Dienstag, 18. Oktober 2011

Work and Enthusiasm. The Caucasus in the History of Human Thought

by Dr. Frank Tremmel

"All we do with warmth and enthusiasm, is a kind of love."

Wilhelm von Humboldt

Im Übergang 2010/11 hat der Autor in einer kurzen ideengeschichtlichen Skizze die aktuelle Bedeutung Georgiens im globalgeschichtlichen "Abenteuer der Ideen" (Alfred N. Whitehead) skizziert. Der Text, der anläßlich einer UNO-Rede des georgischen Präsidenten entstand, kann programmatisch verstanden werden und formuliert die Ansprüche, die heute an die georgische Politik gestellt werden müssen. Angesichts der Krisis, die sich stündlich zuspitzt und Georgien zwischen Agonie und Heilung hin- und herreißt, wird deutlich, wie wichtig es ist, die produktiven Kräfte perspektivisch zu vereinen und zu gemeinsamen Maßstäben zu gelangen. Auf der Basis der bisherigen Politik wird die Entwicklung des Denkens in Georgien nicht voranschreiten können, sowenig wie sich auf der Basis des alten Denkens eine neue Politik entwickeln lässt. Der Text versteht sich als Versuch, zu einer Neuorientierung beizutragen. Er wurde inzwischen ins Englische übertragen und von dem anonymen Übersetzer ins Internet gesetzt. Ich erlaube mir als Urheber, den englischen Text in überarbeiteter Form den Lesern unseres Blogs zur Verfügung zu stellen.

On 23 September 2010 the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gave a remarkable speech before the 65th UN General Assembly in New York. In this speech he outlined the crossroads, on which the Caucasus region is situated. In a nutshell it is a description of the location of Georgia in the history of human thought. For Mikheil Saakashvili Georgia in the present historical situation is characterized by a "revolution of the hearts and the ways of thinking". Before this assessment can be interpreted in more detail, at this point first a fundamental question has to be answered: What is a history of thought or what it would have to accomplish? The French economist Jean Fourastié gave the following response in the mid-1960s:

"It would simply be a registration of the ideas, recognized and perceived as true by larger and smaller and more or less dynamic groups of people. First, the correlation between the single ideas, afterwards the connection between the ideas and the concrete situations of those people from whom they were accepted in the end, and that would be perhaps most important, the impact of these ideas to the everyday life of people and their evolution should be determined" (Fourastié 1966, 277).

There are a few, often unconscious ideas, in which people align their actions. "Ideas are often perceived, felt and often anticipated in a diffuse, still unformed state" and they arise "[...] in this still vague form, not as science, but first in individual moods, inclinations, tastes, fashion (Megrelidze 1973, 326). By "historical ideas" (Rothacker 1966, 267), this peculiar social alloys of heart and mind, the historical personalities and civilizations can develop in differentiated ways.

"In such a history," Fourastié said, "the time between 1830 and 1985 (possibly between 1750 and 1985) in the West appears as a primarily economic phase" (p. 278). This is an era in which man, straightly as a result of adjusting his thought on economic and technical progress, discovered the non-economic values. It is above all a tremendous mental revolution, in which humanity – through the medium of work – applied the attention to the vegetative needs of the people. Therein lies the deeper meaning of capitalism: "This is the first time the producers reached the head of the society" (Jouvenel 1971, 71). In the ancient and Oriental civilizations, even in the European feudalism, the idea of work was regarded as something inferior. In the era of the economy however, the traditional distinction between working and not working people disappears. The telos of this development is manifested instead in the "contrast between working and non-working time "(p. 72). The total activity of the human race is apparently tantamount to bring the conflict between work and culture to an explosion.

It is one of the paradoxes in the history of thought, that especially in the so-called socialist societies of the East, who saw themselves as dictatorships of the working class, the value of labor saw its most extreme devastation. If Fourastié sees the economic era coming to a relative end for the Western European world in 1985, for Russia, the economy as a civilization appeared in the consciousness of society for the first time in these years. Although there were intellectual debates, which previously pointed in this direction, so after the first revolution of 1905 (Vechi 1909), after the end of the civil war in 1922 (Nikolai I. Bukharin, Nikolai D. Kondratieff, Isaac I. Rubin and others) and in the “thaw period” from 1956 on (Evsej Liberman), the peculiar dialectic of violence and work, that characterizes the Russian history, was not broken. In Georgia, by contrast, the Social Democrats (Messame Dassi) under Noe Jordania (1868-1953) very early turned against the ultra-left and Asian despotic repealing of the "law of value" and had assumed that "economic progress” has to be considered "as the main condition for the development of society " (Guruli 1997, 45). This Western European basic orientation characterizes the small country between Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe until today. Just as the Georgian Social Democrats already created a model for "all of Eastern Europe and the Orient" (Kautsky 1920), a mental revolution in Georgia could be in fact be of far reaching significance.

It is doubtful in some respects, whether with perestroika there was a transformation of the socio-economic and cultural practice in Russia. The extra-economic power which ruled the redistributive economies of the Asian empires (Immanuel Wallerstein) becomes always prevalent: Geopolitical land acquisition instead of a modern competitive society. Nevertheless, from 1985 on there is a trajectory of thought that can no longer pause and continues into the Georgian consciousness revolution. If the Georgian President assumes, that the Georgian laboratory of political, economic and social reforms is crucial for the entire Caucasus region and beyond, we have to agree. Under the terms of a "catch-up revolution" (Habermas 1990) in former Soviet space, economy, combined with the rule of law and meritocracy is the central task. The attention to basic necessities of life under the conditions of a region that was dominated like no other by the East West opposites, in itself is a little innovation, which shouldn´t be underestimated. Efficient labor, goods production and modern forms of communication are not an end in itself but a vehicle for transformation of thought. In economics, a logic of the process of civilization is applied that should be unfold by cultural policy. Politics in the 21st Century is primarily politics of culture, "a policy of mentalities" (Lepenies 1997, 38f.).

The formation of the peoples and nations of the Caucasus as a region in the context of such a global rationality is indeed a challenging cultural task. But we have to design clearly the conditions under which the economy can actually fulfill a civilizing mission. If President Saakashvili in his speech rightly pointed out that modernization without liberty doesn’t ensure sustainable development and diversification of the economy, a response at least is implied. But the specific relations of culture and freedom remain undetermined. This raises the question whether culture rises at all in conditional rules and whether it includes in addition to its functional aspects a spontaneous moment which culminates in purposeless self expression of individuals and peoples. Cultural phenomena are not reducible to their technical and economic dimensions. At first they are symbols, "unique, tending on no general aim of development , among themselves incommensurable and exclusive expression of something spiritual, of the `soul´ of the respective historical body, its manifestation in the world" (Alfred Weber 1951, 90). This theme was discussed intensively in German cultural and historical sociology. It was not merely the "economic ethic of world religions" (Max Weber 1920, 1988), but the "cultural problem in the age of capitalism" (Alfred Weber 1911/12, 2000). If culture is considered as a precondition of the civilizing process it is perfectly legitimate on the other hand, to prove its functionality. From this perspective, culture in the plurality of concrete forms appears particularly as tradition, which has to be evaluated under the aspect of its compatibility with the universal process of modernization. This poietic (focused on the production) perspective on the cultural denotes the speech of Mikheil Saakashvili. In his speech culture has indeed, next to education, civil society and the power industry, a central role in the regional formation of the Caucasus - but culture appeared essentially only as a historical or ethnological phenomenon. Mikheil Saakashvili is especially a neoliberal thinker of civilization. The instrument of regional integration is economy. Culture is just one of their derivatives. Economy and technology are supposedly neutral media, which seems to raise less ethical and communicative problems. That is quite legitimate position, but is it a sufficient perspective in the global era?

The "Rose Revolution" (2003) as all political revolutions was initially a part of the universal elite circulation. After the old nomenclature intelligentsia around the "white fox" landed on the "graveyard of aristocracies", the "reserve-elite" (Vilfredo Pareto) initiated the overdue liberal Transformation and carried the Georgian vanities before the tribunal of global rationality. The unique symbols have now been made comparable. What no one was able so far, the young guard of the new President seemed to succeed: Georgia submitted to the international logic of economic rationality, and moves since then towards a modern competitive society. But has this revolution of thinking actually taken the hearts as Mikheil Saakashvili suggested in his speech? The new liberalism is one of the "cold teachings of behavior" (Helmut Lethen 194). It keeps the inner life of man in distance, allowing performance this way. This "birth of freedom from alienation "(Arnold Gehlen, 1983, 366ff.) could be a miscarriage in the history of consciousness if the midwife wouldn’t be able to bring the child's heart to beat. What the masses support or endure as a model of prosperity, at least threatens to exhaust in the "pathos of distance" (Nietzsche). Culture is not just only meritocracy, not just differentiation of individual performance. This rational or instrumental function belongs to the technological periphery of culture. The imaginative and creative phenomena, which are expressed in the symbols, remain the center of culture, its heart. "In this respect, culture is a creative response to needs, emotions and other problems of the people, a reaction which overcomes this initial motivation (at least in part), a willful action, a creative act, which reached a self-worth. Man creates self-fulfillment for both, for the creator as well as for the recipient. "(Bystřina 1992,260). Culture in its concrete historical manifestations is always an integral of creation and objectification, of charisma and rationality. It is grace and power at the same time.

The deepest source of culture is enthusiasm, this "transmission of the divine" to the humans. Liberalism began his triumph as an enthusiastic social religion, as an expressive individualism. As this charismatic movement lost its breath, the citoyen manifested himself in the "Prose of the World" as bourgeois. "The word enthusiasm is as old as mankind" (Fourastié 1964, 54), whereas "the word work" does exist "only a few hundred years" (ibid. 53). Under the Georgian conditions the ensuing contrast of culture and civilization through the historical situation between East and West is even worse. The concern, to get into a shady inter-area of history of thought arranged the Western-oriented reformers to increasingly violent attacks on the heritage of the East. Sexual-political campaigns, as they took place against the orthodoxy may have revealed the ugly face of religious obscurantism, but will they be able to unlock own sources of cultural productivity? Especially under conditions of a semi-peripheral, colonized region enthusiasm, in addition to the thymotic needs, is the most powerful energy to escape from "reflex modernization" (Darcy Ribeiro, 1983, 281f.). It remains to be kept in mind that culture is a very special creation that cuts off all too obtrusive looks. Any attempt to exploit it, so far failed. Its content isn´t fully expressed either in religion or in economic or technological rationality. If we want to know how it arises, we need to ask the artists, who will refer to the numinous of the creative act.

The "revolution of hearts and ways of thinking" cannot succeed if the self-willed "logic" of culture isn’t considered. This "logic" is based on the enthusiasm which will give work a new creative sense. Georgia's integration into the world economy requires a cultural policy which not only installed adaptive civilizational mechanisms. Above the promotion of labor discipline, economy of time and self-control the heart of culture should not be forgotten. "In other words, one can not apply enthusiasm for a part of human activities, but only for a synthesis." (Fourastié 1964, 55). The Georgian intelligence so far has done little effort to prepare such a mental integration. The old intelligentsia fled to tradition, the new intellectuals are dreaming of world market. So far they fall back behind the claims and achievements of Dimitri Uznadze, Konstantin Megrelidze or Geronti Kikodse. The lack of a modern cultural policy involves also incalculable risks for the economic development of Georgia. So far, the economic success of the reforms based on a substantial borrowing and the high foreign investment, for which an attractive climate should be created. But if Georgia in the history of thought will not remain in the economic era, the country also needs a "Cultural Freedom (Liberty) Act"* to promote the productive power of human identity. Cultural policy in this sense would not be resort policy, but societal policy that also would make corrections to obvious mistakes in economic development. If the "mountain of the people" should be formed as a region within the meaning of the famous Article 52 of the Charter of the United Nations, the regional cultural policy should not only meet the "needs of the global rationality", but also has to dip "its roots in the deep layers of humanity and earth" (Sombart, 1965, 65). It remains to be seen whether the Georgian politics can muster as much enthusiasm for the upcoming next step in the history of thought. Only in this way the "impact of these ideas to the everyday life" would be ensured, which - so Fourastié - is a crucial factor in the evolution of thought.

* In October 2009 President Saakaschwili annunciated the Economic Freedom (Liberty) Act, who should increase the attraction of Georgia for foreign investors by tax referenda and fixed macro-economic basic data.

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