2009: Fighting Globoliath

Fighting Globoliath

  Publication by Fourth World Review, a Transition Journal, London, No 151 Nov/Dec 2009

Over fifty years sjnce Kohr’s Breakdown of Nations was first published, former Austrian Ambassador Michael Breisky hails his theory of scale as being more relevant than ever.

David’s fight against Goliath is a wonderful story every century loves to reenact. For me, the 20th century’s fight was between David Leopold Kohr and Globoliath, crown-prince of the Philistine empire of Globalisation. The fight began in the mid-1950s, when David Leopold, the Austrian born philosopher, wrote his „Breakdown of Nations“. Using this book like a slingshot, he hurled three simple ideas against Globoliath:

  1. One: At any time, every man and every woman is good for a big surprise (and not to speak of children!).
  2. Two: The complexity of things increases with the square of their size.
  3. Three: Man’s capacity to understand complexity is limited. If complexity rises beyond this limit, surprises are likely to get nasty and nastier.


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Welcome to Post-Globalization

      Welcome to Post-Globalization - the Politics of Second Enlightenment, Human Scale                                          and the  Economy of the Mind                           Preface by Austria’s  Foreign Minister  Michael Spindelegger                                Published by…

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Leopold Kohr and Process Philosophy in China

New European, London  – Autumn/Winter 2009/10

China, Process Philosophy and Leopold Kohr


by Michael Breisky



“For many centuries, the Silk Road saw exchanges between the East and the West: Chinese silk, porcelain and jade travelled westwards, while precious stones, spices and political philosophies were brought the other way.“ (Display at the National HistoricMuseum of Xian, the ancient capital of China and starting-pointof the Silk Road)


First, a Word of caution: I am not a China-expert, not even by diplomatic standards. These lines are speculations, based on impressions I gained during a brief lecturing tour to China in spring 2008. There I tried to introduce the philosophy of Leopold Kohr, the Austrian born preacher of Human Scale (1909 -1993), to five top universities and other institutions [1]. During these lectures, discussions and interviews I was in contact with some 600 students and 20 professors; furthermore, I had the chance to speak to 40 journalists and teachers at the leading Chinese institution for environmental education „Beijing Global Village“; where I also had a long interview with its founder/director Sheri Liao (more about her to be found by Google). In the most populous country on earth all these contacts may have been insignificant for matters of quantity, but the high level ofconsistency and spontaneity I found in their various reactions gave me a base firm enough to develop these speculations. And the baseis the many parallels and equations between the teachings of Kohr at one hand and Laotse and Taoism at the other. This, I think, merits a follow-up, to which the following reflections might be useful:


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2006: The Need for Ethics in the Insurance Industry

„The Secular Sourcere entering the Age of Reformation“

Speech by Michael Breisky at the Conference of Industrial Insurance Brokers, April 2006, Pottstown, PA

Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is a great honor and pleasure for me to address this distinguished gathering on the issue of ethics – no one among my childhood pals or peers in school and career would have believed I could ever catch anybody’s attention on this subject. I have, therefore, proved that it is never too late to become familiar with ethics.

It is a difficult subject. My brother-in-law brought it to the point when he told me about a seven-year-old asking his father about the essence of ethics. The father, who was an antiques-dealer in London’s Portobello Road, answered like this: Imagine a sweet old lady, obviously not too well off, approaching our stand and paying ten pounds for a teapot. As you want to pocket the money, you notice that a second ten-pounds bill is sticking to the ten-pounds bill she had given to you. Now the question of ethics arises: Will you share this lucky ten pounds with your partner? As you will see, ethics in the insurance business runs a lot like this. (more…)

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2005: The Limits of Globalization

The Limits of Globalization

Speech at World Economic Forum Krysnica, Poland, September 2005, by Michael Breisky

1. What is Globalization? According to the Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk, Globalization means the end of melancholy in the East and the end of privileges in the West.

Other definitions: It is a system relying on the availability of cheap oil (how long?); or it is the establishment of one sole and world-wide context for every issue, as technological progress connects now everything to everything else around the globe.

In economics Globalization means the world-wide dominance of market-forces, made possible by a) the end for customs and quotas, transnational division of labour and out-sourcing, b) global information network, as estrablished by the combination of English and Microsoft, c) the global access to venture capital. The world has become a single market and should in theory (Milton, Thomas Friedman) be able to solve all economic problems.

2. Globalization may be irreversible, but it has its severe problems: (more…)

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2003: Transatlantic Separation or Common Strategy

Transatlantic Separation or Common Strategy

Speech at Union Club, Philadelphia, PA, September 2003, by Ambassador Michael Breisky, Austrian Consul General in New York

Ladies and Gentlemen!
I consider it a great honour to address this distinguished audience in Philadelphia, a city breathing not only business but also history, a matter so close to the heart of Europeans; they are well aware that was here where our Transatlantic values were put on paper for the first time. I thank my friend and collegue Harry Schaub for introducing me so kindly to you.

As the theme of my address suggests, the question of Transatlantic separation has come up again. Let me come without further ado to the heart of the matter and answer this question once and for all by a quote from the 42nd US-President when he remarked – in a different context, I admit: “It’s the economy, darling”. And economy says simply: you cannot separate. Just think of it: All of Japan’s investment in the US is less than the EU’s investment in the state of Texas alone, and Texas is for the EU by no means a special target-state. US investment in Europe is equally pre-eminent by volume and importance. So the transatlantic community can be compared to Siamese twins with only one heart – the economy. It is true, even Siamese twins squabble between themselves sometimes and in some rare cases may even think of combining surgical separation with organ-transplant – Transatlantic twins should know, however, that in foreseeable future no other heart on earth will be big enough to keep them alive. (more…)

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2002: „The Transatlantic Yin Yang“

Translation of an Op-Ed in „Die Presse“; Vienna, published 30 September, 2002

Today many people see the partnership between the United States and Europe at its end. While in the United States the opinion prevails that the European Union is contributing nothing but empty words to the fight against terrorism, the Europeans on the other hand feel that the United States are acting purely unilaterally and do not appreciate Europe’s manifold achievements and contributions.

By chance my dictionary opens at “Yin Yang”, the ancient concept in Chinese philosophy of dark and light. Yang signifies male attributes as well as heavenly characteristics and the quality of strength, while Yin on the other hand lays claim to female attributes, earthly characteristics and the quality of flexibility.

“Both principles complement each other and function as interdependent principles”, the dictionary says. If we add to Yang the enterprising spirit and polarization, but differentiation to Yin, we should be able to understand this political enigma! (more…)

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1998: „Dealing with Minorities – a Challenge for Europe“

The Queen’s University of Belfast | The Institute of European Studies | European Liaison

Dealing with Minorities – a Challenge for Europe

by Michael Breisky, Ambassador of Austria to the Republic of Ireland

The heirs of multinational Empires

According to many historians, Europe’s Golden Age should be seen as the decades following the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15. Indeed, over thirty years of almost complete peace and no major wars for a whole century make this judgement understandable. If we look at the map of Europe drawn up at the Congress, we see there three major powers of multinational nature: they are the Empire of the Hapsburg Monarchy, Czarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Looking at today’s state of affairs we note that the Hapsburg Monarchy has disappeared and today’s Russia and Turkey have been greatly reduced in their territories.
What happened to the rest of the area belonging to these three major players? Well, their territories are now divided up by 23 sovereign countries, most of them new ones, and this number still leaves out Russia, Turkey and the new countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Four of the 23 – Finland, Austria, Greece and Italy – are already members of the EU and the remaining 19 aspire to follow sooner or later. (more…)

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