Messaggero di S. Antonio

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    [title] => Let us listen to the cry of the farmers
    [alias] => let-us-listen-to-the-cry-of-the-farmers
    [introtext] => 

We, together, must find a new relationship with the land. We have been using it to extract our resources, without realising that it needed reciprocity from us. Let us listen to the cry of the farmers, and let us all change our lifestyles rapidly.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/03/2024

Farmers’ protests with their tractors can tell us many things, not all of which are always emphasised in the public debate. We have underestimated the conflictual dimension of the ecological transition. Also, the many damages we have done towards the planet and the earth over the last century do not disappear by themselves. They require a lot of work, commitment, cost and they sometimes generate new conflicts. New ‘class struggles’ are emerging that are different from those of yesterday, no less important and worrying. Land has always been underrated by economics and politics. Ever since modern economics began to think of itself as a science around the 17th and 18th centuries, it has never thought that the plant world or the biological world could offer it tools and categories to think about economic interactions. Then, at the end of the nineteenth century, the earth went completely off the scene, generating an eclipse of the earth in economic science that lasted until a few years ago, when the explosion of the global environmental crisis brought it to a traumatic end. Thus we have created an economic theory and practice that are incapable of seeing the earth and its needs, and we have deteriorated it.

[fulltext] =>

Therefore, the general distraction of economics and politics towards the earth has ancient and deep roots. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, showed great concern for the land and farmers in past centuries. Benedict XIII, Vincenzo Maria Orsini (1649-1730), from Gravina di Puglia, was called ‘God's farmer’ because of his tireless work in promoting the so-called ‘monti frumentari’, that were actual grain banks where the “currency” was wheat: loans were taken and later returned in wheat. In 1861, in southern Italy and the Islands alone, there were more than a thousand ‘monti frumentari’ (over three hundred of them in Sardinia), founded first by the Capuchin friars and then by many bishops. It was a true civil and economic heritage that, however, was also dispersed by the wrong choices of the new unitary government. In those difficult centuries of the Counter-Reformation, the Church was able to understand where the real needs of the country people lay, and it did some innovative works.

It is striking that in our age, this recent conflict of the farmers has emerged between the needs of a wounded land and those who live off the fruits of the same land. The land has been deteriorated and impoverished by our predatory relationship with it. This impoverishment has made life harder for peasants and farmers who had only contributed a small part to the damage, which was mainly caused by industry and mass consumption. But today it is precisely the farmers who cultivate this ruined land who are called upon to change their production techniques (at their own expense) so as not to continue impoverishing the already exhausted land. And here is a paradoxical conflict between yesterday's victims and tomorrow's potential perpetrators, the custodians of the earth who feel they are being treated like its murderers. And they won't take it. And we understand them. We, all of us together, must find a new relationship with the earth. We have been using it to extract our resources, without realising that it needed reciprocity from us. We have not been custodians, we have been predators. Let us listen to the cry of the farmers, and let us all change our lifestyles quickly.


Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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We, together, must find a new relationship with the land. We have been using it to extract our resources, without realising that it needed reciprocity from us. Let us listen to the cry of the farmers, and let us all change our lifestyles rapidly.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/03/2024

Farmers’ protests with their tractors can tell us many things, not all of which are always emphasised in the public debate. We have underestimated the conflictual dimension of the ecological transition. Also, the many damages we have done towards the planet and the earth over the last century do not disappear by themselves. They require a lot of work, commitment, cost and they sometimes generate new conflicts. New ‘class struggles’ are emerging that are different from those of yesterday, no less important and worrying. Land has always been underrated by economics and politics. Ever since modern economics began to think of itself as a science around the 17th and 18th centuries, it has never thought that the plant world or the biological world could offer it tools and categories to think about economic interactions. Then, at the end of the nineteenth century, the earth went completely off the scene, generating an eclipse of the earth in economic science that lasted until a few years ago, when the explosion of the global environmental crisis brought it to a traumatic end. Thus we have created an economic theory and practice that are incapable of seeing the earth and its needs, and we have deteriorated it.

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Let us listen to the cry of the farmers

Let us listen to the cry of the farmers

We, together, must find a new relationship with the land. We have been using it to extract our resources, without realising that it needed reciprocity from us. Let us listen to the cry of the farmers, and let us all change our lifestyles rapidly. by Luigino Bruni published in Messaggero di Sant...
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    [title] => Pocket money, incentives & co.
    [alias] => pocket-money-incentives-co
    [introtext] => 

If we do not learn the value of gratuitousness at home, and in the early years of life, we will only be driven by money and we will not be good workers as adults. Let us leave incentives and pay to the grown-ups, and protect our little ones from the empire of money.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/02/2024

The pocket money given to young ones is a controversial topic, and in many ways. It is often an expression that lumps together very different phenomena. Strictly speaking, pocket money is a - weekly or monthly - sum of money that parents hand over to a child who does not have an income of his or her own, to be used for his or her ordinary expenses. Generally, pocket money is applied in connection with teenagers or pre-teens, not with children or university students. A second confusion relates to associating pocket money and monetary incentive with the various ‘chores’ of children. Because giving a few euros a week as pocket money is different from creating a kind of family market where the various domestic services are associated with a price: 3 euros to clear the table, 4 euros to wash the dishes, etc... The two instruments - pocket money and incentive - can co-exist in the family, but one can also exist without the other, and vice versa.

[fulltext] =>

In this business-dominated and business-obsessed culture of ours, pocket money and/or incentive culture is gaining ever new acceptance, it is the new children's catechism of the new capitalist religion. Psychologists, experts in family dynamics, economists, journalists and all-rounders invent new reasons every day to extend the use of economic logic inside the family home. Because, they say, it increases children's sense of responsibility, they learn how to handle money, they understand its value, and they start to move into the market that awaits them when they are adults in time.

As you may have already guessed, I am very much against monetary incentives with kids (let alone children) and I am also against pocket money. Because both instruments create an economic mentality that is out of time and out of context, and because the family is the place where other non-monetary values must also be learned in order to handle money, the market and work well tomorrow. In children, incentive - i.e. associating a monetary contract with every single service - creates the idea that the motivation or reason for doing a job is money and not the job itself. If I am paid to make the bed, I start to think that making the bed has no reason in itself but that the reason for it is money.

And so I forget that the bed just has to be made and that’s all, because it being put back in order before going to school has a value in itself, which has nothing to do with money. What is different is using rewards - which are not incentives -, much better if non-monetary (but there may be exceptions here). Rewards are not systematic (they are not always there), they come occasionally to reinforce intrinsic motivation, to say ‘bravo’, but they are not the reason for being good or doing well. Moreover, once money is introduced into family relationships, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to take it away to achieve the same results; moreover, the incentive tends to contaminate neighbouring areas (from making the bed we move on to the dishes, the dog and to homework...).

If we do not learn at home, and in the first years of life, the value of gratuitousness, that is, the infinite value of work well done, as adults we will only be driven by money and we will not be good workers. And it results in really such a sad life programme that will lack the most important dimension of living: freedom, including freedom from incentives, to be able to make those choices that are right and good. It is free gratuitousness that also founds the value of money, but only tomorrow. Today, there are many more important things to do and learn at home. Let us leave incentives and wages to the adults, and protect our little ones from the empire of money.

 

Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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If we do not learn the value of gratuitousness at home, and in the early years of life, we will only be driven by money and we will not be good workers as adults. Let us leave incentives and pay to the grown-ups, and protect our little ones from the empire of money.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/02/2024

The pocket money given to young ones is a controversial topic, and in many ways. It is often an expression that lumps together very different phenomena. Strictly speaking, pocket money is a - weekly or monthly - sum of money that parents hand over to a child who does not have an income of his or her own, to be used for his or her ordinary expenses. Generally, pocket money is applied in connection with teenagers or pre-teens, not with children or university students. A second confusion relates to associating pocket money and monetary incentive with the various ‘chores’ of children. Because giving a few euros a week as pocket money is different from creating a kind of family market where the various domestic services are associated with a price: 3 euros to clear the table, 4 euros to wash the dishes, etc... The two instruments - pocket money and incentive - can co-exist in the family, but one can also exist without the other, and vice versa.

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Pocket money, incentives & co.

Pocket money, incentives & co.

If we do not learn the value of gratuitousness at home, and in the early years of life, we will only be driven by money and we will not be good workers as adults. Let us leave incentives and pay to the grown-ups, and protect our little ones from the empire of money. by Luigino Bruni published in&nbs...
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    [title] => Speculation and passive income, a social evil
    [alias] => speculation-and-passive-income-a-social-evil
    [introtext] => 

Honest and civilised entrepreneurs are suffering today because they are mistaken for speculators, as too many entrepreneurs have, sometimes unwillingly, turned into speculators, devoured by the passive income syndrome. It is time to start seeing it, and calling it out.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/01/2024

The economy has always been the result of a tension, or conflict, between profits (active income - the tr.) and passive income, i.e. between those who have to produce new income in the present time in order to earn, and those who earn today from the wealth accumulated yesterday and by past generations. Entrepreneurs live on profits, speculators on passive income. The radical criticism of usury that we find in the Bible and the Gospel (of Luke) has its root in a deep aversion to passive income. In an essentially static world as the ancient one was, usury is in fact a form of passive income, i.e. an income that arises from the mere fact of holding power over a fundamental medium (money). There is no work behind usury, only power and privilege. The criticism of usury went through the entire Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, because it was linked to the Church's criticism of passive income, even though the ecclesiastics themselves were part of the profiting class; one of the many contradictions of history, and also one of the reasons for the Church's ineffective fight against usury, a fight that coexisted with privileges, even political ones, granted to the bankers-usurers of the popes.

[fulltext] =>

The tension between passive and active income is a fundamental axis for understanding our society, too. Marxist criticism shifted the social critique to the capitalist-worker conflict, and explained much about industrial society. But with the post-industrial economy, and the diminishing importance of the large factory, we have returned to the old fundamental conflict between passive and active income, i.e. between incomers and entrepreneurs. Today, those who still think that the fundamental conflict of our capitalism is the one between entrepreneurs and workers miss the target, because they forget that the real and great conflict is the one between passive income and all other forms of income (including workers' wages). The growth of passive income is squeezing down both entrepreneurs' profits and workers' wages: “Then comes another sub-distinction of social classes, modelled on the distinction of capital into productive and unproductive: that of the capitalist producers, exclusively devoted to industry, and that of the unproductive, the bankers who do not increase social wealth but speculate on values, forming their income by extracting from the income of others” (A. Loria, The Economic Synthesis, 1910, p. 211 – Italian edition).

But where does the conflict between passive and active income express itself today? In many places. The first one that comes to mind is big speculative finance, the big investment funds that are taking over from entrepreneurs in the ownership and control of their companies, sold, in the difficult years we have lived through, to the irresistible offers of anonymous, faceless and often soulless funds. Taxation reinforces the dictatorship of passive income, because taxes set by politics on passive income are too low compared to those on labour. Today, a new and undervalued form of passive income is consulting. Indeed, consulting by large global corporations is a tax on entrepreneurs, because the strong dependency (or addiction) artfully created in recent years (the autonomy of enterprises has now become almost nil), means that a large part of the profits end up in the various forms of consulting that are presented as essential and necessary. And as with all forms of addiction, they require that the dose be increased by the day. Honest and civilised entrepreneurs are suffering today because they are mistaken for speculators, as too many entrepreneurs have, sometimes unwillingly, turned into speculators, devoured by the passive income syndrome. It is time to start seeing it, and calling it out.

Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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Honest and civilised entrepreneurs are suffering today because they are mistaken for speculators, as too many entrepreneurs have, sometimes unwillingly, turned into speculators, devoured by the passive income syndrome. It is time to start seeing it, and calling it out.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/01/2024

The economy has always been the result of a tension, or conflict, between profits (active income - the tr.) and passive income, i.e. between those who have to produce new income in the present time in order to earn, and those who earn today from the wealth accumulated yesterday and by past generations. Entrepreneurs live on profits, speculators on passive income. The radical criticism of usury that we find in the Bible and the Gospel (of Luke) has its root in a deep aversion to passive income. In an essentially static world as the ancient one was, usury is in fact a form of passive income, i.e. an income that arises from the mere fact of holding power over a fundamental medium (money). There is no work behind usury, only power and privilege. The criticism of usury went through the entire Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, because it was linked to the Church's criticism of passive income, even though the ecclesiastics themselves were part of the profiting class; one of the many contradictions of history, and also one of the reasons for the Church's ineffective fight against usury, a fight that coexisted with privileges, even political ones, granted to the bankers-usurers of the popes.

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Speculation and passive income, a social evil

Speculation and passive income, a social evil

Honest and civilised entrepreneurs are suffering today because they are mistaken for speculators, as too many entrepreneurs have, sometimes unwillingly, turned into speculators, devoured by the passive income syndrome. It is time to start seeing it, and calling it out. by Luigino Bruni published i...
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    [title] => Limping like Jacob
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To identify witnesses of faith, instead of heroic virtues we should look at ‘heroic beatitudes’ that express very, very different values.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 03/12/2023

What the specific economic ethic of Christianity consists in has been a long-standing question – in fact, the first ambiguity in this regard is found within the gospels themselves. It has never been easy, in fact, to patch together Luke's ‘woe to the rich’ with the presence of rich people in Jesus’ community (Levi, Joseph of Arimathea...), or to find coherence between the ‘Parable of the Talents’ and that of the ‘worker of the last hour’ in Matthew's Gospel. What is certain, however, is the important difference between the ethics of the Gospel, which is essentially an ethics of agape, and the virtue ethics of Greek and Roman origin. Although in the Middle Ages Christian ethics incorporated virtue ethics (or vice versa), founding the civil and religious structure of Christianity on the cardinal virtues, it is nevertheless true that the humanism underlying the Greek and Roman world is neither the biblical nor the evangelical one, although there are points of contact. The ancient virtue ethic was based on the idea of excellence (areté) in a given sphere of life (politics, sport...), an excellence that can be attained by those who practise the virtues with commitment and that generates happiness (eudaimonia) as its ultimate reward, the ultimate goal of life, as Aristotle taught.

[fulltext] =>

The Gospel has another idea of excellence, and its happiness (if we want to call it that), besides being very different from the Greek one, is certainly not the Christian's ultimate goal. Christian excellence is to excel in agape – love, not in virtues. In fact, the contrast between virtues and agape lies precisely in the role of others (human beings and creation) in a function to themselves. The limit of Greek ethics lies in its being centred on the individual who seeks to improve their own character by striving for moral perfection. The Gospel changes perspective and says: “Do not think of yourself, think of others, move yourself out of the centre, and you will find yourself better off without having thought about it”. It does not propose an ethical process of character formation of the individual; it is an ethics of communion, of reciprocity, where the ‘new commandment’ is addressed to Christians in the second person plural: “love one another...”. If we then look at the first apostles, including Paul, we find sinners, traitors, impulsive, fearful, fragile characters, hard-hearted ones, power-seekers – certainly not virtuous people. What made them become teachers and witnesses of the faith was their capacity for agape-love, repentance, always starting over, and believing more in God's love than in their own virtues. Not to mention the Old Testament, where the Church Fathers are murderers (Moses and David), liars (Jacob), and so on.

All this should also lead us to rethink the very Christian and Catholic idea of holiness or beatification, and the related processes. To identify witnesses of faith, instead of heroic virtues we should look at ‘heroic beatitudes’ that express very, very different values. Not to mention miracles as proof of holiness, requirements introduced in the modern age of the Counter-Reformation, and which have little to do with the humanism of the Gospel. I have had the best teachers of the faith in people with many imperfections, flaws, vices, sins, who were nevertheless capable of love, who never stopped walking in the footsteps of a Voice, limping like Jacob. Their imperfection was the spiritual opening through which a breath of the Spirit was able to penetrate to reach me, changing my life, not making it perfect but only more love-filled, putting in me the desire to try to change the economy of others and of the poorest. For the Gospel, our personal happiness is just too little.

Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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To identify witnesses of faith, instead of heroic virtues we should look at ‘heroic beatitudes’ that express very, very different values.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 03/12/2023

What the specific economic ethic of Christianity consists in has been a long-standing question – in fact, the first ambiguity in this regard is found within the gospels themselves. It has never been easy, in fact, to patch together Luke's ‘woe to the rich’ with the presence of rich people in Jesus’ community (Levi, Joseph of Arimathea...), or to find coherence between the ‘Parable of the Talents’ and that of the ‘worker of the last hour’ in Matthew's Gospel. What is certain, however, is the important difference between the ethics of the Gospel, which is essentially an ethics of agape, and the virtue ethics of Greek and Roman origin. Although in the Middle Ages Christian ethics incorporated virtue ethics (or vice versa), founding the civil and religious structure of Christianity on the cardinal virtues, it is nevertheless true that the humanism underlying the Greek and Roman world is neither the biblical nor the evangelical one, although there are points of contact. The ancient virtue ethic was based on the idea of excellence (areté) in a given sphere of life (politics, sport...), an excellence that can be attained by those who practise the virtues with commitment and that generates happiness (eudaimonia) as its ultimate reward, the ultimate goal of life, as Aristotle taught.

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Limping like Jacob

Limping like Jacob

To identify witnesses of faith, instead of heroic virtues we should look at ‘heroic beatitudes’ that express very, very different values. by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 03/12/2023 What the specific economic ethic of Christianity consists in has been a long-s...
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    [title] => The women and men of the threshold
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Just concluded the other day, this synod was the ‘Synod of Already’, and not the ‘Synod of Not Yet’, a ‘not yet’ that in the life of the spirit is always essential, but especially when one world is ending and we do not yet see another.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 09/11/2023

The current Synod is one of the most beautiful novelties of Francis' pontificate, the fruit of his ability to grasp the signs of the times. The way it has been prepared and the way it is unfolding is clearly a blessing for the Church (and not only the Catholic Church). There is reason to rejoice, and from many points of view. Not least because of the new presence of lay people and women that makes this church assembly a truly historical event. Let me just make two small comments to this beautiful page that is being written. They concern the nature and skills of the delegates. Indeed, if one scrolls through the list of participants, along with the satisfaction felt over the rich composition and charismatic biodiversity, one is also struck by the absence of certain components. It is always easy to look at a reality and search for what is missing, because there is no human reality in which something is not missing. So this exercise of mine must be taken as such, with all its limitations.

[fulltext] =>

The Church, and not only the Catholic Church, is in the midst of a great process of change, one of the greatest and most radical changes in its history, which can be compared to that which followed the collapse of the Roman Empire (5th century), that is, the Church in the time of Augustine and Benedict, when a secular world was collapsing without another one having been born. Today, a world - Christianitas - is going down, and there is no other world for the churches in sight. We are in for a long Holy Saturday. The Second Vatican Council was an extraordinary event, but, as Dossetti said, one problem with that providential assembly was to conceive itself still within the era of Christianitas, that is, not to understand collectively that a long history was coming to an end, even though the churches were still full. Those full churches were a ‘curse of abundance’, because that sense of richness prevented the Council Fathers from grasping the emptiness that was smouldering under the ashes.

With the onset of the 21st century, we can no longer think of the Church, faith and religion as we did in the 20th century. The Church, in some countries, still has a vitality of its own and the churches are not completely empty, but we must be very careful that this ‘half-empty’ (and not totally empty) state does not play the role that the full churches did during the Council years. And to understand the signs of the times in a world with almost emptied temples, it is not enough to have theologians, bishops, nuns, priests, consecrated persons, who are the majority of delegates. We need entrepreneurs, blue collar workers, teachers, social workers, scientists, artists, poets: those who are living this massive dark night of Christian life from a perspective ‘outside’ the institutional Church. These characters are the main sentinels of the dawn that may come. And there is a particular need for real young people, under 30, who are, it seems to me, the other great absentees from the Synod. Because in every great expectation, there hides the expectation of a child, of the new inhabitant of the world that is being born. From Samuel to Jeremiah, the biblical prophets were all young when they began their vocation.

What is taking place is the ‘Synod of Already’, the assembly that photographs the Church today; it is not the ‘Synod of Not Yet’, a not yet that in the life of the spirit is always essential, but especially when one world is ending and we do not yet see another. When there is a need for the eyes of the sentinel, of those who stand on the walls and speak of what is outside to those who are inside, and of what is inside to those outside. The women and men of the threshold. It is on the threshold, on the border places that a resurrection is already taking place.

Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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Just concluded the other day, this synod was the ‘Synod of Already’, and not the ‘Synod of Not Yet’, a ‘not yet’ that in the life of the spirit is always essential, but especially when one world is ending and we do not yet see another.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 09/11/2023

The current Synod is one of the most beautiful novelties of Francis' pontificate, the fruit of his ability to grasp the signs of the times. The way it has been prepared and the way it is unfolding is clearly a blessing for the Church (and not only the Catholic Church). There is reason to rejoice, and from many points of view. Not least because of the new presence of lay people and women that makes this church assembly a truly historical event. Let me just make two small comments to this beautiful page that is being written. They concern the nature and skills of the delegates. Indeed, if one scrolls through the list of participants, along with the satisfaction felt over the rich composition and charismatic biodiversity, one is also struck by the absence of certain components. It is always easy to look at a reality and search for what is missing, because there is no human reality in which something is not missing. So this exercise of mine must be taken as such, with all its limitations.

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The women and men of the threshold

The women and men of the threshold

Just concluded the other day, this synod was the ‘Synod of Already’, and not the ‘Synod of Not Yet’, a ‘not yet’ that in the life of the spirit is always essential, but especially when one world is ending and we do not yet see another. by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on...
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Consumer sovereignty was one of the great innovations introduced by US-based capitalism in the 20th century. Today, however, consumption is changing in nature, because the market has changed

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 01/10/2023

There is one aspect of our capitalist society that is not yet sufficiently discussed by economists and philosophers. I am referring to the absolutization of the consumer category. Consumer sovereignty was one of the great innovations introduced by US-based capitalism in the 20th century. At first, especially after the First World War, the arrival of this new protagonist in civic life was welcomed as a good novelty, and in part it was so. Consumption in the markets, consuming itself, was seen as a form of modern freedom, creating new opportunities and a new type of equality: even if I am a blue-collar worker, even if I am not highly qualified, even if I am not from a renowned family, even if I am not part of the elite, when I go into a shop with money I can buy the same car as the people of rank. At the moment of purchase I feel equal to those in leading roles and the rich, I feel second to none. This first season of mass consumption was an important step in democracy, first in the West and then all over the world (today these phenomena are especially important in Africa and Asia). Money doesn't even smell of social class: I may not be able to speak elegantly and eloquently, I am the descendant of peasants, but when I come to your shop you have to treat me with the same dignity with which you treat gentlemen.

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Today, consumption is changing in nature, because the market is changing (or has already changed). Globalisation, first, and social media, later (with the for-profit multinationals that run them, let us not forget), have made the paradigm of consumption the new paradigm of democracy. In fact, market consumption has a few clear and simple rules:
1. the consumer is the only one who can decide on his or her preferences and tastes; 2. if I like a good or service, I buy it, if I don't like it, I don't buy it; 3. in the world of things, once we are in (with purchasing power or with debts) we are all equal, there are no hierarchies of any kind; 4. in the market you cannot impose anything on me without my consent. The 'like' on social media has been taken directly from the consumer world, where the only valid things are what the individual likes and dislikes. Therefore, no one can impose on me, whether from outside or from above, choices and goods that I do not like, that I have not freely decided to buy or not to buy. So much so that an axiom of liberal economic theory (the so-called Public Choice) says that the market does not act by majority (like politics) but by unanimity, since it is based on contract, the logic of which requires the consent of all participants in the exchange (Buchanan and Tallock).

 How far can this reasoning go? If the consumer becomes the new global citizen, the question becomes: will these consumer-citizens be able to accept doing things they do not like? Will they be able to accept, for example, laws they do not like and suffer their consequences even when they do not like them? Will they accept the coercion of authority, or are we forming new citizens who will only want to pay the fines they want, who will only go to jail if they agree? Until today (or yesterday), laws and penalties were decided democratically, i.e. by the majority of citizens and with guarantees for the minorities, but the laws in force do not require the 'like' of every single citizen, let alone of those who have to abide by them. The serious question then becomes: will democracy survive the consumerist post-capitalism of the 21st century?

Photo credits:o: © Giuliano Dinon / MSA Archive 

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Consumer sovereignty was one of the great innovations introduced by US-based capitalism in the 20th century. Today, however, consumption is changing in nature, because the market has changed

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 01/10/2023

There is one aspect of our capitalist society that is not yet sufficiently discussed by economists and philosophers. I am referring to the absolutization of the consumer category. Consumer sovereignty was one of the great innovations introduced by US-based capitalism in the 20th century. At first, especially after the First World War, the arrival of this new protagonist in civic life was welcomed as a good novelty, and in part it was so. Consumption in the markets, consuming itself, was seen as a form of modern freedom, creating new opportunities and a new type of equality: even if I am a blue-collar worker, even if I am not highly qualified, even if I am not from a renowned family, even if I am not part of the elite, when I go into a shop with money I can buy the same car as the people of rank. At the moment of purchase I feel equal to those in leading roles and the rich, I feel second to none. This first season of mass consumption was an important step in democracy, first in the West and then all over the world (today these phenomena are especially important in Africa and Asia). Money doesn't even smell of social class: I may not be able to speak elegantly and eloquently, I am the descendant of peasants, but when I come to your shop you have to treat me with the same dignity with which you treat gentlemen.

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Post-capitalism and democracy

Post-capitalism and democracy

Consumer sovereignty was one of the great innovations introduced by US-based capitalism in the 20th century. Today, however, consumption is changing in nature, because the market has changed by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 01/10/2023 There is one aspect of our capit...
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    [title] => Relationships, the Promised Land
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The first rule of every economy is the balance between income and expenditure. Good economy starts with income and adjusts expenditure based on it. It is a pity that this is not the case in our country lately...

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 07/09/2023

One day, while surfing TV channels, in search of something interesting, I came across a programme about large Italian hotels. A group of people went to be hosted in these luxury hotels and then made an assessment of the various services offered in them. What struck me in this programme was the total absence of the dimension of the so-called ‘budget constraint’: the evaluators ordered dinners, various services, without ever worrying about their price, as if they lived in a world in which the cost of a service or a commodity was not an important element in choosing. Ordinary families watch these programmes, and then come across the advertisements for easy loans, starring (unfortunately) a nice face from our TV drama series – in the end, it is not that difficult to put the pieces together. That is, to think that the life displayed in those programmes that consists of holidays in stellar hotels in a world with no family budget constraints becomes possible and easy thanks to easy loans from nice people and friendly financial institutions that are only there to serve our happiness.

[fulltext] =>

Too bad that the reality and data about our country look very different. Along with the boom of luxury holidays of the lower and middle classes, the use of usury, gambling, and thus the poverty associated with these irresponsible dreams pushed by the media system are in constant growth, out of control. The first rule of every economy (which means, let us not forget, ‘housekeeping’) is the balance between income and expenditure. Good economy starts with income and adjusts expenditure based on it. The consumerist humanism of our time, which is more and more like a religion, reverses this order. It starts with the desires for goods and activities, hence the expenditure, and then points us to the means of procuring the income, without telling us, irresponsibly, that the income in debt is just more expenditure postponed in time. So we cover expenditure with other expenditure, in naive mechanisms that lead to economic crises (not infrequently) of whole families.

Our entire post-capitalist world is based on a mismanagement of desires. A perpetual and limitless adolescence, built on the pleasure principle (of Sigmund Freud), without ever reaching the reality principle, a reality that would reveal something extremely important, perhaps decisive for the future of our time. We know from psychology (Jacques Lacan) and, above all, from life that the satisfaction of desires is not the decisive operation for the most important and profound types of joy in life. Because our highest desire is desiring a desire that desires us, it is a meeting of reciprocity of desires, which only comes about when our desire invests people, who can in turn desire and desire us.

That is why religious desire is the mother of all desires: desiring a God who desires us. And when we desire someone who desires us, happiness does not consist in fulfilment but in remaining in a perpetual unfulfillment that increases the reciprocity of desires - a person who fulfils this desire would be a commodity, we know that. The people we love change our desires, we change theirs, and life becomes a continuous process of discovery. Our promised land is relational goods, not commodities. Capitalism knows this, it does not know how to sell relational goods and so it does everything to simulate them, selling us goods that resemble relationships. As long as we are aware of this bluff we will still be free: “I implore you God, my dreamer, do not stop dreaming of me” (Jorge Luis Borges).

Credits photo: © Giuliano Dinon / MSA Archive

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. 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The first rule of every economy is the balance between income and expenditure. Good economy starts with income and adjusts expenditure based on it. It is a pity that this is not the case in our country lately...

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 07/09/2023

One day, while surfing TV channels, in search of something interesting, I came across a programme about large Italian hotels. A group of people went to be hosted in these luxury hotels and then made an assessment of the various services offered in them. What struck me in this programme was the total absence of the dimension of the so-called ‘budget constraint’: the evaluators ordered dinners, various services, without ever worrying about their price, as if they lived in a world in which the cost of a service or a commodity was not an important element in choosing. Ordinary families watch these programmes, and then come across the advertisements for easy loans, starring (unfortunately) a nice face from our TV drama series – in the end, it is not that difficult to put the pieces together. That is, to think that the life displayed in those programmes that consists of holidays in stellar hotels in a world with no family budget constraints becomes possible and easy thanks to easy loans from nice people and friendly financial institutions that are only there to serve our happiness.

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Relationships, the Promised Land

Relationships, the Promised Land

The first rule of every economy is the balance between income and expenditure. Good economy starts with income and adjusts expenditure based on it. It is a pity that this is not the case in our country lately... by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 07/09/2023 One day, while...
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    [title] => Life first, then work
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If we want to have a fair relationship with work, we must remember that first it is man and woman who ennoble work with their presence, their hands and their intelligence.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/07/2023

The environmental, financial and military crises of the beginning of this millennium, all of them so serious that they cannot be ignored, however, also risk making us underestimate or forget a triple crisis that we talk too little about: the crisis of faith, of grand narratives and of generation. A world that no longer awaits paradise, that has forgotten collective narratives and that does not bring forth children, no longer finds sufficient meaning to live and thus to work. The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ of millions of workers, young and middle-aged, who quit their jobs without having another one, certainly have many reasons, but there is one that is becoming dominant. It is failing to answer a crucial question: “Why should I work if I no longer hope for a promised land (above or below the skies), if I there is no one hoping for a better present and future as a result of my work?

[fulltext] =>

We must never forget that the world of work has never created nor exhausted the meaning of work. Work is an important part of the meaning of life, but it does not exhaust it; we need something else besides work to live well, even when work is beautiful and fulfils us completely. In the past, this ‘something else’ was the family, the ideologies, religion: these gave work its proper meaning. Then the factory, the fields or the office reinforced that meaning, but it was born outside of work. Work was good because before and after work there were things and people greater than work. Work was and is great, but to be seen in its true greatness it must be looked at from outside, from a door or a window that opens onto the outside of the workplace; because without this larger space that prepares and follows work, the work room is too small, the roof of the factory or office is too low for that infinitely sick animal that is homo sapiens to be able to stay there feeling well without suffocating, and to stay there for a long time.

Our Constitution is founded on work because work was founded on something else, it was founded on life. If the constituent mothers and fathers had not been convinced that work was only a part of life, that it was that middle zone between a before and an after, they would never have written Article 1 the way they did; because to have founded the constitution on work that was not founded on anything else would have been the greatest ethical heresy. Also because in that something that precedes and follows work there are the children who do not work because they do not have to work, the old who no longer work, those who could not work or will never work because life prevents them from doing so. Founding democracy on work is only good if we remember that the word work is second, not first.

Work ennobles man, it is true. Working makes us better and increases the dignity of life and of the money we need to live, because money-salary becomes an expression of that civil reciprocity that is the good cement of society. But if we want to have a fair relationship with work, we must remember that first it is man and woman who ennoble work with their presence, their hands and their intelligence. Because if an activity, which could be performed by a machine is instead performed by a free human person, that person gives that act - a university lecture, a medical examination, a work of art - greater dignity. So every time we expel workers and insert machines, we are reducing the dignity of that workplace. It is our work that increases the dignity of the earth.

Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / MSA Archive

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. Antonio [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2023-07-06 08:54:16 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( ) ) [slug] => 18774:life-first-then-work [parent_slug] => 893:it-editoriali-vari [catslug] => 889:en-msa [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

If we want to have a fair relationship with work, we must remember that first it is man and woman who ennoble work with their presence, their hands and their intelligence.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/07/2023

The environmental, financial and military crises of the beginning of this millennium, all of them so serious that they cannot be ignored, however, also risk making us underestimate or forget a triple crisis that we talk too little about: the crisis of faith, of grand narratives and of generation. A world that no longer awaits paradise, that has forgotten collective narratives and that does not bring forth children, no longer finds sufficient meaning to live and thus to work. The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ of millions of workers, young and middle-aged, who quit their jobs without having another one, certainly have many reasons, but there is one that is becoming dominant. It is failing to answer a crucial question: “Why should I work if I no longer hope for a promised land (above or below the skies), if I there is no one hoping for a better present and future as a result of my work?

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Life first, then work

Life first, then work

If we want to have a fair relationship with work, we must remember that first it is man and woman who ennoble work with their presence, their hands and their intelligence. by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/07/2023 The environmental, financial and military crises of th...
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    [title] => The poor and the ideology of merit
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A social system that rewards the already capable does nothing but leave the less capable, who are generally not so because of demerit, but because of their living conditions, further and further behind.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/06/2023

The resignation of Senator Carlo Cottarelli because, among other things, he did not see his party as strong enough in its support for meritocracy, has once again drawn attention to the meaning and ideology of merit in our time. Merit has always been an ambiguous word, because it is deeply linked to the fascination that merit exerts on all of us. We would all like to be deserving of our successes (less of our failures), no one likes to think that the nice career they have had is only the result of good luck and recommendations.

[fulltext] =>

But if we take a look at how merit is used, yesterday and today, in the concrete choices of the economy and society, we realise that it has almost never been on the side of the poor, who have often been discarded and then blamed because they were considered undeserving, thus convincing them that they were not only poor but also at fault and cursed. The word merit derives from (Latin) merere, meaning to earn, from which mercede (earnings, payment) and meretrice (prostitute) also derive. Meritocracy is the ideology of merit that, like all ideologies, takes a word that we like and that fascinates us, and then manipulates and perverts it. And so, in the name of appropriating a value to the deserving and the poor, the meritocratic ideology has become the ethical legitimisation of inequality. 

All it took was to change its name and inequality went from being an evil to being a good. There were three steps: 1. considering people's talents a merit and not a gift; 2. reducing people's many merits to those easiest to measure by consultancy firms (who today sees the ‘merits’ of compassion, meekness, humility?); 3. reading talent as merit leads to remunerating merits differently and thus widening the gaps between people.

The misunderstanding about merit can already be found within our wonderful Constitution, which states in Article 34: “The able and deserving, even if deprived of means, have the right to reach the highest grades of studies”. It is not by coincidence that the new government has relied on this article to justify changing the name of the Ministry “of Education” to that of “Education and Merit”, creeping into the loophole left open by the ambiguity of that Article 34. 

Merit lovers say: “merit is not just talent, it is a combination of talent and commitment, so what is rewarded is personal commitment”. However, these meritocrats forget the crucial element: being able to commit oneself is not a merit either, it is above all a gift. Coming home from school and having time to do homework, instead of having to work, is not a merit. If we are honest, we have to recognise that what we are and become is 90 % gift and 10 % merit; meritocracy, on the other hand, overturns this percentage, and makes that slender 10 % the cornerstone of the edifice of justice.

Being institutions, schools must be anti-meritocratic: that is, they must reduce those asymmetries of starting points that have nothing to do with the merit of our children. A social system that rewards the already capable does nothing but leave the less capable, who are generally not so because of demerit, but because of their living conditions, further and further behind. Don Milani, whose centenary we are celebrating this year, knew these things very well. He knew that his boys in Barbiana were not undeserving; they were not at fault, they were just poor. May this centenary make us reflect on the ideology of merit that is becoming the new religion of our time, a religion without gratuitousness and without God.

Photo credits: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. Antonio [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2023-06-05 06:19:44 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [tag_id] => 23 [id] => 23 [parent_id] => 1 [lft] => 43 [rgt] => 44 [level] => 1 [path] => msa [title] => Le virtù del mercato, MSA [alias] => msa [note] => [description] => [published] => 1 [checked_out] => 0 [checked_out_time] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [access] => 1 [params] => {"tag_layout":"","tag_link_class":"label label-info"} [metadesc] => [metakey] => [metadata] => {"author":"","robots":""} [created_user_id] => 609 [created_time] => 2019-01-05 16:12:28 [created_by_alias] => [modified_user_id] => 609 [modified_time] => 2020-08-01 12:25:36 [images] => {"image_intro":"","float_intro":"","image_intro_alt":"","image_intro_caption":"","image_fulltext":"","float_fulltext":"","image_fulltext_alt":"","image_fulltext_caption":""} [urls] => {} [hits] => 4364 [language] => * [version] => 1 [publish_up] => 2019-01-05 15:12:28 [publish_down] => 2019-01-05 15:12:28 ) ) ) [slug] => 19543:the-poor-and-the-ideology-of-merit [parent_slug] => 893:it-editoriali-vari [catslug] => 889:en-msa [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

A social system that rewards the already capable does nothing but leave the less capable, who are generally not so because of demerit, but because of their living conditions, further and further behind.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/06/2023

The resignation of Senator Carlo Cottarelli because, among other things, he did not see his party as strong enough in its support for meritocracy, has once again drawn attention to the meaning and ideology of merit in our time. Merit has always been an ambiguous word, because it is deeply linked to the fascination that merit exerts on all of us. We would all like to be deserving of our successes (less of our failures), no one likes to think that the nice career they have had is only the result of good luck and recommendations.

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The poor and the ideology of merit

The poor and the ideology of merit

A social system that rewards the already capable does nothing but leave the less capable, who are generally not so because of demerit, but because of their living conditions, further and further behind. by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 04/06/2023 The resignati...
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    [title] => Urban gleanings
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At the origin of biblical civilisation we find the supportive institution of gleaning. It serves as the basis for the Book of Ruth: when the reapers went to cut the crops, they did not go over it a second time, because the gleaning was meant for the poor...

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di S. Antonio on 07/05/2023

Sir, how does this parking machine work?” asked an elderly lady who was trying, like me, to pay for parking on the blue-striped area. In that city, the company that manages the municipal car parks – which is public land, therefore everyone's – had the good idea, by now a widespread protocol, of requiring the citizen to enter their car plate number in the parking machine. “I don't remember it,” the lady tells me. She shows me where her car is, which is far away for her as she has difficulty walking. I go there, take a picture of the number plate, and help her pay for the ticket.

[fulltext] =>

In the end, a question arises in me: “Why is it necessary to enter the plate number?” The only answer I can think of is to prevent the one who parked there, paid for two hours and only stayed for one, from being able to donate the remaining hour to someone else. A lady friend of mine who is a police officer tells me that there might also be another reason: if I get fined by mistake because they do not see the receipt on the car, I can prove with the plate number that I had paid. To be honest I think the first reason is by far the dominant one, since in almost forty years of driving I have never received a fine when I had paid for parking! 

So the issue is simple: a for-profit company must maximise profits, and if it takes upon itself to manage a public good on behalf of the municipality, it does so with the aim of making a profit. However, I am convinced that public or private companies that manage common and public goods should be civil, or non-profit enterprises, i.e. they should not aim to maximise profits, but to efficiently manage an asset that belongs to everyone. The introduction of a price to manage public goods can serve to rationalise management (free things almost always become nobody's things) and not necessarily to make cash. 

But what are the effects of the introduction of the plate number? The first we have seen: people are not all equal in their ‘functioning’, as the great economist Amartya Sen would say. That is, public and administrative measures have different effects on different people. And a good criterion to follow when one wants to perform innovation in the field of public goods is to look at the effects of innovation starting with the most disadvantaged categories: the elderly, children, people with disabilities. 

Then there is the specific effect related to the prohibition to exchange tickets with other fellow citizens. When I was studying in London, there was a metro station where everyone knew that you could find tickets with a still valid duration, left there by those who had not used them all so that the young and the poor could get them. To prevent these (possible) exchanges for a few extra dollars, besides being civilly stupid, sends out signals about the kind of city you want to create: a city where the strong and the rich are better off, and where the frail and the discarded are worse off. At the origin of biblical civilisation we find the supportive institution of gleaning. It serves as the basis for the - beautiful - book of Ruth: when the reapers went to cut the crops, they did not go over it a second time, because the second round, the gleaning was meant for the poor, the widows and strangers... The fields did not belong to the owners, because “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it”.

We are privatising the common goods, we are eliminating the many ancient forms of gleaning. We will soon have cities inhabited by more and more merchants and fewer and fewer citizens, where all the harvest is exhausted in the first round. And perhaps the old lady will no longer leave her house to do her shopping: a new company will bring it to her door to make a profit from these deliveries. The city will be poorer and sadder, and so will we.

Photo credits: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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At the origin of biblical civilisation we find the supportive institution of gleaning. It serves as the basis for the Book of Ruth: when the reapers went to cut the crops, they did not go over it a second time, because the gleaning was meant for the poor...

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di S. Antonio on 07/05/2023

Sir, how does this parking machine work?” asked an elderly lady who was trying, like me, to pay for parking on the blue-striped area. In that city, the company that manages the municipal car parks – which is public land, therefore everyone's – had the good idea, by now a widespread protocol, of requiring the citizen to enter their car plate number in the parking machine. “I don't remember it,” the lady tells me. She shows me where her car is, which is far away for her as she has difficulty walking. I go there, take a picture of the number plate, and help her pay for the ticket.

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Urban gleanings

Urban gleanings

At the origin of biblical civilisation we find the supportive institution of gleaning. It serves as the basis for the Book of Ruth: when the reapers went to cut the crops, they did not go over it a second time, because the gleaning was meant for the poor... by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messagg...
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    [title] => The ideology of management
    [alias] => the-ideology-of-management
    [introtext] => 

Management is becoming the new ideology of our global world, particularly the kind of management taught in business schools and conveyed by large global consulting firms.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di S. Antonio on 06/04/2023

Management is becoming the new ideology of our global world, particularly the kind of management taught in business schools and conveyed by large global consulting firms. In the 20th century, social criticism had turned towards liberal economic theory, identifying theoretical economists as the great enemy to be fought in order to build a finally just and egalitarian society.

[fulltext] =>

While intellectuals, whether Catholics or socialists, were fighting this war, in the engineering faculties and business schools the techniques and tools of management were evolving, and in recent decades have progressively transformed into the “ideology of management” built around the three dogmas of incentive, leadership and merit. This ideology is spreading everywhere, including Christian communities and churches, where leadership courses for pastors and movement leaders are now multiplying, where you can no longer hold a conference or general chapter without professional coaches or facilitators from the business world, as if we had suddenly forgotten that ancient wisdom of how to conduct community meetings and assemblies. 

Even the European world and countries with a Catholic culture like Italy are undergoing a rapid evolution and cultural change. We Catholics were so convinced that the laws of life did not follow those of merit that we had relegated it to heaven, where it was the criterion for “deserving” hell or heaven. The Protestant world, on the other hand, in the name of salvation by sola gratia (Luther) or by predestination (Calvin) had expelled merit from heaven and hell, and a few centuries later invented meritocracy on earth (which originated in the United States). Business is exporting this Protestant humanism from the US (and Northern Europe) all over the world, and today it is doing so above all with the ideology of management, which has penetrated so far into Italy that the name of the Ministry of Education has been changed to “Education and Merit”.

Thus, instead of the ancient ethics of virtues on which we had founded our civilisation, the ideology of management and of global and total consultancy offers a set of principles, good practices, elements of psychology, quotations from the classics of philosophy, sociology and economics, a few anecdotes of game theory, many flow charts and some wonderful power points. And finally, consultants of all kinds and names are converting management principles into operational management and governance tools. Big business has thus become the paradigm that everyone should follow if they want to do good and serious things. In the 20th century it was democracy, hence participation, that offered the model to be extended to all civil life. But while the first democratic transformation since the ancien régime took place amidst conflict and great social struggles, the great ethical and cultural transformation that business is bringing about in the world is taking place amidst (almost) general indifference. We are not talking about denying the importance of economic values and virtues, that would be foolish and wrong. The problem is a different one, and it concerns neither business nor the necessary management, let alone the entrepreneurs who are the first victims of this new chapter. The problems concern the ideology of management, which arrives everywhere because, by way of cheating, it presents itself secularly as a technique, and therefore as something necessary and non-ideological. Perhaps it is time to become aware of it and talk about it more.

Photo credits: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. 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Management is becoming the new ideology of our global world, particularly the kind of management taught in business schools and conveyed by large global consulting firms.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di S. Antonio on 06/04/2023

Management is becoming the new ideology of our global world, particularly the kind of management taught in business schools and conveyed by large global consulting firms. In the 20th century, social criticism had turned towards liberal economic theory, identifying theoretical economists as the great enemy to be fought in order to build a finally just and egalitarian society.

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The ideology of management

The ideology of management

Management is becoming the new ideology of our global world, particularly the kind of management taught in business schools and conveyed by large global consulting firms. by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di S. Antonio on 06/04/2023 Management is becoming the new ideology of our ...
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    [title] => For a new spiritual capital
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Today, we should take the part of Christianity that’s still alive and inculturate it in our post-Christian time, which no longer understands the languages of faith, but would be able to understand them through an appropriate cultural and narrative operation.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 03/03/2023

Christianity, that is, Christian civilisation, was not born out of the Gospel alone. It was the result of a hybridisation between the Gospels, the Bible, Greco-Roman culture, Italic and European civilisations, and also the Longobard, Nordic, Slavic, Byzantine and Arab civilisations. Christian Europe is the fruit of this cross-breeding, much richer and more varied than just Christian theology or faith. Popular piety is an interweaving of many faiths and traditions, and processions have gradually taken the place of pagan processions dedicated to the gods of the fields and nature. The vast majority of pre-modern Italians and Europeans had no idea what the Holy Trinity was, no idea of the difference between Jesus and God the Father, no idea of the difference between Jesus, Our Lady and the saints: they were all deities on whom, they believed, life depended. On their feasts, the ancient Europeans and Italians continued to sing the usual songs behind the processional canopies, only carrying a different statue under them, and sometimes not even that.

[fulltext] =>

This mixing went on, without major discontinuities, until the 20th century. The religion of my grandmother and grandfather, peasants and Christians, consisted of prayers in a dialect version of Latin with incomprehensible content. In Mary they saw not so much her immaculate conception, but that she had been a mother, that she had given birth in the cold and frost in a stable, that she had been under the cross of her son, that she had held him, dead, in her arms. As they, too, did, as women and mothers did. They did not know Christological dogmas, but they knew that Jesus was good, that he loved the poor and healed the sick, that he had died crucified with his mother under the cross, that therefore he too had suffered much, perhaps more than they did. And that is why they loved him, and that was all they needed to believe that God the Father was also good, but could always get angry and punish (the idea that God was only love was never the idea of the people). Even today, my father can recite only one prayer by heart in a mixture of Italian and Ascolan dialect. It is not among those learned in catechism (which I believe he never attended, catechism was one of the things for the rich or for city children), it is a prayer that is theologically imperfect, but full of the life and faith of the people. People who knew nothing of theology, but on 28 December, in memory of the ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’ by Herod, did not cut bread so as not to have to hold a knife in their hands.

The Church, especially the Catholic Church, was therefore not afraid to take pagan festivals and integrate them into Christian civilisation. Today we should do a similar and symmetrical operation: take the part of Christianity that’s still alive and inculturate it in our post-Christian time, which no longer understands the languages of faith, but would be able to understand them through an appropriate cultural and narrative operation. Just as the Christians took the pagan temples and built new churches on top of them (in Syracuse or Ascoli you can still see these), today we should take the pillars of Christianity that are still alive - especially the spiritual ones - and build new spiritual edifices on top of them that can be filled by the women and men of our time, who no longer understand the theological language of the 20th century but who still thirst and hunger for God, for salvation, for Christ. It’s a difficult operation, but an essential one: otherwise, depression will be the pandemic of the coming years. We are seriously behind schedule. Dietrich Boenhoeffer wrote this in his wonderful letter from prison on 30 April 1944, when he announced the need for a post-religious Christianity. Behind schedule, but perhaps still in time.

Photo credits: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. Antonio [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2023-03-03 08:31:57 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( ) ) [slug] => 18474:for-a-new-spiritual-capital [parent_slug] => 893:it-editoriali-vari [catslug] => 889:en-msa [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

Today, we should take the part of Christianity that’s still alive and inculturate it in our post-Christian time, which no longer understands the languages of faith, but would be able to understand them through an appropriate cultural and narrative operation.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 03/03/2023

Christianity, that is, Christian civilisation, was not born out of the Gospel alone. It was the result of a hybridisation between the Gospels, the Bible, Greco-Roman culture, Italic and European civilisations, and also the Longobard, Nordic, Slavic, Byzantine and Arab civilisations. Christian Europe is the fruit of this cross-breeding, much richer and more varied than just Christian theology or faith. Popular piety is an interweaving of many faiths and traditions, and processions have gradually taken the place of pagan processions dedicated to the gods of the fields and nature. The vast majority of pre-modern Italians and Europeans had no idea what the Holy Trinity was, no idea of the difference between Jesus and God the Father, no idea of the difference between Jesus, Our Lady and the saints: they were all deities on whom, they believed, life depended. On their feasts, the ancient Europeans and Italians continued to sing the usual songs behind the processional canopies, only carrying a different statue under them, and sometimes not even that.

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For a new spiritual capital

For a new spiritual capital

Today, we should take the part of Christianity that’s still alive and inculturate it in our post-Christian time, which no longer understands the languages of faith, but would be able to understand them through an appropriate cultural and narrative operation. by Luigino Bruni published in Messag...
stdClass Object
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    [id] => 18473
    [title] => Disappearing adults
    [alias] => disappearing-adults
    [introtext] => 

Today, it is more urgent than ever to re-invent adult life, crushed by an artificially prolonged youth and old age. You are not fully adult until you really work, because the age of responsibility does not actually begin.

by Luigino Bruni

published inl Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 02/02/2023

Our time is experiencing a new protagonism of young people, who are doing extraordinary things in many countries. They are young people and teenagers together, and the presence of teenagers is a great novelty compared to the similar phenomenon of 1968. From the ‘Fridays for future’ to the young Iranians and Afghans, to the ‘Economy of Francesco’, and up to the young people of the ‘Last Generation’, who are daubing pictures and buildings with washable paint to remind everyone that the powerful have daubed, with indelible paint, the planet and their future. Wonderful young people they are, who are saving us, yet we don't want to take them seriously enough. Because our capitalist culture loves youth, but it loves young people very little. Thus, while it appreciates more and more the values associated with youth – beauty, health, energy... – it understands less and less and even despises the values of old age, which are nonetheless fundamental, and which it tries in every way to remove from its horizon that in turn becomes dulled and saddened. Because a civilisation that does not value the elderly and does not know how to grow old is as foolish as the one that does not understand and value the actual young: our generation is the first to add these two foolishnesses together.

[fulltext] =>

That our culture does not like young people can be seen by the way it treats them at schools, universities, in the world of work, institutions and political parties, where young people are increasingly absent and kept far away. There are too many young people today who risk passing from youth to old age almost without realising it, without ever experiencing adulthood – you are treated as a young person until you are well into your 40s, but right after 50 you become old for just too many things. My parents did not live through 1968, although they were just as young as the protagonists of that era, for the simple reason that in the Marche countryside where they grew up youth had not yet been “invented”. Of course, the corresponding biological age existed: the “young” fell in love and dreamed, like today and like, I hope, tomorrow. But there was no such thing as the sort of category or social group we call youth today. This was “invented” by rock, the Beatles and then 1968. Before, with marriage or the military service, one went straight from adolescence to adult life, with all of its responsibilities.

The invention of youth was one of the greatest social inventions in history, changing society, politics, the economy, the way we have fun, dress, hope, work, live and die. But today it is more urgent than ever to re-invent adult life, crushed by an artificially longer youth and old age. You are not fully adult until you really and seriously work, because the age of responsibility does not really begin. And work that arrives too late, and which – if and when it arrives – is too often insecure, fragmented, precarious and fragile, does nothing but nurture and prolong youth beyond its biological horizons, while also distorting it. Youth is wonderful because it ends, and when it does not end it is an anthropological and social tragedy. All this makes the world of economics, society and institutions lose the fundamental vital and moral energy that comes from young people, and makes that fundamental process and passage that should swiftly lead them to real work bumpy and too risky for them. It is not easy to get out of this sort of epochal and collective “poverty trap” into which we have, more or less consciously, fallen, especially in the West. But we must begin to see it, and to call it by its name. 

Photo credits: © Giuliano Dinon / MSA Archive

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. Antonio [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2023-02-17 16:00:54 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( ) ) [slug] => 18473:disappearing-adults [parent_slug] => 893:it-editoriali-vari [catslug] => 889:en-msa [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

Today, it is more urgent than ever to re-invent adult life, crushed by an artificially prolonged youth and old age. You are not fully adult until you really work, because the age of responsibility does not actually begin.

by Luigino Bruni

published inl Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 02/02/2023

Our time is experiencing a new protagonism of young people, who are doing extraordinary things in many countries. They are young people and teenagers together, and the presence of teenagers is a great novelty compared to the similar phenomenon of 1968. From the ‘Fridays for future’ to the young Iranians and Afghans, to the ‘Economy of Francesco’, and up to the young people of the ‘Last Generation’, who are daubing pictures and buildings with washable paint to remind everyone that the powerful have daubed, with indelible paint, the planet and their future. Wonderful young people they are, who are saving us, yet we don't want to take them seriously enough. Because our capitalist culture loves youth, but it loves young people very little. Thus, while it appreciates more and more the values associated with youth – beauty, health, energy... – it understands less and less and even despises the values of old age, which are nonetheless fundamental, and which it tries in every way to remove from its horizon that in turn becomes dulled and saddened. Because a civilisation that does not value the elderly and does not know how to grow old is as foolish as the one that does not understand and value the actual young: our generation is the first to add these two foolishnesses together.

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Disappearing adults

Disappearing adults

Today, it is more urgent than ever to re-invent adult life, crushed by an artificially prolonged youth and old age. You are not fully adult until you really work, because the age of responsibility does not actually begin. by Luigino Bruni published inl Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 02/02/2023 Our...
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The distance between the rulers and the poor is a major problem of democracy. Without a new competence of politics and politicians, the distance between life and the palace is bound to grow.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/01/2023

In one of the most beautiful pages of the book Cuore (Heart) by Edmondo De Amicis, Alberto Bottini, the father of Enrico (the boy protagonist of the book) says to his son: ‘the man who associates with but one social class is like the student who reads but one book’ (English translation by Isabel F. Hapgood). In that post-unification phase of the country, it was very important to try to “make Italians” by overcoming the feudal world and its castes. And this overcoming in the direction of civil fraternity was entrusted above all to the public school, which was becoming compulsory for the first years of primary school.

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The message for Enrico, son of the bourgeoisie, was clear: make friends with youngsters of all social classes, from the bricklayer to the blacksmith's son, because this boyhood friendship will be decisive for a new social friendship when you become adult citizens. This sentence contains great wisdom. Today, in fact, we know that the first reason for the decline of all elites - cultural, economic, political or religious - lies in the loss of relational biodiversity. When a group of people feels and represents itself as an elite, and therefore stops frequenting the places that are for everybody, no longer having friends and acquaintances from different cultures and socio-economic conditions; when the life of the members of this elite takes place only in luxury hotels, golf courses, starred restaurants, no longer having contact with people in the metro, in the markets, in the queues at the post office - then the inexorable decline of that elite has already begun.

And we are already seeing it with the current generation of managers of large corporations, in deep anthropological and semantic crisis (even if they are very rich), because it’s been too long now that they shut themselves away in self-referential worlds, losing contact even with their own workers and labourers. Yesterday's entrepreneur, in the vast majority of cases, lived in the town of everyone, sent his children to the schools of everyone, frequented bars and barbershops of everyone, and above all frequented the factories and workshops of his workers, and knew the work because he knew the workers and often worked with them, sharing smells and wounds. When this self-segregation happens also to the political elites called to govern, the damage is even greater. For they find themselves losing essential competence in the matters on which they are supposed to legislate.

Let us consider, for an important example, the issue of poverty. In the imagination of our rulers, among the million or so citizens who receive an average of around EUR 500 per month in citizenship income (the state-guaranteed minimum income in Italy - the tr.), there would be a significant proportion of culprits, that is, people who could work but instead, as they are lazy and slackers, prefer the sofa to work. Then one looks at the data and wonders where this belief, as strong as religious dogma, comes from. Those who know at least some of the families receiving citizenship income know very well that if these people do not work it is almost always because of some serious problem, and that leading a degraded life that leads you to prefer the sofa to work is also a form of poverty.

But the distance between the rulers and the truly poor is a major problem of democracy. Too many politicians talk about the poor in the abstract, without ever having seen them, having spoken to them. They thus make laws for the imagined poor and end up losing touch with the real poor who, for this reason too, become the rejects of society. Without a new competence of politics and politicians, who are willing to return to the school of the street and of the poor, the distance between life and the palace is bound to grow inexorably.

Photo credits: © Giuliano Dinon / MSA Archive

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Antonio [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Messaggero di S. Antonio [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2023-01-06 06:16:22 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( ) ) [slug] => 19422:the-school-of-the-street-and-the-poor [parent_slug] => 893:it-editoriali-vari [catslug] => 889:en-msa [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

The distance between the rulers and the poor is a major problem of democracy. Without a new competence of politics and politicians, the distance between life and the palace is bound to grow.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/01/2023

In one of the most beautiful pages of the book Cuore (Heart) by Edmondo De Amicis, Alberto Bottini, the father of Enrico (the boy protagonist of the book) says to his son: ‘the man who associates with but one social class is like the student who reads but one book’ (English translation by Isabel F. Hapgood). In that post-unification phase of the country, it was very important to try to “make Italians” by overcoming the feudal world and its castes. And this overcoming in the direction of civil fraternity was entrusted above all to the public school, which was becoming compulsory for the first years of primary school.

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The school of the street and the poor

The school of the street and the poor

The distance between the rulers and the poor is a major problem of democracy. Without a new competence of politics and politicians, the distance between life and the palace is bound to grow. by Luigino Bruni published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 06/01/2023 In one of the most beautiful pag...