Homeland and economy

_ Felix Menzel, chairman, Recherche Dresden. 13 July 2023.

Many companies advertise almost excessively with references to their homeland. The consumer staging of the homeland is particularly noticeable in beer, for example. At the same time, it is well known that protected geographical indications, e.g. for Black Forest ham, can be quite easily circumvented. So where it says “homeland” on it, it is not always “homeland” in it.

Nevertheless, there is a trend towards regionalization in the economy. In market niches for a wealthy clientele, this strategy is quite promising. Because – and this is where it gets theoretical: attachment to one’s homeland is “one of the most important anthropological needs of human beings”, asserts Sebastian Schmidt in his dissertation on “Homeland and Economy”. This means that there is an “increased ability to value self-created goods”. As a company, one can take advantage of this and use a regional circular economy as a central selling point. The goal to be supported here is to couple value creation and appreciation more closely than in the globalized mass culture that follows the motto “stinginess is cool!”.

Sebastian Schmidt, however, is only marginally concerned with such aspects of marketing. Rather, he is interested in a historical overview that is extraordinarily revealing: Schmidt sympathizes with the German “Heimatbewegung” (homeland movement) at the beginning of the 20th century, which almost visionary demanded the establishment of a loss account for the destruction of nature caused by industrialization. However, the conservative homeland movement – similar to the Greens today – accentuated the justified, ecological concerns and failed – according to Schmidt – to provide an economic theory as well. So, unfortunately, the conservatives could not outline the plan for a balance between ecology and economy.

What is important is that the marketing of regionality only emerged at the end of the 19th century, when the loss of homeland was already perceptible. Schmidt dates the “first great wave of modern regionalization of consumption” to 1880. It was interrupted by National Socialism of all things, which favoured mass culture, mass production and standardized “folk products”. In the present, however, regionalization appears as “singularization” and “individualization”.

Abundant consumption, as we experience it today, and the loss of home are connected as follows: “If the need for home cannot be satisfied, substitute satisfactions and substitute feelings appear, which have to be increased in their intensity like an addiction,” Schmidt fears. He thus attributes modern commodity fetishism to an alienation from place. In doing so, he ties in the history of ideas to a great many thinkers who have been intensively discussed in the German conservative economic journal Recherche D over the last five years. Schmidt has incorporated Christoph Türcke (Heimat: Eine Rehabilitierung), Roger Scruton, Rolf Peter Sieferle, Manfred Spitzer, Wilhelm Röpke, Niko Paech, Friedrich List, Herbert Gruhl, Bruno Frey, Marc Augé (Nicht-Orte), Hannah Arendt and also Werner Sombart with his guiding concept of an “understanding national economy”.

He thus manages to draw a differentiated conclusion: Policymakers should of course strive for the relocation of production sites (reshoring), but the economy will nevertheless remain mainly globally organized. Likewise, ecological efforts can neither be clearly condemned nor clearly affirmed. For, according to Schmidt: “The feasibility of further organic areas on a significantly expanded scale in Germany is already doubted due to the limited land situation, precisely because the productivity and consequently the yield of organically farmed areas is lower.”

He also takes a differentiated view of the autarky utopia of the sustainability pioneer Hans Carl von Carlowitz, who wrote: “A country must not satisfy its needs – especially for wood – from other areas.” Dogmatically, this cannot be upheld. We need a certain amount of international trade to get cheap energy and cheap raw materials. But any country that blindly becomes dependent on foreign countries or the world market will sooner or later suffer the same shipwreck. The right strategy is therefore: Self-sufficiency – Yes, as much as possible! External supply – as little as possible and always in the interest of the people and not of some moneyed elite acting in the background.

Further discussions on this topic will be presented in the September 2023 issue of the Recherche D journal.

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