it may be exactly this power that is perversely looked for: the string leader that cannot called for in the real world and that could maintain against the odds the claim of justice in this eternal externality. It remains for me an irresolvable riddle how it is possible that an island can be and is maintained that suggests a little bit a communist habitus ….

… dressed in the habit of the “professional believers”, people are allowed to live in some kind of idyll. Doesn’t much remind us a bit of what we read in the German Ideology about

communist 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, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.

… but it surely is only some kind of idyll …

… at least as long as this world, this system of faith with its very specific institutions allows the many sleeping rough on the doorsteps while proclaiming that

this capitalism kills

not acknowledging being ultimately part of it.

… but it surely is only some kind of idyll …

… at least as long as this world, this system of faith goes hand in hand with unbelievable material wealth – not just the cathedrals, churches and others but also when we look at the wealth of everyday’s life: It is so present that the present pope had to emphasise that he only has a simple cross, if it is true: made from iron, in any case distinct from the pomp of predecessors.

… but it surely is only some kind of idyll …

… at least as long as this world, this system of faith with its very specific institutions that are internally split …, not by different opinions but by power interests.

… but it surely is only some kind of idyll …

… at least as long as this world, this system of faith with its very specific institutions rebuke even an alternative within their own world, not seeing themselves as instrument of liberation.

Nel suo ultimo viaggio in America centrale e riferendosi al Nicaragua, [Giovanni Paolo II] annunciò la morte di questa teologia [i.e. della Teologia della Liberazione], avvenuta dopo la morte del marxismo. …[6]


Ecco il contesto di questo affermazione: a settembre del 1984 il cardinale Ratzinger aveva condannato duramente la Teologia della Liberazione ….

Isn’t it striking that Francis now condemns hierarchy, refuses to accept the pomp and vehemently criticises this capitalism, but is also ultimately joining this choir refusing liberation?

… but it surely is only some kind of idyll …

… at least as long as it is only for those who believe in god, but not for those who truly believe in mankind, in human beings being able to interact as people, who are consciously social actors.

… but it surely is only some kind of idyll …

… at least as long as it is not clear to themselves and everybody

No saviour from on high delivers

No faith have we in prince or peer

Our own right hand the chains must shiver

Chains of hatred, greed and fear


Morning walks … – a little bit exercise every morning, the air still reasonably clean, the traffic limited, where I live there are few people around: some flower shops open – actually open the entire night as the shop keeper can save this way the money for a bedroom; few people around: in some house entrances people cleaning the corridors and court yards; the news paper stands begin to open, some bars preparing for caffè e cornetto … . Women going to work – a few of them I know by now, early in the morning they smile at me, somewhat confused shy, sheepishly … – and while they walk further they turn the eyes down again, the face being covered by the Christian headscarf. They open the gates of one of the palaces from which I hear already the singing of chorals behind the doors, preparing for the day. And as their own, closed society of the faithful

regulates the general production


makes it possible for [them] to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as [they] have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.

Morning walks … – a little bit exercise every morning, the air still reasonably clean, the traffic limited, where I live there are few people around – a little bit later,

Sunday, at about 7 a.m.,

Via Ombrone: A middle aged man being busy with polishing the black Merc – for the family trip into the countryside? Or for any boss to be driven to the airport? Or …?

Sunday, at about 7 a.m.,

Via Regina Margherita, just around the corner the doors of ENEL – energia alla tu vita as they say – energy for your life: CSR and CER – corporate social and environmental responsibility … an enormous heat coming from the basement …; the guy from security services looking checking the charging stations for the ENEL-e-cars. Yes: CER, and the CSR ad tells us about flexible working time – of course especially for women, allowing a healthy “work-life balance” …

Sunday, at about 7 a.m.,

Via Arno: A man, covered by a woollen blanket, turning around – I cannot really see him, do not get a hint to guess his age; he is trying to turn around, trying to sleep a little longer, having enough time – no family to be driven to the countryside, no need to go to the airport …

CSR – he sleeps under the eaves of the ENEL-building …

Sunday, at about 11:37 a.m.,

Via di Villa Patrizi: a helicopter is leaving nearby, only a short time earlier they arrived there. Presumptions, sure …: an emergency case, admission to the hospital. Sure, only presumptions …:

  • the driver of a Merc, dangerously overtaking whiled driving to the airport;
  • members of a family, a car speeding on one of the country roads, just outside of Rome – the driver trying to “make the most of the weekend”
  • a homeless person, having been injured by a passing car while he stepped out of his “home”: a place in one of the tunnels at the outskirts of the city – such “new settlements” under bridges, in house entrances, in parks and green belts along the city wall are increasingly visible
  • a person who had been desperately disappointed, having lost perspectives …, trying to find the “final solution to the problems” but having been “rescued” though still without hope of being saved.

Presumptions, sure … – and the names of streets can be changed Canterbury Street, Bismarck Strasse, Rue de Pasquale, Youyi Rd, Komsomolskaya Square, Carrer dels Mercaders, Grevgatan, Dongja-dong, Yongsan-gu; the cities are diverse, not only in Europe

Presumptions, sure … – but also a question or two: what is speed when it is disjoined from its meaning? what is the “value” of a life? and why do we wait, then paying the high price although we could do much more with less if we look earlier at the cost?

And there is surely one more general question: Although street names can be changed, are contingent, there is something that is probably not … – you may want to know about the patricians who once lived in the Villa Patrizi, and all those people who gave the names to many streets …

But what are people coming to Rome want to buy? What is the special pleasure experience here in the so-called eternal city?

What kind of idyll is it

… even if it surely is only some kind of idyll?

Part of it is surely that the borders between private and public, between individuals and institutions, between past and presence are in some way blurring, this strange setting that allows people to forget, allowing charisma to develop and take over. Or taking the words from Goethe’s Journey to Italy, the more secular version reads like this:

Wenn man so eine Existenz ansieht, die zweitausend Jahre und darüber alt ist, durch den Wechsel der Zeiten so mannigfaltig und vom Grund aus verändert, und doch noch derselbe Boden, derselbe Berg, ja oft dieselbe Säule und Mauer, und im Volke noch die Spuren des lateinischen Charakters, so wird man ein Mitgenosse der großen Ratschlüsse des Schicksals, und so wird es dem Betrachter von Anfang schwer zu entwickeln, wie Rom auf Rom folgt, und nicht allein das neue auf das alte, sondern die verschiedenen Epochen des alten und neuen selbst aufeinander.[7]

The question from the beginning remains unanswered

Can we really imagine development that starts from the premise of not taking anything as primary cause in the first instance? Can we imagine the beauty of a palace like the Villa Doria Pamphilj with initially open doors? – Or would that mean denial of causality?

And probably it is even the wrong question – it is in now way historical to asks for different pathways of the past.

But looking at it – and merging Dichtung und Wahrheit with Sturm and Drang is surely allowing us to move forward in different ways: not denying the beauties but acknowledging the even more by opening the doors further, opening the doors not least for the producers, allowing all of them

to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.


* These reflections are also part of the wider considerations in the context of writing two book  contributions,  I had been asked to write: one on liberation theology, the other on a presumed “Vatican Spring”

[1]            Of course, the English also knows the back courtyard but it is not really used often, is it?

[2]            Elias, Norbert, 1980/81: Social Process Models on Multiple Levels; in: Elias, Norbert: Essays III. On Sociology and the Humanities; Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2009: 40-42; here 41

[3]            Elias, Norbert, 1980/81: Social Process Models on Multiple Levels; in: Elias, Norbert: Essays III. On Sociology and the Humanities; Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2009: 40-42; here 41

[4]            Elias, Norbert, 1939: Die Gesellschaft der Individuen; in Norbert Elias. Gesammelte Schriften. Edited on behalf of the Norbert Elias Stichting, Amsterdam. Vol. 10; Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 2001: 166 – translation P.H.

[5]            Isaiah 49: 13

[6]            Regidor, José Ramos, 2010: Teologia della Liberazione: Diritti umani, diritti dei poveri, diritti della Terra; in: Boff, Leonardo/Boff, Clodovis/Regidor, José Ramos: La Chiesa dei Poveri. Teologia della Liberazione e diritto dell’uomo; Roma: Datanews: 53-158; here: 89

[7]            Italienische Reise 21 ??; http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/3682/21


Time – On Whose Side?

The problem surely is one of change, and thus of time – and this, metaphorically, may be seen in the change of art. There is the famous failure of Leonardo: the fresco, applying a wrong formula. The problem with the technique is that one is not allowed to make any mistake: the paint goes immediately into the ground and nothing can be changed. Leonardo (as far as I remember for reasons of time pressure), wanted to take a short-cut to a majestic goal – and a short time after he finished his most beautiful painting it “collapsed”. Compare Zivny with this: there is now majestic goal – a modest one of creating, or even only shaping ephemeral beauty:

“Sand is one of the few materials I work with, and I like that it is ephemeral and the sand sculpture disappears.”

The tension, it only comes right now to my mind, is one of fascinating depth: it is the tension between living for the majestic goal of humankind and the ephemeral vision of individuals.

Sure, both have their value, and beauty …. – or at least truth.

But the challenge an question is: (How) Can we bring this together? – The other day I read in an article by John L. Allen Jr.

Americans await things to happen immediately, and generally interpret delay in terms of denial, incompetence, of cover-up. Rome[1], to put the point charitably, is a culture that puts a high premium on patience, and often interprets ‘rapid response’ as immaturity, superficiality, or going off half-cocked.[2]

And just having read



How much is Enough? Money and the Good Life

recently, I am wondering if there is really not more to say than directing moral appeals? After economics – as matter of science and politics – obviously failed, the only way out seems to be in some kind of prayers and quest for morality?

The reality came (another time) to my mind when I went for my earlyish round – the 1st of May 2014, about sixish passing Termini, the central train station:

All fine, but … – Italy, the country of kisses and light heartedness – but at that time in the morning at the said place: facing the homeless; if one leaves the shops at day time – the shops for ordinary people or those where people buy who do not know what to do with the money – it means too often looking into the faces of beggars; if one then is getting aware of the country’s lack of a revolution, the nobility still having the remote places for their festive gatherings (which in fact are part of daily life), …

Well, May-Day then: a huge people’s gathering, in the park. At least something: free sunshine for all.

No, I do not blame anybody: at least not those who enjoy as long as they can enjoy.

And though I am seemingly talking about Italy and Rome, I actually do not really talk about this place. What makes it – perhaps – special is a higher degree of visibility of certain problems …, problems that are also visible in other places, “wiped away” by some kind of “silent militarism”: the war that is at the external borders arguing with noisy sabre-rattling, has many disciplinary forms when directed internally. Later this year I will address this during a conference against militarism. My part will be looking at

The inner mobilisation of Europe – youth unemployment, racism and modernised forced labour.

Enough is enough – indeed it is not such a difficult-to-answer question: enough of violent policies, of policies that are utilising human beings as a kind canon fodder for profit-first-economies.

A reminder, a famous passage in a footnote in Chapter 31 of the first volume of Capital

―Capital is said by a Quarterly Reviewer to fly turbulence and strife, and to be timid, which is very true; but this is very incompletely stating the question. Capital eschews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent. will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent. certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., positive audacity; 100 per cent. will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave-trade have amply proved all that is here stated.‖ (T. J. Dunning, l. c., pp. 35, 36.)


[1]            meant to be the catholic church

[2]            John L. Allen Jr., 2013: The Church’s Message and The financial World: Lost in Translation; in: Institutions, Society and Markets: Towards a New International Balance?; A Cura di Alberto Quadrio Curzio/Giovanni Marseguerra; Vatican City: Libreria Editirice Vaticana: 141-155; here: 141 f.

moving – settling – borders

Moving, settling, exploring spaces … such ways of overcoming borders and habits are, possibly paradoxically, all about drawing borders. Questions of individual responsibility by some, issues of management and coordination, intercultural mis-understandings …, and in addition other things play a role and all are coming together. And of course, in some way the most important things are at the end “positions and titles” as means of distinction, possibly of increasing meaning in a world where the material means of distinction re apparently fading away: income being increasingly precarious for an increasing number of people, thus inept to serve as distinguishing factor; employment is for a growing number of people and for long times of life a matter of projects and grants, and subsidies and temporary incomes … – a rather bleak future if we think about the social welfare systems still being bound to nationality and industry patterns of employment. Surely, at least for many somewhat exciting times: living in different cultures, exploring different work and also lea sure time activities – I mean settling and exploring, surely different from living for some time in another place. Worlds that had been previously hidden, simply exotic being now part of the hoc and nunc. Part of the one and global capitalism? Or part of the one and global silent move against it? Latin-America – a spring of hope? Really becoming the new, or even the new-new world?
Leaving personal contacts and experiences aside – or limiting them on exploring Rome, this new-new world is something that is actually also relevant, present … … – well, it is surly a new challenge to learn now about the reality of a world that is so full of contradictions and anachronisms that goes far beyond my pervious experience. I am not sure yet …- Rome, the Vatican, their interwoveness ….?
It would be too much even for a long letter: a state (Italy) that didn’t have a revolution – and in consequence a city where even today members of the “nobility” have their special places and palaces where they are having their “clandestine dinners”; vestiges of a fascist system that had been so completely different from the German, though being part of the society that is characterised by an unworldly political ruling class that seems to be more “theatralic” than anything else (the more or less recent experience with the comedian as successful candidate being the tip of that iceberg) – and on the other hand devastating poverty, a bureaucracy that is so stark that is paralyses everything – paradoxically in this  way undermining itself, so that there seems to be no rule at all; an economy with some positive performances in some pockets, but as national economy simply being a disaster.
The need for a new, a moral economy? In a smart society or as condition for a smart society?


Moving to another topic then:
Two days ago I retuned from a short trip: Euromemorandum – “alternative economists”. I returned late, arriving about midnight from the airport at the train-station. I sent a message to a friend:
“City well looked after, security increased – so ready for my short stay … the mind is now set for being surrounded by spirituality, though perception of reality cries more for mercy for the poor, less celebration of the holy …” – obvious alluding to the canonisation that took place yesterday.
Having written before “the reality of a world that is so full of contradictions and anachronisms that it is going far beyond my pervious experiences” is also a matter of the presence of the church. Leaving aside that

there are two churches at each junction – one to speak a prayer before crossing the street, allowing to to ask for mercy; one to thank god for having survived

(merci Jaqueline; guess this is the French way of characterising Italian enlightenment), I am now directly involved in some discussions about and also with the Vatican – surely for me as atheist remarkable: not just a new world, with at times (admittedly unexpectedly) open spaces for debate, and with major substantial questions that employed me already for a longish time, but are for different reasons now more pronounced. The one reason is the physical nearness, namely the direct contact to one of the Vatican universities; the other reason the current pope with statements “condemning amoral capitalism”, but also some real measures, for instance concerned with the Vatican bank. So, all this is about the somewhat new DIRECT confrontation with the old question: morality and economics. Aristotle, Smith, Mills, Keynes …. – just a few. And of course with all this the issues of social policy. No, I’m not getting religious with all this, I appreciate some thorough discussions and not least I face the challenge to “defend my position”, actual strengthen it in some respect and being challenged to extend arguments by looking for instance at Aquinas. So much I did not know – no surprise there; but also so many illusions even I have had about the church which is at least for me some surprise; and surely many insights that I should have had before editing the book on social policy and religion.

But honestly, it is not about a ‘hostile defense’ but a move further – may be it is part of the dialectical movment that we needed the failed enligthenment first to reach a new level of renaissance – I leave it open what it exactly it may mean, and some answers my be found in the book I am just preparing, the working title being

Opening Views against a Closing World View.

And with all this it is not just settling in the new world here – but it is the confrontation with the new global patterns.
As I wrote some time ago – after I visited Cuba – in a mail:

I get increasingly the impression that we have to think much further when analysing the economic challenges ahead: Indeed, as much as the organic combination of capital changes, we may also see the organic combination of means of consumption changing in the same direction: its shrinking. More means needed to achieve the same effect. Sure, there is not much new about this: theory of marginality, Pareto optimum etc. all worked on this. Though what may still be new is the following: this way we can econometrically calculate a kind of “double-helix” that reflects the two dimensions of the accumulation regime, i.e.
“[a] system of accumulation describes the stabilization over a long period of the allocation of the net product between consumption and accumulation; it implies some correspondence between the transformation of both the conditions of production and the conditions of the reproduction of the wage earners. It also implies some forms of linkage between capitalism and other modes of production. [. . .] A system of accumulation exists because its schema of reproduction is coherent . . .” (Lipietz, 1986, p. 19)


It may be an oversimplified – but I thought about it the other day in Berlin, when I passed a shop in the middle of a densely populated housing estate.
The one poster in the shop announced the opening hours:

Monday from 7:00 until Saturday 23:00 24 h open

(yes, by the way: the new German word for offen is open)
The other poster ( I translate):

For reasons of noise control we kindly ask to use the trolleys only within the shop and the parking area.

Yes, indeed, the local residents have a right to be protected – and the question may be asked if the church does enough by keeping the Sundays for the prayers; while leaving the streets during the weekdays to the preachers of money …
… and leaving now even death openly to commerce. At least this is what some shop windows of funeral homes suggested:
Presented is a world that nearly invites to passing over to the world of …. – yes, actually it is not so expensive making yourself reappearing as diamond with certificate of authenticity …

Small Wonders ?!

Il pullulare di lotte e di violenze aveva spinto la popolazione ad espedienti caratteristici: ciascuna famiglia cercò di proteggersi con lo stringersi alla propria consorteria, e ciascuna consorteria so alleò ad altre in società. I più ricchi rafforzarono le mura dei loro palazzi ed eressero torri; torri eressero a comune difesa anche minori famiglie, piccole fortezze intorno a cui si combatterono furiose lotte intestine; e, mentre tutti i nobili si collegavano in alleanza tra loro (Società dei militi), tra la borghesia so formavano associazioni di mestiere che andavano crescendo di numero e di potenzia.[1]

Certo no, Cara, there is always more to be said and done – even if it is only to say and to experience of what had been said and done

Actually with every additional step I make in my “religious studies” I am wondering if we sometimes shouldn’t simply accept that at least many things had been said and done: There are some of these church intellectuals simply not in a position to accept crusades having been and being undertaken in their name and …. – and are we all so limited in tolerating that we failed. In this respect Francis is surely a good example, admitting that he had failed ….

… but then he waits for people praying for him.

I am not sure about all this – and one of the problems is that it is so difficult to get sufficient information for something that one can justifiably suggest to be a “complete picture”.

The pope driving in a Panda … – isn’t that also a wonder? or is it a wonder that we (or some of us) think it is a wonder. I heard the other day about people who went to Argentina – some time ago – and asked to see the cardinal – apparently it had been granted, with something like: yes, just go there, at the side of the church…that door … – and they stepped in, seeing the cardinal preparing his meal: two (scrambled?) eggs.

And I also heard about today’s procedures of the inquisition. And I read the many articles about the Changes of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, the changes of the Vatican policies …, and the fear that nothing happens, and the knowledge that in some what nothing can change as long as certain foundations are not touched – but that will then still to be elaborated for the little essay to come on the Vatican Spring, [2]and the presentation I will have to give in two weeks.

For me it is always somewhat a wonder how people are, how they are seen and how they are made seen, i.e. are presented: kind of “made of and built on sand”, formed by people, but also the kind of sand from which they are made and bey the wind and …, and the image we make of them – and so we read at CCC2427:

Il lavoro provieni immediatamente da persone create a immagine di Dio …

Leaving aside that this image making is according to other sources a sin …. – well, it is “work”, the way in which we all create …. prejudices.

There is a not so funny story. 10 people, one has to look at a painting, tell somebody else what s/he saw, who tells somebody else what s/he saw … – At the end a gentle man with black skin, saving a woman who is attacked and would have been raped by a furious man with white skin turns out to be a f… nigger who rapes a woman while having a knife between his teeth … – the reality “re-written” by the racist real society, the rally racist society, the societal racist reality … – and thus making reality as you many well know from the Song From The Capeman.

In this way, I am living personally in a somewhat interesting (as I did most of my life), living (another time) between worlds …, and though I think these rolling heads (well, in actually fact I think they just fell into the bucket) are not so nice, I think there head been some good reason for it; and apparently a missed opportunity here in Italy. – I told you about the student who is now here fro placement – she arrived during the week with her sister – just a couple of days for accommodation before work starts. I went fro dinner with them – and then the next evening we went again The local hero who wanted to join us on the first occasion missed it – and so … – … we ended up strolling a bit through town before sitting down in a nice restaurant: two somewhat old men, and two definitely young women. We passed the palace of the Borghese – sure, if you have a villa you have to have a palace. I knew the place but I did to know: “It is private. They are still living there.” …. Well, yes, there had not been a “real” revolution here. We walked further … turned left, into the entrance – few words by Marco and that gate opened intron of us: “but only to … “ we had been told where to stop. While some other people walked further, turned left, opened another door and we learned: There is a special room. the nobles can go there for having a meal. Still served in the “appropriate style”: servants in their uniform …

I could go on …

… and I could go on, add about this feeling yesterday when I went to the “village”, i.e. via Alexandria: “my village”, quartier …, : I passed a bar, a person standing in front …: Buona Pasqua – asking for money; I left the post office, next to the bar, turned right, seeing a woman sitting a few meter ahead on the ground, begging; I didn’t walk so far but had to cross the street, managing the way throughout he parking cars, directly confronted with a woman sitting on the ground, begging …. – I went into a small shop: cheap stuff for little money” – Pound shop they had been called in the country where I lived for a while … A young Chinese man, being there from earlyish in the morning until latish in the evening – I go frequently there: for some strange reason I am attracted by this kind of shop. When I went there the first time, I paid in the ordinary way, just handing the bank not over the counter. He took it carefully and respectfully with both hands, making a little bow …. – I am Chinese enough, i.e. lived long enough in the Chinese culture to know how to behave the next time … – and this day, after having nearly left the tiny premise I turned back:

E Buona Pasqua. –

– Buona Pasqua a lei!

He waved and made a bow, and he waved and made a bow, and left a me a bit disturbed … – yes, traditions can be kept and still a surely meaningless tradition of others: Easter which for him most likely does not have the meaning it has for the Westerner, gains an entirely new meaning, gains importance the importance of being accepted …

… Later I went to Trastevere …, sitting there, with the computer, making a lengthy Skype call with a Russian colleague, being occasionally approached by some people – morendo di fame …, something that happened also when I walked back to the scooter: the contrasts, walking pass the Vatican palace, adduct to Santa Maria in Trastevere, housing Caritas Internationalis, looking at Santa Maria, the building of the church, its beautiful top of the front (though a meagre shadow of its inside) – Buona Pasqua – morendo di fame. And finally I vespaed home, passing the front of the central train station: Termini. Termination in the front, on the little traffic island – perhaps you saw the two old women – I thought everybody would know them, would know there story – but nobody of those whom I asked, does … termination of a life, like being crucified … – I felt that day more appalled than other days. This society …, celebration of Easter may be by and large for the heads that had not been chopped off, and for the many others who should have been and should be more radical in their moves just a crusade in a different habit, crusades in general being a habit … – HE suffered for us? If so, he surely did it not for us but for one percent of humankind only.

… Still, I wish you a very happy Easter – Buona Pasqua, independent of your beliefs …




[1]            Foligno, Cesare, [without date; 1921]: Dante. Con 186 illustrazioni e 3 tavole; Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche: 3

[2]            to be published in Tausch et altera: “El Papa – ¿Cuántas divisiones tine?”

The Day After

It is spring, indeed, and some see it as Vatican Spring, others highlight that the flue, a typical ill-health of this time of the year, is increasingly fatal in Greece,

La Grèce présente le taux de mortalité lié à la grippe le plus élevé des pays européens. Les politiques d’austérité drastiques dans le domaine de la santé publique semblent responsables.

Well actually I had been asked to write about the Vatican spring – and I accepted. The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium is undoubtedly an interesting document – or at least a remarkable one. The one reason is what looks like a radical rebuke of the dominant system. The other is perhaps not least important: the strive of circles within the Catholic fortress to move back behind Vatican II.

Even as non-believer I believe that the this Exhortation is a document of honesty, and also a document of hope.

But there we arrive already at the very end, shortly after starting off.

Sure, it is difficult to oppose upfront a statement as the following, taken from para 57:

Ethics – a non-ideologi- cal ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.[1]

And we all can agree when it is said that

[m]oney must serve rule

as stated in para 58, backing Francis defense of the poor, outlined in para 59[2]

But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or glob- al – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.

Today here is not the point to investigate this. But at least it is a place where it may well be worthwhile to shake off this bad feeling of a hangover one feels the day after – and there no pill can be offered as cure.

The day after?

Well, yesterday, March the 27th Obama paid a visit to the Roman people (well, the Roman paid quite a lot to host him – but may be as symbol of fraternisation with the Muslim brothers it is justified). And leaving the meeting in the Quirinale aside (of course a kind of ‘standard’ part of such visits: il presidente), there had been two less common moments of Obama’s visit: the one to papa Francesco; the other to the Colosseo.

Both OK if I my say so – well, who I am – but referring to Francis I may claim such right to comment as he quotes the Fifth General Conference of The Latin American And Caribbean Bishops, Aparecida Document, 29 June 2007, 360:

Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others

But there is also something that causes this hangover, and this is caused by looking at the wider context. Let us briefly turn to John Maynard Keynes, who comes at the very end of his ‘General Theory’ to the conclusion

that the vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas … …, soon or late, it is ideas, not bested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.[3]

There is some doubt though that ideas will bring the life of those back who died in Greece as consequence of a policy that imposed austerity measures in the interest of personal enrichment but even more so in the interest of a system that is kept running by money – be it gold or black. The Ukraine may be taken as Colosseo on the global scale; and the visit of Mr. O here in Rome may be metaphorically taken as validity of the old principle: panem et circenses are strictly in the way of an evangelii gaudium.

Bloch’s presentation of ‘possibility’, allowing us with this an informed approach to understanding them in their objectivity. He points on (i) the formally possible – what is possible according to its logical structure; (ii) the objectively possible – possible being based on assumptions on the ground of epistemologically based knowledge; (iii) the objectively possible – possible as it follows from the options inherently given by the object; (iv) and the objectively real possible – possible by following the latency and tendency which is inherent in its elementary form.[4]


[1]      55 f. of the printed edition of the Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; with reference to Saint John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6: PG 48, 992D.

[2]      page 56 f. of the printed version

[3]      Keynes, John Maynard: the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money; BN publishing,2008: 239

[4]      see Bloch, Ernst, 1959: Prinzip Hoffnung; Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp [written in 1938-1947; reviewed 1953 and 1959]: 258-288; see also Herrmann: Social Policy – Production rather than Distrbution; in print