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Re: [ox-en] selbstentfaltung revisited

Hi Graham and all,

you are right: Selbstentfaltung is an open question, however, not only 
in english, but even in german. What I can do is to provide some pieces 
and ideas to this debate.

Why is a notion of Selbstentfaltung so important? 

First: Because if you reject alien aspects of "motivation" (or coercion) 
like money etc., then the question raises why someone should do anything 
at all. Answers like "humans are good by nature" or "humans are 
altuistic" are not satisfying.

Second: The notion of Selbstentfaltung is closely interlinked with the 
notion of the individual which itself is connected with the notion of 
society. Is society a secondary effect of basically isolated individuals 
living together? This assumption can be drawn with some reason from the 
observation, that indeed individuals in the capitalist society _are_ 
separated from each other and secondarily mediated by means of markets, 
exchange, selling labour power etc. But this is only the appearing 
surface of the contemporary living conditions and _not_ the result of a 
"human nature". With Selbstentfaltung and a notion of societal human 
being this can be understood.

Third: If the societal mediation by alien means (exchange, money and the 
like) is removed, then question has to be answered in which way societal 
mediation is realized. Societal medation is another word for the social 
organization of society, of production and consumption, of delivery of 
the right products to places where they are needed and so on. I know 
that many english speaking people are not familiar with the difference 
between "societal" and "social" (although "society" is well known), but 
this difference is crucial: "societal" addresses the mechanisms being 
dominant in whole society, while "social" only addresses interpersonal 
aspects of parts of a society (groups, locations, companies etc.). Now, 
Selbstentfaltung binds the two aspects of the individual and the society 

These three aspects have to be explicated.

Here, German Critical Psychology comes into play, because they did this. 
However, they did it without using the word Selbstentfaltung! They used 
other terms from their psychological context which are much more 
complicated (like generalized action potence vs. restrictive action 
potence). What we did when starting the Oekonux project was to pick up 
the familar term (from the 1968ers) of Selbstentfaltung and pull it out 
of an esoteric context (the esoterics have been one of the inheritors of 
the students movement of the Sixties) and use it a distinctive sense 
using the insights of German Critical Psychology: Selbstentfaltung is 
NOT Selbstverwirklichung (Selbstentfaltung is NOT Self-Actualization).

Selbstverwirklichung focusses on and strenghens the notion of an 
isolated individual which brings its individual potences into existence 
(sometimes regarding "social" [=immediate interpersonal] group 
relations) ignoring societal interdependencies which means: on cost of 
other individuals (or other groups). Selbstverwirklichung has no 
understanding of a (societally) "general other", but only of (socially) 
"special other". Thus I can follow the illusion, that if I harm others 
(especially indirectly), this has nothing to do with me -- which is 
normal thinking. Thus, individualism based on Selbstverwirklichung 
structurally includes self-hostillity (and is the reason for the dynamic 
unconscious, because self-hostillity can not be left conscious).

Selbstentfaltung focusses on and strenghens the notion of a societal 
individual which brings its individual potences into existence being an 
integral part of the potences of the general other. Selbstentfaltung 
includes the reflexive understanding of the other being a "general other 
like me", because "I am the other for the other". Thus, if I harm 
others, I harm myself (even indirectly). Sometimes Selbstentfaltung is 
called the real radical individualistic standpoint, because it 
necessarily includes all others (this is the materialistic ground on 
which Marx puts his classic sentence, see below). However, this can only 
be thought, but not felt today (only in rare and very special 

Now, we can understand why Selbstverwirklichung works best under 
conditions of mutually excluding each other (including temporary and 
partial coaltions excluding other coalitions), and Selbstentfaltung 
works best under conditions of mutally including each other (where is no 
need for partial coalitions against someone other).

We can understand that Selbstverwirklichung stands for narrow 
mindedness, domination hierarchies, closedness, irresponsibility, 
distrust, self-hostillity etc., and Selbstentfaltung stands for open 
minds, peer networks, openess in general, responsibility, trust, self-
confidence etc. (these are only descriptive illustrations).

It is clear, that there are no clear borders between both "modes", but 
they are options in daily behavior. The focus must be on structures: 
What social structures operate inclusively promoting Selbstentfaltung? 
Etc. Example: GPL is such a "social structure".

On 2010-06-02 01:29, Graham Seaman wrote:
Marx's idea of communism as a state where 'the free /development/ of
each is the /condition/ for the free /development of all',

... is a normative phrase at first glance. However, it is more than 
that, because Selbstentfaltung (free development) is part of human 
nature. So the pre-condition for Marx' phrase is, that there is such 
thing like Selbstentfaltung. Thus, communism is this sense given by Marx 
is possible, is an option without any further pre-conditions of how 
humans have to be: Everybody has got all pre-conditions already. This is 
the reason why commons-based peer-production beyond markets is possible. In this case it seems to be
tied in with the whole very German theme (from Weber through
Schmitt..) of 'values', and to be a rather unquestioning take on the
'good' side of the destruction of permanent employment, the kind of
praise of the permanently mobile web worker that was common in the
90s. Is this typical?

I don't know. But yes, you can observe these debates of "values" if 
societal disintegration wears on. Personally, I reject any "value 
debate", because "values" are results of activities and not the other 
way around. It is a conservative discourse.

Would it be possible for a German speaker to write or translate a
longer piece on selbstentfaltung in English, as one of the keywords
of oekonux - including something about the background in Critical
Psychology? It might be the kind of thing that would be good to have
in the new oekonux journal, especially as so little exists about it
in English.

Yep, having some paper in the new Journal (Critical Studies in Peer 
Production) would be great :-) 

HTH a bit,

Start here:
Contact: projekt

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