Art or Profession

In political science it is a long tradition to discuss, whether politics is an art or a profession. The idealist tradition, going back as far as Plato in ancient Greek history of ideas, puts the exercise of politics near the exercise of a divine art to do justice. Much later in the history of ideas Max Weber rather bluntly defined politics as a profession (original in German) that requires to master a set of competences.
Recent elections in Europe (EU, France, UK, Belgium) and around the globe (India, USA) in 2024 add interesting case studies to the old question. Is politics an art or a profession?
In modern politics the life course or life cycle of a politician consists of at least 2 phases: (1) the electoral campaign before and (2) the potential of governing or opposition. Each phase requires a different set of competences. In phase 1 it is important to propose a new or different ideal from the previous government. Charismatic presentation of an ideal set of policies is asked for.  In phase 2 it is required of the politician to forge compromises, either within the own political party or beyond boundaries of political parties. Certainly, in multi-level governance systems like the European Union additional forms of coalition building across countries is required, intercultural competence or language skills are an advantage here.
The 2 phases of the life cycle of a politician require different sets of skills. Charisma as mentioned by Plato and Weber can get a politician into power and charismatic leadership can get you through a lot of coalition building. On the other hand, modern campaigning in repeated elections is a specialized competence that resembles marketing expertise as well as “reading of statistics” and in-depth analyses of shifting or stable preferences of electorates and to succinct conclusions on this basis. Running a political party or a parliamentary group is yet another leadership skill just like communication skills that, beyond many prejudices, can be learned.
In a nutshell. Politics is an art and a profession. The art consists in the variable combination of different sets of competences. Art requires competences just as professions can be turned into art.  Welcome to the hybrid world of modern politics. (Image extract from MAD Paris, Picasso, Schiaparelli)

Co-authorship Kafka

In science Co-authorship is a tricky issue. Therefore, many higher reputation journals list precisely who has contributed what to the paper. In the teaching and supervision of bachelor, master or doctoral dissertations it is imperative to scrutinize the original contributions of authors to the subject. There are huge differences between universities to the amount of innovation or originality that is required to award degrees or the publication of the research and results. Rüdiger Safranski published with Hanser 2024 an essay on Kafka which has 224 pages, but a 16 page long list of the sources of the copy-paste citations used from the orignal Kafka writings. By scientific co-authorship practice Kafka should claim co-authorship of the book and the costs of the „Process“ should be paid by the publishing house. However, I enjoyed the many links between comments and the originals next to each other. It is like a data analysis that sticks plausibly to the original data. AI still has a hard time to rival with these skills, although AI is catching up faster than many of us might believe or want to believe. From a social science perspective we might say the original work of maybe only 180 pages is inflated to make for a longer text of 240 pages. This justifies, probably, the publisher’s price (€26) and the marketing costs. On the other hand it becomes evident that Kafka has an enormous impact on writers and seems to take possession of them in an encompassing fashion. You move with him, but rarely beyond him. Tough lessons indeed from the publishing world.

Silent Pandemic

There is a pandemic that is silently spreading across countries and continents. It only indirectly related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The medical journal “The Lancet Respiratory Health” (2024) has an editorial about the inequities of asthma as they develop over the life course. The development of asthma has pre-natal, genetic, environmental, life-style and socio-economic co-determinants. The study of respiratory disease, therefore, is a multi-factorial issue, which needs to disentangle the specific influences. Smoking as well as obesity have an impact on asthma, instantaneously or with delayed time effects of sometimes many years. Hence, it is important to take the whole life course into account, if we want to address the rising disease burden of asthma. Air pollution and heating-up of the planet are important drivers of the silent asthma pandemic across the globe. The social distribution of people working in “asthma- prone” work environments and/or living in highly polluted urban, suburban or rural areas near high frequency traffic is another latent factor causing huge costs to persons and society as a whole. Health inequity is growing over the life course. This is not easy to tackle as policy target as the onset of the disease has no single trigger, but rather a combination of influences that contribute in varying amounts to the evolution of respiratory diseases. (Image air pollution

Photos Exhibit

Our usual expectation of an exhibition of photography is to look at photos at a wall. Sometimes there is more it. The Exhibition Space at the “Haus am Kleistpark” features Michael Schäfer who attempts to go a bit beyond these traditional forms. In the works of photo cubes on water surfaces “2021_57”, or a dice floating on the waves of oceans, the video representation of his photographs takes the assembled images beyond their flat 2D surface. However, the 2D representation is at the origin, then transformed into a 3D dice, which then is animated as a 4D format. Moving beyond the flat screen image takes photography into the 21st century.
His work “Les acteurs 1-26” from 2007 is shown at the entry hall of the exhibition. It shows pupils of a class at an elite school who deem themselves in leadership roles in the near future. Is it acting? Is it projection into a future role they are likely to take on. They represent stereotypes, of course, but some are pretty convincing in these roles already. Some others still seem to reflect on what they are doing there. Even acting these roles, they are aware of the meaning of social rank and class in society. Without having read the sociologist Bourdieu, all are aware of the fine, little elements of distinction as they have evolved over time. We could teach an interesting sociology class in this exhibition.

Digital Estonia

The progress of Estonia in going digital is quite advanced. The electronic identity card which allows data to be linked to health data and accounts or banking gives an impression of how far-reaching digitalization may go. Great steps have been taken to guide the population on the way to move towards the digital (only) world. Learning and coaching of a huge amount need to take place so that people do not abandon or get lost on the path towards “everything digital”. For the so-called digital natives, who have grown up with the sound of their smartphone at the bedside all the time, this move feels “natural”. Some experienced or silver workers got on track, if they were accompanied in suitable forms. The 65+ population might find it harder to adapt to the permanent use of digital devices for not only getting around in your city, but also to do your tax declaration, pay your dues and vote in elections.
Digitalization is not a goal in itself. It has advantages to reach communities in remote places or islands, but it might alienate older persons that have no other person around to assist them in the digital only world. An easy way to get some social science data to inform the debate is to refer to Eurostat and the surveys with information about the “overall life satisfaction” of people (EU-SILC). Checking for some major countries of the EU and neighbours of Estonia with less digitalization the differences are rather small. In terms of overall life satisfaction (16+ years old) Estonia has been catching up to the EU-average mainly between 2013 and 2021. Since then, stagnation at the EU-average is what the data tell. A quick testing of the hypothesis that the older persons (65+) might not see the past evolution as rosy is reflected in the EU-data as well. Good pensions seem to drive the “happiness” of older persons in the EU more than good digitalization. Eventually the two features of a society will have to go hand in hand to improve life satisfaction to higher levels. (Image: Data Eurostat EU-SILC Life satisfaction 65+, selected countries 2013-2023, retrieved on 2024-4-23, comparison with table all ages here, Data source)

Need of War

It seems like a horrific idea to talk about the need of war. We might have deemed it outdated to read about the terrible love of war or about the strategy of war. However, the time of war is back in Europe and Eastern Europe feels the real threat and Ukraine the bombs hailing from Russia. Why does Putin love war? The love of war is largely driven by domestic issues. Staying in power for unliked authoritarian leaders is easiest if they indulge in external conflicts. Dictators love war because it makes it easier for them to sustain leadership through brutal force within the country due to a proclaimed external threat or even outright engagement in war. Democratically elected leaders know that they will leave office eventually in a peaceful way (exceptions like Trump are rare). Dictators use any force or terror necessary to stay in power. The love of war is part of this.
Hence, the need of war goes without questioning, if a country in decline or at risk of decline tries to uphold an inefficient, belligerent regime. Beyond rational reasons, such regimes will abuse ideation about national pride, the national interest and anything pertaining to some supposed myths of nationhood to justify its need of war. The dictators have all failed eventually as resistance against this need of useless war is found out by enemies either within or externally. But thousands or millions of victims will suffer. The pressure against the need of war has to rise internally from opposition as well as from alliances of democracies that do not need war to motivate their people to achieve the best they are able to deliver.
Therefore, the defence of democratic rule is, at the same time, a fight against the need of war by some doomed regimes. After winning the war comes the difficult task of winning peace. This means to create a state of affairs and a state of mind that can do without the need of war. If the external threat diminishes the internal threats might rise and have to be contained as well. Lots of challenges, even for mature democracies. (Image: Berlin 2022-10)


What is it that makes an object a symbol? Probably, it is the widely shared perception of the meaning of a symbol that turns an object into a symbol. The etymology of the word symbol refers back to the Greek word σύμβολον. The earliest philosophical refer back to the Greek philosopher Aristoteles who deals with symbols when he writes about interpretations. Written words have become powerful symbols in the ancient world. We still have them all around us today. The interpretations of the words as symbols, however, may change considerably over time. Some symbols keep their designation and significance over centuries. Maps are well known to contain lots of symbols for roads, railways, tunnels or height. We learn about these symbols and interpret them in a specific societal context. Science is making ample use of symbols, e.g. chemistry. Different cultures define and apply their own symbols. Colonialism has been a form to impose symbols upon other societies. Throughout history symbols of power have changed as well. Each of those topics is an interesting field of application in itself. Young generations create their own symbols to establish a specific cultural identity or subculture. Urban spaces have been invaded by graffiti that tend to spread symbols as messages or symbols for their own sake.
Sociology has taken up the challenge to identify “status symbols” of groups of society. Possession of gold and silver have long ago been symbols of being rich. Maybe, even today such easily visible symbols play a role in how a person’s role is perceived in societies. Not only for priests etc. dresses have been applied as a symbol. Modern fashion is full of symbols as well. Interpretation of the meaning or even no meaning is an act of becoming conscious of the world around you. From the seriousness of symbols, we have come to the playing around with symbols as expressions of ourselves.
No matter whether we use the word, like water, we all know the chemical symbol H20. An image or art work using the symbol in whatever form will be decoded by us accordingly. However, the meaning we attach to water depends on the environment as well as specific context we (or the artists) are using it in. Cross-cultural competences consist in the awareness that symbols grow out of contexts and need to be interpreted accordingly. It needs a lot of openness, willingness to learn about differences and careful consideration in our everyday world to handle symbols. Doing culture is doing symbols.(Image of art work by Anderegg, Andi taken in 2016)


The biographies of painters, composers or artists in general can be reconstructed by use of their major works. The biography of René Magritte by Eric Rinckhout (2017) has chosen this way of a retrospective in images and explanatory texts. The biography is built around 50 major images starting with the first one by Magritte at the age of 28. “Les réveries du promeneur” (see below) deal with the confrontation of Magritte with death, suicide and the difficulty to find rational answers to all those questions of why this happens and what becomes of people who experience such a tragedy.
His own childhood was affected by such an event concerning his own mother who suffered from depression. Coping with the evolution of psychic illness over years and the absence of a supportive father have posed a steep challenge for the young person. Creation of art became a coping strategy as well as a relief for those who manage to eventually cross the bridge into their own life leaving behind the bad experiences. J.J. Rousseau was an influence on Magritte as well.
Finding your own destiny and your own style is a process. This process evolves over years. The chronological sequence of 50 images allows to follow the path taken. Thereby, it becomes possible to open up the personal learning and working trajectory of the artist. In retrospective perspective it seems often logical that one style or period of painting follows on from another one. However, in the forward living of the creative life many choices are heavily contingent on other circumstances. Influences of friends, exhibitions, reading, cinema, private or financial situations may determine the creative choices simultaneously or one at a time.
The chronological path of images writes a biography of a special kind. It allows to think in sequences just like in a sequence analysis as sociological methodology. Description, reconstruction, analysis, causality remain a challenge in our attempts to learn and understand more about biographies or the construction and reconstruction of life courses.

Error 444

The error message 444 is a not so rare encounter while surfing on the web. The error code 444 stands for the message that from the side of the server the connection is closed without any additional message. The occurrence leaves you without further indication of what exactly went wrong in building a connection to a web service or website. You just simply get shut out and that’s it. It may be tough on you if concerns your online banking or other access to vital services delivered through the internet.
In organization science and social science there are many new studies dealing with the finding, dealing, coping or handling errors. It has become much more acceptable to deal openly with errors, blunders or failures. From an individual as well as organizational perspective the cultures that deal openly with these events seem to have a certain advantage to overcome the consequences of errors at all or faster than others.
In some biographies failures are part of the lessons learned throughout life. It is deemed important to acknowledge failures or paths not taken for better or worse. Organizations just like individuals seem to learn more intensively from their failures or omissions than from everything seemingly running smoothly. Learning curves are faster also for “machine learning” if you have access to a huge data set which contains ample data on failures rather than encountering failures after release. Hence, the compilation of errors is an important part or early stage of a learning process. Failed today? Fail again tomorrow. You’ll be really strong the days after although it might hurt.


Sepsis is a major cause of mortality. Therefore, early detection of sepsis is of high importance. Antibiotics constitute a powerful antidote. However, the application of antibiotics without need, i.e. for purely risk reduction in general, has side effects in antibiotics losing their effectiveness later on.
The paper published in The Lancet Digital Health by van der Weijden et al. (2024) reports on the effort to provide an open source access to a calculator of early onset of sepsis (Link). The Neonatal early-onset sepsis calculator developed by Kaiser Permanente builds on the use on the risk carried by mothers like time since membrane rupture, regional infection risks of mothers per 1000 population and the infants presentation at birth. It is important to point out the combination of risks put into the calculator. New systems of artificial intelligence might equally make predictions or recommendations about the application of antibiotics implicitly making use of such a calculator without disclosure.
From a sociological point of view it is interesting to scrutinize the indicators used in the calculation. The approximation of mothers carrying a sepsis risk relies on national, regional or better local indicators. This information is rarely accessible to the public. The choice of a hospital, speed of access to it in case of membrane rupture as well as staffing come into the calculation of an overall risk of sepsis.
It is great to follow the progress of digital health and the increased transparency of critical health decisions at the earliest stages of the life course. Inflammation as a precursor of sepsis should be taken serious at all stages of the life course. (Image calculation based on Kaiser Permanente digital tool Link)

Cancer Inequality

Inequality is a hugely important topic for societies. Inequality has many different dimensions and differential longitudinal patterns. New data in this field of social research are helpful to inform on possible ways to prevent increasing inequality. At the same time, it is important to reflect on factors that may reduce inequality in and between societies. Inequality in health is both an outcome of inequality experienced during previous stages of the life course as well as a factor in causing inequality in the evolution of the life course later on. Disentangling the factors is a difficult research issue.
A first descriptive pattern across Europe allows to get a snapshot impression of the status quo as a first indication of what health inequality looks like. Cancer is a major cause of mortality across Europe and by 2045 it is estimated to be the leading cause of mortality.
Without precisely analyzing the causal factors the overview across European countries allows to give a first impression on fields that need more policy attention and more in depth studies. The European Cancer Inequalities Registry and the ECIR Data Tool is based on data from 2019  (Link). The overview matrix by employment status reveals the highest prevalence of smoking among the unemployed (followed by the employed, not shown in figure) and the frequency of alcohol consumption is highest among the employed. Low physical activity is mostly prevalent among the retired.  This has consequences for cancer and gives hints to how an intensified prevention may work.
The OECD report (Link) based on these data and additional country case studies and policy data base reiterates the known prevention recommendations: Reduce smoking, alcohol consumption, air pollution as well as more physical activity. The dimensions of inequality are gender, age, employment status and most of years spent in education. The curing of cancer also suffers from inequities as to the amount of and access to screening of cancer. Cost coverage and shortages in medical personnel add to multiple sources of inequality in treatment of cancer within countries by regions and between nation states. The Lancet Public Health editorial contributes to the spread of the awareness among scientists and the medical profession.
(Image: ECIR data tool download 2024-2-22)

Digital organising

Since the digital innovations continue to broaden our scope of how to organise, we have to make conscious choices which way to choose. The traditional form of sending out newsletters and waiting for responses is still a feature that is prevalent across Europe. Most organisations have shifted to digital plus physical versions by now, just like newspapers. Young organisations by founding year have started or shifted to digital only for speed of delivery, CO2 and cost saving mainly. We may derive a first dimension of organising between the digital and physical.
A second dimension consists in the central versus decentral forms of organising. Similar to the franchise principle of organising companies, organisations have a choice to keep a central structure with varying degrees of freedom at the regional, sectoral or local level. Organisation theory is helpful in this respect. Various hybrid forms are equally possible. Centralised in financial aspects, but scope for local decisions on content.
Bohn et al. (2023) define digital organising as “collective purposeful alignment and distributed action fostered through digital technologies”. Centralisation and/or Decentralization become a matter of conscious choice. The processes of datafication and connectification, whereby every bit of information becomes a data point and any electronically enabled device can be connected with each other. Organisations now have a choice of how to organize including digital organising. The opportunities are within the space opened up by the 2 dimensions (figure below). A specific subject matter may require more physical presence and maybe centralised structure, but digital only forms with highly decentralised forms are powerful tools in the 21st century. New as well as established social movements may well take advantage of these digital technologies as well. (Image: Digital Organising 2024 Protest Berlin).

Skill loss

There is a sense of skill loss in watching the trends to increase comfort. We all use washing machines and maybe dishwashers. Households can save a lot of time by using those machines. Some porcelain and clothes should not be left to the machines. The need to organize traditional washing routines is almost forgotten after 1-2 generations. The same holds for many technical skills. Bicycle and car repairs or small repairs of electrical appliances are delegated to specialized repair shops. Not using or having learned these skills puts you in a form of dependency and at the risk to pay a price for specializing on other skills. Find out and focus on what you are best at. This has been the mantra of economic theory since Adam Smith. The potential value of satisfaction with an own production rather than a bought product is frequently acknowledged for baking cakes yourself rather than simply buying one in a shop. The same rationale holds for many other skills. Autonomy of own production with possibility to improve or repair are forgotten values. The have become a luxury item or a necessity for persons lacking financial spending power to buy products from others. Many skills will be lost rapidly because products have become so cheap to replace or order for home delivery. Industrial production is desperately searching for skilled persons but losing skills is pervasive at the same time. Public schools and academic curricula will not be able to stand the tide of pervasive skill loss.


The grand narratives of the modern world, like modernism itself, are under serious criticism. Deconstruction of the modern way of thinking has become philosophical mainstream. Economics as a science is in the middle of the behavioural shift and changing or at least complementing its narratives. Sociology has embraced postmodern thinking in theoretical as well as empirical forms (Mirchandani, 2005). The empirical measurement focuses a lot on the groups and people who hold postmodern beliefs and values. The discussion in the social and literary sciences continue. In the arts reading on modernism and postmodernism is a must in order to understand much of contemporary art or art from the 19th and 20th century.
Bookstores in art galleries that cover long spells of history can make surprising links between historical periods of art. Books of postmodernism appear next to books on romanticism. A lot of the ideation of postmodernism rejoins romantic depiction about nature, re-naturalizing or the emotional connotations of wildlife, isolated places and stillness.
On the other hand, we are confronted with the brutal world of war, drugs and crime. Classical warfare and strategies are back in Europe with tanks and rockets killing like in previous wars. The Russian empire of a specific version of modernism strikes back as if it were to stop the postmodern turn of the 21st century. Neo-fascism tries to build on the losers of the transitions to the socio-ecological economy and society. There are manifold backlashes of modernism, but the postmodern world is under continuous construction, most of in our mindsets.


More and more people move into cities. A modern way of living is more accessible there. Besides abundant car traffic public services of transportation like buses and underground are within easy walking distance. Culture, science and education offer attractive opportunities for learning, working and leisure. Diversity is an additional asset most people appreciate of cities. The chances to live your very own way of life are much easier to achieve and thrive in as in remote or rural communities. “Birds of the same feather flock together “. It is easy to find likeminded people among a million people than among a hundred particularly if you’re a bit off the mainstream or avantgarde. The excitement of birds passing the city can reach the emotional force of Hitchcock’s famous movie “The birds”. Even in the modern world we not quite sure what these creatures are up to. Is it a swarm of drones? Are they out of control? Modernism has brought us many amenities, we have to make sure that we really are still in control.

Berlin Kleistpark 2024-1

AI and We

Research is beginning to provide empirical evidence and experimental modelling results on the widespread use of generative AI. First results by Doshi and Hauser point at the individual benefits of using artificial intelligence but the widespread use of it is likely to narrow the scope of novel content. This research is particularly interesting because it deals with the micro level to macro level aggregation effects. It is fine for me to use AI. If it becomes a mass phenomenon, we expect in sum a negative outcome for society as a whole.
The example at hand deals with the capability to innovate or to come up with novel content. As more and more texts or newspapers are published with extensive use of genAI, the real element of creation will remain the domain of humans for quite some time.
In my opinion this is due to the difficulties for algorithms to differentiate between the positive and too risky negative aspects of innovative solutions. A query for AI might ask to come up with an innovative solution for auto-mobility of short distances. A human being might propose walking due to the additional health effects the AI might propose helicopter lifts. The not so stupid machine would need a lot of additional information about circumstances to generate useful solutions. Therefore it is not surprising that sometimes public transport apps propose to walk short distances rather than waiting for “delayed or unreliable services“ they provide themselves. Personal circumstances like mobility with children, other dependents or luggage are usually beyond the scope of the information base of the algorithms.
On the other hand, if the AI knows that 50.000 persons after an event want to take public transport at the same time the indication to walk or wait solves an aggregation problem of individual preferences to adapt to available capacities. Lots of issues to solve for AI and us or better yet, us and AI.
(Image creation: AI using Microsoft Dall-E Image creator: Prompt: a person with notebook in profile and in front of 5 other persons in Office with windows 26.1.2024, 8:24 PM)


Shrinkflation is a hybrid term that combines “to shrink” with “inflation”. The trick is to keep prices at the same level for a product, but to reduce the weight or amount sold at a constant price. The intention of producers is to indirectly increase prices without touching at price tickets on products. As consumer you are likely to remember the price tag of a product, but much less the unit costs. However, the unit price is the basis for fair comparisons. In supermarkets there is an obligation to print also unit prices (€/kg or €/L) next to price labels. Comparisons allow information irrespective of package size. In shrinkflation the higher unit costs of a product will drive the official measure of inflation (Destatis, 2024). In Germany inflation for food had the top inflation rate in 2023, surpassing even price rises for energy.
On the one hand, shrinkflation is cheating on consumers to sell them less for the same price. On the other hand, oversized products that solicit higher consumption are part of the health and environmental problems we face. The obesity pandemic is part of the XXL consumption hype the food industry and supermarkets have created. In this respect, more expensive food (Eurostat info) potentially may trigger the rethinking of consumption and nutrition. “Eating better instead of less” has always been more expensive.
Besides the profit-maximising logic of shrinkflation, there is at least a small hope that behavioural changes might be triggered to consume less, to use less detergent in washing, less sugar drinks, smaller size pizza and so on. Shrinking our food intake is part of the solution for many problems. In the end cutting out most convenience food will save you a lot of money. As a side effect of such behavioural changes, eventually prices are likely to come down some time later again.


Learned helplessness is another which we have to be aware of as social scientists. It is far from surprising that for example giving birth has been transferred from the professional care and exercise of midwives to medical doctors and hospitals. This creates a kind of maximal security around the most natural of events that of child birth. Over the last few decades we have witnessed a pathologising of birth as high risk event. Additionally an emergencification has pushed costs upwards for social security systems as well. In numerous other domains like breast feeding industrial interests have pushed for replacement solutions which are worse than second best solutions.

In other domains like shopping we tend to believe that we need a car to assist us in the endeavor. It is mostly a choice of the least effort to use a personally owned vehicle to replace other solutions which demand more effort of organization like car or bike sharing options. The frequent result is “learned helplessness”. After years of getting used to the debilitating ease of use of navigation systems in cars and bikes we find it hard to put effort into a little self-organization. Learned helplessness will be a substantial burden on our health and social systems if we do not manage to reverse this trend. At times of increased skill shortages we shall no longer have the many helping hands needed to stem the powerful trend of learned helplessness.


The definition of disease, illness or disability are a matter of details of definitions. Mostly it is left entirely to medical professionals to define the limits of what shall be considered a disease or not. Pathology is the scientific discipline dealing with this difficult task. As in the scientific endeavor it is honorable to crown your research by finding or defining a new disease not necessarily finding a treatment for it, we have learned about new diseases at regular intervals. Attention deficit syndrome also known as hyperactivity is such an example. Many pupils have received treatments and some made splendid progress in their education due to early recognition of their condition as well as abilities. However, some children have received treatment with questionable diagnostic evidence or just to be able to fit into our modern ways of organizing our schools. We might frame this as a process of “to pathologise” persons or whole groups in society.

The American definition of what constitutes a higher than normal blood pressure or colesterol deviates from the one applied in many European countries so that sometimes the double amount of people should receive medical attention and treatment. From this it becomes more evident that even within the field of pathology there is a societal dimension to it. The “dry january” addresses the pathology of alcohol addiction. Smoking falls into a similar category but no smoke free month has been suggested yet. While it has become normal to overuse antibiotics we shouldn’t reproduce the same mistakes with other medications. We simply need a broader discourse about pathology and the societal origins and implications of it. From the Roman times we have amphitheaters and sacred buildings that we value today. Few sanatoria have survived but a few Roman baths as a preventative approach have survived in the British city of Bath or in the German city of Trier, both quite far from Rome. We should sometimes think more carefully before defining a disease. Not all are pathological. If it seems difficult to stem against the trend of “pathologising”. The ensuing overload of the medical system in consequence is a serious issue. The medical system will degenerate into a system to manage waiting queues with absurd, unequal and unnecessary adverse outcomes. Therefore, sociologists consider the pathologising of societies as just another kind of pathology.

Selfie Museum

We have learned that games are not only played for fun. So-called serious games have found their way into health applications where we might learn while playing a game of how to integrate more walking into our life in the city. While walking after work I happened to pass the Selfie Museum in Zagreb. In fact despite carrying the name of museum it is more an assembly of scenarios in which you can realize many selfies in different settings that have been prepared for that purpose. Hence your production of photo shooting with yourself as the major character is facilitated and you no longer have to spend a lot of time on the setups. Call it a museum and you’ll have more visibility and visitors.

Styles of selfies have changed and shooting very short videos to post on tiktok is of course easy there. A real threat to huge and expensive cinema studios considering the enormous reach some of these selfies can reach. It is a bit like a theatre with multiple stages for everybody to use at moderate costs. Before long we shall come to realize the potential for many more interested in theatre to become actors and directors themselves. Democratize the world of theatre is the new social dimension here. Test yourself in another profession through playful interaction. Test and learn about other competencies. We are in the middle of the next wave of “gameification” previously reserved to people ready to accept higher risks of likely failure. The young can now take their parents to the museum and show off their culture and skills. Intergenerational learning has a new aspect as well. The sociology of the virtual has another phenomenon to evaluate.

Zahgreb 2023-12 Selfie museum

Sectoral Change

The long-term view of sectoral change in France, for example, from 1800-2022 (Cagé and Piketty, 2023 p. 128) allows us to zoom out of our narrow focus of the last few years of economic change. The decline of agriculture is the most remarkable. The reduction of employment in industry and construction has been an ongoing trend as well. Banking, insurances, property and consulting have seen remarkable expansion over these years. Public services, security and legal affairs are still on a moderate rise. Other sectors like education, health, commerce and transport manage to grow equally.
The merit of the comprehensive volume by Cagé and Piketty (2023) is that it is thoroughly data driven and based on quite unique long data series. The data on structural change and just the employment trends depicted below refocus our attention on likely consequences of these changes.
For the 2 authors we should redirect our attention much more to the implications of these trends (like rising inequality) on political conflicts and power struggles. Democracies are at risk, if we continue to ignore these seminal changes of industrial structures and shifts in employment. The traditional strongholds of trade unions and progressive forces in the manufacturing and construction industries as well as in public transport seem to have unaccounted implications for our political systems as well. The volume by Cagé and Piketty (2023) will soon be available in English and reach broader audiences just-in-time for the European Parliament elections in June 2024. Particularly the spatial implications and how the neglect to take into account the fundamental differences between the rural development and structural change needs urgent reconsideration. After the time for reading and working with the data (LINK) is the time for action to preserve our European Dream of peace and social development.


In societies it is not easy to derive collective preferences of citizens. Elections every 4 years tell sometimes nothing on specific issues which were not debated or of sufficient relevance at the time of the election. Dealing with snow and slippery sidewalks is hardly an issue at all. However, the preference to clear roads meticulously rather than bicycle and pedestrian paths in a dead end road reveals preferences for „s‘heilig Blechle“ the holy tin box (car) in many cities. Our orthopedic units in hospitals are crowded at such times and those costs are hardly attributed to the source of human negligence for fellow humans. We would expect that aging societies start to address such topics but little change has occurred so far. Hence we claim airbags for pedestrians and cyclists😂. Preferences probably have changed already but implementation is slow and faces strong opposition as well. It’s always easier to lock frail persons into their apartments at such snowy times. It feels a bit like corona where it was also easier to restrict mobility for pedestrians and children than to deal properly with the virus. Aggregation of preferences in societies remains a challenge and sociology has a lot to offer in this regard.

Beckett and philosophy

Beckett and philosophy is the title of challenging read of usually unconnected literatures. Richard Lane embarks on the challenge “theorising Beckett and Philosophy” in Part 1 of the book. This is followed by 2 other parts on “Beckett and French thought” and “Beckett and German thought”. The whole book constitutes an attempt to identify the links between seemingly unrelated work. Sometimes spurred by tiny citations, the importance of influences becomes apparent.
Beckett like Rousseau favours speech over writing. Speech giving access to nature. This, Beckett has taken from French thought traditions. Redefining philosophy after the 2nd world war links Beckett to the thoughts of Adorno and Habermas (early writings). Posing Nietzsche’s thoughts as a post-modern project of endless questioning, Beckett himself enters into a kind of Socratic dialogue with Nietzsche. Spoken words become writing, the written word resembles an unspeakable void. The borders between void and silence, between spoken and written, become blurred. The essence is the world in-between.
It appears like irony and yet it is our very existence. We probably need somebody to translate Beckett for us in order to better understand his philosophical stance. “Beckett translates Beckett” is such a book title. It invites us to study Beckett’s own efforts to translate himself, at least from one language to the other.


Die Recherchen zu den Nachkriegseltern von Miriam Gebhardt haben eine  persönliche und geschichtsschreibende Funktion. Die Zusammenfassung der Erfahrungen der Nachkriegseltern aus Biografien und Tagebüchern aus dem Literaturarchiv Marbach haben ein interessantes Psychogramm einer Generation von Eltern entstehen lassen, die sich meistens überhaupt nicht der Prägung durch die menschenverachtende, nationalsozialistische Ideologie bewusst waren und viele immer noch auch sind. Gut recherchiert und mit zahlreichen Originalquellen unterlegt beschreibt sie die Schweigsamkeit und Fokussierung auf wirtschaftlichen Erfolg dieser Generation von Eltern. Familienorientierung und Fixierung auf beruflichen Erfolg war gepaart mit traditionellen Rollenbildern von Frauen in sekundären Funktionen.
Spannend sind darüber hinaus die Anspielungen, wie die Erfahrungen unserer Väter und Mütter uns, die Babyboomer, bis heute prägen. Statusdenken überall, oben und unten in den Hierarchien klar bestimmt. Das christlich-konservative Menschenbild prägt vielfach neben den Eltern eben noch die Kindergeneration der Nachkriegseltern.
Wichtig bleibt es daher, sich dieser überkommenen pädagogischen Methoden bewusst zu werden, damit es keinen Automatismus des Weitertragens geben wird. Die Angst der Nachkriegseltern, die Akten und Beweise der Gerichtsprozesse oder Entnazifizierung einzusehen oder anzuerkennen, bezeichnet den meist verdrängten Gewissenskonflikt dieser Generation der Nachkriegseltern. Auf den Seiten 64-67 wird die Auswirkung der Gewaltgeschichte Deutschlands in der ersten Hälfte des 20.-ten Jahrhunderts, auf die Fähigkeit mit Emotionen umzugehen, bezogen.
Empathielosigkeit und mangelnde Fähigkeit zum Gefühlsausdruck begründet die erstaunliche Sprachlosigkeit einer Generation, wenn es um die Verbrechen der Nazizeit geht. Als geradezu tragisch bezeichnet Gebhardt die Empathielosigkeit gegenüber den eigenen Kindern und oft noch den Enkelkindern. Wegducken, Verschweigen und Wegdrücken scheint weiterhin die Prämisse. Miriam Gebhardt gelingt es vielleicht, eine Gesprächsbasis zu legen, die die Generationen zum besseren Verständnis aufnehmen könnten. Wahrscheinlich werden sich darüber aber lediglich die Kinder und Enkelkinder der Nachkriegseltern austauschen und versuchen, mehr emotionale Wärme in die Familienstuben zu bringen.  (DLF-Interview, BR-Video Interview)

Marathon Prep

Most people, including many sociologists, believe preparation for a marathon is a rather lonely exercise. During hot summers you get up early and run alone across the streets in your neighbourhood or in a green area. Even on weekends you tend to put on your running gear at least once to chip in a few extra miles or once or twice before the marathon a longer distance test run of 20, 25 or 30 kilometers. Just for the sake of testing to withstand more pain, like in the real event. Running guides in form of books, apps reach “cult status”. In sociology we teach students about the social trends of individualisation ever since the book by Putnam “Bowling alone”, which depicted the new kind of lonesome person going alone to the bowling hall for exercise, as social life seems to evolve towards “individualised” leisure time and social life. Social capital seems to get lost on the way.
The New York Times International” published an article and photo by Lauren Jackson on September, 27 (2023) page 17 in the sports section, which states the not so new phenomenon of “run clubs” (see extract on image below). These clubs bring runners from all walks of life together on a regular basis to train jointly and add a social function to the club as well. Just like previous sport clubs or socialising bowling groups did before, they meet and greet as well as party and celebrate together. Even travelling thousands of miles to distant events occurs in groups. Berlin seems to be a very attractive location for such clubs to go to. For some the sport stays in front of the activities, but for quite a few the social and party-like atmosphere is just as important. Even a local Berlin newspaper portrayed an older runner who stops in-between to have a small glass of alcohol-free beer on a terrace 2 steps from the official track with friends and family. Most people take their time record rather seriously, but the event is to enjoy community and celebration. Lauren Jackson even equates this to some forms of religious practice. I’s rather call this the other side of the same coin. Lone practice and meditation like running prepares a person to enjoy community (again). Extremes in both directions are part of the bell-shaped probability distribution of runners across the lonely-crowded spectrum of running experiences. The Marathon 42km 195m certainly has some historical even mystical connotation. While watching the finishing line at 42 km, just after the hypothetical run from Marathon to Athens in ancient Greece, you see many worn out persons, but also the many happy faces. After the run you meet your peers to exchange on stories and anecdotes around the track. Success and failure, just as in other team sports become a topic of conversation and shared experiences. These are community building events as wheel chairs and hand-driven bikes are part of the Berlin event as well as the in-line skaters the day before. In Berlin you get a feeling that running world records (women 2023, men 2022) can go hand in hand with the running fun for many. From “bowling alone” to “running together”. Sounds good to me.