THE DISLOCATION OF HOMO OECONOMICUS
by Walter Beutler
[This article published in: le Bohemien on April 30, 2013 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://le-bohemien.net/2013/04/30/die-zurichtung-des-menschen-durch-den-neoliberalismus/
In a New York sojourn, Amador Fernandez-Savater, publisher and author from Spain, asks “from the future where capitalism is a mental state” whether we in Europe are aware that a cultural anthropological discussion is involved, a confrontation over life forms.
I am with A. and V. near Union Square in New York. The two friends have lived in the United States for several years and work as assistants without firm positions at a famous university. They came late to our meeting and explained that students stopped them with questions. How excellent to be greeted by interested students! But one never knew exactly what they were really interested in.
They told me, the connection between teachers and students at private universities is strange. Students pay enormous amounts of money - ,000 to ,000 – or become heavily indebted to pay for their study. The authority relation is completely reversed. Students rate the teachers and demand a very specific kind of knowledge from them: it should be measurable, packaged and practical and cannot contain any uncertainties. Experimenting or thinking is not desired. There is a relation between service-provider and customer resulting in clear distortions in education and communicating knowledge. There isn't really a relation between teacher and student.
PRIVATIZATION IS FAR ADVANCED
What happens in education is not isolated, my friends continue, while we endure the bad news by eating a pizza in the legendary John's Pizza. Privatization is far advanced. It leaves its traces everywhere in the Public Health system, the transportation system etc. Life becomes very expensive without general basic rights. Everyone becomes heavily indebted. One has to work nonstop and successfully sell oneself. In Manhattan the bars are full of men with laptops. Life means work. In work, one must invest one's whole life. The vocational career comes first, long before family or friends. The orientation or dislocation of people through neoliberalism appears this way. The ego understands itself as an enterprise and brand – and sees the world as a totality of profitable possibilities. The others are instruments thrown away after they are used. Worst of all is standing adrift as a loser. Now I understand that American friend traveling in Madrid who made me speechless. He said farewell with the following words: “You live happiness! There is no capitalism.”
When it is three in the afternoon in New York, it is nine in Europe – but ten years earlier. The neoliberal crisis management now wants to ruthlessly shorten this temporal difference. From the future, A. asks me: Do you believe people in Spain are conscious the struggle is mainly a cultural anthropological struggle around life forms, that is a struggle around another relation to others, to the world and to ourselves? I munch over pizza, waver somewhat and become reflective and lost in thought.
SOLIDARITY NET IN THE MIDST OF THE DEBACLE
I think of the Mareas, the mass demonstrations to defend the rights of everyone, the rich and the poor, for the defense of education, the public health system and water. I think of the people who stand before the house of an unknown person to prevent eviction. This is a plea for enforcing a neighborly idea. I think how ahora mismo (“now equal”) has few chances, a political project that accuses immigrants of responsibility for the crisis. In the midst of the debacle, a solidarity network joins the elements that are deeply rooted in social attitudes across the whole society – the importance of non-instrumental relations and of the public health system – and on the other hand introduced through new movements like 15-M, the Mareas or the PAH (15-M: the protest movement in Spain that erupted on May 15, 2011; Mareas, flood: the many well-attended protests against cuts in the public area; PAH, Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca: a social movement that arose in connection with the houising crisis in Spain and defends the interests of people who cannot afford their mortgages). We learn to exclaim: we are the 99% against the neoliberal “Save yourself if you can.”
CAPITALISM AS A MENTAL STATE
Yes, the most important and most intensive reshaping – and the foundation of all others – is cultural and anthropological and concerns our life forms. It involves the re-creation of the communal over against the war of everyone against everyone which is inscribed in practical philosophy and which makes an elementary particle only driven by strategic self-interests out of each of us. Without this change, only what the Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci called “passive revolution” can occur: an upheaval from above without any help of common people. This cannot carry us forward since there are no changes on the micro-plane. Neither another politics nor another economy is possible without another subjectivity, another self-image. Capitalism persists because it is a mental state.
Still I didn't know what I should answer A. Do you believe the people are aware that the struggle mainly takes place on the field of life forms? Sometimes intense doubt overcomes me amid all the daily battle cries against politicians and the different proposals on gaining power from above over the heads of people, strong doubt whether we can name, appreciate and communicate the most powerful and most challenging change which is already underway, the silent and necessarily invisible upheaval in how one sees, joins with others, does things and stands in the world.
This is today “the American way of life,” a decadence culture from a humanist perspective, a culture of economic fascism. Europe, part of the US empire, is ruled by the “Atlantics” and adopts the US culture. Similar developments occur in Europe as in the US – with a certain time delay.
But the world is culturally multi-centric. Happily the horror vision of the “one capitalist world” did not set in after 1990.
Is the neoliberal cultivated person really a homo oeconomicus?
From the word's meaning, a “homo oeconomicus” would be a person whose conduct is marked by “economic efficiency, thriftiness, savings, rational application or rational use of something” (cf. Duden).
The conduct of the “neoliberal--conditioned person” is not economic but completely irrational and anti-economic.
His economic system is marked by waste and obsolescence. Scientific-technical progress does not lead to more prosperity or to a growing liberation from pressure to reproductive work. On the contrary, people work themselves to death, become sick and poor in this pseudo-economy.
This is madness and has nothing in common with economic conduct.
The “homo oeconomicus” often emphasized in neoliberal newspeak does not exist. There is a twisting of the literal meaning as an expression of the estranged and objectified capitalist consciousness. It is the distorted consciousness of a false life where the person is instrumentalized and degraded into an object for generating profit and the economy is not organized to satisfy human needs.
A “homo irrationalis” is more akin to an ant than to a rational being.
The whole system has nothing to do with rational capitalism. Consequently the “homo oeconomicus” is one of the smooth lies/obscurities of the ruling power elites.
REFLECTIONS ON DAMAGED DEMOCRACY
Imagine democracy and no one goes there. This is bitter reality in the age of acceleration and crises in rapid succession. This is called post-democracy.
By Carsten Rehbein
[This book review of Colin Crouch's “Postdemokratie” published May 1, 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.e-politik.de/lesen/artikel/2012/reflexionen-aus-der-beschadigten=demokratie/
In his address upon receiving the Erich Frommprize, the political satirist Georg Schramm rightly emphasized: the democratic institutions and processes still exist but have lost effective power. Silvio Berlusconi was overthrown by the rating agencies, not by democratic elections. The investment banker Mario Monti replaced him as Italian Prime Minister.
The dominant institution of post-democracy is the well-linked global corporation that markets its label and serves that politics that gives the greatest benefits to the global enterprise. Political communication occurs between parliament and global corporations and no longer between representatives and the represented, between parliament and the people. In his two works “Post-Democracy,” Colin Crouch provides the interested reader with additional literature references in every chapter.
AFTER THE CRISIS IS BEFORE THE CRISIS
The second work of “Post-Democracy” sketches the genesis of neoliberalism. A deep insight is offered on the world after the crisis and the submission of politics under the dictates of those who caused the crisis. So Elmar Altvater intimated in November 2010. A classical view of defenders of the market is refuted. The dominant neoliberalism doesn't rely on the market but plays off the market against the state. “The neoliberal right-wing means in truth `big business' when it says `market,'” Crouch concludes in “Post-Democracy II.” The big concern seeks its location where it experiences the least resistance and can rake in the highest subsidies.
The best example is the cell phone manufacturer Nokia that closed its plant in Bochum in the middle of 2008 after the subsidies ended and moved to Rumania – with moderate success for the firm. Politics or better the state now has the choice: come to an arrangement with a big concern, fulfill its conditions and ensure jobs or the state keeps out of the economy, lets big corporations move and concentrates on the political. Politics is often confronted with this dilemma. A typical post-democratic arrangement between state and business is considered an ideal form of problem management. Ingolfur Bluhdorn describes this process as simulative democracy since democracy and opinion-formation processes are only simulated. “Simulative democracy is the manifestation of democracy that fully corresponds to the specifically late-modern problems and needs, not a sign of decay, a degenerate, less authentic democracy.” Post-democracy doesn't lead out of present crises. Whether one affirms this form of democracy or not doesn't matter. Citizens no longer think they can influence social processes.
WAYS TO STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY
Crouch sees a vehicle for breaking through the phalanx of the state, market and big business in non-parliamentary movements. Parties, churches, citizen initiatives, voluntary groups and organized professional associations as parts of civil society must occupy neglected areas and act as a counterweight to the ruling class. They can exert pressure on a big business and bring abuses to public attention so these develop a Corporate Social Responsibility emphasized repeatedly by Crouch. A social responsibility of the corporation for good working conditions, sustainable development and social projects moves the business into a good light. The media has a strikingly bad image for Crouch. “The mass media indispensable for democracy increasingly become marionettes of big business and the super-rich who in this way dominate democratic expression of opinion with their very special interests.”
In Germany, the media functions very well. Intrigues like those around ex-President of Germany Christian Wulff would be uncovered. Journalists often kindle important discussions on controversial themes as in the case of Gunter Grass and plead for a liberalism with strong civil rights and for rage against financial capitalism. At least people agree that more, not less, democracy is needed.
DECIDING AMID UNCERTAINTY
The Pirates are a party with the credo “Dare More Democracy” on its banner. However the Pirates will only be able to change something in the problems and deficits of democracy when they take new democratic paths that are both legally anchored and accepted by the citizens. Several aspects addressed by Colin Crouch should be considered. Firstly, liquid democracy and direct democratic procedures cannot substitute for parliamentary processes and conferences of experts. So democracy could decay to acclamation. Procedures like Liquid Democracy, however they are spelled out, must be compared with the ideals of democracy. When almost only young men participate in a procedure, this must be questioned according to the principles of general and equal elections.
Secondly, democratic procedures must be institutionalized. Spontaneity and movement fervor lend new wings that can be paralyzed some time or other to the prevailing system and democracy. In times of political calm, democratic procedures must be ready, whether parliamentary or direct democratic procedures that are exercised and acknowledged as legitimate. Otherwise there is democracy and no one joins in. Thirdly, democratic procedures must transcend the nation-state – not only through movements like Occupy but also through strengthening the EU and the EU parliament.
However a new party like the Pirates will change little in the system by entering the parliament and only focusing on themes that others have slept through a little. Problems like global climate warming, right-wing radicalism and high state indebtedness can be first defeated through engagement on many political and social planes, not with an app.
MAGGIE THATCHER'S DEATH AND THE AFTERMATH. AN OBITUARY
by Rudiger Haude
[This article published in: Graswurzelrevolution (5/2/2013) is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.linksnet.de/de/artikel/28961
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 died of a stroke on April 8, 2013, 87-years old. If one holds to the maxim that only good things should be said about a deceased, then this obituary should not be read past this point.
Upon hearing the news of her death, hundreds of y8oung people staged a spontaneous street-party in the Brixton section of London. Man other parties followed nationwide. A Facebook campaign pushed the very old film hit “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” to the top of the download chart. A CD recorded years ago by the anarcho-band Chumbawamba from British Leeds was sent to all who previously subscribed. The long-awaited departure of the “Iron Lady” was a reason for celebration.
What is the reason for this joy in the death of a person?
The deceased did several things to deserve this. She was a symbol for and a powerful actress in the renaissance of predator capitalism in the last decades. “Maggie Thatcher was famous for turning Great Britain upside down, the brutal shattering of the workers' movement, the ruthless destruction of the historic miners' culture in England, the privatization of public enterprises at cut-rate prices and the abolition of the weak beginnings of a welfare state.
As minister of education and cultural affairs, she earned the nickname “Thatcher the Milk-Snatcher” when she ended the elementary school children's right to a free container of milk.
The historical “merit” of this politician consists in showing 30 years ago where that neoliberal policy leads that has a firm grip on the planet today: to mass unemployment and mass impoverishment. Her favorite sentence “There is no alternative” contributed to a de-democratization of political systems with the triumphant advance of her economic policy worldwide.
Her de-democratization was the most intrepid public enemy in the last quarter of the 20th century. What does this mean for the state rejection of anarchism? Shouldn't the destruction of possible state action be welcomed? Bollocks! (to quote Pete Postlethwaite's great anti-Thatcher speech from the film “Brassed off.”). Anarchists want to dismantle the state in favor of a free society; they strive for equality and justice.
On society, Margaret Thatcher said in a statement that has become famous: “who is society? There is no such thing!”
For her, there were only individuals who could unscrupulously heap up riches but should be abandoned in distress. Egoism was her mantra. This public enemy mania amounts to social Darwinism, the opposite of anarchy. She finally hit the third rail that crowned her political life work with the “poll tax” based on equally high taxation of every person irrespective of income or assets. The 1990 “poll tax riots” that were strongly anarchist-tinged contributed to Thatcher being dropped by her own Conservative Party and her resignation in the same year.
The state Great Britain granted a state burial to the deceased Thatcher – with military “honors” and great pomp.
Statesmen of this earth surpass one another in unctuous drivel about the pleasant works of this woman. So President Obama described Thatcher as “one of the great defenders of freedom and America's true friend. Foreign ministerWesterwelle said her name stands “for the unshakable power of freedom.”
Such acknowledgments are more off-putting than outbursts in mirth of Thatcher adversaries because they shower the victims of Thatcherist policy with mockery. Every English lad driven to suicide in the 1980s by Thatcherism (and there were many!) has earned more compassion than this ice-cold executioner!
In the discussion forums of the Internet, it is rightly noted the burial of the deceased would only be proper if its execution were put out to private burial services and awarded to the cheapest bidder. If the British state so wickedly dismantled by Thatcher did this (for 10 million pounds of tax money) the state or rather the world of states would declare how important is Thatcher's political legacy. With the states' self-surrender to the economically powerful, they have maneuvered into a situation where there really is “no alternative” for them.
This must be garnished ideologically with ever more absurd declarations. “Thatcher- the Milk Snatcher” is praised in a sloppy way as a freedom-fighter. Capital is such a timid deer that it must be kept in a good mood. Therefore “Thatcher” still governs in truth after her death.
In the past I referred to the old two-headed truth that a “shy deer” must be answered with an “energetic contra.” That is necessary today. The Thatcherism that is carried out in the European financial crisis is false economic policy in every point and immoral. Thatcherism must be combated – whether the Iron Lady is now under the earth or in the Ritz Hotel as in her last demented days.
Religious persons think Thatcher is now united with her friend, the Chilean butcher Augusto Pinochet who died in 2006.
Others argue, there is much for the Iron Lady to do in the underworld. Hell should be privatized and unprofitable heating plants shut down. Others add their poetic elan in a pietistic farewell to which I concur: “Iron Lady – Rust in Peace!”
article from Graswurzelrevolution Nr 379, May 2013, www.graswurzel.net