|Jakob von Uexküll|
Jakob Johann von Uexküll, 1903
|Born||8 September 1864
Mihkli, Governorate of Estonia
|Died||25 July 1944
|Institutions||University of Hamburg|
|Known for||The Umgebung–Umwelt distinction
|Influences||Karl Ernst von Baer
Johannes Peter Müller
Jakob Johann Baron von Uexküll (German: [ˈʏkskʏl]; 8 September 1864 – 25 July 1944) was a Baltic German biologist who worked in the fields of muscular physiology, animal behaviour studies, and the cybernetics of life. However, his most notable contribution is the notion of Umwelt, used by semiotician Thomas Sebeok and philosopher Martin Heidegger. His works established biosemiotics as a field of research.
Grundeinkommen - ein Kulturimpuls
Documentary of SWF (1998)
Lori Gruen -- "Entangled Empathy as Ecofeminist Praxis" - Neither Man Nor Beast
The Basic Income A cultural impulse A film-essay by Daniel Häni and Enno Schmidt An income is like the wind beneath your wings. With a basic income, income becomes a civil right. Welcome – to the Earth. Today almost everyone has some form of income. Otherwise we would not survive. The question is: Under which conditions? How do people obtain their income today? 4 out of 10 Germans earn their income through paid work, work which allows them to earn a living, gainful employment. Less than 3 out of 10 get their income from relatives, especially children and adolescents. 2 out of 10 live off pension. And less than 1 out of 10 receive unemployment benefit or other social benefits. All income is earned. But only 41% of the population earn their income through employment. All others receive different forms of income, through so called 'transfer revenues', - income which is not directly linked to work. So a basic income should not seem that new. What is new is it's unconditionally. But how relevant are the conditions tied to income today? Peter Ulrich: If we want to be realistic then we have to assume that the labor market will no longer be able to support social integration for everyone in society for much longer. If we leave the second option, the basic income, to one side, then we would be forced to risk everything for the idea of 'economic growth', at any cost. And this is a political reality today. From the far right to far left and back, everyone is calling for economic growth. This means we are thinking in terms of quantity, and suppressing any chances of developing new and improved organizational models for society which focus on the quality of life. But economic growth no longer means an increase in job opportunities. It actually means the opposite. However, a vital requirement for economic growth is a well funded demand. People have to have money at their disposal. What does Klaus Wellershof, chief economist of the largest asset management firm and one of the world's biggest banks, think about an unconditional basic income? Klaus Wellershof: An unbiased support for everyone? I think this principle will eventually assert itself, indeed I believe it is a necessity. But it has to find a way of overcoming the current challenges before it can be implemented. What could these current challenges be? Perhaps the challenge of maintaining jobs? This is what all politicians promote. But is this really about work? or about tax revenues? And about avoiding an increasing number of benefit recipients that will explode state expenditures? Peter Ulrich: But it's not the 'nasty state' who causes this explosion. The rising costs are the product of a success story. The logic of this success story is rationalization. This even happens in our own back yard. How will this success story continue? 'What would you work if you didn't have to worry about an income?' This must be seen in relation to the basic income. There are different models for the basic income. The overall definition comes from the Basic Income Network: 'A basic income is an income which is granted unconditionally, to every member of a political community.' There are 4 criteria To secure existence and allow social participation To provide an individual rights claim It is payable without means tested verification There is no obligation to work. But let's not get carried away. A basic income doesn't mean more money for everyone. No 'new' money is added on top. It grows into the existing income. Income from employment will decrease. The overall amount of income will remain the same, but the composition will change. The basic income is a different type of income. It is not a minimum wage. Nor is it a payment for something. It is not tied to work. It is paid to every individual! - dispite any changes. Sacha Liebermann: As opposed to communism, which suffocates the individual, and market liberalism which wants to isolate the individual; the basic income facilitates a safeguard in order to maximize freedom, giving the individual the ability to choose. This is only possible through a guaranteed income. It must of course be high enough to give people the ability to say 'no' to employment. This ability to say 'no' allows people to see each other on equal terms. Most of those who rely on social benefits today, would no longer be dependent if they had a basic income. The basic income replaces public transfers to a certain degree. Only where social benefits are needed in addition today will the payments remain as they are. Only those with less than that, would actually have more money with a basic income. These are predominantly children and adolescents which means; families. Also those receiving very low pension rates, those with precarious employment and the self employed, who work themselves into poverty. The basic income removes poverty and stabilizes the middle class with a secure foundation. It alleviates the fear of aging. It is not money given by one party to another, for whom they can then lay down laws. It is not a form of long term aid for the needy. It is a perspective for everyone. Basic income does not assume the ideal human being. Neither does it solve all the problems. - Not with money. But it allows more solutions to emerge - through people. Thomas Paine is the founder of the human rights and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. He coined the name; 'United States of America'. In 'Common Sense' he initiated the North American declaration of independence from the British Kingdom. His ideas had a seminal influence on the world's first democratic constitution. Wolfgang Roehrig: We agree on the fact that all humans were made equal, that they were imbued with certain inalienable rights, by their maker. These include life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. 'Rights of Man', human rights. An incredible notion at that time. But equally so, today. Equal rights for all on the basis of being human! – What rubbish: Aren't rights only for those who own property? All others wouldn't know what to do with them - apart from getting cheeky! Human rights? This would also imply: abolishing slavery. But then what about all the services? Who would do all the unwanted, hard work, that is neither paid, nor appreciated? These fears still exist today. For example in relation to a basic income: Surely the economy would collapse and chaos would ensue. However, it was much worse when the earth became round. For a long time the Church held onto the idea of a disc which was surrounded by the waters of chaos. Anyone who got too close to the edge, was in danger of falling off. Vaulting this disc was a fixed firmament, which the stars traveled through. Beyond this: the spheres in which the powers resided, that was both a threat and source of hope. Today we see money and the economy in the same way. Everything was dependent on the idea that the earth was a disc; the concept of the world, of order and security. And so every age restates that the world is a disc which someone is watching over. How is it possible that the earth is round? And when it really was round it was still thought that the earth is the centre of the universe and in no way revolves around itself. This made it highly complicated to establish laws governing the movement of the planets. It always depends on our own standpoint. The same applies to the idea of a basic income. It gets complicated if I am unaware of my own movements. I soon come to the boundaries of my perceptions, if I assume that everything is in its finished form and shows itself as a final product, or is wrapped up in ideology. It is much easier if I start with the individual - and what is in the process of becoming. Every system asserts its own coherence and cannot shift into another out of its own accord. Only human beings are capable of this. Margit Appel: The debate around the basic income is currently taking place in Austria, Switzerland and Germany." Gabriele Fischer: I think it has something to do with the time being ripe. Justus Wittich: The basic income would restore dignity. Margit Appel: And it is not dependent on the good conduct of society. Wolf Lotter: Most importantly, the basic income would lead to an escalation of the existing social tensions. Michaela Schmoczer: In fact, many people are in the system (are employed), but don't actually want to work. And we say: 'Oh, they're taking our jobs.' And others are outside the system (unemployed), and want to work. So it is an amazing step forward, to give individuals the ability to choose and say: I want to, or I don't want to do something. This creates movement. Bettina Dieterle: But to me, when I think about it, the most interesting implication of the basic income is that when I die, I would no longer be able to say, 'I wasn't able do what I wanted because I couldn't afford it.' (From background: 'Yes, exactly. No more excuses.') Götz Werner: Who is only studying this because their parents wanted them to? What kind of a society do we want to live in? Well, if you don't ask yourself this question, you might as well be a computer. Justus Wittich: There would be an explosion of initiatives. Man by the lake: Well, I'm skeptical. I'm very skeptical. Here's why: If a basic income was available to everyone, I think the motivation to go to work would be radically reduced. To zero percent. Martin Hafen: Employment makes us ill, because the time pressure is constantly increasing.This can be seen in all the statistics. Wolf Lotter: Essentially, the basic income would leader to a freer society. That's the crucial point. It would reduce our dependence on wages and lead to more independence. Man by the lake: Inevitably it will lead to the question: 'how can it be financed?' Because it has to come from somewhere. Justus Wittich: As an economist, I can calculate that it is possible. (From background: Yes.) Wolf Lotter: The biggest challenge is that we all have to learn how to deal with it. That's the big thing. In this sense, we are at the very beginning. Not in relation to its financial viability. That has been guaranteed. Freedom is the difficult part. 'The financial viability has been guaranteed.' 'Freedom is the difficult part.' There are plenty of gloomy predictions for the 21st century. The newspapers are full of them - and so are we. The basic income is one of the first positive visions for the 21st century. It isn't a large global issue that we simply watch, as spectators. It affects every one of us because it allows each of us to do without (not to continue doing) the things we are not accountable for, and to start doing what we really want. But wouldn't many people just stay at home? Wouldn't everyone stop working? Surely everything would grind to a halt, like in a strike. Would managers be on permanent leave? Responsibility? Out of sight. Nobody would pull their weight. Nobody would really work hard. Empty Universities? Would the basic income destroy the incentive to work for higher qualification? No pressure, no human capital? But companies are already short of staff! How can the economy possible survive? Roland Blatschke: What shocks me most is that we no longer understand why we have an economy or a financial system. The economy is part of our human coexistence, which enables our way of life and puts all sorts of things at our disposal. This view is completely forgotten. The economy is an independent system that has its own objectives that are removed from human life, and are even capable of destroying it. Man by the lake: Despite all that, I firmly believe that we need a system, in which efforts are paid off; good work is rewarded. And a system which simply rewards everyone and evenly distributes a basic salary (basic income) like a watering can, would lead to the collapse of our whole highly competitive society. Paid work in Germany in the year 2001: - 56 billion hours work. Unpaid work: - 96 billion hours work in the private and domestic sphere and in civil engagement activities. A basic income would not stand in the way of paid work. The real question is perhaps how to manage people if money is no longer an adequate means of control for the companies and society generally; if people no longer dependent on their wages? How would we determine our own conduct? Would everyone just go to the swimming pool? Would all the rubbish simply pile up on the streets? Pensioners would have to look after the parks. Would the basic income undermine our competitive society, the sense of independence, satisfaction and pride in one's own achievements? And wouldn't it be boring if everyone already had an income? It's a system for hippies and people from Steiner schools who believe in the pure goodness of human nature. Humans are also animals! We don't want a basic income - we want a hunting ground. Let's just wait and see what the emerging markets bring. From the outside, looking in. That's how it is for many people. No access to the well laid tables. Would the basic income bring people together? Or would it increase the disparity between rich and poor? Would society be divided into two - those who would continue to dominate the economy, with their lucrative jobs and private education, and those who depend on the basic income, who would spend their time pursuing hopes and hobbies, working for 2 Euros per hour to earn some extra cash, and look away when it comes to the really important issues in society. Of course, a basic income can be exploited. This happens if it is set at an amount that is not sufficient in order to survive, while all social benefits are eliminated. This would force everyone into work. Not out of a personal incentive. It would mean paying wages like in China and not, like in the basic income, uphold the ability to say 'no'. If, in addition, these payments are increasingly complicated by various institutions, exceptions, requirements and conditions, we end up with the current system - only worse. There are a number of ways in which a basic income can be misused: - by setting it too low - cutting all social benefits - and continuing to tie it to conditions. 'He who does not want to work, shall not eat' said Saint Paul. He meant those who do not contribute to the community. 'If they feel their salvation is so imminent' says Paul, 'that they abandon their work, then they should also stop eating.' He still had humor. Others did not. Here the less skilled are lumped together, led to the dinner table, but not allowed to eat. Because they haven't worked enough. Food deprivation. All rules become terrible if they are implemented mindlessly. Katja Kipping: The most important aim of the debates around the basic income is to challenge the old paradigms. For example the ideology: 'Only those who have a job, have the right to eat.' The debates surrounding the basic income must dispense with this false idea that the only way of contributing to society is through having a job. There are of course jobs in which the opposite is the case. 'He who does not want to work, shall not eat.' That's what we have learned. The artist, Joseph Beuys, wrote a new formula: 'He who does not want to think, gets kicked out.' We have no shortage of food, or any other goods. But what about work? Götz Werner: The amount of work in agriculture, the work in manufacturing and production is luckily decreasing! The real responsibility of the economy is to alleviate people from work! 'The real responsibility of the economy is to alleviate people from work.' This is not what it says in the papers. Alleviate people in order to do what? Nor is it any company statement. No one enjoys making their employees redundant. But it still happens. . Once this is seen as inevitable, or even an objective, something else would become evident: Alleviating people from work also means: giving people the freedom to work. The idea that there is only vacation and leisure on the other side of the fence, comes from a sense of dependency. Which kinds of jobs are currently being investing in? Götz Werner: All investments put into creating new jobs are simultaneously steps towards rationalization. Things are being developed that require less labor. No manager asks himself : 'What can I do to increase the number of employees?' 'What can I do to increase the number of employees?' The task of the economy is to satisfy demand. Effectively, we do the same. It's task is not to create more work. On the other hand, everyone has their own goals, questions and objectives which some are unable to pursue as it would not provide them with an income. Götz Werner: The societal problem we have today is that many people who are employed only work in order to earn an income. This work is simply a means to an end: to provide a source of income. Work is not the end in itself. Not necessarily something they see as important. Socially, this is a problem because it becomes a major cause of frustration and long term illness. In Germany, 12% of those in employment are completely satisfied with their jobs. That is just over one in ten. More than half, 54%, are somewhat unsatisfied with their jobs but also see positive aspects. And 34% of those in employment are categorically unsatisfied with their jobs. That is about one in three. The struggle for employment, is a struggle for income. And the struggle for employment stands in the way of employment cuts. This is because my work defines who I am. However, there is no right to be allocated a job. There is no such thing as the right to duty. Nor a right to be bought and sold. The right to work can only mean the right of each individual to do the work that he/she really wants to do. (add-on: work which cannot be imposed and which nobody can take away). This right to work, depends on the right to an income. Florian Lück: It makes no sense that we have jobs and job-centers, but there are no income-centers. He means that, although he does a lot of work, he has no income. What would the impact of the right to an income be on society? Ueli Maeder, a Swiss sociologist, outlines some of the key aspects: Ueli Maeder: This narrow minded outlook in all sectors of employment would be replaced by a focus on the key question: 'What are the important things in life?' This would give people strength. It would lead to more security, an increase in creativity, an increase in the general well-being, and less pressure for this counterproductive 'elbow society'. They would not have to experience situations in which it would be to their advantage, to make a profit at the expense of someone else; a phenomenon which our current system encourages through competition that undermines solidarity. This is the sociological perspective. But what about someone who has just come from work and has never heard about the idea? Project manager: So you mean everyone would have the same income? Interviewer: No, everyone would earn what they earn. But everyone would have a basic income as a minimum. Project manager: But only if they work? Interviewer: No. No conditions. Project manager: No conditions? Interviewer: Everyone gets it. Project manager: But surely this would be problematic for the motivation to work. If I had a guaranteed basic income anyway, why would I go to work? Interviewer: What about yourself? Project manager: I would still want to go out to work. I mean, there's no point in staying at home. I love my work, I enjoy it, but surely there are some people who couldn't be motivated anymore. Would you still go out to work if you had a basic income? Spontaneously, about 60% say 'Yes, nothing would change.' Around 30% say 'Yes, but no longer full time.' Or, 'I would do something different.' And about 10% openly say 'First I'd have a lay in and then I'd see. Maybe travel, look after someone else, go back to studying...' Do you think other people would still go out to work if they had a basic income? Approximately 80% say 'No, it would probably be impossible to make most people to go to work.' What kind of work do we have to be 'make' people go to? Obviously not our own. We can motivate ourselves for that. What motivates us to go to work? This - is a treadmill. And this is child labor. Both used to be completely normal. We still buy these products. We can't really be sure anyway - the stuff comes all the way from the Far East. That's where the dirty work is done these days. Or by foreigners working in this country. They often work without papers, contracts or any form of security. Do they get sick pay? This so called dirty work is not necessarily dirty in itself, but it is seen as such because it is undervalued, badly paid, and because of the working conditions. It is often work which involves cleaning up after others. Who is making this work dirty? With a basic income, you have the ability to say 'no'. But then who would do all the dirty work? There are 3 possibilities: 1. Give the workers better pay and improve working conditions. 2. Automation and rationalization. 3. Do it yourself. An actress: I'm imagining a lady working behind the till in a supermarket. Maybe she doesn't really enjoy her job. Would she still go out to work if she had a basic income? Well - let's ask the lady behind the till. 'Yyy-es. I would still go to work. Because I can't imagine just sitting around at home, doing nothing; even if I had this basic income thing of 1000 Euros - Well, it's just a figure, 1000 euros. It could be more. Or less? Lady behind the till: First of all I'd have to admit that this amount wouldn't be enough for me - Hence the name: Basic income. It should be enough to cover basic needs based on cultural standards. Like today, most people will still want to earn more than the minimum. But let's go back to the lady behind the till. Not exactly a dream job. Lady behind the till:People always think that my work only involves sitting behind the till - in fact I get to meet lots of people and my experience depends on my own attitude. I'm a very open-minded person, I don't have a problem, and actually really enjoy working here. What work would you do, if you had a basic income? The same, only better! So in a way, things would not change all that much. Lady behind the till: I can't imagine my life without work. That would be much too boring. But my situation could change. Oh, I could go traveling and see things, something we can't do today because we have to train in order to get a job. And all this stress around finding a job - it's so difficult for anyone to find work. There are hardly any vacancies anywhere. If we had this (basic income), we wouldn't have all the stress. Angelika Tischer: And if we didn't have to condition our pupils to believe that they have to find the career that suits them somehow, whatever the cost, - something we know for a fact has never been possible for everyone - that is the disingenuous situation we find ourselves in today... Philip Kovce:Yes, the idea of a basic income is particularly interesting for young people, especially in the current education system we can see that lots of pupils are suffering from a real anxiety about their future. Notoriously they start preparing for their careers at school, often choosing the lesser evil, out of a fear of ending up with nothing. With the basic income, I see the opportunity and possibility of enabling people to follow what they really enjoy doing and what they are good at. Amael Kienlen: But I can also see this leading to a crisis - a crisis of purpose. Roland Hügli: It enables the space and time to think things over. And what would the basic income mean for work? Roland Hügli: Work would be divide up between lots of people. This would also make it much more enjoyable. And what about this 'crisis of purpose'? Amael Kienlen: Well, I believe that to a great extent, we live under an illusion. We live at the expense of the environment and of future generations, at the expense of our - partners. By not admitting that others do hard work for us, and clearly acknowledging this dependency, this brotherhood, I remain forever indebted to the people around me. So much for our sense of fraternity. And equality? In a democracy? Katja Kipping: It seems to me that the basic income would also allow for a more democratic society. It is much harder to coerce people if their material needs are taken care of. And this enables the development of a democratic society which everyone benefits from, rich and poor alike. And what about art? Tony Rizzi: Even when I am not working, when I am not physically putting a piece together, I am still working. That's the difficulty of being an artist: Are you being paid for the time in which you are living your life, gathering ideas for a new project? As opposed to the time in which I am actually in my studio, working on a commissioned piece. How can I be financially supported in order to be inspired? Life is a form of art! And what about for a mother-to-be? Dominique Lüdi: Yes, it would be great, as I would be able to look after my baby as much as I wanted, without feeling guilty. And I coul choose which work I would like to do, rather than being at the mercy of the employment agency. Yes, I think it would be really good - especially in this situation. And when the child grows up, it can move out sooner, with a basic income. Is it possible to grow up with a basic income? If you know your income is guaranteed anyway? What's the relationship between growing up and the basic income? Amael Kienlein: I would not have needed so much time for my rebellion. It would have been a lot easier to accept my integration or my place within society, as the existential cost would not be so high. I would have been less scared of sacrificing the things that are important. Renate Strub: The two are indeed closely related and intricately connected and this could activate a lot. Götz Werner: We have to feel increasingly responsible for everything that is happening in the world around us. We cannot isolate ourselves today in a world which has become so small. The important thing is that people become aware of, and internalize the real distinction between earning an income and work, and really recognize that the have my income so that they are able to work. Not: I work in order to earn my income. Personally, I see the basic income as a sort of Archimedian point, which will lead to asking a series of further questions. However, it will not be possible to initiate a large scale movement if it is approached from different angles simultaneously. We can only progress if we mobilize the power of the individual. The power of the individual, that's what it will depend on. (Crowning-act at the central train station) For centuries the idea that human beings would be able to fly was Utopian. The attempts of those who tried, showed that it was impossible. Now we take flying for granted, technically. Or the right to vote! How was society supposed to function if every commoner had a say? How could the simple citizens, with their narrow horizons and inability to see beyond their own personal interests, know what is good for the whole of society? The further still, not only men were to be considered citizens. Women were too! Women - they are far too emotional. In fact they need to be protected so that they don't mix everything up with their decisions. And then who would do the housework? The same arguments are now being used against the basic income. In Switzerland, woman's right to vote was only introduced in 1971. 3 years after landing on the moon. And before 'this' happened, nobody would have thought it was possible, that such a radical overthrow of power could be achieved. The impossible is in fact, quite possible. Citizens were no longer merely subjects to be ruled by the state. Things had been turned around: Every individual is politically sovereign and the state is defined by what it assigns; exercised through democratic elections. Work is no longer reduced to what the market wants it to be, and the individual is no longer a slave to the economy, it's the other way round: Everyone is economically sovereign and work is defined by the individual sense of duty; through having a basic income which everyone is entitled to. As Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII, Thomas Moore opposed the injustice and immorality of the monarchy, and was beheaded as a result. In 1935 he was made a saint. And in 2000, Pope John Paul II made him patron saint of all politicians and rulers. Thomas Moore wrote 'Utopia', a travel journal from a distant island with much better living conditions. Other authors have copied his idea. Since this book we talk about things being 'utopian'. 'U-topos' means: 'the non place'. Ideas similar to the basic income can be found in the utopian ideas of the Renaissance. A utopia helps to define the state one is currently in. Every future society puts the ideals, previously thought of as utopian, into practice. Enlightenment means: I can overtly express what I see, what I think, and what I consider to be true. And I can make my knowledge accessible to everyone. Every era has its own enlightenment. What does it depend on? Daniele Ganser: The individual ability to think and to analyze becomes very important. Because the traditional way of thinking, inherited from parents, teachers, priests or doctors, are challenged, proven to be false or limited in their validity in this transition phase, so we have to come up with new approaches that we can trust, very quickly. This means that we really learn to believe in what we think. If you want to climb the Matterhorn, you have to remember to get up early. You have to be at the top by midday, so that it doesn't get dark and cold on your way down. Anyone from Switzerland knows that. In terms of oil consumption, we all raced to the top, and in doing so, forgot to think about how we are going to get back down. We will soon have reached 'peak oil' - maximum possible oil extraction. It will go steeply downhill from there. In the same way, full employment can only be a temporary measure and has passed its peak by a long way. In 1995, Jeremy Rifkin, a futurologist, predicted the effects which the end of full time employment could have. By the year 2050 perhaps only 5% of the adult population will be needed in order to manage the traditional industries and keep them up and running. In every country, farms, factories and offices with virtually no need for labor will be the norm (Jeremy Rifkin). Rifkin's predictions are disputed, but his figures do not emerge out of thin air. In 1982, the USA produced 75 million tons of steel. 300 000 people were employed in the process. 20 years later, 100 million tons were produced, but they only required a quarter of the man power. Of course, new jobs were created in the process. Perhaps a few hundred in consultancy and in the area of highly specialized technology. This is not only applies to the traditional sector, the same thing goes for many areas of the service sector. The Net Bank is an extreme example and illustrates a particular development. They only need one tenth of the workforce for the same level of customer deposits, in comparison to conventional banks. This development is not only a trend in industrial countries. On a broad and worldwide scale the amount of labor is falling, in relation to productivity. Creativity is the resource of the 21st century (Adrienne Goehler). Adrienne Goehler: The future jobs will increasingly resemble those of artists and those working in the media today: independent, sometimes more, sometimes less pay, sometimes more, sometimes less work, sometimes alone and sometimes in a team, short-term, mostly temporary and often working from home. Daniele Ganser: The new era will demand that we do not let ourselves be steered by fear, greed or hate, but that we live according to our highest ideals, to the best of our ability. 100 years ago, someone working in agriculture produced enough for 3 more people. Today a farmer produces enough for 120 people. Here we can see why that is. This is how it is almost everywhere. Today one human being is capable of producing 100 times more than 100 years ago. (add-on: Our technological inventions do a lot of our work for us.) These are the dreams of our forefathers. What are our dreams? Simply to continue as we are, letting progression mean regression for more and more people? Back to a struggle for survival? As if we have no need for new ideas? Technological innovations seem to emerge of their own accord. Quite the contrary for social innovations. Do we need a crisis before these can emerge? If the mind stops, the body regresses. Social change needs a different kind of power to the one that operates machines. In the strong currents of the waters of progress, social developments are struggling to keep up. What about the welfare state? 'Faust' Mephistopheles: Who'll know aught living and describe it well, Seeks first the spirit to expel. He then has the component parts in hand. But lacks, alas! the spirit's band (the basic income). Student: I can't quite understand you, I confess. Student: I feel as stupid after all you've said, as if a miller's wheel were whirling in my head. The misunderstanding starts when someone goes to work thinking that because they receive an income, they must be doing it for themselves. But everyone has an income, because everyone needs one. Because we depend on the services of others. If income were directly related to work, machines should be getting the highest wages. But the fact remains; the people whose jobs are being replaced by machines, still need an income. A basic income does not replace paid employment, but reduces it's totality. It creates more scope for sincerity. And the purpose is no longer purely functional. Just under 50 years ago, the a washing machine in Switzerland cost 3,550 CHF. That was a lot of money. After 50 years of improvements, the same washing machine costs 3,195 CHF. The price has stayed approximately the same. But 50 years ago, 1 CHF was worth 3 times as much as it is today. So in fact, the washing machine only costs a third of what it cost 50 years ago. 50 years ago, a haircut for men cost about 3.50 CHF, whereas today it is around 40 CHF. This means that where methods have been improved, where technology has been implemented and where less manual labor is needed, the prices have falllen. Where this is not the case, for example at the hairdressers; they have risen. Manual labor is expensive. This is because people need an income and because their work is taxed. The hairdresser does not have more purchasing power today, than he used to. But by comparing the prices we can see where, and to what extent rationalization has taken place and what effect this rationalization is having on us. If the price of the washing machine had increased as much as the haircut it would now cost 40,000 CHF. Bodo von Plato: If I do not acknowledge what the washing machine does for me, - namely far more than just washing my laundry - - I will be unable to see how the basic income can become a cultural impulse. 212 years ago, Thomas Paine had already proposed a basic income in his work entitled 'Agrarian Justice'. His argument goes as follows: We are all born as equals, and nature provides for every one of us. Every human being has a birthright to a piece of land in order to support himself. But if the land has already been divided up between a few individuals who consider it to be their own property, then a social contract must be agreed. This social contract becomes the basic income for those who did not get their own land, and who therefore, are unable to provide for themselves. Since then, the wind has been blowing from a different direction. Today, even those who own land are unable to provide for themselves. It is better for everyone involved if I do not build my tractor myself or fertilize my fields purely for my own subsistence: What I produce is consumed by other people. Self sufficiency means growing my own vegetables and living off what I can produce myself. Today, what often looks like self sufficiency, is in fact an illusion. We live in a time of total dependency. This means that all my work is done for the benefit of others, and that others have worked to produce the things I need. Money makes this system possible. Work translates into value when cheese is passed over the counter in one direction and money, in the other. 'But our wage system still mirrors the idea of self sufficiency.' Because I get paid for what I do, I think I am doing it for myself. An old Sufi legend about the difference between heaven and hell: A good meal has been prepared - in hell. Long spoons have been provided. Everyone takes one. The same thing takes place in heaven. A good meal has been prepared - spoons provided. And everyone takes one. In a system of TOTAL DEPENDENCY, my work goes towards feeding others. I am dependent on the initiative of OTHERS for my own consumption. But I cannot buy INITIATIVE; I can only activate it in myself. Hans Stallkamp: And in this paradigm shift it must be considered truly disgraceful if the people who work for our benefit are condemned to work like slaves in order to be able to survive. Klaus Wellershof: For me, what characterizes modern society is the strong trend towards individualism. People have their own goals, their own aspirations, and of course are trying to find the means with which to achieve them. Obviously money plays a huge part in a society led by division of labor. Money is seen as the means to achieving freedom, and I think this is the issue that we should be focusing on. The fact that many people do not 'make it' and become enslaved by money, that is the real tragedy and irony of the current system. It means we loose sight of the initial steps taken in the direction of freedom. What does it mean to be 'enslaved by money'? It means all activity is seen in terms of money. As if money itself were the sole value. And it means; what's important about money it its ability to generate more. More power over other people's money and over their ways of life. The slaves of money enslave others through the authority that is given to money. With the basic income, a proportion of the money in a country would be allocated democratically to each individual, as a means of achieving freedom. Money becomes our servant. Would this result in better working conditions globally? Jakob von Uexkuell: I think it definitely would. For a start, it would create the freedom to do what is necessary in the world. Because the current situation is totally absurd. Investment advisers say that the real problem is that there is so much money. Too much money. And at the same time, we are overproducing almost everywhere. And the high levels of unemployment are continuously increasing, but there is a huge amount of work that is not being done. So in fact there are lots of things we can, and have to do urgently if we want to avoid a global catastrophe. Globally, agriculture is capable of producing enough food for 12 billion people. There are 6.6 billion people living on the planet. Hunger and its consequences kill 1000 people every hour. Peter Brabeck: Water is a basic product, and like any other product it ought to have a market value. Jean Ziegler (Bread) Every child that dies of starvation today has been murdered. Money is not being channeled to where it is needed. Money is shut off from social reality and moved into a realm in which it appears to reproduce itself. Where it's needed, money is scarce. Big profits are made through financial incest. The result of this does not provide better living conditions for everyone. Instead, the profits are reinvested into the system to the point of implosion. Speculation instead of sustainability? Renate Ignazio-Keller: I believe that what the current state of affairs is showing us more and more clearly, is that work and pay have to be separated. And I think the basic income could really be a solution for this problem, and also for unemployment. Because in fact a lot needs to be done, but the money isn't there. And I think the basic income would be a way of channeling money to the places where it is needed, and of freeing and enabling people to follow their impulses. Separating work and pay is the ultimate function of the basic income. But how could this be organized in our society? This circle represents all the value created within one national economy. The more productive the economy, the greater the circle. A country's gross domestic product (GDP) is the value of all the services and goods that are produced, processed and then sold within one country, in one year. The GDP is then divided into the private and public sector. Roughly half of the entire GDP goes to the state in the form of taxes. This money is used to pay for our schools, police, social services and any other facilities which are paid for by society collectively, rather than by the individual who uses them. Services which we assign democratically. In 2005, the Swiss government took 36% of the GDP. In Sweden it was 56%. In Austria it was exactly 50%. In Germany the figure was 47%. How would this work with the basic income? In terms of the income paid by the state, the basic income would simply be a different way of distributing payments. The state would already have the money for a basic income, through the taxes it receives. The state already uses taxes to pay salaries - for its employees, civil servants, and those who receive state benefits. In all of these cases, the introduction of the basic income would only mean an administrative alteration. For private sector income the money is not yet in the hands of the state. It has to get to the state via taxes first, so that it can be paid out as basic income. The amount of money held by the state increases. Does that mean a more powerful state? It means a less powerful state - less spying, less paternalism and less bureaucracy. The state is merely entrusted to guarantee the right to a basic income. But taxes will go up! But which taxes? The most obvious solution is to take from those who earn the most. The idea of a guaranteed basic income based on higher income taxes was already put forward by Milton Friedman. Poorer households were to be paid a net payment by the state. He called this the negative income tax. His model dominated the debates around financing a basic income until well into the 90s. The idea was developed in the 60s and came close to being introduced in the USA. Milton Friedman prioritized a lean, free market economy. 50 years later, financing a basic income through income tax was propped up by something which is increasingly disappearing - employment. This is the reality of the welfare state today. More unemployment results in less tax revenue through income tax. And higher income taxes penalize employment even more. It's a vicious circle. What's absurd about income tax is that it taxes services, which destroys its own foundation. So which taxes could be used today? Let's take a closer look how companies are dealing with their taxes today. A cafe in Basel (CH). More than 1000 guests per day, 40 employees, a turnover of 3.5 million CHF per year. And what about the taxes? Daniel Häni: For a company, taxes always mean costs. And all costs need to be generated through sales - if the two don't match, you're business wont last long. In general, there are three types of taxes: value-added tax (VAT) - - paid directly by the consumer - the cost of fringe benefits and income taxes. VAT can be found on every receipt and is transparent for everyone to see. It does not represent a cost for the company and it doesn't show up on their business calculations. What about costs of fringe benefits? Daniel Häni: Here I have to pretend that the employee and the company pay a half each. That's what I put on the employee's pay slip - - it's a requirement, I don't have a choice in the matter - - and of course for the accounting too. But in fact, both shares are paid by the company from the money which, as I mentioned before, comes from the customers. So in reality, the employees actually receive the money before they have to pay it to the tax authorities. And of course the income taxes are already included in the prices paid by the customer. So what am I actually paying for, when I order a Latte Macchiato? This is a frothy milk, dappled with espresso. It costs 5,20 CHF. A quarter of the price covers the infrastructure, meaning costs for the building, energy, furniture and dishes. Another quarter goes to the cost of the products. For the milk, coffee and sugar if you like it sweet. The biggest share of the price goes to wages. To the person serving you. But also to those who clean and organize the whole thing. And on top of all this, we have the VAT. That is only 7.6% in Switzerland. This tax only falls due when the customer buys something. Only then can we add the real value. Because if the waiter drops his tray on his way over to the table, no value is generated at all, although a lot of work has gone into getting the Latte Macchiato from the Alpine slopes to the table. A spilled Latte Macchiato - is not a Latte Macchiato. And it has no VAT. VAT is inserted at the end of the value chain and clearly declared. But there are also taxes in the price, that can't be seen, and that arise during the value adding chain. Wages contain income tax, costs for fringe benefits and social costs. But the prices of the products contain hidden taxes as they also have to pay wages which are also taxed. All this is reflected in the prices. The same thing applies to the costs for infrastructure. The consumer pays it all. Because the money he spends is the money that pays everything else. Including taxes. What would it look like, if all this was transparent? If an amount of money is taxed - like this - - clearly visible, like VAT - - only falling due at the end of the value chain, then taxes could bite into the ripe apple, instead of nibbling at it beforehand. Therefore, everyone would be able to see how much they are contributing to, and controlling the state. Democracy takes place at the till. At the till, we are all equals. Illegal employment would disappear if we only had VAT. Because there would be no more tax on labor. But the black market would become very attractive. Paying the barber 20 CHF under the table instead of 40 CHF? That makes a big difference. If there is no receipt, a higher end tax could be avoided. But if there is only this one tax left tax investigation would be much easier and more effective. But tax consultants would no longer be needed. Heavy bureaucracy within companies and financial administrations would decrease. Georg Vobruba: In a world without borders, a state can only levy taxes sustainably if it can find a source of tax revenues that cannot run away. The only tax that cannot run away is VAT. It falls due the moment the consumer spends his money. Therefore it could also be called spending or consumption tax. This tax is not paid by whoever brings the Latte Macchiato, but by whoever drinks it. Income tax, on the other hand, pretends as if income were the real fruit of my labor; because my income is what I bring back home. Income tax is the tax for self sufficiency. Because of this it is problematic in a system of total dependency. An increase in elderly people, unemployment - - would not be a financial problem for the state with consumption tax. Because there will always be consumption. And enough is being produced. And that highlights another problem for income taxes. Because in this system, machines are exempt from tax. If 2 products cost the same, but one of them is made mainly by human beings and the other by machines, the first will contain significantly heigher taxes, while the other will contain less. As machines don't earn an income, their work is mostly tax free. Like illegal employment. On the left; this could be the barber. On the right; the washing machine. As human labor is taxed, the prices will contain high taxes, while the other will contain less. If we only take the real, effective price of the value of both these products, without the previously added taxes, and then add the same amount of consumption tax to both until both reach the same tax capacity, which was shown in red previously, then one would be cheaper than it is today, and the other more expensive. Work done by machines would no longer be subsidized. Labor done by humans and machines would now be taxed in the same way because taxes only fall due on the end product. Now machines would not only take over the jobs, they would also bare the taxes. And if the current price of a man's haircut did not change with these consumption taxes, then the tax revenue would increase significantly. If a lot of taxes are already included in the prices, as they are in the current system, then they will cross national borders with the products. So people in other countries will also be paying for the Swiss education system, infrastructure and social standards whenever they buy a Swiss product. That is one of its injustices. And the other? One of the many reasons why we can buy foreign products so cheaply in this country, is because the people who produce them receive less state benefits, and so less is added to the price. Consumption tax would be added to all imports, to everything that comes into the country to be sold. The same tax would be added to products produced here. It is added to all products sold within the country, because it benefits everyone who lives in it. But consumption tax cannot be exported. If a product crosses a national border, it does so without its taxes. Every country remains sovereign to determine its own budget which it pays for itself. Consumption tax is the just tax system for globalization. The fair tax system for fair trade. And this is where tax on sales was invented: The Brühl Terraces at the banks of the Elbe in Dresden (Germany). Count Heinrich von Brühl had the idea of raising a charge on all sales in the country. A good 200 years later, the Federal Republic of Germany introduced a similar tax but calculated in a different way: the VAT. It allows for more division of labor and is competitively neutral. In Germany it now makes up the single biggest source for tax income with 19%, in Sweden it is 25%. It has become a requirement for EU membership. VAT is the tax of the future. It is the tax for a society built on dependency. One person who has contributed to the introduction if a VAT in Germany, is Dr. Benediktus Hardorp. He calls it an expense or consumption tax and is of the opinion that VAT should be our only tax. I have witnessed, that income tax has a continuously decelerating effect, while consumption tax enables a space for the level of performance to develop. Consumption taxes give people the ability to ask themselves where they want to go with their lives. Dr. Benediktus Hardorp Götz Werner: Only VAT - That would be the simplest solution. Then we wouldn't need to file all these tax returns and so on. We would be freed from all that. But if VAT is the only tax left, what happens to tax exemptions? Because tax exemption is usually seen as the social component of the tax system. With VAT everyone pays the same percent of taxes, whether they are rich or poor. So what about the social component? Götz Werner:We will do the following: Everyone will get their VAT reimbursed in order to cover basic needs. This reimbursement is the basic income. And so the circle is complete. We come back to the basic income. But this time not starting with question 'how can it be financed?', but rather asking how VAT can be made more social? A basic income becomes the tax allowance in a VAT based system, a form of tax return for basic needs. The basic income logically emerges out of VAT as its social component; as a reimbursement of tax allowance. The fact that this has to be unconditional is self explanatory. What would this look like in practice? Let us do a calculation. Assuming we had a basic income of 1000 1000 Euros. Which everyone would receive. In the form of tax allowance. Independent of the level of their income. If I do not earn anything on top, I would still have 1000 Euros total income. Those earning an extra 500 Euros would end up with a total of 1500 Euro. Earning an extra 1000 Euros would results in a total income of 2000, and so on. Here, everyone receives 1000 Euros tax in the form of a basic income. And so how much would be spent on taxes? If there is no more income tax and VAT is only added at the end of the value chain, then we have a VAT of around 100%. So about half of the final price would be made up of declared taxes. Buying something for 10 Euros means paying 5 Euros towards taxes. Whoever pays 1000 Euros will have spent 500 Euros in tax. But he has already received 1000 Euros tax. So in real terms he will have paid -500 Euros tax. Or in other words: He has obtained 500 Euros tax. If someone spends 1500 Euros, again, half of the price will be made up of taxes, in this case 750 Euros. He will have received 1000, and paid -250 in the form of taxes. Or: In the end, he will have obtained 250 Euros in the form of a basic income. Whoever pays 2000 Euros will have contributed 1000 Euros in taxes. And therefore no real tax will have been payed, and none received. Only those spending twice their basic income will really be paying taxes. For ever 3000 Euros spent, 500 Euros will be taxed. Expenditures that are exactly twice the amount of the basic income will be the zero point for tax payments. From this point onwards there will be a progression. Whoever spends 3000 Euros will be taxed for 17% of the total amount. Whoever spends 5000 Euros will already have been taxed for 30%. For even higher expenditures the tax percentage can be up to 50%. And there will also be a progression on the other side of the coin. The social progression of VAT would be made much simpler with a basic income. And of course; more effective. Phillipe Van Parijs: Normally left wing parties argue that a consumption tax is regressive. They say that an increase in consumption tax, means the poor would pay a much higher percentage of their income than through personal taxes. But the way in which income tax is managed today, is certainly not progressive anymore either. Rich people tend to have more possibilities of hiding parts of their income or avoiding taxes in various ways. Those who can afford it, can reduce their income before it is taxed so that an income tax becomes ineffective. And the burden is carried by those who cannot afford this luxury. As we have seen, the income tax is also reflected in the product prices - including its progression, but without a basic income to maintain social accountability. The income tax has been reduced to a sham. Or: It saves you having to care. So this is what it looks like, if tax is added to the end product as a lump sum. And it looks like this, if they flow into the prices through income tax beforehand. Here the costs for staff would account for around half of the total price. On the right hand side it would only be a quarter. On the left hand side, labor is is under a high cost pressure. It accounts for the largest proportion of the price - - quick decisions are made on who is disposable. Everyone is at the end of their capacities with hardly any space for experimentation. On the right there would be more tolerance, less stress and perhaps even the consideration of hiring more people. This is the effect that VAT has on labor. A basic income points in the same direction. Part of the basic income would already be financed through the existing taxes. The rest would come from raising taxes, which will grow into private earning, in the form of a basic income. Even for those who supply the goods and the infrastructure. All taxes are only added to the end product when it reaches the customer. That is, when the Latte Macchiato lands on the customers' table. Then the price is calculated: The lower third represents the price for making the Latte Macchiato. The middle third is for the basic income. The upper third shows the price of any additional public duties. And by the way: all the prices are income. The bottom third shows the income of those who are directly involved in the production. The top third illustrates the income of those who create the wider enabling conditions and who fulfill public duties. The third in the middle is the basic income for everyone. In comparison, labor costs in this cafe would no longer account for just under half of the final price, as they do today. They would make up approx. one sixth. Then all the employees would have the same income - - today minus taxes, then plus the basic income. ( - The cost of the Latte Macchiato has stayed the same too.) The basic income extends into the existing income, while the level of total income does not change. That's the principal. In practice the basic income becomes a new bargaining power. For example, if what I am earning at work is almost nothing. Maybe I would rather stay at home - - and take care of the children, who also have their basic income. Or maybe I would just lie in my hammock. Not be in an office, but at home! Either way - whoever quits emotionally can do so officially with a basic income. In order to set up something of their own. Alone or with others. More scope for a playoff of ideas, rather than a playoff over income. Because everyone has an income which supports them in their work. Entirely new initiatives can be started up which others can join if they want because they also have a basic income! Or maybe I would simply like to continue in my current job. A basic income creates a level playing field. My own ideas of how I would like to work, are given more importance. Real collaboration. And maybe it does require a little more effort from the employer. There would be some significant changes within the culture of business. The amount and level of wages becomes a question of negotiation. This question of negotiation has many faces. If only one parent in a family has a regular income, the other has none and the children have child support, then one will be dependent on the income of the other - - and on the children. The basic income releases income from it's dependency on groups such as companies or the family, and shifts it from the democratic whole towards the individual. A basic income is emancipatory. It creates a level playing field within the family. And increases the opportunities on the job market. Willi and Hans are colleagues. Same company, same job, same income. We are in Switzerland. 10,000 CHF is a decent amount. But it depends on how many people it is supporting. Hans has a family - a wife and two children. Let's assume that Switzerland had a basic income of 2.500 CHF in which case the children get half. Then Hans' family would have his - - his wife's - - and all their childrens' basic income . All together: 7.500 CHF. In the past, Hans would have had to earn this money through hard work, in order to feed his family. Now he can go to work for 2.500 CHF and the overall family income would remain the same as before. Willi lives alone. Well OK, he also has a dog. But dogs don't get the basic income. With his basic income, Willi would have the same amount as before if he earned 7,500 CHF from his job. That means, now Hans has an obvious advantage on the job market. Because he has a family, because there is a basic income, because he has a better bargaining power and because he can work for less than Willi which doesn't leave his family with less money. What does this mean for the amount of earned income? It cannot be the case that different levels of income will be paid to people doing the same jobs. Neither can it mean that the level of income will be dictated by Willi or Hans alone. In fact it is leveled out in a new way. By settling right in the middle, by 5,000 CHF. Same company, same job, same income. 5,000 CHF for Willi and for Hans. In addition to the measurable value of the money, there is also another value which cannot be measured: the creation of voluntary assets and social, cultural, human values. The introduction of a basic income would allow an increase of honorary work. For example in the health sector. Care through compassion. Inner activity. Time for each other. Education which strengthens. Open research into all areas of life and free entrepreneurship focused on bringing something new into the world. Activities, which cannot be rationalized and are often unpaid. A basic income would allow a frame of mind, in which we can begin to perceive what this is all about. Would the quantifiable value of money decrease as a result? Possibly, because now some would only go to work for two days a week and take care of their Grandma the rest of the time? - who also has her basic income. Considering today's degree of automation this would not lead to a drop in the levels of production. Through a healthier, more fearless, more self-confident and imaginative societal foundation, many things would gain new significance. And many of the things that are waiting in the wings today, will be made possible. Economic dynamics would increase and so would the financially quantifiable value. What do we need most today? Konstantin Adamopoulos: Trust. And what do you suffer from the most? Konstantin Adamopoulos: The cold. Is the basic income a fantasy, or common sense? Konstantin Adamopoulos: I think it is both rational and scientific. Then why don't we have it yet? Sascha Liebermann: Something in us, which directs our life like an inner compass, collides with the problems and possibilities that we face today. And we can't seem to work it out. And as we are obviously not yet prepared to ask ourselves, whether something is not quite right about our beliefs, whether we need to see, that our convictions are no longer appropriate, we desperately cling onto what we have. We increasingly organize everything - schools, universities - - focused on employment. Because we are still unable to give them up. This is in fact, a symptom. The intensification of old ideas in this new situation which we find ourselves in, with all its possibilities, this intensification of old ideas is an indication that they have already been lost. Jakob von Uexküll: It is no longer about sustaining the current system and the way in which it works today. It is about setting up visible alternatives. I think that the idea of a basic income, even if we start now by putting it into practice regionally and locally through regional currencies etc., this idea becomes a very good example of an alternative system, which would not be all that new or revolutionary. Eduardo Suplicy: A basic income is no charity. It is not just an assistance. It is, like you said, a civil right, It is the right for each person to participate in the wealth of the nation. It is because of Senator Suplicy's work, that the unconditional basic income is already firmly rooted in Brazil's national law - as an aim for the future. In which countries is it even possible to think about a basic income? Helmy Abouleish: I think that it is also possible in Egypt. It just has to be seen in a different way. It cannot be compared to the models that have been designed for Europe. But I believe that it is in fact vital to adjust and consider it for Egypt too. Question: What effect would a basic income have on the people in Egypt? Abouleish: Initially liberating! It would release them from their existential distress and allow them to see the future in a different light, and appreciate the possibilities. Now it is purely about survival! Mister Suplicy, why are you campaigning for the basic income? Eduardo Suplicy: Because I want to find the truth. I want to find the way to eradicate absolute poverty, to build a just society, to improve income distribution, to have justice and to struggle for the day, when everybody may sit at the table of fraternity. Like Martin Luther King said in “I have a dream.” M. R. King: I have a dream. I have a dream today! A basic income could be started for children. For example, those born in 2000 and after. And through the children it would grows into society. Or we could start with our own income. By thinking differently about it. Götz Werner: We do not simply reward the outcomes of work through income. In fact we enable people to contribute to the community through income. The work that you do and that we all do, is always priceless but it is only made possible through income. The basic income could also be started off in a region. For example in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Or in a city. For example in Greifswald. Foundation could start by unconditionally relieving people financially. Falk Zientz: Through subsidies, foundation as well as the state could create new instruments in order to finance an independent cultural life and social issues. But the focus would not really be on the individual as a social entrepreneur or cultural businessman. It would only mean more project proposals, more structures and more conditions to fulfill. - So, the individual is not taken seriously. And that is exactly what the basic income would do: take individuals seriously. While some argue that it is precisely the individuals who should never be trusted as most of them know nothing about themselves and wouldn't want to do anything anyway. What has the manager of the social settlement center for the unemployed in Frankfurt Main experienced? Ellen Bommersheim: All the ideas are there. But they are submerged, often hidden behind existential anxiety and misconceptions: what can be done as a matter of principle, what is allowed, what is required? I am convinced, that a basic income would help to unlock more potential. That means, it will come back into the economy and society. The question is: How high would the return on investment be, if we had a basic income? And I think it would be pretty high. Than we should start with investment. But this investment goes to everyone. Even to those I don't like. Konstantin Adamopoulos: I think that is an essential element. Erich Kitzmüller: Now I have worked very hard all my whole life on disciplining myself, training myself to find some kind of meaningful work, and now these young people come along who never had to discipline themselves, and they should just be given money? That's a scandal! I think this is the real argument behind the rejection of a basic income. But maybe because it is not very cool and doesn't make a good impression to present this argument, people say: Yes, but how can it be financed? Anna Katharina Dieterle: We have been working hard towards mechanizing work, towards liberating people, and now all we can do is complain about the lack of jobs. And nobody said: Yes, damn it! We have been slaving away for the past 100 years so we do not have to work this hard anymore! No political party says this. And that really irritates me. Erich Kitzmüller: Then decisive argument is nothing more than personal revenge: The others shouldn't have it any easier than I did. And this would be torpedoed by the basic income. So if I can free myself from this attitude of revenge, I would not only be doing some good for the basic income, but also for my own health and my ability as a fellow human being.
The son of Alexander Baron von Uexküll and Sophie von Hahn, Jakob von Uexküll was born in the Keblas estate, Mihkli, Governorate of Estonia. His aristocratic family lost most of their fortune by expropriation during the Russian Revolution. Needing to support himself, Uexküll took a job as professor at the University of Hamburg where he founded the Institut für Umweltforschung.
Uexküll was interested in how living beings perceive their environment(s). Uexküll argued that organisms perceived the experience of living in terms of species-specific, spatio-temporal, 'self-in-world' subjective reference frames that he called Umwelt (translated as milieu, situation, embedding-lit. German for environment). These Umwelten (plural of Umwelt) are distinctive from what Uexküll termed the "Umgebung" which would be the living being's surroundings as seen from the likewise peculiar perspective or Umwelt of the observer. The umwelt is composed of two parts, the innenwelt or self-oriented features, and the Umgebung, or world-oriented features. Together, they describe the individual's subjective viewpoint, or embedding, which has the property of being ubiquitous, as compared to the observer's objective viewpoint, which has the property of being universal. Subjectivity and objectivity are important topics in Philosophy of Mind.
Uexküll defines the Umwelt as the perceptual world in which an organism exists and acts as a subject. By studying how the senses of various organisms like ticks, sea urchins, amoebae, jellyfish and sea worms work, he was able to build theories of how they experience the world. Because all organisms perceive and react to sensory data as signs, Uexküll argued that they were to be considered as living subjects. This argument was the basis for his biological theory in which the characteristics of biological existence ("life") could not simply be described as a sum of its non-organic parts, but had to be described as subject and a part of a sign system.
The biosemiotic turn in Jakob von Uexküll's analysis occurs in his discussion of the animal's relationship with its environment. The Umwelt is for him an environment-world which is (according to Giorgio Agamben), "constituted by a more or less broad series of elements [called] "carriers of significance" or "marks" which are the only things that interest the animal". Agamben goes on to paraphrase one example from Uexküll's discussion of a tick, saying,
"...this eyeless animal finds the way to her watchpoint [at the top of a tall blade of grass] with the help of only its skin’s general sensitivity to light. The approach of her prey becomes apparent to this blind and deaf bandit only through her sense of smell. The odor of butyric acid, which emanates from the sebaceous follicles of all mammals, works on the tick as a signal that causes her to abandon her post (on top of the blade of grass/bush) and fall blindly downward toward her prey. If she is fortunate enough to fall on something warm (which she perceives by means of an organ sensible to a precise temperature) then she has attained her prey, the warm-blooded animal, and thereafter needs only the help of her sense of touch to find the least hairy spot possible and embed herself up to her head in the cutaneous tissue of her prey. She can now slowly suck up a stream of warm blood."
Thus, for the tick, the Umwelt is reduced to only three (biosemiotic) carriers of significance: (1) The odor of butyric acid, which emanates from the sebaceous follicles of all mammals, (2) The temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (corresponding to the blood of all mammals), (3) The hairiness of mammals.
von Uexküll anticipated many computer science ideas, particularly in the field of robotics, roughly 25 years before these things were invented.
Uexküll views organisms in terms of information processing. He argues every organism has an outer boundary which defines an Umwelt (German word generally meaning 'environment'). Rather than the general meaning, Uexküll's concept draws on the literal meaning of the German word, which is 'surround-world', to define the Umwelt as the subjectively perceived surroundings about which information is available to organism through its senses. This is a subjective weltanschauung, or "world view", and is therefore fundamentally different from the black box concept, which is derived from the objective Newtonian viewpoint.
The organism has sensors that report the state of the Umwelt and effectors that can change parts of the Umwelt. He distinguished the effector as the logical opposite of the sensor, or sense organ. Sensors and effectors are linked in a feedback loop. Sensor input is processed by a Merkorgan and effectors are controlled by a Werkorgan. The modern term 'sensorimotor' used in enactive theories of cognition encompasses these concepts.
He further distinguishes the Umgebung (that part of the Umwelt that represents distal features of the external world) from the Innenwelt which is reported directly by sensors and is therefore the only unmediated reality immediately knowable to the organism. The relationship between the distal (mediated, transformed) features of the Umbegung and the proximal (untransformed, unmediated, primal) features of the Innenwelt must be learned by the organism in infancy. The nature of the Umbegung::Innenwelt relationship is relevant to the later theories of Embodied cognition.
This is also similar to Kant's phenomenon and noumenon but derived logically from the properties of the sensors. What we now call a "feedback loop" he calls a "function-circle" and "circle" seems to be something like "system". He uses the term "melody" to mean something close to "algorithm". He coins around 75 technical terms, and a proper understanding of his book would require clearly defining them in modern terms and understanding their relations. He notices qualia, comes close to object-oriented programming (page 98) uses the image of a helmsman which later showed up as "cybernetics" (page 291) and makes a good guess about DNA (page 127). He has a large number of ideas, although not expressed clearly in modern terms. His metaphysics is hyper-Kantian ("All reality is subjective appearance", page xv.) Space is a set of direction symbols. He rejects Darwin and says nothing of God. Organisms are based on something called "Plan", the origin of which we cannot know.
Works by scholars such as Kalevi Kull connect Uexküll's studies with some areas of philosophy such as phenomenology and hermeneutics. Jakob von Uexküll is also considered a pioneer of semiotic biology, or biosemiotics. However, despite his influence (on the work of philosophers Max Scheler, Ernst Cassirer, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Humberto Maturana, Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (in their A Thousand Plateaus), for example) he is still not widely known, and his books are mostly out of print in German and in English. A paperback French translation of Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen [A stroll through the Umwelten of animals and humans] of 1934 is currently in print. This book has been translated in English as A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, with A Theory of Meaning by Jakob von Uexküll Translated by Joseph D. O'Neil Introduction by Dorion Sagan (UMinn Press, 2011). The other available book is "Theoretical Biology", a reprint of the 1926 translation of "Theoretische Biologie" (1920). "Foray" is a popular introduction while "Theoretical Biology" is intended for an academic audience.
In popular culture
Uexküll's ideas about how organisms create their own concept of time are described in Peter Høeg's novel Borderliners, and contrasted with Isaac Newton's view of time as something that exists independent of life.
- Carlo Brentari, Jakob von Uexküll: The Discovery of the Umwelt between Biosemiotics and Theoretical Biology, Springer, 2015, p. 56: "Uexküll's ... Lebensphilosophie [was] founded partly on the Umwelt as a subjective production, and partly on the teleological nature of living things...".
- Paul Cobley (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics, Routledge, 2009: "Uexküll, J.".
- Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford University Press, 2004), p. 39.
- Genealogisches Handbuch der baltischen Ritterschaften, 1930, p. 490
- Lagerspetz, Kari Y. (2001): Jakob von Uexküll and the origins of cybernetics. Semiotica 134 (1/4): 643–651.
- Chien, 2007, p. 67
- Peter Høeg, Borderliners, trans. Barbara Haveland (The Harvill Press, 1995), pp. 214–28.
- Thure von Uexküll. 1987. The sign theory of Jakob von Uexküll. In: Krampen et al. 1987. Classics of Semiotics. New York : Plenum pp. 147–179.
- Jakob von Uexküll, Mondes animaux et monde humain, ISBN 2-266-13322-5
- Jakob von Uexküll, "A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds," Instinctive Behavior: The Development of a Modern Concept, ed. and trans. Claire H. Schiller (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1957), pp. 5–80.
- Dorion Sagan (2010). "Introduction: Umwelt after Uexküll". In Jakob von Uexküll; Marina von Uexküll; Joseph D. O’Neil. A Foray Into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: With a Theory of Meaning (Joseph D O'Neil translation of 1940 ed.). University of Minnesota Press. p. 3. ISBN 9781452903798.
- Jakob von Uexküll, Theoretical Biology (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1926)
- Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude(Indiana UP, 1995), pp. 224, 241, 261-67.
- Kalevi Kull, "Jakob von Uexküll: An introduction". Semiotica vol. 134: 1-59, 2001. [Includes complete bibliography of Uexküll.]
- Giorgio Agamben, "Chapter 10, “Umwelt”" in The Open: Man and Animal, translated by Kevin Attell (Originally published in Italian in 2002 under the title L'aperto: l'uomo e l'animale), (Stanford, CA., Stanford University Press, 2004). ISBN 978-0-8047-4737-0
- Carlo Brentari, Jakob von Uexküll. The Discovery of the Umwelt between Biosemiotics and Theoretical Biology, translated by Catriona Graciet (Originally published in Italian in 2011 under the title Jakob von Uexküll. Alle origini dell'antropologia filosofica), (Dordrecht Heidelberg New York London, Springer, 2015). ISBN 978-94-017-9687-3
- It from bit and fit from bit. On the origin and impact of information in the average evolution (Yves Decadt, 2000). Book published in Dutch with English paper summary in The Information Philosopher, http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/scientists/decadt/
- Thure von Uexküll. 1992. Introduction: The sign theory of Jakob von Uexküll. Semiotica 89(4): 279–315.
- Chien J-P. 2007. Umwelt, milieu(x), and environment: A survey of cross-cultural concept mutations. Semiotica 167–1/4, 65–89.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jakob Johann von Uexküll.|
- A Foray Into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: With a Theory of Meaning, p. 0, at Google Books
- Jakob von Uexküll page at the Semiotics Department of the University of Tartu
- Jakob von Uexküll, Institute for theoretical biology, biocybernetics and biosemiotics at the university of Hamburg
- Jakob von Uexküll, Theoretical Biology, Biocybernetics and Biosemiotics (Journal article)
- Jakob von Uexküll and his "Institut für Umweltforschung in Hamburg" (PPT - Presentation)