Klaus Schlüpmann,Contribution to the 2.Vienna Conference on Ecology and Economy, Barcelona,September 1987 (ziemlich absurd, sagt sich der Autor heute (2018)...


A Discourse on Narrative Efforts (1).

At the conference, I had the impression and I said so, that we would need "narrative tools" or instruments to complement if not to replace conceptual approaches. I could have spoken of "narrative paradigms", of a narrative paradigm. I chose books and articles by participants,by Paul Christensen, Jean Paul Deleage, Jacques Grinevald, Juan Martinez-Alier, Rene Passet, Enzo Tiezzi and myself to illustrate what materials I would like to comment upon: obviously products of historical and archival research and others more in the literary tradition of natural history and philosophy.

These products not necessarily aim at the same public or scientific community and differ in their political tendency aswell as they may differ in commercial or ideological impact. I add examples of more famous or even bestselling books by Isabelle Stenger and Ilya Prigogine, Fritjof Capra, Jeremy Rifkin, Erwin Chargaff, Ernst Jantsch and others and I draw the attention aswell to the preceeding work on "ecology and economy" way back in history by Mary Summerville, Julius Robert Mayer, Rudolph Clausius and Serhii Podolinski, by Felix Auerbach, Alfred Lotka and Vladimir Vernatsky, by Rahel Carson, Jean Fourastie and George Friedman, coming back to nowadays bookmarket by mentioning Barry Commoner, Rolf Peter Sieferle, Rolf Schwendter among many others.

Seveso, Bonamphal and Tshernobyl have had a "spin-off" in critical literature and research as wars,the war-like activity in the "Third World" and food- or "energy"-crises continue to have. "Catastrophies" as the olympic games Barcelona 1992 must indeed locally be a similar stimulus (cf."Quaderns d'alliberament", latest issue). A supposed "hidden relationship" (cf.Juan Martinez Alier 1983) of the social and the natural sciences may define a kind of production by its intellectual interest. Historians,Fernand Braudel and Morris R.Cohen, to name but two of them,have tackled the question of this relation "practically" and "theoretically" to the advantage of specializing students in the History of Science and Technique.

I start my argument in support of a well defined "narrative effort" (contradicting some of the above mentioned literature) by critizising a conceptual approach to "ecology and economy" which referres us to "ethics",eventually to "evolutionary ethics". Hermann Daly in his contribution to this conference speaks of an "ethical filter" against "Folly in Environmental Economics", against the tactic "to define the desirable as identical with the desired" In a recent publication he makes the "ethicosocial" proposition (number 4 of 4)that "The desirability of growth is limited by the corrosive effects on moral standards of the very attitudes that foster growth, such as glorification of self-interest and a scientific-technocratic world view." An ethical "dilemma" is stated, which "exists for scientific materialists (such as the quoted E.O.Wilson K.S.)as much as for theists"..."In sum, the attitudes of scientific materialism and cultural relativism actively undercut belief in a transcendental basis for ethical value, which undercuts moral consensus, which undercuts the minimum moral restraint on self-interest presupposed by Adam Smith and most of his followers."

I agree with the necessity of a "minimum moral restraint" in the sense that I depend on my neighbours grace as much as anybody else, but I think that "ethical values" are "derivable" quantities or qualities and I understand the "ethical" discourse at best as a critical discussion of their origin and function, of the processes of accumulation of "moral capital" (Hermann Daly,I prefere a structurally less compromised expression for this gracious "good").

In these days Hans Jonas receives a prize for a book entiteled "Prinzip Verantwortung" (Principle of responsability), which has become a "theoretical" reference of a conservative,to some extend technocrate elite while the country is governed in a historically familiar spirit now called "Authoritarian Liberalism".I heard the author, an old social democrat,militant antifascist and venerable scholar in the religeous sciences say that to the extend free will constitutes the historical process, psychology would contribute to the rational project of "return", "Responsability" administered in a "moral lesson" to the power elites, could act in parallel with "concrete utopia" and "Principle of Hope" (Ernst Bloch) of the disposessed.

Narrative efforts what for? I summarized at the conference that work could be directed towards

"criticism of ongoing practice and simultaneously in view of "revolution"/"rupture" to the public debate on a#Mode of Social Reproduction#."

I follow a Marxian line of thought.This "debate" once it becomes explicit and a public struggle, is indeed a "revolution" which has a social and an individual dimension. Traditional "theologies" practically, economically imply a more or less repetitive scheme of social reproduction. Their frame work is supported by precious social institutions and prestigeous rituals,by considerable "conspicuous vaste", is a source and a sink of public wealth. It was young Karl Marx's key decision, to leave the theological battleground he and other Hegelian students were trained for, to face the question of an "open future" anew and "democratically": people decide explicitely and on a rational base about the mode of social reproduction, a decision for which the "tableau economique" and the thinking of the physiocrates provided the most advanced instruments sofar.

Marx was going to create further tools for this utopian work simultaneously forging the instruments and arms and struggling to open ways towards the "revolution", towards "emancipation from capitalist rule and logic, towards an alternative "projet de societe". Capitalism tended not to admit the question to be formulated in a proper way. Rosa Luxemburg stated in 1913 in retrospective:"We then observe, that National Economics kept having a tendency to deflect the problem of reproduction, whenever it dawned or became half appearant, into the problem of crisis, and thereby blocked the way to a solution".

While having a tendency to think of reproduction in terms of repetition only, Luxemburg marvellously indicated the social and anthropological dimensions of the question:"the notion of reproduction implies a component (Moment) of cultural history"..."Very early with some primitive people the needs of reproduction as of a process to be repeted regularly found a traditional and socially binding expression in certain ceremonies of religeous character." She mentioned in this context the ethnographical work by Spencer and Gillen on the australian aborigines life, a study which apparently has lost none of its interest today and precisely illustrates a "Mode of reproduction" of a society living in "stone age affluence" (Marshall Sahlins).

The lesson I draw from this research and anthropological results on other non capitalist social formations (e.g. a study by Anne Marie Hocquenghem on Peruvian Moche, a society practising an "asiatic mode of production") is to acknowledge the enormous effort in terms of "social capital" and individual work devoted to the "maintenance" of the mode of reproduction by means of "communicative acting".

Such never resting activity cannot be grasped by abstract schemes of "ethical values" which it may produce and the considerable "investment" into this "buisiness" seems to be the socially stabilizing factor independant of the particular social formation with its particular scheme of relations and institutions.

In view of this "teaching" the cutting down on budgets for higher education and social science research, as far as it reflects a cutting down on the development of adequate forms of communicative acting for our type of social formation is crasy, the accompaning ethical discourse is absurd and the constatation of an "ethical dilemma" where one could well speak of "investment policy" to the detriment of the community is cynical. I am referring to present day german (Federal Republic) cultural politics in general and to Niedersachsen in particular.

I base the discussion and the plea for a "narrative effort" precisely on the suggested need for "communicative acting" in social practice and consequently in the sciences."Narration" is a technical term in the formal study of text(sign-)production (semiotics), it implies the notion of a "discourse" (Emile Benveniste, Groupe mu),it is not just narrating tales and story-telling or relating of anecdotes. A "narrative effort" implies an effort in selection of the material and the consciousness with respect to intentionality. Two "narrative discourses" may serve to illustrate what I mean:

"Sociobiography"(of scientists): biographical data in relation/contradiction to Social History data.

"Semiotization of Science": meaning given to and "dignity" of (natural)science results in addition to their "technical" use,occuring in the frame of e.g. clerical, bourgois-revolutionary, laicist-nationalist,technocrate "semiotization programms".

Sociobiography: In 1830 the nine year old Rudolf Clausius was one of the numerous children in a parsons and schoolmasters home near Szeszin/Pommerania, eating herring fresh or picled (he had a lifelong disgust for herring), in 1848 he taught at a Berlin Gymnasium and prepared a doctoral thesis on "the Blue of the Sky", while his collegues of the "Physikalische Gesellschaft" signed a petition asking the sessions of the Royal Academy to be open, in 1871 he was a professor at Bonn university, had led a medical support group into war, had been injured in fullfillment of his patriotic duty, (to which his friend John Tyndall had subscribed) and was henceforth regularly seen on horseback. Prosopographical interest and attention:the teaching staff at the Szeszin school were a number of outstandingly active contributers to cultural life: Carl Loewe, composer, Ludwig Giesebrecht, writer,theologian and MP in 48, the Graámanns,father and sons, a triade of natural philosophers... Gustav Magnus, institutional innovator, teacher in physics and technology and lifelong friend represented prussian assimilated jewish (grand) bourgoisie, bankers and trade (the Mendelsohn and the Magnus families)...The documents on "Geheimrat" Clausius hardly answer our sociobiographical questions with repect to his women compagnions, with respect to Adelheid Rimpau and Sophie Sack, to whom he was married. It is otherwise in Serhii Podolinski's (cf.Juan Martinez-Alier 1987) case (Marie Kudasheva Podolinski(the mother), Natalia Andreeva,Olga Lubatovich...)it is otherwise for John Tyndall ("Oh darling, you've killed your John"). Social rules and regulations determine ideological and financial or prestige-economical connections to be mediated differently by women and by men.

Sociobiography? There is more to tell if I put a particular result of a woman's or man's work into focus, in order to study the motivation and simultaneously the social impact and function of this product. The individual dimension is mediated to the social dimension of production in the second topic, by what we call:


Semiotization of Science: The reason to talk about Rudolph Clausius at this conference is that in 1885 he published an article on "#The Energy Stocks in Nature and their Use to the Benefit of Mankind#". A "conservationist" view ("we behave like happy heirs...")more than twenty years after Stanley Jevons' "The coal question" (an "anticonservationist" view Clausius certainly had heard of). Motivation? Clausius was a technical specialist for the foundations of thermodymical aswell as electrodynamical machinery. It was part of his office as Bonn rector to deliver speeches to a greater public, precisely and ritually at the occasion of the emperor's birthday. His friends and "class mates" Emil Du Bois-Reymond, Adolf Fick, Hermann Helmholtz at similar occasions engaged in grand style and with considerable rethorics in the "great" cultural and political questions typically "Science and Religion", science for the benefit of the nation, for the benefit of mankind. Darwinism amd neodarwinism, scientific materialism, these subjects were "in" for decades (Jakob Moleschott, Physiologist, "Berufsverbot" in the 1850s,chief protagonist of scientific materialism shared house with Clausius at Zürich). Science was given new cultural significance and meaning, was "resemiotisized" in the framework of a more or less specific though multifacetted "semiotisation programm" with specific (social) functions. Clausius apparently refused to join the "club of ideologists". Let not the cobbler go behond his last - he stayed as near as he could to the specialist subject. He,the "inventor"(in 1850) of the ideology baring Second Law resisted the temptation? The premature example of a "scientific worker"? An absurd idea in view of the social prestige of "Herr Geheimrat" in imperial Germany. Which were his reasons? To me this question is of no great interest, a hint to a possible answer however is: Among the very few "nontechnical" documents in the Clausius papers at Munich is one of great significance: "Religion by Professor Giesebrecht", a handwritten course on "religious science" at School in 1838 of definitely hegelian-rationalist "pedigree" (Silvio Funtovic and Jeremy Ravetz at this conference). It implies a soon antiquated anthropological view of self-consciousness. A writing of some logical coherence and "political" depth, which could well have served as intellectual barrier against the kind of "alienation"process to which no doubt some of his collegues succombed.

The interesting question is finally: How did a "conservationist" view on the energy question fit into the ideological climat? The "Kaiserreich" with considerable social tension: the regime of the "Antisocialist Law", governmental projects of social reform (workers insurance), without success. Restructuring of government from liberal- to conservative authoritarian, apeasement by "show buisiness" (foreign policy, colonies) did not remove the permanent (structural) crisis. The Bismarck government tended to face civil war,the"Blutbad"(Otto Bismarck). Until in the 1890s the problem was "solved" by forced industrialisation, leading to a strengthening of politically liberal fractions of capital which provoked conservative reaction and finally in 1914 the "Griff nach der Weltmacht" (Fritz Fischer), the war. A rather "reductionist" narration, only to suggest, that the political climat of 1885, when Rudolph Clausius published his pamphlet, can be sensed today as determined by the question:


"Forced Industrialisation or Civil War"?

The ruling party, as I said, was facing civil war, until in the 1890s things changed. Until then a "conservationist" pamphlet fits well into the ideology of the ruling elite. Hence politically in 1885 Professor Clausius words can pass unnoticed, as presumably they did, and he was dead (1888) before the change of climat occured.

I finish my plea for "narrative efforts". I hope that it became clear why and to what end I criticized the "ethical" discourse and also by which criteria I judge upon the sometimes rewardingly "narrative" literary production quoted at the beginning. I finally would like to take up on a comment by Jeremy Ravetz by saying that "sociobiography" as I understand it (and not unanimously a working group at Osnabrück University understood it) owes in fact much to the well known essay by Boris Gessen in 1931 on Isaac Newton which stimulated the "externalist" approach which Jeremy Ravetz recalled by his comment (the historical debate upon this approach was to some extend mislead by rather spectacularly unrealized discrepancies beetween the english and the russian text of Gessens work). In fact,the case of Boris Gessen was the first I chose to work upon, years ago, I pushed the study until soviet collaboration seemed desirable if not required for "methological", precisely "sociobiographical" reasons. A most serious study case, to say the least.


Annotation and Literature


(1) Early orientations: My first narrative effort in the field was panegyrical: "The roads of the Führer",an "essay" at school in 1943 when I was 8 years old. In 1954, a comment on an essay by Aldous Huxley "The Crisis of Mankind" was good enough for A-levels in german.

Paul Christensen, Classical Roots for a Modern Materials- Energy Analysis, Ecological Modelling 1987,forthcoming.

Jean-Claude Debeir,Jean-Paul Deleage,Daniel Hemery,Les Servitudes de la puissance,une histoire de l'energie, Paris 1986

Jacques Grinevald,Ethique et politique, essai d'interpretation sur la genese conjointe du syndicalisme chretien et de la legislation internationale du travail,Geneve,1970

Jacques Grinevald,Nouveaux entretiens sur la pluralite des mondes.Microcosme et macrocosme.In:Cahiers de l'Institut Universitaire d'etudes du developpement,Geneve 1978

Jacques Grinevald,Ivo Rens,eds. Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen,Demain la decroissance. Entropie-ecologie-economie, Lausanne Paris 1979

Jacques Grinevald,Andre Gsponer, Lucile Hanouz,Pierre Lehmann, La quadrature du CERN, Lausanne 1984

Juan Martinez-Alier, l'ecologisme i l'economia,historia d'unes relacions amagades,barcelona 1984

Juan Martinez-Alier, Ecological Economics,Oxford 1987

Rene Passet, L'economique et le Vivant, Paris 1979

Klaus Schlüpmann, Natural Resources, Productive Forces, Semiotization of Science, The Case of Rudolph Clausius, Workshop papers, Osnabrück 1986/7

Klaus Schlüpmann, Natwiss Techno und Kultrev Dada, Kontext einer Arbeit des Physikers Boris Gessen, Workshop papers Osnabrück 1980

Enzo Tiezzi, Tempi storici, tempi biologici,Milano 1984

Serhii Podolinski,Trud cheloveka i ego otnoshenie k raspredeleniiu energii, Slovo (St.Petersburg) No 4-9,1880,(cf. Juan Martinez-Alier 1987)

Felix Auerbach, Die Weltherrin und ihr Schatten, Ein Vortrag über Energie und Entropie, Jena 1902

Jean Fourastie,Machinisme et Bien-etre,Niveau de vie et genre de vie en France de 1700 a nos jours,Paris 1962

V.D.Fedorov,T.G.Gil'manov, Ecologiia, Moscow 1980

Rolf Schwendter,Zur Geschichte der Zukunft,Zukunftsforschung und Sozialismus, Frankfurt 1982

Rolf Peter Sieferle, Der unterirdische Wald,München 1982

Morris R.Cohen, The Meaning of Human History, La Salle/Ill. 1947

Herman E.Daly, The Economic Growth Debate: What Some Economists Have Learned But Many Have Not, J.Env.Ec.Man. 14,1987

Herman E.Daly, Filters against Folly in Environmental Economics, The Impossible, The Undesirable, and the Uneconomic, Env.Ec.1, 1987

Rudolph Clausius, Die Energievorräte in der Natur und ihre Verwendung zum Nutzen der Menschheit, Bonn 1885

Stanley W. Jevons, The Coal Question, London Cambridge 1865