Andreas Herteux is not the first one to find solace in a new form of world order and embrace the possibility of change. The established economist and philosopher founded the Erich Von Werner Society in Germany with the intention of branching a conversation that shed perspective on the past in order to illuminate the path forward.
We had a chance to sit down with Andreas and delve into some intense revelations surrounding the notion of a fractured media landscape, the importance of contextual framing and the inherent value of ‘Value Capitalism’. We also had a chance to explore some more fundamental questions surrounding unchecked power and how this alternate form of capitalism could indeed reshape the western world if implemented correctly.
Hello Andreas, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, as an established economist, philosopher and publicist – where did the notion of the Erich Von Werner Society stem from?
Well, the motto of the Erich von Werner Society is “understand and change”. We live in a rapidly changing world with many challenges. Just think of the growing influence of Asia and China in particular, the weakness of the West, the lack of prospects for many people, the pressing environmental issues or the major questions of technological progress – the need for explanations and solutions is therefore great.
There are many questions, but not necessarily as many satisfactory answers. We want to offer the latter. New perspectives, new ways of looking at things, explanatory patterns, original ideas and concepts such as the concept of behavioral capitalism, the homo stimulus, the idea of the milieu struggle or the proposed solution of value capitalism – this is what the Erich von Werner Society offers as an independent institution for political, social or economic issues.
We therefore try to understand and change the world.
With the society masthead denoting the pursuit of a ‘better, fairer, and freer world’ – how would you best describe the society that reflects these attributes?
It is a free, democratically organized, self-determined society living in prosperity within a legally secure framework. This may seem self-evident at first glance, but is it so at a time when systems that tend to be authoritarian are very successful, while the Western beacons of freedom are struggling with massive difficulties such as fractured societies, loss of market share and a certain loss of importance? Or what about those countries that have never experienced the benefits of a liberal system?
We are in a period of change in which the cards are being completely reshuffled. A new age, that of collective individualism, has dawned. If we do not react quickly, the power shifts of the next few years could become so strong that society, as I described it at the beginning, will be in retreat.
In an increasingly fractured public debate surrounding ‘truth’ in media, how does the Erich Von Werner Society tackle this particular issue regarding public interest in reporting?
In this respect, we are less concerned with concrete statements, but all the more with the mechanisms behind them. We assume that we are entering an age of collective individualism. Collective individualism is understood as an individualism in which the individual is embedded in such a way that individual self-development can take place – more and more within a framework that is not or hardly visible. Basically, societies are breaking down into ever smaller milieus, some of which have completely different values and views of the world. The trend toward individualization is therefore unstoppable. There are two main drivers of this development, a new variety of capitalism, behavioral capitalism, and the modern stimulus society, which more and more turns the individual into a homo stimulus.
The development is only inhibited by milieu struggles. Milieu struggle means that conflicts arise between the realities of life (milieus) in a society (or several societies), which are actively or passively fought out. Now, it goes without saying that the respective framework, be it individual or milieu, knows different truths and the susceptibility to misinformation increases. This is also something to discuss. However, it would be more important to understand the mechanisms behind it and to grasp what power the large behavioral capitalists, be they corporations in the West or companies with state access in China, have and to argue about how to democratize them. With the concept of value capitalism, we have proposed a way in which this might be possible.
Could you give us your take on the concept of Value Capitalism?
Value capitalism is an economic system in which values become a factor of production. What is important to understand here is that values in this concept, by which we understand standards such as working conditions, co-determination rights or environmental protection, are integrated into the DNA of capitalism and become a factor for profit maximization.
Put simply, value capitalism relies on the greed of free enterprise and manipulates it. It creates an economy in which success is maximized when defined standards are met. It’s a win-win concept.
This is also the difference to many other, albeit noble, proposals that want to insert values from the outside, e.g. through government intervention. Value capitalism changes capitalism from within. How can it succeed? Practically speaking, technology is the key to the future. Therefore, it makes sense for democratically free nations to establish a common democratically legitimized and controlled value fund, a value guardian, that invests specifically in it and builds up corresponding market power.
Technological standards emerge from this development, which must be licensed by those who wish to use them. Through this licensing, values can now become a production factor by making compliance with them an integral part of the contract. No company is forced to do this. It is a free entrepreneurial decision, but the desire to maximize profits will ultimately lead to such clauses appearing acceptable. The profits of the value guardian could be invested on the one hand and distributed to the donor states on the other. For example, it would be possible to finance social systems or infrastructure. However, the use of the funds would ultimately have to be decided by the participating states and their citizens.
With the Superpowers becoming more settled into their mode of being and resistant to change, what would be your approach to practically implement this mode?
We share this observation only to a limited extent, because in Asia the development process is proceeding at breathtaking speed. The Western world is also reacting at the moment, for example, with gigantic aid packages to the developments revealed by the Corona pandemic. Basically, though, you can always prepare for the storm, run away from it, or just stand still and hope it doesn’t blow you away. What doesn’t change is that the stormy wind of change exists. The West has a choice: either it reacts, it drifts in the river, or relies on its luck. It makes more sense to take its fate into its own hands than to wait for the future role to be assigned to it by third parties. The western world may lack ideas, solutions and concepts to be creative, but the challenges are certainly seen by all.
If an internationally based agreement with a Values based system was to be implemented, there would also need to be a way in which to ensure that corruption wasn’t present, how would you best approach this potentiality?
The guardian of values would be indirectly democratically legitimized, would have to act transparently and be accountable. Possibly, the control body, i.e. a kind of supervisory board, could be elected directly by the participating peoples. We therefore have a different constellation than, for example, in large corporations or authoritarian states.
Yes, capitalism is a buzzword that also polarizes. Only it is important to understand what value capitalism is – the tamer of capitalism. Transforming it in such a way that it serves the public to the maximum. If capitalism is the raging torrent that takes everything with it, then value capitalism is the force that pacifies the river and steers it along calmer courses. From the stormy flood, calm, useful as well as beneficial water becomes.
Basically, value capitalism is everything that the anti-capitalists always wanted, but never really found in practice.
Do you have any further plans with the society in terms of its reach or intention?
We are still a very young institution. Therefore, there is still potential to increase the reach and network more deeply. We are having many conversations in this regard at the moment and more will follow. However, our goal remains to stimulate debate and thus contribute to creating a better world for all. We will continue to pursue this.
Thank you Andreas for your time!
You can follow up with Andreas Herteux at www.understandandchange.com