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The Descent Society by Oliver Nachtwey

The Descent Society
by Oliver Nachtwey


A society of social descent, precariousness and polarization has emerged out of the society of ascent and social integration. For a long while, the pillars of social integration have been eroding and crashes and descents have increased below the surface of the seemingly stable society. Literature is a sensitive seismograph for this change. The modern age continues developing but backward.

The social state was the institutional form of the counter-movement. The social state is a de-commodifying institution since it socializes risks.

The possibility of social ascent was one of the central promises of the “old” Germany – and was often fulfilled. An Audi came out of the beetle; an academic came out of a skilled worker’s child. Sometimes the social elevator was stuck. University degrees do not automatically mean status and security anymore. Employees receive less and less of the big cake. Oliver Nachtwey analyzes the causes of this rupture and focuses on the conflict potential that is arising. Even if Germany escapes the crisis relatively lightly, social conflicts began here and are now shaking all Europe: new left movements, work struggles and parties on one side and anti-foreigner protests and right-wing populism on the other side.

Oliver Nachtwey, born in 1975, is a fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. He has taught and researched inequality, protest and democracy at the Universities of Jena, Trier, Darmstadt and Frankfurt on Main. This reading sample is translated from the German on the Internet.

Posted in Political Theory, Reducing Inequality/ Redistribution | Leave a comment

Happy New Year Post-Materialists!

On BookTV, Jean Twenge, author of “The Narcissism Epidemic,” warns that the cult of specialiness was thought to be the ladder to corporate success and turned out to be anti-social.

Possessions can possess us more than we possess them. The car is not only a metal box but a way of looking at the world and an encouragement to narcissism. Football and politicians push cars nonstop while cities become gridlock. We become examples of disconnection when we deride community and sociality and degrade nature into a free good, external or sink.

The future should be anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present. Hope distinguishes us from the rest of creation. We can go beyond everything past and present in the power of the coming, the power of the promise. (Jurgen Moltmann)

Dostoevsky, a great admonisher of the West, warned we would surrender our freedom to the Grand Inquisitor for his promise of happiness. The ego must die for the self to be born. The state must represent the public interest and not be a bonus pot for special interests and self-enrichment. Maybe the Good News is that Trump could be impeached within a year so his damage would be contained. How are democracy and language possible when the leader is a cross between Al Capone and King Midas?

Don’t let fear-mongerers destroy the “unaffordable” social state while building 2440 F-35 fighter jets for $291 billion! Don’t let fear-mongerers like Paul Ryan force us into a spiritless 2-inch world where only the rich enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

Eliminating the $118K cap on social security taxes would make the system solvent for 75 years. Access could replace excess; enough could replace more; exchanging roles and digital cloud workers could make sorrow more distant than a star!

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Trump and the Consequences: Democracy at a Crossroads by Albrecht von Luecke

Trump and the Consequences: Democracy at a Crossroads by Albrecht von Luecke, December 2016

A “descent society” came out of the former ascent society of the postwar…

What appears here is another form of democracy, without the constitutional state and without opposition. Trump could operate with enemy declarations. Politics in the state of emergency could become the normal case in the West.

With the Donald Trump government, the US has become part of the problem from being part of the solution. The Western left faces a similar challenge as in the 1930s. Today Donald Trump is a radicalized Nixon. Democracy is always endangered and never given as a present. It is not too late to understand this.

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The Civilization Crisis: Post-Factual Criticism of Politics by Rudolf Hickel

The Civilization Crisis: Post-Factual Criticism of Politics by Rudolf Hickel


In Trumponomics, falling tax rates for businesses should increase tax revenues. When businesses do not invest, the tax gifts lead to lower state spending and higher state debts at the end.

Trump wants to lead us into a world where subjective perception is everything and what he says is always reality-the post-truth world. He can create “facts”-the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the world-while most big corporations pay no tax. Between $21-32 trillion is stashed in tax havens from the Cayman Islands and Switzerland to Delaware.

If the movement of post-factual thinking wins, the world faces an ideologically determined future.

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No Future and Computerization

No Future and Computerization
by Theresia Pfister, Dec 29, 2016

Crises, cracks in the mirror, wake-up calls and writing on the wall call us to rethinking and resistance, to new priorities and countermeasures. Resignation, obliviousness and the 2-inch world of privatism and consumerism are false securities.

Didn’t the Club of Rome around 1970 warn that it was “5 minutes before 12”? Since then, every year we have been warned of the dangers of the current development – global warming, the melting of the glaciers and the poles, cutting down the last ancient forests, the rapid dying of species, the eroded soil, damages through pesticides, genetic manipulation and others. All the cries of doom died out unnoticed.

If the government is only a tool of self-enrichment, the murky future will be full of cynicism and mistrust.

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What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy? by Tony Judt

Tony Judt and William Beveridge were great progressives and crusaders for the social state. In the US, the middle class benefited enormously in the postwar years from subsidized housing and subsidized education. Why is it we have such difficulty even imagining a different sort of society? We appear to have lost the capacity to question the present.

to read Tony Judt’s essay “What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy? published on December 17, 2009, click on


“Our shortcoming—forgive the academic jargon—is discursive. We simply do not know how to talk about these things. To understand why this should be the case, some history is in order: as Keynes once observed, “A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind.” For the purposes of mental emancipation this evening, I propose that we take a minute to study the history of a prejudice: the universal contemporary resort to “economism,” the invocation of economics in all discussions of public affairs.

For the last thirty years, in much of the English-speaking world (though less so in continental Europe and elsewhere), when asking ourselves whether we support a proposal or initiative, we have not asked, is it good or bad? Instead we inquire: Is it efficient? Is it productive? Would it benefit gross domestic product? Will it contribute to growth? This propensity to avoid moral considerations, to restrict ourselves to issues of profit and loss—economic questions in the narrowest sense—is not an instinctive human condition. It is an acquired taste.

We have been here before. In 1905, the young William Beveridge—whose 1942 report would lay the foundations of the British welfare state—delivered a lecture at Oxford in which he asked why it was that political philosophy had been obscured in public debates by classical economics…”

Minds like parachutes work best when opened. Without facing market failure and state failure, we live in a world of selective perception and neoliberal myths – as though the 1930s Great Depression and the 2008 financial meltdown never happened!

Posted in Articles, Political Theory, Reducing Inequality/ Redistribution, Roosevelt and New Deal | 1 Comment

The Good Life for All – A Useful Utopia by Alexandra Strickner

The Good Life for All – A Useful Utopia by Alexandra Strickner, Dec 14, 2016


What institutions and infrastructures are needed so all people can lead good lives? Good lives demand more than consumption paid with money. The commons-what belongs to everyone and is used in common: natural, social and cultural common goods like water, raw materials, land, knowledge and their social control-is an alternative to the growth economy.

An environmentally-friendly and socially-just economy requires ecological and social cost truths and just global rules in trade and investment. A society without consumerism and growth pressure and with much more cooperation cannot simply be decreed from above. The way to these infrastructures needs searching, experimenting and openness for learning.

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May the New Year Be Full of Good Surprises!

Celebrate the New Year with the 159-page eBook “Alternative Economics: Reversing Stagnation” by Marc Batko, Smashwords ($3.99)!

Mainstream trickle-down economics is helpless in countering exploding inequality and precarious work. Austrian, Swiss, Polish and German critical economists could help us find a future-friendly economics with reduced working hours and reduced destruction of nature.

The appendix explains 29 state, business, labor, and social myths. The state is not a business or a housewife but can incur debts to help coming generations. What is rational from a micro-economic perspective can be disastrous from a macro-economic perspective (e.g. competition can lead to mass unemployment on a macro-level). Wages are vital demand and never only a cost-factor.

Unlike a chair, an idea can be shared by a whole people.
Access instead of excess! Enough instead of more!

The anthology “Alternative Economics: Reversing Stagnation” includes 3 translator’s introductions, 3 poems from the translator, 12 articles by Tomas Konicz, 1 article by Ulrike Herrmann, 1 article by Helmut Martens, 1 article by Franz Garnreiter, 1 article by Sven Giegold,, 1 article by Karl Georg Zinn and an appendix “Myths of the Economy” that explains 29 state, labor, business and social myths. Less
The financial sector should be shriveled and the public sector expanded. The myths of self-healing markets, efficient financial markets, nature as a free good, external and sink, infinite growth in a finite world, quantitative growth and the exact sciences eclipsing qualitative growth and the human sciences (history, literature, play, language, sociology, political science, philosophy) and private opulence next to public squalor (cf. John Kenneth Galbraith) must call us to rethinking – individually and collectively.

Alternative Austrian, Swiss, Polish and German economists can alert us to the bankruptcy of austerity policy and fiscal policy aiding capital at the expense of workers and the environment. The future economic policy must be regional and decentralized. A post-materialist economy is possible as we transition from excess to access and more to enough. Work, health, strength, security and happiness can be redefined. The rights of nature can be respected in a future of moderation, equality, and freedom.

More and more is produced with fewer and fewer workers. Work and income have uncoupled as people cannot survive on their earnings from work and depend on credits and loans. Reducing working hours is a response to increased productivity and is the only way to assure every one of the right to meaningful work. Reducing working hours, as Michael Schwendinger explains, is a socio-economic investment that protects long-term health interests and gives people more time sovereignty.

The appendix “Myths of the Economy” explains 29 state myths, labor myths, business myths and social myths. The state is not a business or a household but can become indebted to help future generations. The future can be open and dynamic instead of closed and static if we tackle the myths and contradictions that lead to exploding inequality and precarious work.

Enjoy the feast! Celebrate your independence!

Posted in Alternative Economics, Neoliberalism, Reducing Working Hours | Leave a comment

Are the 1930s Returning? and God is Different

Are the 1930s Returning? and God is Different
by Paul Mason and Norbert Giebel

Faith, Soren Kierkegaard said, is the death of the ego and the triumph of the reign of the infinite transcendent God. God is “total help in total need” said the theologian Karl Barth in 1933 when Hitler seized power.

Children can be astonished. The excavator or humming top is just as marvelous as the starry sky. Children see things differently – without boring routine. Being astonished is hard for us adults. We think we understand everything.

Faith is personal without being private. Faith is more interruption than custom. The world is full of play, exuberance, mystery, surprise, scandal, and paradox. Authenticity is rare in late stage capitalism where fear of the new, fear of the future, path-dependency, narcissism, nihilism, neoliberal profit-worship and economic reductionism are rampant and hardly criticized.

Neoliberalism or finance-capitalism and profit-maximization turn the world upside down. Egoism, avarice, and ruthlessness are stylized as virtues and sharing and the social state are derided as pre-modern or tribal and profit-endangering. The corporate mindset makes free, shared and Canada into taboo realities.

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The Generations Manifesto, June 2013


Corrections and comments are welcome. Translation is team-work though the team seems a little out of breath.

Neoliberalism turns the world upside down so egoism, avarice, enrichment and ruthlessness become virtues and solidarity, sharing and the social state become pre-modern threats to the right to absolute free property. Adjusting to the market is stylized as a survival necessity as the super-rich steal away from taxes and financing social necessities – as if all personal and corporate achievement did not depend on social spending. Without the social contract, we become wolves to each other. Education becomes a profit-center and the state becomes a bonus tool instead of serving the public interest. Marc Batko Email: [email protected]]


“Alternative Economics: Reversing Stagnation” by Marc Batko is a 159-page ebook anthology with Austrian, Swiss, Polish and German critical economists. Mainstream trickle-down economics has no answer to exploding inequality and destruction of the environment.

The appendix “Myths of the Economy” describes 29 state myths, labor myths, business myths and social myths. The state is not a business or a household but can make future investments so the future can be open and dynamic and not closed and static. What is rational from a micro-economic perspective (e.g. competition) can be disastrous from a macro-economic perspective. Wages are not only a “cost-factor” but bring essential demand so society does not devolve into a plutocracy benefiting only the super-rich.

Posted in Environmental Economics, Neoliberalism, Political Theory | Leave a comment