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The real mistakes of socialism

Here is a short list of what I think were the major mistakes made in socialist approaches to addressing poor distribution of wealth and other contradictions.


Lack of spiritual engagement, denial that human experience must have a spiritual depth and therefore only reinforcing a materialist perspective, even while trying to redistribute wealth (thus assuming basic values of capitalism)

1) Emphasis on monetary value. Assuming value can be converted into cash, into numbers

2) Embrace of an industrial society and assumption that the organization of the industrailized society is the best

3) Lack of recognition for, and approval of,  traditional ways of living and their wisdom.

4) Assuming the myth of modernity as an absolute break and a modern life is absolutely superior

5) Ignoring impact of industry or policy on the environment.

6) Ignoring the role of local government and of local village economies

7) Allowing for a centralization of the economic structures that made it easy for people to take over large units, privatize them and become billionaires overnight. The failure of socialism to build in guards against this abuse was a big mistake.

8) Lack of balance of powers between different parts of government to avoid concentration of power in one institution
9) Mistaken assumption that because markets are exploitative that there is no use for markets.

“Technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science”


Paul Goodman’s article in the New York Review of Books from 1969 “Can Technology Be Humane?” contains the famous line which has stuck with me for years:



“Whether or not it draws on new scientific research, technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science. It aims at prudent goods for the commonweal and to provide efficient means for these goods. At present, however, “scientific technology” occupies a bastard position in the universities, in funding, and in the public mind. It is half tied to the theoretical sciences and half treated as mere know-how for political and commercial purposes. It has no principles of its own.”

I would not say that I agree with Goodman’s rather harsh assessment., but I think he raises the most essential question of what exactly technology does.

My ideal room

I made this drawing for an ideal bedroom my first year of high school, 1979.




Short note from Noam Chomsky

March 12, 2017

Emanuel Pastreich:

Many youth feel trapped. They feel that they live in a system that puts them at a disadvantage and does little to help them. They feel misunderstood and they feel that there is an absolute gap between themselves and those who seem to be deciding how things are done, how society is run. Why do they feel that way?

Noam Chomsky:

Contemporary neoliberalism has created what some call a “precariat” – people living a precarious existence, on their own, cast in a hostile market system with little solidarity, mutual support, stability and security.


Emanuel Pastreich, Benjamin Butler & Kim Haesun to speak at Asia Pacific Financial Forum


The Emerging Future Institute will play a substantial role at the Asia Pacific Financial Forum at the Plaza Hotel, March 23-25 with its founder Benjamin Butler, Kim Haesun, President of SunTransGlobe and researcher at Emerging Future Institute, and Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute and researcher at the Emerging Future Institute, speaking.


March 22, 2017


Trade conflicts & the new isolationism age  무역충돌과 신고립주의 시대 (통상)


Emanuel Pastreich

10:00-10:30 AM

“The Challenge of the Trump Era: Opportunities and Challenges”

For more information, see

제10회 아시아태평양금융포럼

존F 케네디 대통령은 언론의 역할 에 대 하여 한말



존F 케네디 대통령의 1961년 4월27일 기자회견 장소 뉴욕 월도프 아스토리얼 호텔



논쟁이나 비판없이는 어떤 행정부, 어떤 나라도 성공할 수 없고, 어떤 공화국도 살아 남을 수 없다. 아테네 법조인 솔론이 어떤 시민에게든 논쟁을 제한하는 것을 범죄로 보는 법령을 공포한 이유다. 그래서 우리 언론이 수정 헌법 제 1 조(헌법에 의해 특별히 보호받는 미국 내 유일한 비즈니스)에 따라 보호 받는 본질적인 이유는 사소하고 감성적인 것을 강조하거나 단순히 즐겁고 웃기게 해주거나 그저 “필요한 것을 대중에게 주기” 위해서가 아니다. 헌법이 언론을 보호하는 이유는 언론이 사실이나 진실을 알리고, 깨우쳐 주며, 진실을 잘 반영하고, 위험과 기회를 분명히 기술하고, 위기와 선택을 지적해주고, 여론을 선도하고 조성하며, 때로는 분노 여론을 만들기 때문이다. 이는 해외뉴스가 더 이상 먼 나라 얘기가 아니라 자기 주변 지역과 밀접하기 때문에 뉴스의 범위를 넓히고 심층 분석해야 함을 의미한다. 또 뉴스를 잘 전달하는 것 못지 않게 뉴스의 가독성을 높이는 것에 더 많은 주의를 기울여야 함을 의미한다. 결국 무릇 정부는 대외적으로 국가안보에 미칠 수 있는 최소한의 영향을 제외하고는 가능한 한 모든 정보를 국민에게 제공할 의무를 부여 받아야 한다는 점을 의미하는 것이다.

“Manifesto to the Europeans” and a call for sanity at the outbreak of the First World War

Wilhelm Foerster, Georg Friedrich Nicolai, Otto Buek and Albert Einstein signed a “Manifesto to the Europeans” at the start of World War I in which they took issue with the drive for military solutions promoted in Germany at the time. They were responding to the so-called “Manifesto of the Ninety-Three” issued by prominent German intellectuals giving their full support for Germany’s war aims. These four men were the only ones who dared to sign the document.

Its content seems most relevant in our own age.


“Manifesto to the Europeans”

October 1914


While technology and traffic clearly drive us toward a factual recognition of international relations, and thus toward a common world civilization, it is also true that no war has ever so intensively interrupted the cultural communalism of cooperative work as this present war does.  Perhaps we have come to such a salient awareness only on account of the numerous erstwhile common bonds, whose interruption we now sense so painfully.

Even if this state of affairs should not surprise us, those whose heart is in the least concerned about common world civilization, would have a doubled obligation to fight for the upholding of those principles. Those, however, of whom one should expect such convictions — that is, principally scientists and artists — have thus far almost exclusively uttered statements which would suggest that their desire for the maintenance of these relations has evaporated concurrently with the interruption of relations. They have spoken with explainable martial spirit — but spoken least of all of peace.

Such a mood cannot be excused by any national passion; it is unworthy of all that which the world has to date understood by the name of culture. Should this mood achieve a certain universality among the educated, this would be a disaster. It would not only be a disaster for civilization, but — and we are firmly convinced of this — a disaster for the national survival of individual states — the very cause for which, ultimately, all this barbarity has been unleashed.

Through technology the world has become smaller; the states of the large peninsula of Europe appear today as close to each other as the cities of each small Mediterranean peninsula appeared in ancient times. In the needs and experiences of every individual, based on his awareness of manifold of relations, Europe — one could almost say the world — already outlines itself as an element of unity.

It would consequently be a duty of the educated and well-meaning Europeans to at least make the attempt to prevent Europe — on account of its deficient organization as a whole — from suffering the same tragic fate as ancient Greece once did. Should Europe too gradually exhaust itself and thus perish from fratricidal war? Read more of this post


Huffington Post Deutschland

“Der Chinesische Traum: Nachahmung oder grundlegende Alternative?”


Emanuel Pastreich

Als ich kürzlich in Nanjing eintraf um an einer Konferenz teilzunehmen, fragte ich den Studenten, der mir als Wegführer zugewiesen war, ob er mich zu dem berühmten konfuzianischen Tempel Fuzimiao in der Altstadt bringen könnte. Es war mein erster Besuch in der Stadt Nanjing, und ich wollte deren Seitengassen erkunden und vielleicht in einem traditionellen Teehaus halt machen.

Ich kannte Nanjing – oder ‘Jinling’, als das es in der Zeit vor der Ming-Dynastie bekannt war – obwohl ich es zuvor nie besucht hatte. Ich hatte viele Gedichte gelesen, die in Bezug zu Nanjing stehen, als ich an den Universitäten von Tokio und Harvard chinesische Literatur studiert hatte. Die Landschaft des Qinghuai Flusses war mir aus Sammelbänden des 17. Jahrhunderts vertraut, und ich hatte mir die ausladenden Herrenhäuser Nanjings im 18. Jahrhundert vorgestellt, als ich im College den Roman “Der Traum der Roten Kammer” gelesen hatte.

Aber meine Suche nach Spuren des alten ‘Jingling’ in den ungebändigten Straßen des zeitgenössischen Nanjing war erfolglos. Alle traditionellen Gebäude um den Fuzimiao-Tempel waren abgerissen worden und ersetzt durch fade Betonbauten, in denen Schnellrestaurants und T-Shirt-Läden untergebracht waren. Obwohl einige Geschäfte ausgezeichnete Tees anboten, unterschieden sich die Speisen und die angebotene Kleidung kaum von dem, was man in Bangkok oder dementsprechend auch in Los Angeles finden kann. Nichts war in Nanjing hergestellt worden. Die Stadt hatte ihre Gemeinschaft an Kunstgewerblern und Handwerkern verloren, ganz zu schweigen von ihren Dichtern und Schriftstellern.

Das Innere des Fuzimiao Tempels fühlte sich nicht authentisch an. Die Wände waren aus purem Beton geformt, nicht aus Stein oder Mauerputz. Das Gebälk war von rauen Händen geschnitzt worden, und die Ecken, in denen der Fußboden auf die Wände trifft, waren nur unpfleglich fertiggestellt worden. Das Mobiliar war dürftig gefertigt worden und die an den Wänden aufgehängte Kalligrafie war mittelmäßig.

Ich stieß an diesem Nachmittag in Nanjing nicht auf große Historie, nichts wie die Relikte einer inspirierenden Vergangenheit wie man sie im Notre Dame in Paris oder um den Tdaiji -Tempel in Nara herum finden kann. Ich hatte aus einigen Darlegungen, die ich gelesen hatte, den Eindruck gewonnen, dass Nanjings Vergangenheit etwas sei, mit dem sich Chinesen obligatorisch beschäftigen müssten. Aber wenig von dieser alten Zivilisation hat in der Gegenwart Relevanz.

Mein studentischer Wegführer war bei der Suche nach einem traditionellen Teehaus sehr behilflich, doch ich ging fort mit einem tiefen Gefühl der Traurigkeit, da so viel des traditionellen Chinas verloren gegangen war – nicht so sehr wegen Mao Zedongs Kulturrevolution, sondern durch das Entstehen einer rücksichtslosen Konsumkultur. Diese Traurigkeit war nach ihrem Wesen ganz sicher nicht sentimental.

Die wahre Tragödie besteht darin, dass China einst der Welt das am weitesten entwickelte System zur Unterstützung einer komplexen Bürokratie und einer großen Bevölkerung bot – und dies vollständig auf der Grundlage nachhaltiger organischer Landwirtschaft. Als der amerikanische Agrarwissenschaftlicher Franklin Hiram King das Buch “4000 Jahre Landbau in China, Korea und Japan” (“Farmers of Forty Centuries, or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan”) im Jahr 1911 geschrieben hatte, argumentierte er, dass Ostasien ein Modell für eine wahrhaftig nachhaltige Landwirtschaft bieten würde, welches die USA so bald wie möglich ebenso einführen sollten. Tragischerweise hat stattdessen China den tödlichen amerikanischen Mix aus Kunstdünger und Pestiziden importiert, der nichts Nachhaltiges bietet. Die chinesische Weisheit der Landwirtschaft ist den jungen Menschen genau in dem Moment verloren gegangen, als sie am dringendsten benötigt wird.

So haben auch die chinesischen Traditionen der Bescheidenheit und Genügsamkeit, des Respekts vor dem Alter und der persönlichen Demut eine enorme Zugkraft als Alternative zu einer rücksichtslosen Konsumgesellschaft. Aber wenn Sie nach China reisen um nach diesen Werten Ausschau zu halten, dann werden Sie enttäuscht werden.

Die westlichen Träume von China

Viele Menschen aus dem westlichen Kulturkreis suchen in China eine Alternative zu der tiefen Maläse, welche die westliche Kultur infiziert hat. Es war ein ähnlicher Impuls, der mich dazu inspiriert hatte chinesische Literatur zu studieren: eine Desillusionierung von Materialismus und Militarismus, welche langsam die Institutionen der Vereinigten Staaten zerfraßen. Konfuzianismus, Buddhismus und Taoismus bieten Amerikanern eine Alternative zu einer Gesellschaft, in der alle Handlungen des Individuums in Geldwert umgerechnet werden. Read more of this post

“The New Colossus” and hope for an open society

On the “New Colossus”

Emanuel Pastreich

January 28, 2017

Fred Lang was so kind as to share Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” this evening with me. I had been thinking about the decisions of the so-called “Trump Administration” to build walls around the United States and to start to block the immigration of people to the United States from Muslim nations. Fred picked exactly the right poem to give a glitter of hope.

This poem is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty and has embodied a noble part of the American tradition for the last 150 years. Of course the racist and xenophobic tradition has also a long history in the United States, and the two strands of American culture have alternated since the Civil War.

One of the reasons that the Trump people are able to run over their opposition is that so many of the words that made the best of the United States have been detached from institutions and people. The words on the Statue of Liberty, or on the Capitol Building, have been reduced to mere words. Few today have fought or sacrificed for the constitution, the Statue of Liberty or other higher values for so long time. There are of course people suffering for the cause of freedom today, but they are almost invisible in the eyes of most people. The recent national prison strike was completely ignored by almost everyone I know in the United States.

Emma Lazarus was an American poet of German Jewish origins who took a deep interest in the sufferings of Jews in Eastern Europe. The title of her poem, “The New Colossus” suggests the contradictions of the United States. On the one hand, there was a confidence that something new and more humane could be achieved here. But of course “colossus” also suggests the pomp and arrogance of Rome, the imperial disease.

The New Colossus


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I cannot help thinking of Percy B. Shelley’s sonnet “Ozymandias” about imperial arrogance. In any case, today it seems as if Emma Lazarus’ poem is now up for grab—an opportunity for any one, any group, or any country who is ready to stand up for the huddled masses and offer hope to our torn world.

Emma Lazarus

“Letter to Ban Ki-Moon from the midst of the gathering darkness” (Kyunghyang Shinmun January 26, 2017)

 Kyunghyang Shinmun

“Letter to Ban Ki-Moon from the midst of the gathering darkness”

January 26, 2017


Emanuel Pastreich

I know that many have approached you about the possibility of your serving as president of Korea after the anticipated impeachment of President Park. You have a unique set of skills and a broad range of friends in the international community that would serve you well. Today, you are surrounded by people asking for your help in this moment of tremendous uncertainty in Korea. But I hope that you have a moment to step back from the crowd and contemplate your role in history now that you have become such a critical figure.

There are several people out there who are entirely capable of serving as the president of the Republic of Korea. But there is an even more critical job, and you are the only one who is qualified to play that role as the former Secretary General of the United Nations.

Last week Donald Trump was sworn in as the president of the United States, someone who has openly opposed a commitment to universal standards on human rights and who has taken as a central advisor John Bolton, a man who is committed to taking the entire United Nations system apart. In addition, President Trump has nominated for secretary of state Rex Tillerton,  the former CEO of EXXON, , a man who has no interest in the response to climate change and who has advocated that the United States move to stop all Chinese actions in the South China Seas—an act that many experts think could lead to nuclear war.

The scale of the geopolitical crisis today cannot be overstated and Korea, located at the center of Northeast Asia, with close ties to both the United States and to China, will be one of the first victims of such a new cold war, or hot war. Korea needs you, and your network, to start an entirely original and powerful initiative that will offer an alternative to military conflict, get the focus back to climate change, and set the foundations for long term solution to address this crisis head using a coalition of the committed throughout the region.

Read more of this post