Commonist Aesthetics

The Economic Power of Public Opinion & the Public Power of Economic Opinion

Think Factories, Think Tanks and the Privatization of Power (Glossary)

Andreas Siekmann

April 16, 2015artist contribution,

Within Open!’s research theme Commonist Aesthetics, artist Andreas Siekmann created a series of pictograms and a matching glossary to continue his investigation into the increasing privatisation of the public realm. The work is part of his larger ongoing project initiated in Berlin in 2012, The Economic Power of Public Opinion & the Public Power of Economic Opinion: Think Factories, Think Tanks and the Privatisation of Power. One can view and read Siekmann’s contribution by either clicking the underlined entries beneath the pictures in the slideshow, or by directly entering the glossary pages in which pictograms and texts are combined. Sven Lütticken wrote a short introduction to the piece.

Think Tank

American Social Science Association

The American Social Science Association was founded in 1865 in Boston to discuss social and political issues. As an association similar to an academy, it had a significant influence on the early government as well as an occasional proximity to the Free Masons.

Economic Strategies for 21th Century e21

Economic Strategies for 21th Century e21 is “a new nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to economic research and innovative public policies for the 21st century. We aim to advance free enterprise, fiscal discipline, economic growth, and the rule of law. Drawing on the expertise of practitioners, policymakers, and academics, we will encourage a spirited debate about the way forward for democratic capitalism. ... We will seek out the creative ideas of market participants and work to better integrate these practical perspectives into the policy process.” 

Think Factory I, II, III

Institut für Makroökonomie und Konjunkturforschung

Institut für Makroökonomie und Konjunkturforschung [Institute for Macroeconomics and Economic Research] (IMK) ... was founded in 2005 by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB). ... The neo-Keynesian-based institute ... was the junior partner of the neoliberal Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH) from 2007 to 2009 for the Joint Economic Forecast of economic research institutes, commissioned by the federal government of Germany. The IMK canceled this cooperation in 2009, however, in order to apply to the German Federal Ministry of Finance itself as consortium leader together with the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) and the British National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR). In the final selection, the IMK did not receive the commission.”


Bruegel is a European think tank specializing in economics. Established in 2005, Bruegel is independ-ent and non-doctrinal. ... We are committed to impartiality, openness and excellence. Bruegel’s mem-bership includes EU Member State governments, international corporations and institutions. ... It is chaired by Jean-Claude Trichet and its 11 members all have distinguished backgrounds in government, business, civil society and academia. Former chairmen Mario Monti and Leszek Balcerowicz were ap-pointed Honorary President and Honorary Chairman, respectively.”

Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)

The Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE) is “an independent non-profit economic and public policy research institution founded on the idea that evidence-based policy making is vital to the economic welfare of societies. Established in 1991 in Warsaw, CASE ... remains focused on our five core thematic areas of: (1) European Neighbourhood Policy, enlargement, trade and economic integration, (2) labour markets, human capital and social policy, (3) innovation, competitiveness and entrepreneurship, (4) reforms, growth and poverty reduction in developing and transition countries, (5) macroeconomics and public finance ... we are also broadening our geographic horizons by going beyond our traditional countries of interests, i.e., the Western Balkans and the Commonwealth of Independent States.” CASE is represented in more than thirty post-Soviet countries with subsidiaries.

Leibniz Institute

The Leibniz Institute is one of the largest academic umbrella associations in Germany. Its section Economics and Social Sciences comprises most of the academic think tanks relating to economic policies. Leibniz’s absolutist natural philosophy suggests an understanding of social relations as naturally given.


From the 1920s to the 1930s think tanks were called “Brains” or “Brain Boxes.” During the Cold War “Brain” was replaced by the term think tank.


Think tanks increased in four different waves: after World War II / during the Cold War (around 1968) and during the Thatcher-Reagan era (since the economic crisis in 2008).

Mont Pelerin Society

“The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) is a globally active neoliberal network of elites. ... It was founded on 10 April 1947 in the Swiss village Mont Pèlerin. Friedrich August von Hayek had invited 36 liberal intellectuals to discussions there, including Karl Popper, Walter Eucken and Ludwig von Mises, about the future of liberalism and free-market economy. ... The MPS, which is registered as an association in the US (Illinois), subsequently developed into the most significant neoliberal network. ... The MPS encompasses different neoliberal and neoconservative positions: representatives of anarcho-capitalism, ... the Chicago School of Economics, the development school of the Freiburg School, the human capital theory, libertarians, the London School of Economics, the Austrian School for National Economy ... the transaction costs theory, and other schools or theories. What they have in common are a market as free as possible, free entrepreneurship, less state spending ... and less influence for the trade unions. The understanding of state ranges from the demand to get rid of the state all the way to approval for market-conforming state interventions. The opponent is everything regarded as socialist or collectivist, including Keynesianism, feminism, ecological and social movements, and liberation theology, among others. ... The members are often simply financially strong lobby groups. ... One of these is the Heritage Foundation in Washington, which fights for lower taxes, another is the Cato Institute that objects to every climate policy as commissioned by its funders.”


Group of Experts


“The Initiative Neue Soziale Markwirtschaft (INSM) [Initiative New Social Market Economy] is a market-liberal lobby organization, which is financed by the Employers’ Associations of the Metal and Electro Industry. Their goals include a stronger orientation of the labor market and education to the needs of entrepreneurs. ... In December 1999 the Employers’ Associations of the Metal and Electro Industry founded GmbH. This company was charged with setting up and leading a reform initiative. Since Autumn 2000 this limited liability company (GmbH) conducts its campaign under the name Initiative Neue Soziale Markwirtschaft. The sole shareholder of / INSM is the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln Medien GmbH [Cologne Institute for Economic Research, media section], in which the journalistic and PR activities of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research are bundled. ... Their campaigns, commissioned studies and educational materials include demands for privatization, deregulation, lower taxes, reducing subsidies, reducing labor costs, the flexibilization of the labor market (loosening protection against dismissal, flexible working hours), more self-provision in the health system, and the rapid introduction of the retirement age of 67. Minimum wages are rejected.”


“... is a leading think tank for policy analysis and strategy consulting. The institution offers creative solutions and services regarding global environment and development challenges for policy, business, and civil society communities. ... adelphi’s clients include international organisations, governments, public institutions, corporations, and associations. ... In over ten years, adelphi has completed more than 700 projects for 100 clients, offering professional and strategic support to crucial environmental and development policies and processes. Sustainability is the foundation and leitmotif of our internal and external conduct.” adelphi is one of the initiators of emissions trading.

True Sale International

True Sale International GmbH is a lobby organisation that primarily advocates the spread of asset-backed securities (ABS). It was created in 2004 from an initiative on the part of thirteen banks in Germany to promote the German securitisation market.”

Chatham House

“... home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all. ... The institute Engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; Produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities; Offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term. ... Chatham House was founded in 1920 and is based in St James’s Square, London.” See also:



Unilever is a British-Dutch corporation. It is one of the largest producers of consumer goods in the world. Its main business sections include the production of food, cosmetics, personal care products, and household and textile cleaning agents. Among other things, Unilever is the largest consumer of palm oil in the world with 1.6 million tons each year, for which large areas of rainforest are destroyed.

Policy Brief

“A document which outlines the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or course of ac-tion in a current policy debate. It is commonly produced in response to a request directly from a deci-sion maker or within an organisation that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. De-pending on the role of the writer or organisation producing the document, the brief may only provide a targeted discussion of the current alternatives without arguing for a particular one. ... Nevertheless for any case, as any policy debate is a market-place of competing ideas, the purpose of the policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action outlined and therefore, serve as an impetus for action. As with all good marketing tools, the key to success is targeting the particular audience for your message. The most common audience for a policy brief is the decision maker but, it is also not unusual to use the document to support broader advocacy initiatives targeting a wide but knowledgeable audience (e.g., decision makers, journalists, diplomats, administrators, researchers).”


The Century of the Self

The Century of the Self is the title of a documentary film series produced in 2002 by Adam Curtis. It focuses on the influence (the big think) of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Edward Bernays on the development of public relations in how corporations and governments have analyzed, dealt with, and controlled people. “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.”1

Business Talk


“The ORDO-Award distinguishes achievements that are innovative in the field of economic order and contribute to the further development of the social market economy. The award is presented to up-and-coming scholars and to younger people who have presented significantly innovative ideas and projects in politics, business or civil society. The jury for the ORDO-Award consists of representatives of the ‘Jenaer Allianz.’ The prize money for this award, sponsored this year by the Rheinischer Sparkassen- and Giroverband, the Sparkasse Köln Bonn, and the Kreissparkasse Köln, amounts to 10,000 Euros.”

Jena Alliance for the Renewal of Social Market Economy

“‘The Jena Alliance for the Renewal of Social Market Economy’ is a cooperative network of organizations, institutions and persons, who are committed to regulatory policy renewal of the social market economy. It was founded on the occasion of the anniversary conference ‘60 Years of Social Market Economy’ in 2008 in Jena. ... Every two years the Alliance awards the ‘ORDO-Award for Regulatory Policy Innovations’ together with the Institute for Economic Policies at the University of Cologne. Every other year the Alliance organizes the ‘Jena Convention for the Renewal of Social Market Economy’. The Walter Eucken Prize of the Economics Department at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena is awarded every two years within the framework of the Jena Convention for the Renewal of Social Market Economy.”

Friedrich Naumann

(b. 1860, Strömthal; † 1919, Travemünde) Protestant theologian and liberal politician. “The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is a foundation associated with the FDP [Free Democratic Party of Germany]. Through its liberal institute it is involved in a number of neoliberal networks and think tanks. The members of the board of trustees Hans D. Barbier and Thomas Straubhaar are active in several market-radical organizations. The Foundation’s understanding of freedom is based on the concept that the freedom of entrepreneurial activity should be limited as little as possible by state measures for the protection of workers, consumers or the environment.”

David Ricardo

(b. 1772, London; † 1823, Gatcombe Park) was a leading proponent of classical national economy. In 1817 he published the On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation and developed an important theory of trade. “With ‘comparative advantage’ Ricardo argued in favour of industry specialisation and free trade. He attempted to prove, using simple mathematics, that industry specialisation combined with free international trade always produces positive results. ... Ricardo argued that there is mutual national benefit from trade even if one country is more competitive in every area than its trading counterpart and that a nation should concentrate resources only on industries where it had a comparative advantage, that is in those industries in which it has the greatest competitive edge. Ricardo suggested that national industries which were, in fact, profitable and internationally competitive should be jettisoned in favour of the most competitive industries. Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage assumes the existence of an industry and trade policy at a national level. It does not presume that business decisions are or should be made independently by entrepreneurs on the basis of viability or profit.”

Joseph A. Schumpeter

(b. 1883, Moravia; † 1950, Connecticut) was an Austrian-American economist. “Schumpeter became well known as a theorist of capitalism, the essence of which he characterized as creative destruction. His most important works include The Theory of Economic Development (1911) and Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942). ... The concept of creative destruction is a basic motif in Schumpeter’s work Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy: ‘The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.’”2

Friedrich August von Hayek

(b. 1899, Vienna; † 1992, Freiburg im Breisgau) was an economist and social philosopher. Along with Ludwig von Mises he was one of the most important representatives of the Austrian School of Economics, winning the Nobel Prize in 1974. He was initiator and president of the Mont Pelerin Society for many years. “In 1950 he changed to the University of Chicago and was Milton Friedman’s teacher. In 1962 he accepted a professorship at the University of Freiburg and shortly afterward became a member of the board of the Walter Eucken Institute. Hayek on the founding of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947: ‘I am often not of the same opinion as the late Lord Keynes; but he never said anything more true than in the statement about a subject, on which he was uniquely qualified to speak due to his own experience. He wrote: “... the ideas of the national economists and philosophers have a stronger effect than is generally assumed, both when they are right and when they are wrong. ... I am convinced that the power of real interests is vastly overestimated in comparison with the gradual infiltration of ideas. Not immediately, of course, but only after a certain time; for in the field of economic and state philosophy, there are few who are influenced by new theories, once they have passed the age of 25 or 30, so that the ideas used by civil servants or politicians or even agitators are usually not the newest. But sooner or later, it is the ideas and not the interests that become dangerous, for better or worse.”3

Friedrich A. von Hayek Society

“In 1998 a group of entrepreneurs, academics and journalists founded the Friedrich A. von Hayek Society in Freiburg, which promotes Hayek’s ideas with annual events ... as well as a nation-wide essay competition. In May 1999 the Friedrich August von Hayek Foundation was also founded in Freiburg. The founder is Wüstenrot & Württembergische AG. The purpose of the foundation is the establishment of a liberal economic and social order.”

Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institute

“The Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institute was founded in 1993 to commemorate the work of Nobel Laureate Friedrich August von Hayek, and to promote the ideas of the Austrian School of Economics. As a private and independent academic research institution, it is modeled predominantly after Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, the Institute for Economics Affairs (IEA) in London, and the International Centre for Economic Research (ICER) in Turin. The Institute extensively cooperates with other like-minded think tanks, and organizes academic conferences, seminars, and lectures that tackle current economic issues.”

Walter Eucken

(b. 1891, Jena; † 1950, London) founded the Freiburg School of Ordoliberalism, which is considered the German variation of neoliberalism. “The Walter Eucken Institute was founded four years after the death of Walter Eucken by his friends and students with support from Ludwig Erhard, then German Federal Minister of Economic Affairs. The first board member was Friedrich August von Hayek. The institute calls itself an independent institution dedicated to economic and social sciences research, especially the investigation of problems for which the solutions are fundamentally important to maintaining and further developing a market economy order. With lectures, academic conferences and publications, the institute pursues the goal of making the foundations and principles of this kind of order clear to the public. Special emphasis is given to the connection of the research tradition of Walter Eucken, Franz Böhm, F.A. von Hayek, and J.M. Buchanan, along with issues of the international economic order and the state of the European economy. ... The Walter Eucken Institute evinces no distance from economic power. Indeed, its patterns of argumentation largely correspond to those of the major economic associations, with which it is also personally interdependent. Karen Horn, for instance, head of the Berlin office of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, which operates as a think tank and PR agency for BDI, BDA, and their member companies, is a member of the board of trustees for the Walter Eucken Institute and chair of the board of the Friedrich August von Hayek Society, which closely cooperates with the institute. A subsidiary of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research is the Initiative New Social Market Economy (INSM).”

Five Wise Men of the German Economy

The Council of Economic Experts reporting on macroeconomic developments, colloquially called “the five wise men”, is a five-person body that has been advising the German government since 1963 and claims scientific objectivity for itself. The criteria for judgment have a neoliberal orientation.

Corporate Social Responsibility / Good Corporate Governance

The importance of these terms increased following the first major revelations of working conditions contrary to human dignity and of environmental scandals in the globalised division of labour of international corporations such as Nike, Nokia, and Apple in the mid-1990s. They were set up as a so-called “voluntary self-obligation” of the corporations, in order to evade the obligations of laws and concomitant legal claims.

Ready, Steady, Go


Benchmarking is the term for the process of comparing products, services and companies according to economic criteria and has developed into a dispositive that covers all areas of society.


Politicians’ Talk

Alexander Rüstow

(b. 1885, Wiesbaden; † 1963, Heidelberg) was a sociologist and and economist. He coined the term neoliberalism (in 1938 at a colloquium of conservative economists in Paris). Like several of the historical “neoliberals,” however, he did not advocate a complete laissez-faire for the market, but rather that states should steer the economy, which should be oriented to the needs of the populace. He was involved in the founding of the social market economy in the post-war Federal Republic of Germany.

Organic Policy

Organic policy [Vitalpolitik] is another term originated by Rüstow – a similar conception was also developed by Wilhelm Röpke. The core idea is that market forces must be given a regulatory policy orientation in keeping with the needs of life. This cannot automatically follow from the free market. The proposed measures – subsidies for education, high inheritance tax, supporting / settling structurally weak areas – were partially implemented in the social market economy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Ronald Coase

(b. 1910, Willesden near London; † 2013, Chicago) received the Nobel Prize for economics in 1991 for his transaction theory, which could now be applied to make international climate policies capitalisable as emissions trade. From 1964 to 1982 Coase was Professor for Law and Economics at the University of Chicago. He was a member of the Mont Pelerin Society.

James M. Buchanan

(b. 1919, Mufreesboro; † 2013, Blacksburg) was an economist who in 1986 won the Nobel Prize for economics, developed the theoretical foundation of economic liberalism tying into Thomas Hobbes’ contract theory, and was member of the Mont Pelerin Society and honorary president of the Walter Eucken Institute.

Ludwig Erhard

In 1949 Erhard became the Minister for Economic Affairs in the first federal cabinet of the Federal Republic of Germany under Konrad Adenauer. In 1963 he was elected Federal Chancellor. Erhard’s economic policies are closely tied to the conception of the social market economy in the Federal Republic of Germany, which he developed together with his State Secretary Alfred Müller-Armack, among others.

Ludwig Erhard Foundation

“The Ludwig Erhard Foundation refers to Erhard’s conviction that market economy policies must always be carefully coordinated with the respective social conditions. Market economy promotes the efficiency of the economy. The policies of social market economy have to ensure that, along with establishing and perfecting the market economy order, the situation of the population is improved and ‘prosperity for all’ spreads. ... In the Foundation’s positions there are no more incitements ... to social corrections from the state. ... Instead, in keeping with many other neoliberal think tanks and networks, the market is propagated as the cure-all, which is to prevail as far as possible through privatisation and deregulation.”

Ludwig von Mises

(b. 1881, Lemburg; † 1973, New York), economist, theorist of liberalism and one of the most important representatives of the Austrian School of Economics, co-founder of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research and economic consultant for the Austrian government, emigrated to the US in 1940, taught from 1945 to 1969 at the New York University and was a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. Von Mises took a neoliberal position on a utilitarian and Kantian foundation that provides for increasing the wellbeing of all. He provided “as no other the (economic) theoretical foundation for the system of free markets, which is based on the unconditional respect for private property, and ... rejected every form of state intervention in economic and social life as counterproductive.” There are numerous Ludwig von Mises Institutes around the world, most recently in Germany in October 2012.

Jean Claude Juncker

(b. 1954, Luxembourg), Minister of Finance from 1989–2009 and  Prime Minister from 1995–2013, was the longest-serving head of government in the European Union. Since 2005 he is also head of the Euro Group, and he has received numerous honours such as “European Banker of the Year” in 2008. On Juncker in 2010: “‘I would like to see our Greek friends follow the example of the German Treuhandanstalt and found a privatisation agency independent from the government. It should also be composed of foreign experts.’ ... Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Juncker ... thinks that corrupt Greek politicians should sell off their country (following the) ‘example of the German Treuhandanstalt.’ ... From the chief lobbyist of the second largest tax haven of the world, he became the chief lobbyist of the European major banks. Luxembourg is second only to Switzerland for the largest number of letterbox companies registered there, through which the privatisation agency sold off the assets of the German Democratic Republic and turned East Germany into a colonised special economic zone with a high unemployment rate and low wages.”4

Walter Hallstein

(b. 1901, Mainz; † 1982, Stuttgart) became the first Chairman of the Commission of the European Economic Community in 1958. ... In late 1959 he published the Hallstein Plan, which envisaged a stronger common market of the EEC countries while liberalising foreign trade at the same time. In the following years there were negotiations about this project, which was then implemented in early 1962 following long discussions, especially about agricultural policies.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe

(b. 1949, Peine) was Professor for Economic Theory at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas from 1986 to 2008 and is a Distinguished Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute (Auburn / Alabama). “For Hoppe as a thought leader of anarcho-capitalism, the state is not a moral institution. In addition, he considers democracy a ‘civilizational decline’ in comparison with the past feudal social order ... In a monarchy the state is private property and the monarch has a personal interest in the wellbeing of his property, whereas this is not the case for politicians and civil servants in a democracy.”

Property and Freedom Society

In 2006 he founded the Property and Freedom Society. Hoppe on the Mont Pelerin Society: “During the 1990s, I was three times invited as a speaker. ... Each time, with papers attacking democracy and egali-tarianism, defending monarchies vs. democracies, eviscerating the classical-liberal idea of a minimal-state as self-contradictory, and propagating a stateless, anarcho-capitalist natural order ... Whatever the function of the Mont Pelerin Society may have been in the immediate aftermath of WWII, at the time of my encounter with it, I did not find it particularly to my liking. ... Essentially, Mont Pelerin Society meetings were junkets for ‘free-market’ and ‘limited-government’ think-tank and foundation staffers, their various professorial affiliates and protégées, and the principal donor-financiers of it all, mostly from the US, and more specifically from Washington DC. ... The deplorable development ... of the Mont Pelerin Society was ... the necessary consequence of a fundamental theoretical flaw committed not only by Hayek but, ultimately, also by Mises, with his idea of a minimal state. This flaw ... af-flicted the entire ‘limited-government’ think-tank industry that had sprung up as its offspring since the 1960s throughout the Western, US-dominated world. ... The State and the free-market think-tank indus-try thus live in perfect harmony with each other. ... Yet so much the easier, then, was it for the State to target and effectively control this industry. The State only had to set up its own bureaucracy in charge of free-market-relations and lure the limited-government NGOs with conferences, invitations, sponsor-ships, grants, money and employment prospects. ... These measures alone were sufficient to ensure compliance on the part of the free-market think-tank industry and its associated intellectuals. The mar-ket demand for intellectual services is low and fickle and hence intellectuals can be bought up cheaply!”5

Hernando de Soto Polar

(b. 1941, Arequipa, Peru) is a Peruvian economist and business consultant. De Soto especially considers the informal economy to be a hindrance for the development of underdeveloped countries and calls for a stronger institutionalisation of property. “De Soto studied economics and politics at the the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. ... After working as a political economist for GATT from 1968 to 1971, he was president of the executive committee of the Intergovernmental Council of Countries Exporters of Copper (CIPEC), before becoming director of the Swiss Bank Corporation Consultant Group. In 1979 he returned to Peru, first as the manager of a mining corporation. In the same year he was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Peru. In 1980 he founded his consultant company Instituto de Libertad y Democracia (ILD). ... In 1989 de Soto became advisor to President Alan García Pérez and from 1990 to 1992 advisor to Alberto Fujimori. ... In addition to Vladimir Putin, meanwhile 29 heads of states of developing and threshold countries are advised by him.”

Revolving-Door Capitalism

One goes from business into politics and after accomplishing lobbying work returns to business.

Think Tank Staff

Donor Acceptor Principle

The donor acceptor principle takes place in chemical reactions, in which a particle is transferred from one reaction partner (donor) to the other reaction partner (acceptor).

Sealed Lips

Private-Public Funding

Public Relations

Atlas Network

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation was founded by Antony Fisher in 1981 to promote liberal policies. In 2001 the Foundation’s budget amounted to about 2.5 million US dollars. The Foundation describes itself as “a nonprofit organization connecting a global network of more than 400 free-market organizations in over 80 countries to the ideas and resources needed to advance the cause of liberty. ... Our mission is to strengthen the worldwide freedom movement by identifying, training, and supporting individuals with the potential to found and develop effective independent organizations that promote our vision in every country.”

Denkwerk Zukunft

Denkwerk Zukunft – Stiftung kulturelle Erneuerung [Denkwerk Zukunft – Foundation for Cultural Renewal] was founded on 6 October 2007 by Professor Dr. Meinhard Miegel, a founder and former director of the Bonn Institute for Economic and Social Research IWG Bonn e.V., and Dipl.rer.pol. Dieter Paulmann, the founder and long-standing CEO and subsequently the chairman of the supervisory board of the Deutsche Industrie Service AG. ... A pre-condition for a culture which is generally applicable and viable for the future is a basic change in awareness, a cultural renewal. The present understanding of prosperity must be freed from its material restrictions and expanded by non-economic areas of culture.”

The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik

“The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) is one of the leading think tanks for global development and international cooperation worldwide. ... Research at DIE is theory-based, empirically driven and application-oriented. It provides the basis for the consulting activities of the Institute. DIE develops policy-relevant concepts, advises ministries, governments and international organisations, and refers to current policy issues. The training programmes of the Institute for university graduates and young professionals are integrated into the research and advisory process.”

Global Governance School

“The Global Governance School (GGS) is the scholarly part of the Training and Dialogue Format ‘Managing Global Governance’ (MGG). The courses are aimed at highly qualified young professionals from currently eight anchor countries (Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa), who work in government bodies, policy-oriented think tanks and research institutions. It is implemented jointly by the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).”


Peterson Institute for International Economics

“Since 1981 the Institute has provided timely and objective analysis of, and concrete solutions to, a wide range of international economic problems. ... It was voted ‘best think tank in the world’ in 2008 by the first global survey of over 5,000 such institutions ... The Institute attempts to anticipate emerging issues and to be ready with practical ideas, presented in user-friendly formats, to inform and shape public debate. Its audience includes government officials and legislators, business and labor leaders, management and staff at international organizations, university-based scholars and their students, other research institutions and nongovernmental organizations, the media, and the public at large. ... The Institute’s agenda emphasizes global macroeconomic policy, international finance and exchange rates, trade and investment, energy and the environment. ... Institute staff and research cover all key regions especially Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as the United States itself and with special reference to China, India, Korea, and Russia. ... Institute studies have helped provide the intellectual foundation for many of the major international policy initiatives of the past three decades: reforms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including those initiated by the G-20 in 2009–2010; adoption of international banking standards and broader financial regulatory reforms; the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and Trans-Pacific Partnership; the restoration and then extension of trade promotion authority in the United States; the development of the World Trade Organization; the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other US free trade agreements (including with Korea notably); initiation and implementation of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China; a series of United States-Japan negotiations; reform of sanctions policy; liberalization of US export controls and export credits, and specific trade issues such as permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for China in 2000 and Russia in 2012, import protection for steel, and Buy American legislation in 2009.”

DIW – German Institute for Economic Research

The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) is one of the leading economic research institutions in Germany. Its core mandates are applied economic research and economic policy as well as provision of research infrastructure. ... The institute was founded in 1925 as Institut für Konjunkturforschung [Institute for Economic Cycle Research]. ... As a member of the Leibniz Society, DIW Berlin is predominantly publicly funded.

Class Situation

Translation German-English: Aileen Derieg

1. “Organising Chaos,” in Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: H. Liveright, 1928),

2. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers 1942),

3. Friederich August von Hayek in Grundtexte zur Freiburger Tradition der Ordnungsökonomik, ed. Nils Goldschmidt and Michael Wohlgemuth (Tuebingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).

4. W. Rügemer in Lügenbarone und Ganoven: Von Atomminister bis Zentralbanker, ed. Peter Sodann (Berlin: Eulenspiegel, 2011), p. 88.

5. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “The Property And Freedom Society – Reflections After Five Years,”

Andreas Siekmann (1961) is an artist, curator and theorist who lives and works in Berlin.

Commonist Aesthetics
Commonist Aesthetics

A spectre is haunting more than just Europe; or rather, an undead zombie is stalking the lands. The “Idea of Communism”, as the title of two high-profile conferences and books has it, is both profoundly discredited through its identifications with Moscow-brand socialism and profoundly necessary in an age of spiralling inequality and the accelerating destruction of the basis of life itself. Protests proliferate, but also quickly dry up, from the Arab Spring and Occupy to (farce following tragedy) high-profile British comedian Russell Brand coming to the conclusion that the current form of representative democracy is broken beyond repair and that a revolution is needed, only to be told by another comedian to “read some fucking Orwell”.

Alain Badiou provided the starting point for the two aforementioned conferences and books with a text in which he revisits the history and possible future of communism as an “Idea located in the field of emancipatory, or revolutionary, politics”, an Idea that can never be limited to or contained by any specific party-political agenda: “to be a militant of a Communist Party”, Badiou observed, “was also to be one of millions of agents of a historical orientation of all of Humanity. In the context of the Idea of communism, subjectivation constituted the link between the local belonging to a political procedure and the huge symbolic domain of Humanity’s forward march towards its collective emancipation. To give out a flyer in a marketplace was also to mount the stage of history”.1

As Badiou has noted elsewhere, May ’68 was the last moment when a certain version of communism seemed possible and almost plausible.2 The integration and disintegration of the traditional working class in the west made Bolshevist or Maoist attempts to forge this class into a revolutionary proletariat goaded into action by a steeled party cadre obsolete. The idea of communism morphed, mutated, sometimes beyond recognition. Ideas of autonomous self-organisation by workers became a more general idea consisting of autonomous action by students, intellectuals, the unemployed and labourers. The dream of autonomia resurfaced in later multitudes – Genoa, New York, Cairo – always all too brief, yet with protracted echoes. Now that the Party’s over, organisation is frequently haphazard and informal, and events refuse to follow conventional scripts – though the scenario of an event losing steam and everybody dissipating and waiting for some future iteration that will in turn peter out in the same anticlimactic manner is becoming depressingly familiar.

This temporality of the almost-revolutionary event is however offset, in a kind of syncopation, by different sorts of projects – that sometimes involve the same people. Silvia Federici has argued that the “apparently archaic” notion of the commons provides “a ground of convergence among anarchists, Marxists / socialists, ecologists, and eco-feminists” after the demise of the discredited “statist model of revolution that for decades has sapped the efforts of radical movements to build an alternative to capitalism”. While Occupy Wall Street turned policed and semi-privatised public space into a temporary commons, the project of protecting and creating common spaces is ongoing. As Federici continues, “the neoliberal attempt to subordinate every form of life and knowledge to the logic of the market has heightened our awareness of living in a world in which we no longer have access to seas, trees, animals, and our fellow human beings except through the cash-nexus. … (New) forms of social cooperation are constantly being produced, also in areas where none previously existed, as for example the Internet.”3

Meanwhile, in her proposal for a “commonist ethics”, Susan Buck-Morss warns that “we need to reject creating an -ism out of any political or theoretical orientation – no communism, no capitalism, no Marxism, no totalitarianism, no imperialism – no isms at all. These are cosmological systems, economies of belief that resemble the medieval Christological economy (oikonomia) in that all their elements are internally consistent and logically satisfying, as long as there is no contamination by facts or events that, like illegal aliens of some sort, enter from the outside.”4 For Badiou, we now only have the substantive of communism, the Idea, but no adjectives: no communist party, no communist ideology.5 Buck-Morss turns it around: only adjectives, no nouns. Or perhaps communism needs to be verbed, as with the notion of communization, which “requires that we start thinking communism from within the immanent conditions of global capitalism rather than from a putatively radical or communist ‘outside’” (Benjamin Noys).6 The commons, too, are conceptualised in terms of forms of commoning.

The Situationist International has always insisted that there is no such thing as Situationism, and heaped scorn on anyone who suggested otherwise. In practice, scholars and theorists who would not dream of referring to “Situationism” in print, use the word as shorthand in conversation. In art, the danger of isms has always seemed less their tendency to become ironclad ideological systems and more their status as packaged hot air, soon to be followed by the next fashion. As Marcel Duchamp once put it in a telegram to the magazine ARTnews: “Bravo! for your 60 ism-packed years”. Today, in the age of Speculative Realisms and New Materialisms, philosophy has adopted what used to be an art-world modus operandi.

Under the circumstances, we propose to entertain the idea (with a lower-case i) of commonism as shorthand not for one of Buck-Morss’ frightening conceptual-ideological prisons, but for a constellation of practices and lines of thought that produce productive tension rather than neo-Stalinist conformity? Incidentally: In the early 1960s Andy Warhol tried to establish the term “Commonism” as a name for the art movement that would become known as Pop Art.7 Conversely, the label introduced slightly later by Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter for their German version of Pop Art, Capitalist Realism, was recently appropriated by Mark Fisher for his trenchant analysis of contemporary capitalism.8

We will be presenting a loose series of articles on commonism here in Open! as the contemporary afterlife of the idea of communism; an afterlife after the Party, after the Proletariat as Revolutionary Subject, after the “statist” model of the revolution. The focus will be on commonist aesthetics, but here the aesthetic is obviously not conceived along the lines of aestheticism. The aesthetic pertains to the world of the senses – to a residually common world, as Terry Eagleton once put it. What “redistributions of the sensible” can aesthetic practice and theory imagine?

Commonist Aesthetics is a close collaboration of Open! with Binna Choi (Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory,  Utrecht) and Sven Lütticken.