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Karl Georg Zinn: How wealth creates poverty. Waste, unemployment and scarcity

Karl Georg Zinn: How wealth creates poverty. Waste, unemployment and scarcity. PapyRossa Verlag (Cologne) 2006. 4th, updated and expanded edition. 307 pages. ISBN 978-3-89438-249-0. 16.90 EUR, CH: 30.10 sFr.

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"A lot is promised, nothing is kept ..."

… This pessimistic statement is not infrequently heard today at the beer tables and counters, occasionally combined with the small noises "Yes, yes, we (like) whine at a high level!". But we don't want to go to this level when discussing a book that was published in its fourth, updated and expanded edition in 2006. From one who during his professional life as an economist and political economist at the RWTH in Aachen raised the analyzing and warning finger against the social trend that welfare state politics is declining and capitalism and neoliberalism are advancing. His analysis of the realities of the highly developed economies is based on the simple truth, often named but seldom noticed by people: where people live together in societies, there are rulers and ruled; the latter seldom consider the following: "what the rulers dare (are allowed to) afford cannot happen in modern democracies without a kind of approving cooperation of the ruled". As a political economist, he points to a phenomenon that is all too often ignored in the social discourse about how the situation came about and how it is: when it comes to finding the truth and criticizing political decisions about how people act and live in the respective society , what the author calls the "collective mentality of a society" must be taken into account. And with this it is, we can see that specifically in the "without-me" mentalities, such as the low turnout for democratic law and duty in the last state elections, not too far off in our country. As if the warning calls in this book were to be confirmed, scientists from the University of Leipzig recently found in a representative survey carried out on behalf of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung among Germans older than 14 that one in four respondents was one Wishes for a party in our country that represents the "national community"; and one in five would even like to have a leader at the head of the country who "rules Germany with a strong hand for the good of all". Where do these attitudes come from, which spread as "mentalities"? Certainly they do not fall from the sky, but are brought to the people by the interested powers in society, with the media and what is commonly referred to as "whispered propaganda": "The false reality inevitably produces false consciousness". The ideologically instrumentalized "sold person", like tin mentions this in another book title (2001), is required in order to find even rudimentary alternatives to "globalized capitalism" (see also the review on: Olaf Gerlach i.a., ed., Periphery and globalized capitalism. To the Critique of Development Theory, 2004) to be able to think "the knowledge of the connection between political economy and ideological legitimation function".

So turns Karl Georg Zinn first of all, to the "foundation of every society and cultural development" job in their historical and current importance. He confronts the ideological illusion of "full employment" with "exploitation into unemployment" by explaining the various causes of the employment crises in industrialized societies. He clearly rejects the current employment policy: "But when the growth path comes to an end, there is ultimately no other way of regaining full employment than a redistribution of work". The discussion about an extension of working hours, which has already been partially realized, is, as the author says so clearly, nothing more than political thinking and action determined by "ignorance, stupidity and irresponsible short-sightedness". In the second chapter comes tin inevitably to the fetish that has been driving the economy in the rich economies for centuries - and has even reached the marginalized subsistence economies under the sign of globalization: economic growth, which as a paradox of capitalist prosperity creates abundance and scarcity. Because the increase in distribution inequalities - locally, regionally and globally - is one of the laws of capitalism and in the current development "globalization ... is innate in capitalism", the author (as an inconvenient truth) sees the only chance for a humane continued existence of the in the lack of growth Humanity, "first in the old rich countries, but gradually then also in the rest of the world". Turns around with a historical digression tin in the third chapter the causes of how the current mass unemployment and the increasing poverty in the rich economies are to be explained. From the global economic crisis of the 20th century to the rise of German and European fascism, there is a clearly recognizable strand of political illusions and ideological seduction. The author has talked about ideologies and their power in influencing social existence many times in the previous chapters of his book. In the fourth chapter he tackles the ideological problem in political economy in a special way: "At least metaphorically speaking, the belief in the capitalist market appears as one in its divine origin". By interpreting the various conceptions that can determine worldviews - the ideologies of justification, complementary, obfuscation and expression - he calls for scientific work and the everyday debate about a "good life" to work on ideology and thus to (in the truest Meaning of the word) efforts for individual and social change, for a change of perspective, in short, for political education.

In the foreword Karl Georg points out tin points out that the crisis of societies is also a crisis of capitalist thought and action: "Developed capitalism no longer has the internal forces to regenerate the earlier, steep growth trend". In conclusion, he makes it clear that a crisis analysis "is not possible without an understanding of ideology".


The book provides a wide range of information and suggestions for action to finally, locally and globally tackle what the World Commission "Culture and Development" (1995) calls a challenge to rethink, namely to reorient and reorganize socially, in short: to find new ways of life!

Review by
Dipl.-Päd. Dr. Jos Schnurer
Former lecturer at the University of Hildesheim
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Jos Schnurer. Review of 01/27/2007 to: Karl Georg Zinn: How wealth creates poverty. Waste, unemployment and scarcity. PapyRossa Verlag (Cologne) 2006. 4th, updated and expanded edition. ISBN 978-3-89438-249-0. In: socialnet reviews, ISSN 2190-9245, https://www.socialnet.de/rezensions/4493.php, date of access May 24, 2021.

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