David Kenning ~ States Of Mind

States of Mind (SoM) (Beyond Appearances) is a forum for looking behind the world of appearances. Only by understanding hidden drivers, motives and desires – and seeing through the commonly accepted narratives – can we explain what is really happening in our world.

States of Mind takes a generally pessimistic view of the human condition. Modernity, social-media, celebrity-culture and dumbing-down are making shallow fools of the many and putting democracy itself in danger. At the same time, nation states are increasingly polarising and fragmenting into confrontational groups driven by the grievances of identity politics. We are living through a post-ideological age where conspiracy theories, hashtags, celebrity culture and fake news are replacing thought, conversation and analysis. The democratisation of unfiltered information is leading to the fracturing of social cohesion.

Good things often take time, thought, experience and care to create. Too often today, time-tried-and-tested institutions, humane values and policies are being attacked and destroyed by greedy, ignorant and aggressive individuals, groups and organizations. Most are bent on increasing inequality, exclusion and division. These people are at war with core democratic values and have found a way to use the processes of democracy to attack and diminish social cohesion and the democratic mindset. We have a paradoxical situation where the citizen’s vote has become the single greatest threat to democratic values. States of Mind aims to become a force to help cure democracy of this auto-immune disease. In this sense, democracy is at war with itself and warfare must be re-defined as the ability to know, understand and influence how people think and feel. Our values and analysis of the situation are valid. What we lack in today’s “reality is information” world, is influence.

States of Mind recognizes that we need to become players in this war if we are to defend what is right, what is good and protect the everyday values of fratérnité – pluralism, respect for the other, tolerance and compromise.  States of Mind intends to gather opinions and insights into ways to influence key decision-makers and put some backbone into politicians and policy-makers. In this regard we do not trust governments, elected leaders or politicians to get it right. We recognise that we ourselves must take the fight directly to those who would destroy democratic values. Think about it.

States of Mind will pick-up issues across the spectrum – and spare no individuals, groups, organizations or country practices from deeper scrutiny. But we also aim to entertain and have a good deal of fun. We may be pessimistic but we are bold and cheerful and always enjoy a good laugh.

Our content will be taken from open sources across the media and supported by bespoke think-pieces, weighty references and analysis from insightful contributors. There is a lot out there we need to expose and shame. And in the process, we take a sceptical position towards the prevailing so-called values of the so-called “superpowers” who are inflicting so much material damage and misery on the world. We don’t trust them, period. We aim to expose and share best practice in taking the fight to the darker forces dismantling the human values that make life worth living.

Perhaps it is already too late and the battle is lost, for now. Perhaps not.

Go to: https://www.statesofmind.eu/

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The Coming Storm: Italy Under An All-Populist Government And EU’s Impasse

C.J. Polychroniou

A clear pattern has emerged in European societies since the outbreak of the euro crisis in 2010. Voters across the socioeconomic spectrum are casting their votes in support of populist, anti-establishment movements and parties whose leaders offer an inward vision of the future combined with a strong dislike for the political culture of liberal democracy and the values professed by the European Union, including overt skepticism over the single currency, the euro.

However, as yet, it is only in Italy that the political pendulum moved so far to the right that an all-populist government was eventually allowed, after Italian president Mattarella blocked the nomination of Eurosceptic economist Savano for the position of the Ministry of Finance, to be formed under the leadership of a nonelected prime minister, an unknown law professor, Giuseppe Conte, whose academic credentials, as stated in his professional CV, appear to lack truthfulness.

But this is a hardly a consolation to Brussels for there is probably no more problematic country in all of western Europe today, save Greece, for undergoing such epigenetic political changes.
Sure enough, the fact that the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, founded in 2009 by the comedian Beppe Grillo and the ingenious blogger Gianroberto Casaleggio, and the reactionary Northern League (il Carroccio), founded in 1991 with the principal aim of advancing a system of fiscal federalism in order to halt the flow of resources from the northern to the southern regions of Italy, managed to pull jointly a majority of the votes in the March elections and thereby sweep away the mainstream but otherwise dysfunctional political establishment of the postwar era bodes well neither for Italy nor for the EU.

Given Italy’s fiscal and overall economic state of affairs, it is actually through sheer luck that a full-blown financial crisis has not actually erupted in the eurozone’s third largest economy, and eighth largest in the world by nominal GDP. The country’s public debt to GDP ratio stands currently at 131.80%, which is the highest level since unification in 1861, and the fifth largest worldwide. Such high levels of public debt to GDP ratio are simply prohibited under the Frankstein-like creation of the European Monetary Union, where a single currency zone exists among scores of highly diverse economies and political cultures but without a fiscal union or fiscal transfer mechanisms to address competitiveness imbalances, which are quite severe between North and South.

Lest we forget, the Greek debt crisis exploded in early 2010, with the private international credit markets sending borrowing costs to stratospheric levels, when the country’s public debt to GDP ratio was believed to have been around 128%. The fact that about 60% of Italian debt is held by residents has provided indeed something of a safety cushion against a yield market backlash, but this is unlikely to continue indefinitely given the shaky standing of the country’s banks, which hold more than 75% of the debt owned by residents — a concern which will be magnified now that a quacky populist government will be in charge of Italy’s public finances.

Indeed, markers have already shown increased nervousness to the formation of an all-populist government cabinet. The gap between Italian and German government 10-year bond yields has grown significantly lately (by more than 75 basis points between April to May), and the gap will surely grow if the economic policies advocated by the leaders of the Five Star Movement and the Northern League, respectively, are adopted by prime minister Giuseppe Conte.
Both the Five Star Movement and the Northern League advocate a potpourri economic agenda which appears attractive to rich and poor alike, such as sharp tax cuts (both parties favor a flat 25% tax rate) and welfare handouts while promising at the same time to get rid of illegal immigrants and curb further immigration. Read more

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Christine Boshuijzen-van Burken & Darek M. Haftor (Eds) ~ Reason, Faith And Practice In Our Common Home – Festschrift for Dr. Sytse Strijbos

Juni, 1 2018 – Reason, Faith and Practice In Our Common Home – Festschrift for Dr. Sytse Strijbos – Will be online within a few weeks

Introduction

This book is devoted to Dr. Sytse Strijbos, in our appreciation of his unique, devoted, and selfless efforts and contributions to the betterment of the world we live in.
The present age, often understood as either late modernity or postmodernity, seems to have manifested a developmental paradox. The invention and use of science and technologies has brought material well-being never experienced in human history. Much of the modern world is characterized by economic growth and reflected in advanced housing, schools, healthcare systems, transportation and communication infrastructure, safe and secure workplaces, social insurances of various types, pharmaceuticals that save the lives of millions—all bringing human comfort and fueling a consumption economy. Normatively regarded, however, there seems to be a blurred image. The development of societal institutions, based on some form of democratic rationality, is important in its striving for human equality and participation as well as the elimination of coercions and oppressions.
Yet, we witness constant news about social, religious, political, and economic polarizations, with terrorist attacks and local wars killing innocent civilians, with global warming effects and microplastics in the oceans, with so-called “alternative truths” and challenges democratic institutions, including at its very heart the elections. More people than ever are consuming antidepressant pharmaceuticals and committing suicide. This imbalance between material development and normative advancement can be understood as the paradox of modernity and was brought to the surface eloquently by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in their seminal “Dialektik der Aufklärung” (Eng. “Dialectic of Enlightenment”). They challenge the myth of enlightenment and its progress, based solely on human reason, as reflected in rational bureaucratic organizations, science, and technology.

Raised in Dutch society during the World War II recovery effort, Strijbos is part of this paradox of modernity. He has witnessed the economic and material developments of his country and Europe, and the normative challenges of their societies. Strijbos has been exposed to several influences: a version of the Christian faith that promotes love and compassion, the power of intellect in science and technology, and the importance of action in entrepreneurship and businesses. Unlike most engaged people, he does not assume a stand for one of these three poles. Drawing on the intellectual tradition of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd, he seeks and formulates an integrative vision and approach that can be characterized in terms of three poles, where each pole interacts with the other two and in that manner aims toward human dignity and justice. His message is that only in that manner can we firstly understand the roots of modernity and its paradox and then redirect our societies.
Strijbos characterizes this integrative approach as disclosure, understood as “a process in which norms take shape that do justice to human life and society in its diversity. Disclosure accordingly goes together with recognition of the distinctive character and intrinsic normativity of the various terrains of life.” This concept is founded on the view that “human actions and interventions must be a positive response to a normative order that is itself anchored in the world.” [1]

Over nearly three decades, after changing his career from developing new technologies through advanced applied research at Philips laboratories into an academic career based at the Department of Philosophy at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Strijbos’ integrative visions and approach are manifested in his unique leadership. While occupied with his devotion to family life and university lecturing, he has managed to conceive of, initiate, establish, and govern several independent organizations (e.g., “the Centre for Technology and Social Systems” and “International Institute for Development and Ethics”)
that aim to advance this integrative vision. The uniqueness of these efforts is that without any granted external resources, he motivates people in various parts of the world (e.g., the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK), Sweden, and South Africa) to pursue intellectual and practical activities also aimed at advancing this integrative vision, where attempts are made to relate faith and conviction to thinking and intellect, and to actions and practices. These efforts have formulated tentative bridges of several kinds. One kind is in the academia among the various specialized disciplines, typically isolated from each other, and with philosophy and theology. The other kind of bridges are between the academic world of thinking and the world of practices and actions, be it firms, entrepreneurship, hospitals, or aid agencies.

In the course of three decades, Sytse Strijbos has provided organizational and intellectual leadership that has contributed uniquely to the development of young people and scholars, several of which are today full professors and a university rector. In this book, students and colleagues of Strijbos have taken time to author a text with a message that in one way or another relates to the integrative vision proposed by Strijbos. These contributions are diverse, which only reflects the multidisciplinary impact of Strijbos’ work and efforts and one of its underlying messages: the root cause of modernity and its paradox can neither be understood in terms of one or a few aspects only, nor in terms of the assumptions held by modernity. Rather, an integrated view is needed where faith should be related to thinking and science, which must be related to actions and practices – any separated approach is deemed to produce a partial diagnosis and thus a faulty remedy. Therefore, the title of this Festschrift that celebrates Sytse Strijbos is “Reason, Faith and Practice in Our Common Home.”
Thank you, Sytse!

Spring 2018,
Christine Boshuijzen-van Burken, The Netherlands
Darek M. Haftor, Sweden

NOTES
[1] Both from: Strijbos, S. (2003). Systems Thinking and the Disclosure of a technological Society: Some Philosophical reflections. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 20, 119-131. (p.128)
[2] The editors are grateful for the contributions of Harma Strijbos and dr. Carools Reinecke who provided many details about Strijbos’ life and career.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philips_Natuurkundig_Laboratorium
[4] Some data can be found in manuals on ceramic technology: R.J. Brook (ed.) Concise Encyclopedia of Advanced Ceramic Materials, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1991, page 113-117 and page 383-384. And also in: M.N. Rahaman, Ceramic Processing,Taylor & Francis, London/New York, 2007.

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The Making Of The Statute Of The European System Of Central Banks

May, 2018: The complete book – updated version – will be online soon. 

Do you find it difficult to understand why the European Central Bank is restricted in its assistance to EU countries which have difficulty borrowing from financial markets? And do you find it interesting to learn what the tools are of the ECB, compared to the Federal Reserve System, and why the monetary part of the Economic and Monetary Union is so much more successful than its economic leg? These questions are answered in the book The Making of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks, which first appeared as a dissertation in 2004. It describes the economic, political and legal discussions behind every article of the statute of the ESCB, which rules its behaviour and which restrict the options for politicians to intervene in the policy of the ECB. After you have read this, you will find it much easier to understand and predict the behaviour of important actors, like the decision-making body of the ECB and politicians, and the tensions between them.

Checks and balances
The phrase ‘checks and balances’ is most known for its use as a description of the American system of government. The essential feature is that the departments (branches) of government are not just separate from each other (i.e. having their own functional jurisdiction and the absence of personal unions), but also exert limited control over each other, to the extent necessary for preventing departments (branches) from assuming authority in areas for which other branches are responsible. This philosophy was based on the experience that especially the legislature if left to itself could expand its powers in the field of the executive and in extreme cases even taking on judicial powers.

Read more

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Philip Roth ~ The Plot Against America

About The Plot Against America
Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the story of what it was like for the Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was elected president of the United States. Roth’s richly imagined novel begins in 1940, with the landslide election of Lindbergh, who blamed the Jews for pushing America toward war with Nazi Germany. Lindbergh’s admiration of Hitler and his openly anti-Semitic speeches cause increasing turmoil in the Roth household, and in nine-year-old Philip, as political events at home and abroad overtake their daily lives. Alvin, the orphaned nephew the family has taken in, runs away to Canada to fight the Nazis. Sandy, Philip’s older brother, ascribes his parents’ fears to paranoia and embraces Lindbergh’s Just Folks program, which sends him and other Jewish children to live in the “heartland” for a summer. Philip’s mother, Bess, wants the family to flee to Canada before it is too late to escape. But his fiercely idealistic father, Herman, refuses to abandon the country where he was born and raised as an American. Overwhelmed by the tensions around him, Philip tries to run away. “I wanted nothing to do with history,” he says. “I wanted to be a boy on the smallest scale possible. I wanted to be an orphan.” But history will not let go, and as America is whipped into a deadly frenzy by demagogues, the Roths and Jews everywhere begin to expect the worst. In The Plot Against America Philip Roth writes with a historical sweep and lyrical intimacy that have rarely been so skillfully combined. As the novel explores the convulsive collision of history and family, readers take a chilling look at devastating events that could have occurred in America–and consider the many possible histories existing beneath the one that actually happened.

About Philip Roth
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2005 Philip Roth has become the third living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Source: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/

The Plot Against America – PDF-format: https://m.reddit.com/theplotagainstamericabyphiliproth/

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