Transcript

Voice-over (song lyrics): I am doing great! Thank you, you are welcome! I am doing great! Thank you, you are welcome! Money – is hot. Money – is hot. Money – is hot. Money – is hot. / Time is money, rules the world / The glue that keeps everything together / Does not follow moral laws, it’s all the same / Time is money, rules the world.

Text: The current economic system unleashes the basic human instincts and they gradually take on the positive connotation of productivity, says sociologist Oskar Negt / What kind of qualities does a manager need today? / Would Goethe’s Dr. Faust be capable of running a global corporation? - -

Text: MAN, A PREDATOR / Oskar Negt about the new ethics of economy

Oskar Negt: As Bloch says, the perspective of the animal trainer is slowly turning into the dominant perspective, both in regard to our environment as well as in regard to human nature. The instincts, the basic human instincts or base virtues are unleashed and slowly take on the positive connotation of productivity.

Alexander Kluge: Even if this happens primarily on a systemic level, not so much in regard to the single individual, there is still the notion that something like a man predator exists, a predator human, man as predator. For example, one might say that Pizarro or Cortez, the adventurers who brought Latin-American gold to Spain, were predators.

Negt: Or Cesare Borgia, as described by Machiavelli. For Machiavelli, these virtues are related to the sovereignty of the state and its ruler, and they slowly take on positive connotations. As he says: If I have an enemy, I have two possibilities: Either I am going to be defeated one day, or I have to destroy him. That means, here we see the beginning of, we might say, a new kind of ethics in political philosophy. That takes us very far away from Aristotle.

Kluge: And all the cruelties need to be committed early on and very quickly. Because later you might not get the chance anymore.

Negt: Well, and because later, once you let up on the cruelties, you are going to be seen as a good and kind ruler.

Text: Professor Dr. Oskar Negt, sociologist

Kluge: You can present yourself the way Emperor Augustus did. He did not hold back on the cruelty up to the point when he seized the power, and afterwards he was a beacon of “clementia,” of benevolence. These power dynamics are ancient. And by the way … there is a fable about bees …

Negt: Yes, by Mandeville. Bernard Mandeville. A fable about bees where he says – the subtitle of the book is “Private Vices – Public Benefits.” He says the private vices, not the virtues constitute societal wealth. When the vices, pure evil, when the enemy and the reasons to destroy him are unleashed, the whole thing becomes a kind of production context. He was attacked heavily because his work was seen as undermining ethical norms. But that’s when the system of competition, of exchange slowly establishes itself, including bourgeois virtues that are traditionally considered vices.

Kluge: Would Faust be up for dealing with today’s economy as a board member?

Text: FAUST as modern corporate CEO

Negt: Perhaps for a while, by doing what people want from a management consultant – firing as many people as possible and making sure it all goes smoothly. That means, by rather forcefully excluding those who have become redundant, who are always taken care of. In that sense, yes of course. But I don’t think that he would be able to survive for long on the board of a corporation. He would draw in competitors and soon would become one of those who fall from very high.

Kluge: He is too sensual. He would have built his own trap by seducing a minor – Gretchen – and so on.

Negt: Well, and that is … the corruption in the VW scandal also has to do with seduction on various levels, and is also about corruption in a sexual context. That means, that is something that should not be part of the staff in a big corporation.

Kluge: Another factor in the case of Faust is his bottomless greed. That means, he cannot not restrict his empires. He would not stop, even after doing everything he did in the fifth act of part two of Goethe’s play, the things he dies over.

Negt: His insatiability, his constant industriousness, his restlessness, he causes restlessness.

Kluge: He is really monstrous. In that sense he would …

Negt: He is the god of prostheses.

Kluge: God of prostheses. What does that mean, the god of prostheses?

Negt: It means that he develops a number of options. For Freud, it’s the type of human who is equipped with technology, for Faust, it’s the type who has magical powers, but he is never satisfied. He does not have an organic connection to the objects.

Kluge: And magic is defined in a very practical sense. If I can afford 80 horses, I have 80 PS at my disposal. That’s not just magic, it’s actual mastery.

Negt: It is the same context Marx refers to when he points out that the increase of power in Goethe’s Faust happens within the framework of self-aggrandizement.

Kluge: Let’s return to the notion of the predator. To what kind of predator and its characteristics could we compare an efficient modern economic warrior? Locusts? That’s not the true form of a typical economic warrior.

Text: To what kind of animal could one compare a contemporary economic warrior?

Negt: No, not really. The locust campaign that Müntefering started only highlights the irresponsibility of these people, these committees, these pools of  …

Kluge: They manage pension funds. That’s administration.

Negt: … and that means, they clear out one specific sector, and then they move on to the next. It’s an almost anti-capitalist principle because it doesn‘t generate anything substantial. The flow of mergers and buy-outs takes on an autonomous quality.

Kluge: … They devour the leftovers. That’s only one aspect.

Kluge: If you take the lion, a powerful creature. Would a lion make for a successful board member?

Negt: Well, I mean, insofar as a certain sense of repletion … when the lion is full, he takes a nap.

Kluge: He sleeps for 23 hours, and then he spends one hour hunting with the lionesses, and joins in on their meal.

Text: Professor Dr. Oskar Negt, sociologist

Negt: It’s difficult to imagine. After all, this form of modern capitalism relies on the fragmentation of time and space. In that sense, inconsistency is a crucial element of this kind of capitalism. Joseph Schumpeter, the great theoretical economist, defined it as the power of destroying the old in order to create new constellations. Creative destruction is currently en vogue, and might be the essence of what we call a successful entrepreneur.

Text: Joseph Alois Schumpeter

Kluge: Someone who can do that.

Negt: Someone who can do that.  

Kluge: Without batting an eye.

Negt: He has to be cold-blooded.

Kluge: But he cannot contribute much of his own. He has to stay at the fringes of the process, so to speak. Because if he is blamed for having caused this development – as a god-like figure –, then too much negative energy is directed against him.

Negt: He needs to inspire in people the sense, the public notion that all he does is follow objective laws. That doesn’t mean he defines what these objective laws are.  That’s why today it is perfectly acceptable to say that managers are themselves driven. That means, they see themselves as a medium for the objective laws of globalization. And that’s why they don’t accept any moral responsibility for the things they make happen, including unemployment and everything that comes with it. That is an extremely dangerous trend in contemporary capitalism.

Kluge: But it’s difficult to compare that to an animal.

Negt: No. I think the instinctive behavior, the ...

Kluge: The predatory behavior that evolution has brought forth is practically always about reaching satiation, and does not go beyond what’s necessary for survival …

Negt: And mere killing is not particularly productive for anyone. Because the response to an act of killing for its own sake is dangerous too.

Kluge: The marten or ermine, for example. Parts of the royal gown are made from ermine fur. But the ermine is a predator that kills even when it is not hungry. That is trained behavior. And ultimately it destroys its own basis of life. This is the kind of thing that a board of directors would very quickly vote against or get rid of. And anyway, the modern predator we are looking for would have a very short life span. It takes about 12 years to climb to the top, and then one might be able to survive up there for about three years. And by that time, the potential successors have caught up far enough to force a downfall.

Negt: And the height of fall is considerable. Peter Hartz is a good example, including the symbolic significance of his name and his deep fall. That means, the higher the position one reaches, the more dangerous it gets. The bigger the threat one faces from the people in one’s immediate environment and the predatory behavior that is prevalent in those circles.

Kluge: Which is why someone who exhibits obvious predatory characteristics, someone who bites, would get eliminated sooner or later as a precaution by his superiors, or by his cousins, that is by his peers, or from below. He has to make sure to blend in.

Negt: Well, it’s basically … entrepreneurship today radically differs from so-called Rhenish Entrepreneurship. The traditional practice of investing your revenue, your profits into stabilizing the enterprise, into securing the company, into a gradual expansion of the company has given way to a different tendency. The concept that today’s profits are tomorrow’s investments and then turn into new jobs the day after, that does not hold any value anymore. Today’s winners are the unemployed of tomorrow. That has become very clear. And this kind of behavior is basically the opposite of the classic capitalist entrepreneur. Every great manager, whether it’s the Siemens manager or Zetsche or someone else, presents himself as an innovator who says: Basically, everything my predecessors did was wrong. They have to present themselves as innovators and therefore often forget what others have achieved.

Text: The INNOVATOR type

Kluge: And the innovator says: Part of the existing work force is useless to me. Parts of Africa that don’t pay as much as I’d like or as much as the company needs, according to the laws of the global market … I’ll just stop paying attention to those parts of the world.

Negt: That’s exactly what happens. Ten years ago, Africa controlled about 8 % of the global markets; that share has decreased to 0.3 %, that means it’s completely decoupled from the world market.

Kluge: This kind of predator, an economic predator does not bite, does not feed, but actually rejects the act of devouring. Instead, he leaves parts of the world behind, decouples them. Exclusion is more dangerous than feeding. He’s a kind of negative predator. Forgetfulness is the opposite of instinct-driven escalation. No real animal can survive by forgetting their prey. It’s a different hunting pattern.

Text: MAN, A PREDATOR / Oskar Negt about the new ethics of economy

Negt: And that also concerns the individual. As Jeremy Rifkin once said: It’s terrible when people are being exploited. But it’s worse when they are not even needed for exploitation anymore. When the army of the permanently useless keeps growing.