Avvenire Editorials

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    [title] => There is a 25th hour for the Earth, let us take responsibility for it
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This year, the Economy of Francesco (EoF) has chosen ‘The 25th hour’ as title for its global event.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/10/2023

The event that is taking place today, on 6th October, is EoF's fourth global event since Pope Francis wrote his letter of convocation for young economists, businessmen and women, change makers on 1st May 2019, which soon turned out to be a blessed touch of the hand of Providence that awakened consciences and authentic civic vocations of young people who felt called by the name and responded with their typical generative generosity.

[fulltext] =>

The idea of an extra hour, that hour that begins when the 24 hours of the day are over, has inspired stories and films, starting with the 1949 novel by Romanian writer Constantin Virgil Gheorghiu. Our generation and the previous one have invented globalisation, the Internet, achieved the longevity revolution, created robots and artificial intelligence, SUVs and electric cars; but while doing all this they have consumed and exhausted the 24 hours that were at our disposal since the Earth's SOS was launched over half a century ago (think of the Club of Rome's report on the limits of growth, in 1972).

The idea of an extra hour, that hour that begins when the 24 hours of the day are over, has inspired stories and films, starting with the 1949 novel by Romanian writer Constantin Virgil Gheorghiu. Our generation and the previous one have invented globalisation, the Internet, achieved the longevity revolution, created robots and artificial intelligence, SUVs and electric cars; but while doing all this they have consumed and exhausted the 24 hours that were at our disposal since the Earth's SOS was launched over half a century ago (think of the Club of Rome's report on the limits of growth, in 1972).

The one who had understood it, however, certainly as regards the poor, the discarded, the children, the Church, was Don Lorenzo Milani, whose birth centenary is celebrated this year. In one of his most prophetic pages he wrote a ‘letter from beyond the grave’ to the future ‘Chinese missionaries’ who would arrive in Europe in the year two thousand (fifty years after his letter), to re-evangelise Europe where in the meantime the Christian faith would have disappeared, leaving only ruins of bell towers and abandoned churches behind.

Concluding his letter he wrote, “We did not hate the poor, we have only slept. But when we woke up it was too late: the poor had left without us” (Pastoral Experiences, 1958). And if the Church loses the poor it loses itself, its very spirit, it goes astray, because the Church only lives where it can repeat it together with Jesus, “Blessed are the poor”, with no shame. We all have slept, too; and while we were asleep the hours passed, first slowly then gradually faster. Time passed over our indifference, which over the years has become less and less innocent and more and more guilty. But, thank God, we have one more hour. We are still alive. Perhaps God has heard his prophets who, like Abraham, are imploring him to give our ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ another chance.

It is the prayer of St Francis, of Pope Francis – the two Francises of the EoF –, of Clare, of the many young people and teenagers who for years have been crying out to save the earth and the discarded, of the many prophets of our time, often anonymous and unknown, who continue to fight, pray and hope for a future – for one more hour, an hour donated, of that extra time that God is giving to the earth and the poor. A plea that was answered this time. The EoF is part of this extra hour given as a free gift, and is together with the many who are keeping hope alive. Because in the Bible, when the earth is given new hope, the sign is Emmanuel, a child, a young person. Pope Francis said this in his message to the EoF in October 2021: “You are perhaps the last generation that can save us: I am not exaggerating”. Today in Assisi we are celebrating the responsibility and joy over the gift of this extra hour. It is the hour of gratuitousness, the hour that might not have been there and yet is there.

Photo credits: © Luca Sarà

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This year, the Economy of Francesco (EoF) has chosen ‘The 25th hour’ as title for its global event.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/10/2023

The event that is taking place today, on 6th October, is EoF's fourth global event since Pope Francis wrote his letter of convocation for young economists, businessmen and women, change makers on 1st May 2019, which soon turned out to be a blessed touch of the hand of Providence that awakened consciences and authentic civic vocations of young people who felt called by the name and responded with their typical generative generosity.

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There is a 25th hour for the Earth, let us take responsibility for it

There is a 25th hour for the Earth, let us take responsibility for it

This year, the Economy of Francesco (EoF) has chosen ‘The 25th hour’ as title for its global event. by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 06/10/2023 The event that is taking place today, on 6th October, is EoF's fourth global event since Pope Francis wrote his letter of convocation for young ...
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    [title] => Once the founders are gone the only rule is discontinuity
    [alias] => once-the-founders-are-gone-the-only-rule-is-discontinuity
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Editorial - The crises of a system or organization cannot be explained or overcome as long as you remain within the same system that generated them. To achieve this you must be ready to make some radical choices.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  15/06/2023

To learn to look away from oneself, is necessary in order to see many things, this hardiness is needed by every mountain-climber.

(F. Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

«Experience teaches us that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one that marks the first steps towards reform». This phrase by the philosopher and politician Alexis de Tocqueville (The old regime and the revolution, 1856), is the basis of the so-called Tocqueville's "effect" or paradox. To really understand it, it is useful to read it together with another passage: «The hatred that men nourish towards privileges increases in proportion to the reduction of the latter, so that democratic passions seem to burn more fiercely precisely when they have less fuel... Love for equality steadily grows with equality itself» (Democracy in America, 1840). Tocqueville's (brilliant) paradox therefore suggests a complex relationship between the intentions of the reformers and the unintended effects of the reform, which are always the most important part. The expectations raised in the people by the first signs of reform cannot be satisfied by the results achieved by the reformers. This "law" or "effect" is not only useful for understanding the history and present of dictatorial regimes that often collapse just as a democratic reform begins, or just for understanding why other regimes resist with violence in the face of the first requests for rights, in fact Tocqueville's intuition has a much broader scope, because it can be applied to any reform process of any organization, business and community.

[fulltext] =>

Take a company experiencing a serious crisis connected to the necessary exit from the stage by its entrepreneur-founder who, however, continues to hold power and control. If the founder, faced with the requests from the corporate body, begins to delegate part of the power, this participatory process could easily end up causing a real crisis to explode. Because, as Tocqueville suggests, due to a chronic lack of democracy, as soon as the collaborators in crisis see the first signs of change, they begin to ask for much more than what the elderly entrepreneur wants and above all can do. These requests will therefore be perceived by him as excessive and unjust, and often produce the interruption of the participatory process while exacerbating the ongoing crisis. A corollary of Tocqueville would therefore say that the best solution during these "end of regime" phases is a complete transition to a new ownership and/or management, while the founder retires and forgoes the process of self-reform altogether.

Tocqueville's intuition, however, is also particularly valuable for understanding something of the processes that many ideal-driven organizations (IDOs), such as charismatic communities, associations and spiritual movements founded in the 1900s, are experiencing today after the disappearance of their founders, while finding themselves amid a reform process. First, this effect sends a clear message to any reformer: when you start a serious reform, be aware that criticism will increase and explode, because the expectations from the reform will grow much faster than the actual reform itself. However, there is more. If we observe these ecclesial and civil institutions, we realize that many of those who are attempting to implement a reform are fueling their own crisis. Why? To remain within the realms of the suggestion by the French philosopher, the governments of the communities that are leading the transition today are inevitably "bad" - not in a moral sense but on a practical level, as in unfit, unsuitable, for the new challenges they must or should face.

One of the main reasons for this objective inadequacy has to do with the difficult management of the legacy of the past. The inherited form of government was designed based on the founders' people and their specific idiosyncrasies and charismatic characteristics, as such it could only work with and for the founders. That first governance was a suit that was custom made according to the measurements of that first generation. And even when, in a best-case scenario, the founders have done everything to disengage their "ruling" from their people, they still end up failing because they could not have succeeded. The "reality is superior to the idea", and the only reality that the founders and their collaborators had in front of them when imagining their form of governance was their own concrete reality, the future was not a resource at their disposal. Hence, they proceeded to design a governance in their image and likeness and therefore adequate to manage an institution in that particular historical period, with those specific issues and problems. They could not have acted in any other way. They then imagined that whoever would come after them would continue the same relational dynamics of that first generation and that the people would change, but not the "skins" (structures) or the "wine" (charisma), which would remain the same, from the presidency to the most peripheral roles. Nevertheless – and this is the decisive point – no successor could ever hope to perform the exact function of the founder because it was in fact unique, unrepeatable and therefore non-replicable, as was the specific governance model centered on his or her figure. And as if that wasn’t enough, with the beginning of the new millennium the speed of development of history has transformed twenty years into two centuries, turning everything upside down.

Thus, a crucial conclusion: the first radical reform to which a post-founder community should deal with is precisely that of the governance conceived by its founders. If, on the other hand, it considers the first form of governance as an essential part of the legacy, as an element of the unchangeable core of the charism, the transition between the first and second generation could get jammed and fail.

There is a big problem, nevertheless: many spiritual communities prefer making small-step reforms, in order to be able to involve all the protagonists in decisions, listen to disagreements, evaluate and then make a change, which is perfectly understandable, because all of this is value. However, Tocqueville's paradox says something different: once the founders are gone there is a need for an absolute and radical discontinuity of governance and government, because the crises of the system cannot be explained or overcome as long as one remains within the same system that generated them. We are therefore faced with a series of difficult choices: we need to decide whether to go slowly to involve everyone, if possible, with the very real risk that when we get to the end the "disease" will have become too serious and incurable; or make partial choices, with little to no participation, that are fast but capable of taking care of the body while there is still time. This second option requires those in charge of the reform to have some idea of ​​the diagnosis and perhaps of the therapy to be applied – which rarely is the case, however, because they fail to grasp an essential factor: the governance is not the only thing that needs to evolve, the charism, which changes because and as long as it is alive, needs to change too (an unchangeable charism is a dead charism).

When he began his great religious reform, righteous king Hezekiah was faced with a decisive choice: what to do with the legacy of Moses? Among the "relics" of Moses was the bronze serpent with which he saved the people from the serpents in the desert (Numbers 21). Hezekiah «broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made» (2 Kings 18,4). The just king was able to make that decisive reform because he had the courage to eliminate a part of Moses' legacy: the serpent had originally performed a good function but in that phase of the reform it had become an obstacle - it had taken on idolatrous traits. Hezekiah kept the Ark of the Covenant but not the serpent: both wanted and created by Moses, but Hezekiah distinguished, separated, decided and cut. He made a choice, and the Bible thanked him for it.

Every reform ends up getting stalled or producing adverse effects if one does not try to distinguish the ark from the serpent, if everything is saved (both ark and serpent) or nothing at all (both are destroyed). You must choose, even at the risk of saving the serpent and destroying the ark – the wrong choice is preferable to no choice at all. Most probably the first form of governance desired by the Founder is part of the serpent, even if it is often confused with the Ark. Hence, for fear of betraying our origin we end up betraying the future.

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Editorial - The crises of a system or organization cannot be explained or overcome as long as you remain within the same system that generated them. To achieve this you must be ready to make some radical choices.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  15/06/2023

To learn to look away from oneself, is necessary in order to see many things, this hardiness is needed by every mountain-climber.

(F. Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

«Experience teaches us that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one that marks the first steps towards reform». This phrase by the philosopher and politician Alexis de Tocqueville (The old regime and the revolution, 1856), is the basis of the so-called Tocqueville's "effect" or paradox. To really understand it, it is useful to read it together with another passage: «The hatred that men nourish towards privileges increases in proportion to the reduction of the latter, so that democratic passions seem to burn more fiercely precisely when they have less fuel... Love for equality steadily grows with equality itself» (Democracy in America, 1840). Tocqueville's (brilliant) paradox therefore suggests a complex relationship between the intentions of the reformers and the unintended effects of the reform, which are always the most important part. The expectations raised in the people by the first signs of reform cannot be satisfied by the results achieved by the reformers. This "law" or "effect" is not only useful for understanding the history and present of dictatorial regimes that often collapse just as a democratic reform begins, or just for understanding why other regimes resist with violence in the face of the first requests for rights, in fact Tocqueville's intuition has a much broader scope, because it can be applied to any reform process of any organization, business and community.

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Once the founders are gone the only rule is discontinuity

Once the founders are gone the only rule is discontinuity

Editorial - The crises of a system or organization cannot be explained or overcome as long as you remain within the same system that generated them. To achieve this you must be ready to make some radical choices. by Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire  15/06/2023 To learn to look away from onesel...
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    [title] => Against the myth of leadership (and for a eulogy of following)
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Opinions - The new theories are portrayed as post-hierarchical, but they are not, because they divide the world into leaders and followers. The true agent of change is the one who does not feel like a leader

By Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/11/2022

Leadership is one of the sacred words in the religion of the new capitalism of the 21st century. The thinking, and above all, the practice of the phenomena now called 'leadership' are actually very ancient. It is not difficult to find in the great thinkers of the past, from the Greeks to Max Weber, ideas and even actual theories on the creation and management of leaders and on their decline. Economic science hasn’t dealt with it much, because it has always been more interested in markets and individual rational actions than in organisations and complex collective phenomena, although some great economists (Vilfredo Pareto, for example) have written some very neat pages on the ideologies that produce leaders and then eliminate them. Sociology and management have been more engaged in this topic, because, in essence, leadership theories are variants and (less sophisticated) developments of theories of authority and the exercise of power in human groups, including enterprises: the classic topics in the social sciences.

[fulltext] =>

With the new millennium, however, something very important has changed around leadership. Courses on how to become a leader, how to recognise the 'traits' of a leader, how a leader can influence a team to generate change, and much more, have grown at a high and continuous rate, until invading the departments of all economic and social sciences, engineering, philosophy and even theology. An even more recent, but no less worrying phenomenon is the expansion of leadership training courses in civil society organisations and communities, even in convents and spiritual movements, in church bodies, where superiors and parish priests are beginning to self-define themselves using the new words of leadership. The advertisements for leadership courses at business schools state that the course is aimed at “experienced managers and executives and anyone who aspires to leadership positions or is required to be a leader”. And if you leaf through the many dedicated manuals, the definitions all look similar: leadership is the ability to influence that a particular person (the leader) has over employees (followers). The followers are driven by the charisma of the leader - charisma is a used and abused word - to work in a group where they are directed and guided by the leader. So, in a nutshell: leadership is understood as the ability of a leader to influence one or more people. Thus, words such as managers, executives, heads of office, coordinators have become old and outdated, linked to a capitalism that is too trivial. Leaders, unlike the old managers, have charisma, charm, attractiveness, and the ability to persuade and seduce.

A first question: where did the need to turn managers into leaders originate? Where did this irresistible urge to give heads of office or coordinators a charismatic flair spring from? Certainly, capitalism has changed, it has come out (or is coming out) of the factories and assembly lines, and today obtaining the consent and obedience (another old word) of workers has become more difficult. Moreover, the culture of post-modernity creates post-patriarchal young people, who are less used to and less prepared for the virtues of obedience from superiors, but more sensitive to the values of freedom, equality, consent, and contract. The old companies of the twentieth century were born also and above all because hierarchy cost less than individual contracts: negotiating every action with every worker requires an enormous amount of time and resources; hence the idea that it makes the organisation faster and more efficient if the hiring of a person is done within a broad labour contract, where the individual tasks are entrusted largely to the hierarchy. But for hierarchy to work, you need employees who value it, see it as good and share in it. This is how, with the arrival of the generation of workers of the new millennium, the figure of the leader is born: this one does not need hierarchy (so it is said) in order to make the organisation work, because the consensus and adhesion of the collaborators arise from the leader’s charisma, their ability to convince, their persuasion and authority. Leadership appears to be more post-modern, egalitarian, non-hierarchical and even fraternal than the old organisational theories of the 20th century, and also certainly more ethical and respectful of everyone's dignity. But is this really the case?

The author of this article is convinced of the opposite, namely that theories of leadership are much more hierarchical than those of the Fordist-Taylorist factory - and more chauvinistic, too. The real difference is of a narrative type: they are talked about as post-hierarchical theories and practices without being so. Why? The many different leadership theories have one decisive fact in common: they divide the world into leaders and followers. Some people, for the most diverse reasons (personality, vocation, talents, role, etc.) are leaders; others, and they are many more, followers, i.e. members or workers who freely accept to be influenced, seduced, convinced by their leader, and who are also happy with this influence that they freely undergo. Of course, a follower today may become a leader tomorrow, or even though he is a follower of a leader in office A, he may be a leader in office B where he will have other followers whom he will in turn have to seduce and capture with his charisma. And so on, ad infinitum. But let us ask ourselves at this point: would we like to live in such a world? To work in offices, departments, companies where our manager is our leader? We would probably simply dread it. Because it is a much more illiberal society than the old 20th century one. This is not the first time that the deep limitations of leadership have been highlighted. Indeed, new adjectives have sprung up in recent years: relational, community, participative leadership, and even leadership of communion. But, one should realise, the problem does not concern the adjective: it is directly connected to the noun: leadership. But that's not all. Economic theory teaches us that some of the most important social phenomena are explained by mechanisms of adverse selection: without meaning to, institutions end up in certain contexts selecting the worst people. Put differently: who registers for a leadership course? Economic theory tells us that it is very likely that “those who aspire to become leaders” are the people least suited to “lead and guide” teams, because loving the “profession” of leadership and being a good leader are not at all the same thing. Think of political leadership: in all countries, the best politicians have emerged and still do so during major crises, when there are no ‘schools for politicians’. In times, however, when being a politician becomes a profession, which gets associated with power and money, political schools tend to generate poor politicians.

Theories of leadership are very much influenced by the model of the charismatic leader. In Western tradition, the charismatic leader is par excellence the prophet, i.e. someone whom people follow freely because of his inherent authority. Unfortunately, leadership theorists do not know that prophets (the biblical ones for sure) have never considered themselves leaders. The major prophets of the Bible (from Moses to Jeremiah) did not feel themselves to be leaders, nor did they want to be leaders. The mere thought of having to lead someone terrified them. They were chosen from among the discarded, the people considered as the last ones; some of them are also stutterers and disabled but capable of listening and above all of following a voice. It all serves to tell us that those who in life have succeeded in a leading role in some process of change have been able to do so because first they had learned to follow a voice, first they had learned how to follow. Prophets are men and women of failure, whereas leadership is presented as the way to achieve the other magic word of our capitalism: success, being the winners. People of success, followed and flattered, were the false prophets who often came out of the “prophetic schools” that churned out multitudes of prophets by trade and for-profit charlatans.

The first law that the great biblical wisdom left us reads: “beware of those who present themselves as a candidate to become a prophet, because they are almost always false prophets”, or, we might say today, simply narcissists. Furthermore, history and real life tell us that one becomes a 'leader' simply by doing one's job and nothing else really, and then one day maybe someone imitates us and thanks us, and we don't even notice. But the day someone feels like a leader and starts behaving like one, people and groups start getting unwell, and many individual and collective neuroses are produced. And when communities wanted to produce their own leaders at home, they selected too many people who were incapable of that task, even when they had the best of intentions. Simply because leaders are not trained, and if you try to train them you create something strange and not infrequently dangerous. So imagining leadership courses for young people is extremely dangerous. But they keep multiplying, because leadership schools attract the many who desire to be leaders and delude themselves that they can buy the fulfilment of this desire on the market. “Leadership” courses for those who are already in a coordinating and leading role would be a different matter, but they would have to be very different from those in circulation today. These courses should help to reduce the damage that ‘leaders’ produce in their groups, to train in the deponent virtues, meekness and humility, to learn to follow their colleagues.

Leaders have a necessary and vital need for followers: but who decides to be Robin in a world where only Batman's moral qualities are exalted? So where is that freedom so fervently proclaimed by these theories? The ideal workplace is that of a community of people where everyone simply plays his or her part in a cooperative game, a team where everyone follows everyone else in reciprocity, in the dignity of equal tasks. This is an adult world, where work is directed and there is dialogue with the people. If at a certain point someone has to perform coordinating, governing and accountability functions, they will simply be doing their job as I do mine: they will not have to lead anyone, they will not have to influence anyone, they will only have to play their necessary part in the one collective game. However, if this person acts as a leader, we call that manipulation. Finally, it is really surprising that the Christian world is attracted to theories of leadership today, considering that it was born of Someone who founded everything on following, and who one day said: “None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader.” (Mt 23:10 - in: CEV)

We certainly need agents and actors of change, always, especially in a time of great change such as ours. We especially need people who take responsibility for their choices. We have a vital need of this especially when our businesses and communities are stagnant and static. These change makers are unlikely to come from schools of leadership: they can only emerge from meticulous communities and businesses that will take to the streets, that will take to the dusty streets of the cities and even more so of the peripheries. That’s where the new leaders await us, who will be agents of change precisely because they will not feel like the new leaders. And they will be leaders all together, all different and all equal, in the reciprocity of following.

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Opinions - The new theories are portrayed as post-hierarchical, but they are not, because they divide the world into leaders and followers. The true agent of change is the one who does not feel like a leader

By Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/11/2022

Leadership is one of the sacred words in the religion of the new capitalism of the 21st century. The thinking, and above all, the practice of the phenomena now called 'leadership' are actually very ancient. It is not difficult to find in the great thinkers of the past, from the Greeks to Max Weber, ideas and even actual theories on the creation and management of leaders and on their decline. Economic science hasn’t dealt with it much, because it has always been more interested in markets and individual rational actions than in organisations and complex collective phenomena, although some great economists (Vilfredo Pareto, for example) have written some very neat pages on the ideologies that produce leaders and then eliminate them. Sociology and management have been more engaged in this topic, because, in essence, leadership theories are variants and (less sophisticated) developments of theories of authority and the exercise of power in human groups, including enterprises: the classic topics in the social sciences.

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Against the myth of leadership (and for a eulogy of following)

Against the myth of leadership (and for a eulogy of following)

Opinions - The new theories are portrayed as post-hierarchical, but they are not, because they divide the world into leaders and followers. The true agent of change is the one who does not feel like a leader By Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 11/11/2022 Leadership is one of the sacred word...
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    [title] => The good fruits of great evils
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Editorials - Today's trials and victims, yesterday's history

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 31/12/2020

The collective dimension of fear and death: this is the legacy that 2020 leaves us. We had already forgotten the great collective fears; we had relegated death to the intimacy of the family and the solitude of the individual's heart. And we have learnt that a house is too small to process the pain of grief, because in order for us not to die together with those we love, we would need the strength of an entire community. Being in the same storm we felt the same fear, we shared the fear of death, and having shared it, it did not overwhelm us.

[fulltext] =>

We do not know how we will emerge from this annus horribilis. We will certainly come out of it without a good part of that generation born in a very poor Italy and dying in a wealthy one. Parents and grandparents whose virtues, pietas and popular faith generated families, businesses and democracy. Share-croppers, peasants and housewives who knew how to use the stones of the rubble of wars to build social and economic cathedrals. We all suffered watching them die, all too often alone, because we felt that something wrong and profoundly unjust was taking place. It was a generation that had walked behind a great star of morality: "The most important happiness is not our own, but that of our children". They sacrificed themselves because the value of the future was greater for them than that of the present.

But then, especially women, after spending their youth caring for their children and parents, too often giving up their own professional flourishing, found themselves growing old and then dying outside their home.

So, a first lesson of this year is about the culture of ageing, which we lack too much. In just a few decades we have wasted the good art of ageing and dying learned over millennia, and while we are expecting to find a new one we are making our mothers and grandmothers, who left this earth with an enormous and inestimable credit for care and nursing, pay a very high bill. Here, too, lies a root of this year's pain, in a collective debt of which we became aware of just as it was being extinguished.

History has known other horrible years. In 536 A.D. a mysterious (volcanic) fog plunged Europe and parts of Asia into almost total darkness for about a year and a half. Thus gave start to the coldest decade in two thousand years, with snow in summer and crops destroyed from Europe to China, resulting in an extremely severe and long famine. 1347-48 was the year of the arrival of the Black Death, an enormous massacre that killed a third of the European population. In Florence, which was particularly hard hit, three major changes were generated by that disaster. According to the chronicles of Matteo Villani and other Florentine writers, the end of 1348 marked the beginning of a perverse moral conception of life and of greater-scale malpractice. The return to life after all that death generated a frantic race for luxury, to drink the chalice of new-found life to its last drop. There appeared a new squandering and corruption that were also amplified by the great inheritances left by those who had died of the plague: much of the money that flowed into the Florentine chests ended up in the wrong pockets.

But there were other effects of a different kind, too. The Priors of the city adopted measures to help debtors who had become insolvent as a result of the plague, and in 1352 an office for the rights of the arts and trades was set up in Florence for the benefit of insolvent debtors. Finally, 1349 was a year of great development for Florence in terms of libraries and investment in books and works of art. The city government re-founded the Florentine Studium, the libraries of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella were greatly expanded, and various incentives were created for the purchase of manuscripts. These cultural investments were decisive for the beginning of Civic Humanism, one of the most unexpected and extraordinary side effects of the Black Death. Citizens, Dominicans and Franciscans understood that the way to start again after the great catastrophe was not the race for luxury, nor the frantic search for life's pleasures to forget death; instead, they sensed that they would be resurrected if the symbolic codes for a Renaissance were to be written by a new culture.

In 540, while Europe was going through the worst famine of the first millennium, Saint Benedict wrote his Rule in Montecassino, which marked the start of the extraordinary season of western monasticism, essential for the rebirth after the fall of the Roman Empire. The plague in Florence gave rise to The Decameron, one of the absolute masterpieces of world literature, begun by Boccaccio in 1349, with the plague still raging, aiming to console his people: “I mind me how very pitiful [= merciful - the tr.] you are all by nature” - these are some of his first words there.

We cannot get out of major crises without artists and prophets; it is their consolations that are really necessary for the recovery. Economic aid is important, especially if it is aimed at preventing debtors from bankruptcy, but it is not enough, and it can complicate the path, also because it often ends up in the wrong places. The artists and prophets of today are different from those who saved us in past centuries; but, again, we will come out better if we will also have generated our artists and prophets.

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Editorials - Today's trials and victims, yesterday's history

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 31/12/2020

The collective dimension of fear and death: this is the legacy that 2020 leaves us. We had already forgotten the great collective fears; we had relegated death to the intimacy of the family and the solitude of the individual's heart. And we have learnt that a house is too small to process the pain of grief, because in order for us not to die together with those we love, we would need the strength of an entire community. Being in the same storm we felt the same fear, we shared the fear of death, and having shared it, it did not overwhelm us.

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The good fruits of great evils

The good fruits of great evils

Editorials - Today's trials and victims, yesterday's history by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 31/12/2020 The collective dimension of fear and death: this is the legacy that 2020 leaves us. We had already forgotten the great collective fears; we had relegated death to the intimacy of the ...
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    [title] => The cry from the Earth and the poor asks for dreams and new prophecies
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Editorials - The humanism of the "three F's" of young people and the challenge for the coming year of combining integral ecology and economics

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 31/12/2019

50 years after '68 and the various world ideologies, young people are once again the first element of change and true social and political innovation

2019 will be remembered for two epochal innovations, intimately connected to each other: the new role as protagonists for young people and adolescents, and a global awareness of the drama and irreversibility of the environmental crisis. Fifty years after 1968, young people are once more the main element of change and true social and political innovation. It took several decades for them to find their place in the "new world". After the end of the ideologies they went through a civil and cultural eclipse, remaining speechless and crushed as if in a long "Holy Saturday", between a world that had ended and one that was taking too late to arrive. Their grit was dampened and darkened by the mourning of their parents and grandparents, and so they poured themselves into smaller things - video games or smartphones – due to the death of the older generation. Because if it is true that we have all come out disoriented and disappointed since the twentieth century, young people have suffered and suffer more and more deeply because of the end of collective narratives, utopias, big dreams. As adults you can last a long time without dreaming together, as young people you resist much less, because utopia is the first fuel of youth.

[fulltext] =>

The end of utopia, however - that non-place – ended up (re)generating a new place, the place par excellence, the place for everyone: Earth. Hence, after that long-lasting period of bewilderment they have now found Earth, which has become the new eu-topia – a good place, the good place - to go back to writing a new great collective story. At the bedside of sick mother Earth, they have found a new bond, a new fraternity and a new religion, and, for many, a new sense of the sacred. The first sacred was born, in the dawn of civilizations, from the experience of mystery and tremendum, linked to the discovery of the existence of something impassable and inviolable. For many of these young people, these girls and boys, Earth's illness has in fact become the new tremendum, the new mystery and the new insurmountable limit; then a new hierophany (manifestation of the sacred), the epiphany of an original and founding experience, a new myth of origin that links them to Earth and to each other. There is a lot of the religious and sacred in these environmental movements, even though they (and everyone) lack the categories to understand it. They felt the "ideological ground" fail under their feet, and instead of sinking with it, they found themselves a new ground to stand on, which they feel and live as the Promised Land for which it is worth continuing to walk in the desert and not give up. They discovered the Promised Land in everyone's land. Each new beginning is multi purposeful and ambiguous; this beautiful, still shapeless morning can generate a new season of authentic spirituality, the heir and continuation of the great religious narratives and of the Jewish-Christian biblical humanism. However, we could also find ourselves in a land populated by post-modern totems and taboos, managed by "for-profit" shamans and haruspices. We cannot say this for sure as of yet; what is certain is that the end of the ideologies has not completed the process of "disenchantment of the world". The world is still enchanted if we know how to look at it through the eyes of the young. The religious sense of the years to come will also depend on how traditional religions will be able to read and interpret this new spiritual spring, if fear or trust will prevail.

No wonder then the alliance that has been created between these young people and an eighty-three year old Pope Francis, felt by the majority as a friend and an ethical reference point. In fact, while in 1968 the Church was part of that old world that the young generation wanted to make collapse, today the Church of Francis is an essential part of the new era that is emerging. Laudato si’ anticipated these youth movements providing many with the cultural and spiritual framework of reference for all the new that is happening. On that Earth left desolate by the end of ideologies, many of us thought of filling that huge void by promising "three big E, I and B" to young people - English, IT, Business; they however replied that these objectives were in fact too small, and instead came up with the "three F’s" - FridaysForFuture. The young people of 2019 are also sending us other messages, although the signals they emit are still weak - but these weak signals are always the most important ones. What is happening in Chile, Lebanon, France, Italy, among other things, tells us that inequality is another form of CO2 and if it exceeds a certain "degree" is becomes intolerable. Although the economic dimension of this diverse youth movement often tends to be less emphasized than the ecological one, the great challenge of the 21st century will be to keep the two together. And this is where the meaning of the event The Economy of Francis (L'Economia di Francesco, to take place at the end of March 2020) can truly be captured, a process that started to offer young people an ideal homeland (Assisi) from where to begin their search for an integral relationship with the 'oikos. A new ecology is possible only concurrently with a new kind of economy - if the oikos is one, an integral ecology is neither conceivable nor feasible without an equally integral economy.

The sustainability of capitalism is multidimensional. The dimension of inequality and therefore of the various forms of poverty that continue to cry out for justice must therefore be immediately added to the more strictly ecological one. We cannot therefore focus only on the most urgent and visible aspect of unsustainability (that of the natural environment) and forget the others, on which it basically depends. For example, for social civil organizations born in past years and decades surrounding challenges of poverty and social inclusion, it is now becoming easier to survive and grow by accessing public funding to combat climate change, and so they risk suffering a mission shift (a change of objectives) guided by public and private incentives. The cry of the Earth cannot and must not cover the cry of the poor, but rather amplify it. The unsustainability of our world therefore comes in many shapes and sizes. Alongside the CO2 of inequality, there is also an increasing unsustainability of a certain kind of business culture and managerial practices of large economic and financial institutions. While on the one hand, a company often sincerely announces a policy that is more attentive to the natural environment and sometimes also to inclusion, its employees are simultaneously crushed by a managerial style that asks more and more of their time, energy and life. In part thanks to new technologies, every boundary between working hours and non-working time has by now been severely eroded with businesses seeking and often obtaining the monopoly of the very soul of their employees. The new generation cannot stand this for long. A new generation, which on the one hand asks the system for a new sustainability and a slowdown in the exploitation of the Earth to enable it to "breathe", and on the other is subjected to extreme unsustainable and accelerated rhythms that do not let them breathe when it enters the workplace.

It is not enough to renounce to or soften the constant strive for profit maximization to become sustainable. Even if a company decides to maximize other variables in addition to profit, until it frees up space and time for its workers, it will never be a truly life-sized environment for people, or a friend of its people and the Earth. The first "profit maximization" problem is the actual maximization element, which remains a problem even when other things are the ones to be maximized. Therefore, if companies do not loosen and improve their internal work relationships, if they do not free and restore time and life to employees, if they do not withdraw from the territories of the soul that they have occupied in recent years, it will prove virtually impossible for them to truly be able to respect and save the planet externally. Relational sustainability deeply linked to people's spiritual sustainability (the spirit is able to live only when it manages to save "not yet maximized" places of freedom and gratuity). This will be a major theme in the labor market and workplace in general in the coming years. A phrase by the prophet Joel that has often been quoted this last year by Pope Francis: «Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams» (Joel 2,28). A splendid phrase, which only a prophet could write. Today we could also read it this way: young people will make prophecies if the older people continue having and pursuing dreams. We have not just left our sons and daughters a plundered, overheated and polluted, planet; we have also left them a world depleted of big and collective dreams. The first gift we can give our young is to start dreaming again. This is the kind of wealth that they really need.

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Editorials - The humanism of the "three F's" of young people and the challenge for the coming year of combining integral ecology and economics

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 31/12/2019

50 years after '68 and the various world ideologies, young people are once again the first element of change and true social and political innovation

2019 will be remembered for two epochal innovations, intimately connected to each other: the new role as protagonists for young people and adolescents, and a global awareness of the drama and irreversibility of the environmental crisis. Fifty years after 1968, young people are once more the main element of change and true social and political innovation. It took several decades for them to find their place in the "new world". After the end of the ideologies they went through a civil and cultural eclipse, remaining speechless and crushed as if in a long "Holy Saturday", between a world that had ended and one that was taking too late to arrive. Their grit was dampened and darkened by the mourning of their parents and grandparents, and so they poured themselves into smaller things - video games or smartphones – due to the death of the older generation. Because if it is true that we have all come out disoriented and disappointed since the twentieth century, young people have suffered and suffer more and more deeply because of the end of collective narratives, utopias, big dreams. As adults you can last a long time without dreaming together, as young people you resist much less, because utopia is the first fuel of youth.

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The cry from the Earth and the poor asks for dreams and new prophecies

The cry from the Earth and the poor asks for dreams and new prophecies

Editorials - The humanism of the "three F's" of young people and the challenge for the coming year of combining integral ecology and economics By Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire 31/12/2019 50 years after '68 and the various world ideologies, young people are once again the first element of ch...
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    [title] => The grammar of star-gifts
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The Epiphany of Jesus – Those who know how to give do not take up space, but free it. They do not take up time from reciprocity and only bring "great joy" with them.

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 05/01/2020

The feast of the Epiphany of Jesus tells us many things, all of great importance. It also tells us about the nature of giving, what it means to honour and about the proximity between the act of giving and death

Giving is one of the highest forms of human freedom. Hence, it is often a tragic experience. The visit of the Magi, narrated in the Gospel of Matthew, contains many elements of the grammar of giving. Matthew calls those three sages magoi, an expression that probably indicated priests of Zoroastrianism. Wise men, astronomers and astrologers, who came from the east and from a mythical world of the past but still very present in biblical culture and therefore also to the evangelist. They were not shepherds, they were experts in stars and science. This presence of wisdom and science around the crib is beautiful, a necessary blessing in this time of crisis; how beautiful it is also to see men, males who are capable of giving gifts: Herod is a male, the three magi are males, then and now.

[fulltext] =>

Scholars who came from the east, probably from Persia, today's Iran, on the most beautiful of pilgrimages. They did not worship the same God as the evangelist. Some would simply call them idolaters, too close for comfort to the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian magicians and soothsayers that the Bible fought against so intensely. Instead, Matthew, places the visit of these guests and friends who have come from afar with blessings to bring gifts, to honour the child. Believing in other gods is not enough to become an enemy of biblical faith. The first opponents of the prophets and the people of Israel were the false prophets, who believed and worshiped the same YHWH as they did, who knew the Law perfectly and quoted it from memory. The visit of the Magi then tells us that God remains true and unique even if each person calls him by a different name. We are not the masters of the name of God, which is always greater and more plural than our vain attempts to imprison him within our religion. And it reminds us, together with the Samaritan, another great "traveller" of the Gospels that he who lives nearby in our vicinity is not our only neighbour: the magi were the boy's neighbour despite being, for many reasons, distant.

Those men set out to the west, following "a star", to "worship" a child, who they knew to be "the king of the Jews" (Mt 2: 2).

Here are the first two elements of this special grammar of giving: there is a path and there is a star. A path means commitment and time, the fundamental ingredients of every true act of giving. We do not accept and do not like a gift that we know has been recycled precisely because there is no commitment or time involved. Gifts don't take long, we can make several in a few hours; giving is no different. There can be no giving without a journey, a material or spiritual journey. We get up and we go to find that person that we have decided to honour with our visit and our gift. Almost everything that we wanted to say to that person we say to them by going to visit them: it is the fact of our body in motion that conveys the most important things to them. The gift, the object that we can bring, is a sign, a sacrament that makes what we had already said with our visit, with our walking, explicit reinforcing it. The first gift of the Three Wise Men was getting on their journey. Other times travelling can be only spiritual, like when we want (and should) write the note that goes with our gift, and we travel back and forth in time in search of those words that can only be born if we allow them the time they need to blossom within our soul, while traveling internally in the company of those who we are about to honour with our gift.

Then there is the Star. When donating a gift, certainly in the case of the most important ones, one does not start without the appearance of a "star" – the sound of a voice, a sign, a convocation. We start walking because someone or something calls us on the inside - sometimes it can even be a cry. That's why each and every one of us is able to recognize those few gifts that we have received in life because someone followed a star for us. The first gift (of life) almost always comes like this, because two people saw and followed the other's star. What we are today depends on many things, but it depends above all on the star-gifts that we have received.

The Gospel then tells us that the Magi, once they had reached the child, «When they saw the star, they were overjoyed» (Matthew 2,10). Joy is the typical reciprocity or gift that we get back from these gifts, a special and very great kind of joy that we only come to know if and when we make star-gifts. They may seem like unilateral gifts on the outside, but this is not true, because this "great joy" is an essential form of reciprocity. Even greater than the one narrated by the Arab (apocryphal) Gospel of the childhood of Jesus, according to which « the Lady Mary took one of the swaddling-bands, and … gave it to them; and they received it from her with the greatest marks of honour».

In Matthew's account, the first encounter of the Magi in Jerusalem is with Herod. The troubled king collects information about this hypothetical new child-king, he has the Wise Men brought to him and says to them: «Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him» (Matthew 2,8). So that I too may go and worship him. On earth, the adoration of the Magi and that of Herod continue to coexist side by side. Visits made to children to celebrate life, other "visits" made to celebrate death. And earth will continue to live on as long as the visits of the Magi are greater in number than those of Herod.

The announcement of the Magi to Herod, unintentionally, causes the first death in the New Testament: the massacre of the innocent. The Magi are remembered for their gifts; but they are also remembered for the massacre by Herod. This immediately tells us something decisive, which runs through all the Gospels, Paul, and Christian humanism: the act of donating a gift borders on death. This closeness is expressed in many ways, and not all beautiful. There are gifts that produce death because they are poisonous (gift), because under that shimmering package there is only the will to control and a manifestation of strength and power. These are the deadly gifts of the mafia, of kings and pharaohs who use donations/ gifts to mark a distance, to tell us that they own both their gifts and us. But in the light brushing of death with the act of giving, in this proximity between dòro and thànatos, there are also other words present. Gift is ambivalent, because if it were not ambivalent it would not be one of the most beautiful and high words that we could think of and pronounce under the sun.

Those who know the good gift, the one that arises from our indispensable vocation for gratuity, know that this gift lapses upon wound and death because it is placed at the centre of our life and that of others, starting with the first gift and ending with the last, when gift and death in that "here I am" will become one word. A gift is born and operates on the border between two or more lives, this is why it has the ability to affect life, to be effective. It's like the words: create, change, mark, teach, hurt - what can hurt us more than a refused and trampled gift?

The Bible knows a lot about the ambivalence of gifts, and this is also why it speaks little of them, and when it talks about them (Isaiah) it almost always does so to warn us against poisonous donations / gifts without gratuitousness. But above all, it talks to us about them by beginning the tale of human history with the gift of Cain unwelcome by God-Elohim, a refused gift that produced the world's first fratricide-murder. Herod is the anti-gift, the new Cain, the one who does not know how to "worship" and does not know how to give. The Wise Men are like Abel, the gentle brother who knew how to make gifts, who set out on his way to the fields, and whose blood bathes the land of the Good News, and God continues to smell its scent.

The Magi bring "gold, frankincense and myrrh" as a gift (Matthew 2,11). To state royalty (gold), divinity (incense), and corporeality (myrrh). The grammar and syntax of the gift continues to unfold. In every encounter that arises from the gift, I tell you that you have the dignity of a king, that you are sacred as a god, and that you are a human being, and therefore your limits and your future death are not a curse and condemnation, but a task and fate. These are the accidents that only together make up the substance of the gift, which consists in honouring.

«On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him» (Matthew 2,11). Mary is also part of the gift of the Magi, a surprise and joy added to their joy which was already enormous. And in Mary we are able to see another biblical friend of the Magi again: the Queen of Sheba, who set out from afar, with many gifts, to know and honour the wisdom. The gift of the Magi is another of the Magnificats in the Gospels, and Mary's visit to Elizabeth is the episode that resembles it the most. Maria confidently welcomed the Magi into the house, brought them inside, recognizing them as good, kind guests, accepting their gift.

And finally, as in the case with Mary and Elizabeth, after donating theirs gifts the Magi also got on their long way home. This is the last note in the art of gift, which does not end with its acceptance, but with getting back on the road again. Those who know this art because they have learned it all their lives, know that "returning home" is the true masterpiece element of giving, because it spells chastity, an essential word in every gift, the twin sister of gratuity. He or she who knows how to give does not take up space, but frees it. He or she is discreet. They leave quickly, while knowing how to stay without haste, and then hurry back home again. They do not appropriate or take up time from reciprocity. But only take away that "greatest of joys".

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The Epiphany of Jesus – Those who know how to give do not take up space, but free it. They do not take up time from reciprocity and only bring "great joy" with them.

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 05/01/2020

The feast of the Epiphany of Jesus tells us many things, all of great importance. It also tells us about the nature of giving, what it means to honour and about the proximity between the act of giving and death

Giving is one of the highest forms of human freedom. Hence, it is often a tragic experience. The visit of the Magi, narrated in the Gospel of Matthew, contains many elements of the grammar of giving. Matthew calls those three sages magoi, an expression that probably indicated priests of Zoroastrianism. Wise men, astronomers and astrologers, who came from the east and from a mythical world of the past but still very present in biblical culture and therefore also to the evangelist. They were not shepherds, they were experts in stars and science. This presence of wisdom and science around the crib is beautiful, a necessary blessing in this time of crisis; how beautiful it is also to see men, males who are capable of giving gifts: Herod is a male, the three magi are males, then and now.

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The grammar of star-gifts

The grammar of star-gifts

The Epiphany of Jesus – Those who know how to give do not take up space, but free it. They do not take up time from reciprocity and only bring "great joy" with them. By Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire 05/01/2020 The feast of the Epiphany of Jesus tells us many things, all of great importance....
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Editorial – At the root of the attack against the solidarity networks

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 30/04/2019

One the greatest moral novelties of Christian and European humanism is having freed the poor of the guilt of their poverty. Ancient times had left us with an idea as legacy, the very deep-seated and widespread idea, that poverty was nothing but a divine curse, well-deserved due to some fault committed by either the person in question or his or her ancestors. The poor hence found themselves condemned twice: by life and by religion (the book of Job constitutes in fact one of the ethical heights of ancient times precisely because it is a reaction against the idea of poverty as a source of guilt), and the rich felt secure, justified and doubly blessed.

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In Europe, however, it wasn’t the cities or States with their political institutions to liberate the poor from their curse. In fact, ever since the days of the Roman Empire and all through medieval and modern times, citizen statutes and laws were much more attentive in identifying the so called voluntary and hence guilty poor and beggars, in order to then chase them out of the city walls. We should not forget that the political history of European cities is also (and at times, above all) a history of the exclusion of the poor, the Jews, the migrants, the heretics and the vagrants, because they did not possess that “trustworthiness” required to become part of the club of the markets of the new cities. Thank God, however, European institutions were not only constituted by the political institutions in the bourgeois and merchant cities: the institutions born from religious faith were present as well. Christianity had brought along a great innovation regarding poverty. A religion founded by a man who was not rich and with a large number of impoverished apostles and disciples, who dared calling the poor “blessed”, in a religious and cultural context which discarded and cursed the poor.

And who in his life did everything to show the sick and poor that they were not guilty of their sickness and/or their poverty (think of the man blind from birth, the paralyzed man, the lepers…). The early Church continued this ethical revolution, and Saint Ambrose could hence write: «It is not true that the poor are cursed» (Naboth’s Vineyard). But he had to say it with force for he was well aware that he was going against the current mentality. Centuries later, this great religious and social innovation lead to Francis and the mendicant orders who lived an displayed an idea of poverty as a means of liberation and happiness which then continued to irrigate the second millennium. And hence the basis of the many social charisms of modern times, who see the poor not as cursed people, but as images of the poor and suffering Christ.

There is a process of erasing the stigma of curse at the root of the many hospitals, schools and orphanages that have formed the basis for European welfare. And while the politicians of yesterday and today argued and argue about the various categories of poor (voluntary and involuntary, deserving and underserving…), these social charisms told us and still tell us that a poor man is just a poor man, and that it is his objective condition of need that makes him a fellow human being and as such deserving of help. The Samaritan does not help the man who has fallen victim to brigands because he possesses any special merit, but because he was a victim and he was a human being, a man (“A man was going down…“). Blame and guilt have never been good keys to understanding or curing poverty, because each time the analysis of where the blame lies begins we always end up finding a source of blame condemning the weak.

The charisms, not the political institutions of the cities or later of modern States, were the ones to overcome the terrible distinction between the good poor and the accursed poor, and to have the “hospitals” where the guilty poor were locked up and submitted to veritable forced labour and social reintegration, very well-known in many European cities of the past, closed. Without that different view on poverty and the poor held by hundreds and thousands of priests, lay people, nuns and monks, Europe would have been very different and certainly much worse for the poor – and hence for everyone, because the condition of the poor and their social consideration still constitute the primary indicators of the morality of a civilization.

These last few years, this diverse European culture of poverty has plunged into a deep crisis. There are many reasons behind this, but a decisive factor has definitely been and is still caused by the culture of business, which is becoming the dominant culture in every aspect of Civic life. An economy based culture, of predominantly Anglo-Saxon nature, that in the name of meritocracy is reintroducing the archaic thesis everywhere of poverty as a curse and fault. Why? The logics of economy are at the root of ancient religions, which are born from the merchant concept of exchange between men and their divinities.

The first homo oeconomicus was the homo religiosus, who interpreted faith as a trade, as a giving and in turn receiving from the divine, as debit and credit to be managed through offerings and sacrifices. The Bible and later Christianity have fought with all their might to liberate mankind from this economy based idea of God. With the cultural weakening of Christian-Hebrew religion, the ancient idea of the economy god has resurfaced today on our secularized horizon, and with it the idea of blaming, of merits, of demerits, of new kinds of sacrifices and new idols. We have awoken in the “twilight of the gods” enchained by a religion of idols which brings back the archaic idea of the poor as being guilty. But its greatest stroke of genius lies in being able to present it as a moral innovation, as a higher form of justice, simply by giving it an evocative name: meritocracy.

We understand the recent attack against the solidarity networks and the world of the tertiary sector in Italy (it would be useful to read and reread the interview with Zamagni published here on Sunday the 28th of Aprile) without taking the ideological project of meritocracy and the business culture which fuels it too seriously. Meritocracy is becoming an ethical legitimization of the moral condemnation of the poor, which first interprets the lack of (certain types of) talent as a fault to be blamed for, and then condemns the poor as undeserving and finally discards them together with those who take care of them.

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Editorial – At the root of the attack against the solidarity networks

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 30/04/2019

One the greatest moral novelties of Christian and European humanism is having freed the poor of the guilt of their poverty. Ancient times had left us with an idea as legacy, the very deep-seated and widespread idea, that poverty was nothing but a divine curse, well-deserved due to some fault committed by either the person in question or his or her ancestors. The poor hence found themselves condemned twice: by life and by religion (the book of Job constitutes in fact one of the ethical heights of ancient times precisely because it is a reaction against the idea of poverty as a source of guilt), and the rich felt secure, justified and doubly blessed.

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The poor and the theorems of «guilt»

The poor and the theorems of «guilt»

Editorial – At the root of the attack against the solidarity networks by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 30/04/2019 One the greatest moral novelties of Christian and European humanism is having freed the poor of the guilt of their poverty. Ancient times had left us with an idea as legacy, ...
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Editorial – The fire of Notre-Dame: the soul is a serious matter

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire on 18/04/2019

Roots do not represent the past, but the present and the future of plants. They remain hidden, deep rooted and invisible, but nonetheless fundamental. Some trees can continue living despite losing 90% of the leaves and branches, but die if their roots are severed. Uncovering the roots requires a great traumatic event: a major storm, an inundation, an earthquake. The same can be said for life: sometimes it is the death of a parent which leads us to recite the last prayer that we still recall even if, until that moment, we thought that we no longer remembered it. Monday night, the Christian roots of Europe became visible to all while they were burning up. Many of those Frenchmen who found a “Hail Mary…” blossoming from the bottom of their hearts, on their lips, had long lost the sense of that beautiful cathedral of that beautiful name and that marvellous prayer; but the words arose on their own, by the particular maieutic power that only certain kinds of pain know and provoke. Like roots: they are buried deep down, in silence and darkness, but remain in essence, simply, life.

[fulltext] =>

The Notre-Dame fire showed all Parisians, Frenchmen, Europeans and the world where the roots of European culture really can be found, and how essential they are to life. During that awful night it wasn’t just the past that was going up in flames. The present and future were also burning up.

Something closely connected to words that many have wished to cancel or leave in a corner of their mind and life was burning up and during that terrible night they realised they hadn’t managed to eliminate them entirely. Sacred, spiritual, paradise, God, Mary: we have built Europe and the West over many centuries with and on the basis of these in-finite words. Our European cathedrals are icons and sacrament of a humanity which is still alive even if we have been doing everything to cancel and forget it. There they are, silent and persistent and gentle, repeating with their mere presence to us every day words of love that we no longer understand.

But there is an intimate part of us that still takes in those words. For we carry them engraved in our collective and individual soul. We cannot cancel them completely, just as you cannot cancel the chromosomes of your DNA. The soul is always a serious matter. Submerged, forgotten, humiliated, offended words, but still alive. The “heat” of that night made those different words visible again rewriting them with a kinder ink. While they were going up in flames, we returned for a few hours to a long medieval night. We saw that terrible fire and felt small and impotent under the great sky, and together, we heard both within and outside of ourselves powerful and ancient words. And the pain caused by that fire was also pain for the words that were burning up, for which we felt an infinite nostalgia, precisely while they were going up in flames.

The reconstruction of Notre-Dame will not be an easy task. There will naturally be a technical, reconstruction, that of the engineers, architects and the restorers. But there is another reconstruction of real and great difficulty, maybe even impossible without the happening of an actual and very real miracle.

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Editorial – The fire of Notre-Dame: the soul is a serious matter

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire on 18/04/2019

Roots do not represent the past, but the present and the future of plants. They remain hidden, deep rooted and invisible, but nonetheless fundamental. Some trees can continue living despite losing 90% of the leaves and branches, but die if their roots are severed. Uncovering the roots requires a great traumatic event: a major storm, an inundation, an earthquake. The same can be said for life: sometimes it is the death of a parent which leads us to recite the last prayer that we still recall even if, until that moment, we thought that we no longer remembered it. Monday night, the Christian roots of Europe became visible to all while they were burning up. Many of those Frenchmen who found a “Hail Mary…” blossoming from the bottom of their hearts, on their lips, had long lost the sense of that beautiful cathedral of that beautiful name and that marvellous prayer; but the words arose on their own, by the particular maieutic power that only certain kinds of pain know and provoke. Like roots: they are buried deep down, in silence and darkness, but remain in essence, simply, life.

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And now we need a miracle

And now we need a miracle

Editorial – The fire of Notre-Dame: the soul is a serious matter by Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire on 18/04/2019 Roots do not represent the past, but the present and the future of plants. They remain hidden, deep rooted and invisible, but nonetheless fundamental. Some trees can continue livi...
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    [title] => Let's save the Black Friday natives
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Commentaries - The religion of consumption and its sacrificial rites

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 23/11/2018

Black friday 2018 02 ridIf anyone still has any doubt that our capitalism has become something very similar to a religion, they just have to take a good look around on the web and the big shopping malls today and then try to figure out what's really going on. In the places where Black Friday is celebrated what is happening is something very similar to a religious phenomenon, with many traits in common with the functions of traditional religions.

[fulltext] =>

Even this capitalism has a growing need for rites, liturgies, churches, festivals, processions, songs, sacred words, priests and communities; just like any other religion it wants us to cross the threshold of the temple to enter another time in which to enjoy non-ordinary dimensions of life.

But, if we look at it more carefully, we realize that from each of these 'sacred' elements one or more essential components have been amputated. It is precisely this amputation that distances consumer capitalism from 'real' religions (particularly from the Jewish-Christian biblical horizon), and brings it closer to the idolatrous cults typical of the first archaic religious forms, without having the purity of the eyes of ancient people. And so, in the twilight of the gods of traditional religions, contemporary man finds himself in a world freed from the biblical God and repopulated by an infinite number of idols that are less interesting than those of Egypt or Babylon.

To understand this, let's think of the discounts that make up the centre around which the ritual of Black Friday revolves. Even if doubts are raised about their 'truth’ every year, discounts are generally real. It is so because real discount is an essential element of the cult. Discounts must be real, because there is no religion without some form of gift, grace and sacrifice. With one fundamental difference, however, that reveals much of the sacred nature of this day. In traditional religions it is the faithful who offer gifts to their God, in the capitalist 'religion' it is instead the enterprise - god who offers 'gifts' to his faithful. The direction changes because the sense of worship is the opposite. In fact, in the religion of consumption, the idol is not the commodity but the consumer, whom businesses try to retain (or, to use another religious word, make faithful to themselves) with their discount-sacrifice. It’s a gift without gratuitousness, and therefore not religion but idolatry.

But that's not all. The gift of this day is a homoeopathic gift, that is, the like that cures the like. This concept is also very archaic. With the homoeopathic kind of gift you take a very small part of the disease you want to cure and you put it in your body in order to immunize yourself from it. Capitalism knows very well that the true and free gift would be subversive and destabilizing for corporate and financial balances, also because it has no price, it is not for sale, it cannot be encouraged; and so it sterilizes it by introducing 'giftlings’ into its body. In its essence, Black Friday is therefore the great operation attempted by the market to immunize itself from gifts by means of discounts, to try to keep authentic gratuitousness far from its temples.

 It is not by coincidence that Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the memorial of the great abundance of the first harvest when the ‘pilgrims’ (the first settlers - the tr.) arrived in the New World. It is therefore a feast of gratitude and gratuitousness, which the next day tries to neutralize nowadays. We must do everything so that it does not really happen. Because on the day in which gratuitousness is definitively expelled from the markets and the enterprises the whole economy will implode. The magnificent economic system lives and regenerates every day because millions of people give their businesses more than they should give as per contracts and incentives. And they do it simply by working, entering every morning into offices and shops as whole people, and therefore also with their ability to donate and to donate themselves, because this is where much of our dignity and freedom is played out. The main defence against the constant, tenacious and growing war unleashed against gratuitousness therefore lies above all in trying to preserve our moral and spiritual capacity to distinguish gifts from discounts. We must save this distinction especially for today's children, the 'natives' of Black Friday, because on the day they begin to confuse the gift with the discount they will find themselves in an infinitely poorer world. The price of gratuitousness is infinite; no discount can reduce its value.

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Commentaries - The religion of consumption and its sacrificial rites

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 23/11/2018

Black friday 2018 02 ridIf anyone still has any doubt that our capitalism has become something very similar to a religion, they just have to take a good look around on the web and the big shopping malls today and then try to figure out what's really going on. In the places where Black Friday is celebrated what is happening is something very similar to a religious phenomenon, with many traits in common with the functions of traditional religions.

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Let's save the Black Friday natives

Let's save the Black Friday natives

Commentaries - The religion of consumption and its sacrificial rites by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 23/11/2018 If anyone still has any doubt that our capitalism has become something very similar to a religion, they just have to take a good look around on the web and the big shopping malls...
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    [title] => How the female gaze can change the economy
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Why we should start again from common goods and relational goods. From economist Luigino Bruni’s talk he gave on the second day of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 23/08/2018

Famiglia Avvenire ridEconomy is a word of ancient Greek origins that refers directly to the house (oikosnomos, rules for managing the house), therefore to the family. Yet modern economy – and its contemporary version even more so – has been thought of as an area governed by different principles, distinct and in many ways opposed to the principles and values that have always held up and continue to hold up the family. A founding principle of the family, perhaps the first and the one underlying the others, is that of gratuitousness, which is the furthest away from capitalist economy that only knows surrogates of gratuitousness (discounts, philanthropy, sales) that play the role of immunizing the markets from real gratuitousness.

[fulltext] =>

The family, in fact, is the most important place where we learn, throughout our lives and in a very special way as children, what Pavel Florensky called 'the art of gratuitousness'. It is there that – above all as children – we also learn to work, because no job can be well done without gratuitousness. Our culture, however, associates gratuitousness with free things, gadgets, discounts, half an hour more of unpaid work, or the price zero (although St. Francis taught us that gratuitousness is an infinite price: you can neither buy nor sell it because it is priceless). In reality, gratuitousness is something very serious, as it was explained very clearly to us by Caritas in Veritate, which reclaims the status of economic principle to gratuitousness. Gratuitousness is charis, grace, but it is also agape, as it was well known by the first Christians. They translated the Greek word agape with the Latin expression charitas (with the h), precisely to indicate that that Latin word translated to agape but also charis at the same time, and for this reason that different love was neither only eros nor only philia (friendship). Gratuitousness, this gratuitousness, then, is a way of acting and a way of life that consists in approaching others, oneself, nature, God and things in a way not to use them in a utilitarian manner for one's own advantage, but to recognize them in their otherness and in their mystery, to respect and serve them. To say gratuitousness therefore means recognizing that a certain behaviour must be practised because it is good, and not because of a reward or sanction for it. Gratuitousness thus saves us from the predatory tendency that exists in every person, it prevents us from devouring others and ourselves. It is what distinguishes prayer from magic, faith from idolatry, what saves us from narcissism, which is the great mass disease of our time, because of a lack of gratuitousness.

If the family wants to - and it should - cultivate the art of gratuitousness, it must take great care not to import the logic of the incentive that exists everywhere today into their home. Woe to those who, for example, use the logic of incentive within the family dynamics. Money should be used very little in the family, especially around children and young people (actually everyone), and if used it should be used as a reward or recognition of an action well done for intrinsic reasons, and never as a price. One of the typical tasks of the family is precisely to form the ethics of work well done in people, an ethics that arises precisely from the principle of gratuitousness. If, on the other hand, the logic and culture of the incentive is also practised in the family, and therefore money becomes the reason 'why’ one does or does not do homework and household chores, those children will hardly be good workers as adults, because the job well done in future always rests on this gratuitousness that one learns above all in the first years of life, and above all at home.

The absence of the principle of gratuitousness in the economy also depends on the absence of a female gaze – very much. The house, the oikos, has always been the place inhabited and governed by women. But, paradoxically, the economy has been, and continues to be, a matter entirely played out in the male register. Males, too, have always had to deal with the house, and a lot. However, their gaze focused on providing the means for sustenance, on outside work, goods and on money. And when the economy left the domain of domestic life and became political, social and civil, the female gaze and genius remained inside the house, and the male one remained the only perspective in practice and above all in the economic and managerial theory. Women look at the home and the economy seeing first of all the connections of human relations taking place in them. The first goods they see are relational goods and common goods, and inside these they also see the economic goods. It is certainly not a coincidence that the Economy of Communion was born from the gaze of a woman (Chiara Lubich), or that the first theorist of common goods was Katherine Coman (in 1911), and that Elinor Ostrom was awarded (as the only woman so far) the Nobel prize in economics for her work on common goods. And there are two women (Martha Nussbaum and Carol Uhlaner) at the origin of the theory of relational goods. When there is no feminine view of the economy, the only relations seen are the instrumental ones, where it is not the relationship that is considered as a good, but where human relations and those with nature are the means used to obtain goods.

If the female gaze and genius of the oikos-house had been present in the theoretical foundation of modern economy, we would have had an economy that’s more attentive to relationships, to the redistribution of income, to the environment and perhaps to communion. Communion is, in fact, a great word that can pass from the family to the economy of today. And here a specific discourse opens for Christians. The church today is called to be more and more prophecy if it wants to save itself and save people. Prophecy is also a word of the family. Most of the biblical prophets were married, and many of the prophetic words and gestures of the Bible are the words of women. Isaiah called his son Shear-jashub, which means 'a remnant shall return': it is one of the great messages of his prophecy. He couldn't find a better way to launch his prophetic message than by making it his son's name. Every child is a prophetic message, because they say with their own being that the earth will still have a future, and that it can be better than the present. To be credible, the prophecy of the family today must take the form of children and the form of the economy, and therefore of sharing, acceptance and communion. Because both children and the economy are nothing more than the ordinary life of each and every one, which is the only place where prophecy feeds and grows.

 

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From economist Luigino Bruni’s talk he gave on the second day of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. [access] => 1 [hits] => 1628 [xreference] => [featured] => 1 [language] => en-GB [on_img_default] => 1 [readmore] => 6458 [ordering] => 74 [category_title] => EN - Avvenire Editorials [category_route] => economia-civile/it-editoriali-vari/it-varie-editoriali-avvenire [category_access] => 1 [category_alias] => en-avvenire-editorial [published] => 1 [parents_published] => 1 [lft] => 79 [author] => Luigino Bruni [author_email] => ferrucci.anto@gmail.com [parent_title] => IT - Editoriali vari [parent_id] => 893 [parent_route] => economia-civile/it-editoriali-vari [parent_alias] => it-editoriali-vari [rating] => 0 [rating_count] => 0 [alternative_readmore] => [layout] => [params] => Joomla\Registry\Registry Object ( [data:protected] => stdClass Object ( [article_layout] => _:default [show_title] => 1 [link_titles] => 1 [show_intro] => 1 [info_block_position] => 0 [info_block_show_title] => 1 [show_category] => 1 [link_category] => 1 [show_parent_category] => 1 [link_parent_category] => 1 [show_associations] => 0 [flags] => 1 [show_author] => 0 [link_author] => 0 [show_create_date] => 1 [show_modify_date] => 0 [show_publish_date] => 1 [show_item_navigation] => 1 [show_vote] => 0 [show_readmore] => 0 [show_readmore_title] => 0 [readmore_limit] => 100 [show_tags] => 1 [show_icons] => 1 [show_print_icon] => 1 [show_email_icon] => 1 [show_hits] => 0 [record_hits] => 1 [show_noauth] => 0 [urls_position] => 1 [captcha] => [show_publishing_options] => 1 [show_article_options] => 1 [save_history] => 1 [history_limit] => 10 [show_urls_images_frontend] => 0 [show_urls_images_backend] => 1 [targeta] => 0 [targetb] => 0 [targetc] => 0 [float_intro] => left [float_fulltext] => left [category_layout] => _:blog [show_category_heading_title_text] => 0 [show_category_title] => 0 [show_description] => 0 [show_description_image] => 0 [maxLevel] => 0 [show_empty_categories] => 0 [show_no_articles] => 1 [show_subcat_desc] => 0 [show_cat_num_articles] => 0 [show_cat_tags] => 1 [show_base_description] => 1 [maxLevelcat] => -1 [show_empty_categories_cat] => 0 [show_subcat_desc_cat] => 0 [show_cat_num_articles_cat] => 0 [num_leading_articles] => 0 [num_intro_articles] => 14 [num_columns] => 2 [num_links] => 0 [multi_column_order] => 1 [show_subcategory_content] => -1 [show_pagination_limit] => 1 [filter_field] => hide [show_headings] => 1 [list_show_date] => 0 [date_format] => [list_show_hits] => 1 [list_show_author] => 1 [list_show_votes] => 0 [list_show_ratings] => 0 [orderby_pri] => none [orderby_sec] => rdate [order_date] => published [show_pagination] => 2 [show_pagination_results] => 1 [show_featured] => show [show_feed_link] => 1 [feed_summary] => 0 [feed_show_readmore] => 0 [sef_advanced] => 1 [sef_ids] => 1 [custom_fields_enable] => 1 [show_page_heading] => 0 [layout_type] => blog [menu_text] => 1 [menu_show] => 1 [secure] => 0 [helixultimatemenulayout] => {"width":600,"menualign":"right","megamenu":0,"showtitle":1,"faicon":"","customclass":"","dropdown":"right","badge":"","badge_position":"","badge_bg_color":"","badge_text_color":"","layout":[]} [helixultimate_enable_page_title] => 1 [helixultimate_page_title_alt] => Avvenire Editorials [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Civil Economy [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Avvenire Editorials [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2018-08-23 07:16:15 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( ) ) [slug] => 16236:how-the-female-gaze-can-change-the-economy [parent_slug] => 893:it-editoriali-vari [catslug] => 888:en-avvenire-editorial [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

Why we should start again from common goods and relational goods. From economist Luigino Bruni’s talk he gave on the second day of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 23/08/2018

Famiglia Avvenire ridEconomy is a word of ancient Greek origins that refers directly to the house (oikosnomos, rules for managing the house), therefore to the family. Yet modern economy – and its contemporary version even more so – has been thought of as an area governed by different principles, distinct and in many ways opposed to the principles and values that have always held up and continue to hold up the family. A founding principle of the family, perhaps the first and the one underlying the others, is that of gratuitousness, which is the furthest away from capitalist economy that only knows surrogates of gratuitousness (discounts, philanthropy, sales) that play the role of immunizing the markets from real gratuitousness.

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How the female gaze can change the economy

How the female gaze can change the economy

Why we should start again from common goods and relational goods. From economist Luigino Bruni’s talk he gave on the second day of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 23/08/2018 Economy is a word of ancient Greek origins that refers directly to the hous...
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    [title] => A Nobel for the economics that gathers ashes
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Nobel Prize for "contract theory", simple and disastrous

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/10/2016

Oliver Hart Bengt Holmstroem ridThe culture of contracts is the big winner of our time of too many poor on the losers' side. It grew from the ashes of the culture of pacts, which had been the backbone of the family, civil and political edifice of the past generations. Until a few decades ago, the reign of the contract was important but delimited, because much of people's life was ruled by the register of pacts (family, friendship, politics, religion, work...).

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Pacts and contracts have lived together for many centuries and they were complementary tools for social life. Until the point when the globalization of markets and finance as well as the emergence of an ethos - where each bond is experienced as a snare for the individual - decreed the gradual transformation of all the pacts into contracts. The pact is (was) a community and symbolic fact. It does not originate from the register of personal interest only but has its constituent elements coming from gratuitousness, forgiveness and collective bonds and interests. Weddings, unions, cities, constitutions, work - these were pacts and not contracts; and as long as they "live", they still are. The postmodern individual likes contracts very much because they appear as "human relations without injury", that is, relationships with very low "activation" and "exit" costs that are certainly lower than the costs of the pacts.

And so contract is replacing pact very rapidly in the family, at schools, in health care, in the "labour market", presenting itself as the only truly liberal and civil tool for regulating human relationships, possibly all of them. So upon learning about the rewarding of economists Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström yesterday, we can understand why the committee for awarding the Nobel Economics Prize explained their choice by saying that their work in contract theory now covers a constantly expanding area, "from bankruptcy legislation to political constitutions."

The economic theory of contracts has in fact now become a universal grammar to design human relations not only in businesses, but also at universities, in politics, and in more and more forms of organizations. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences seems to know this very well. But what they may not know, or do not say, is that contract theory is profoundly changing our way of being together in the world, and not for the better. In fact, it conveys a very clear vision of man and an increasingly intrusive and influential ideology which is based on certain dogmatic axioms that are far from being ethically neutral. The main and most powerful one is the theory of incentives, according to which if you pay a human being in an adequate and sophisticated way you can get almost anything from them.

And so all the other non-monetary and not self-interested kinds of motivation of human beings should not be taken seriously because they are neither credible nor reliable. The worker or the citizen - according to this economic theory - does not work well because they attribute a value to work well done in itself, but only if they are appropriately remunerated. And after decades during which economists have continued to think, write, and teach all this, it is more and more difficult to find someone who thinks that the first motivation that drives a person to work well is their work ethic or sense of duty.

A side effect of this newly awarded contract theory is presenting all human relationships as free relationships between equals (as contracts, in fact, are). Therefore, we are living the eclipse of the great theme of power, which is declined as simply a matter of the right incentives. Everything is simple, too simple. A simplistic approach founded on the big weak point of a strong anthropological reductionism, of which contract theory is the highest expression.

The motivational, symbolic, relational and spiritual complexity of people is left in the background. Oversimplified men and women are depicted, real contracts are designed to the measure of these "economic gnomes", and finally we end up also believing that we are really such as the economy sees us - an economy that chases the old utopia of reducing human relationships to a technical matter, and therefore to something ethically neutral, universal and abstract.

And also something useless, if not manipulative. So the real question becomes: are we sure that today, while we continue to pay for the disastrous consequences, it was appropriate to reward the leading representatives of this economic and financial theory, presented as a simple "toolbox"? Perhaps, if we want people to get back on friendly terms with economic theory and economic theory to be proven a friend of the people, we need more humanist and less technical minded economists. Scholars who, if asked the question: "What motivated you to become an economist?" may give similar answers to the one that the great (and forgotten) Achille Loria gave almost a century ago: "Human suffering."

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Nobel Prize for "contract theory", simple and disastrous

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/10/2016

Oliver Hart Bengt Holmstroem ridThe culture of contracts is the big winner of our time of too many poor on the losers' side. It grew from the ashes of the culture of pacts, which had been the backbone of the family, civil and political edifice of the past generations. Until a few decades ago, the reign of the contract was important but delimited, because much of people's life was ruled by the register of pacts (family, friendship, politics, religion, work...).

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A Nobel for the economics that gathers ashes

A Nobel for the economics that gathers ashes

Nobel Prize for "contract theory", simple and disastrous by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 11/10/2016 The culture of contracts is the big winner of our time of too many poor on the losers' side. It grew from the ashes of the culture of pacts, which had been the backbone of the family, civil ...
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    [title] => Anorexia of Compassion. A New Concern for Feelings
    [alias] => anorexia-of-compassion-a-new-concern-for-feelings
    [introtext] => 

Commentaries – Facing all the pain pervading our days

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 29/07/2016

Our capacity to suffer because of the suffering of others and to rejoice for their joy has gone through a very rapid decline in a few decades. The consumer and comfort-focused society confuses well-being with the reduction of all forms of suffering, forgetting one of the most profound and ancient truths: that there are many good pains in human life, as there are many evil pleasures, too.

[fulltext] =>

And so television, this new postmodern totem, promises us a happier life, making us move on from the latest massacre in France to the latest game show  in a matter of seconds, resulting in a flattening out of the events which generates a downward levelling of our emotions and feelings.

The great achievements of democracy, rights and freedoms are the mature fruit of millennia of civilization and faith, where we learned to suffer and become indignant for new and different things: for the denied freedom of others, for their crushed rights, for the injustices towards people who were not our relatives or friends. Without these new pains we would not have been able to come out of regimes, we would not have broken free from the pharaohs or the many forms of slavery and servitude.

This type of social emotions is partly natural, but its intensity and quality are the result of culture and the education of character. Of course we feel a sense of discomfort when we come in contact with those suffering around us, but to feel it so strong as to move us to action, to rush to their aid something more than natural is needed. Experiencing discomfort because of a victim that we meet along the way is natural; taking care of them is called culture.

Empathy is natural; compassion isn't because it comes from the cultivation, on an individual Varsavia Sinagoga Ghetto Esterno ridand collective level, of some special emotions and higher feelings. Social norms, as Adam Smith reminded us already in the mid eighteenth century, are generated by the capacity that human beings have developed to approve and blame the actions and feelings of others (and their own), using the faculty he calls 'sympathy'. Social balance is the result of the spontaneous order of the dynamic of feelings, just as the market is the result of the dynamics of interest.

This balance of feelings, however, can get stabilized either at low levels (for example, in a bandits' society) or at a high levels, when people develop religions, art, philosophy, beauty and pietas. But also the 'high' moral order of feelings, like all things fragile (because delicate), can be shattered overnight due to a lack of care and care giving. And as with almost all abilities and virtues, if compassion and indignation are not cultivated and practised they get wasted and regress to lower moral levels.

Constant exposure to the economic ideology and that of consumption turns us into animals less and less able to sympathize and become indignant: only twenty years ago we were much better at it. We are facing a world where we will be increasingly capable of natural and easy emotions towards kittens and puppies, but we will not be able to show solidarity and feel pain over the poverty and injustice around us. Globalization did not empower these feelings, but crushed them and reduced their intensity and effectiveness, making us more capable of simple, ‘low-cost’ emotions but less capable of complex and ‘expensive’ ones. In the western part of the world this latter type emotions were the result of a complex process, where biblical Christianity and humanism have played a key role.

Looking at the statues and stories of martyrs and saints we have learned to feel differently in our soul as we observe and meditate about the paintings and frescoes of the Nativity, the parables, the crosses and the resurrections in the churches. During mass, our grandparents did not understand all the words, but they understood the gospel of the images very well - we can see this even today, when children come to church, and are much more capable than us to enter into a dialogue with the paintings and the faces around them.

If we want to seriously respond to this crisis in our ability to feel and suffer about great and high things, we have to work harder and differently with our young and our children today, recognizing a special role of the school, which is one of the few global public goods that still remained. Literature, art and music are essential to form the emotions and the deepest and greatest kind of feelings in all but especially in children and young adults. The first fairy tales, a famous poem, the stories of Don Rodrigo, the prodigal son or St. Martin have all given us as a free gift the letters with which we wrote down the first few sentences of our consciousness and indignation, the ones with which we have learned to cry for the sorrows and joys of others, to suffer and rejoice for people we have never met and who never existed (but are more real and true than many of our neighbours). If we do not encounter at least one poet who loves the naked truth (Giacomo Leopardi, for example) while we are still young, as adults we won't be able to free ourselves from ideologies, and will surrender to some idol offering simple answers to our even simpler questions.

Varsavia Sinagoga Ghetto Interno ridToday our children grow up being educated mainly by the television and mobile phones, in the company of new soap operas for kids, which do not represent anything more on the screen than what the boys live every day, without any ability to make them dream and wish for greater things than what’s already in their heart. The television stories of my childhood were 'Pinocchio' by Collodi, played by Comencini and 'Michael Strogoff' by Decourt, adapted from Jules Verne. Not long ago I listened to the soundtracks of those films again and suddenly I had a flashback of those days and my first emotions about good and evil by others - I learned it without a teacher’s help that a father can sell his only jacket to be able to send his son to school and that a poor farmer may donate his only horse for a greater ideal.

There is little hope for a change of course in television, whether public or private, as it is increasingly in the hands of profit oriented sponsors. What about school, though? Western governments are reducing the space of art education and humanities, in all types of schools and in all grades. In a culture where faiths and the great collective narratives have lost their space, if young people are also systematically deprived of literature, art, loud music and poetry, it will only produce people without those passions and feelings that are the more important for living together in peace and freedom. If we do not react to this anorexia of compassion, our children will quickly pass through the city centre of Warsaw but will not 'revisit' the ghetto with its 450 thousand Jews who were deported and killed there, they will not get into that synagogue and cry there for shame. And that would be an awfully sad day. The capacity for compassion for one's people is an immense resource of the peoples. It is no less valuable than oil or technology. Starting to talk about its deterioration is the first step to try to reconstitute this heritage that's in ruins now.

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Commentaries – Facing all the pain pervading our days

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 29/07/2016

Our capacity to suffer because of the suffering of others and to rejoice for their joy has gone through a very rapid decline in a few decades. The consumer and comfort-focused society confuses well-being with the reduction of all forms of suffering, forgetting one of the most profound and ancient truths: that there are many good pains in human life, as there are many evil pleasures, too.

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Anorexia of Compassion. A New Concern for Feelings

Anorexia of Compassion. A New Concern for Feelings

Commentaries – Facing all the pain pervading our days by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 29/07/2016 Our capacity to suffer because of the suffering of others and to rejoice for their joy has gone through a very rapid decline in a few decades. The consumer and comfort-focused society confus...
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    [title] => Human Wealth
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Commentaries - Work, its non-places and value

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 01/05/2016

Falegname ridA great utopia of our capitalism is the construction of a society where there is no more need for human labour. There has always been a spirit of the economy that dreamed of "perfect" enterprises and markets to the point where you can manage without humans beings. Managing and controlling men and women is much more difficult than managing docile machines and obedient algorithms. Real people go through crises, they protest, they enter into conflict with each other, they always do things other than those that they should do according to their job descriptions, often they do better things.

[fulltext] =>

Simply because we are free, spiritual beings, and therefore always excessive in relation to our tasks, contracts or incentives. A truly perfect market would then be the system of techniques, controls, incentives and instruments that are finally able to ensure maximum efficiency and maximum production of wealth, reducing everything to the point of eliminating human presence from the new cities of the new economy.

Today, thanks to the extraordinary achievements of automation and digitization, there is a serious danger of that ancient utopia coming true. In fact, if we look closely at the climate that reigns in big companies, we can notice that the objective that lies behind the rhetoric of a certain type of managerial culture (which says exactly the opposite) is standardization, predictability and formatting the behaviour of workers, to depotentiate the charge of freedom that cannot fit in technical rationality. They would want work performed without workers, work without people, extracting only the part that's perfectly oriented to the objectives of ownership from human action. Reduced to its barest essence, this is the nature of the increasingly sophisticated ideology of incentives, which is the new religion of post-modern capitalism.

But when work is reduced to technique and performance, when organizations become so rational as to "build" workers who imitate the logic of machines, nothing remains of the primary anthropological activity that is human labour, or of its mystery. And if men and women lose their ability to work they lose a lot, too, almost all of their dignity, of their having been made "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8; the word-by-word translation of the Italian quote is: "little less than Elohim"). The realization of the utopia of labour-without-humans would then only be a realisation of the perfect dehumanization of life in common. And to continue to live, we would be forced to emigrate en masse to other lands and other planets where it is still possible to really work.

This Labour Day may therefore be the right moment to remind us and to remember what work and the workers really are. We should remember, for example, that if we really want to get to know a person we have to watch them as they work. That is where they are revealed with all their humanity, that is where their ambivalence, limitations but also, and above all, their ability to give freely and exceedingly can be found. We can party together, go out for dinner, play soccer with friends, but nothing compares to work as an anthropological and spiritual window that reveals those around us to us. It is not uncommon that we thought that we knew a friend, a parent, a child, until one day we happen to see them working and suddenly we discover that we had never really known them, because an essential dimension of their person had been veiled from us, one that was only opened up while we watched them work: as they were repairing a car, cleaning a bathroom, teaching a lesson, preparing lunch. All of us are present in the hand that tightens the screw, in the pen that writes, in the rag drying: it is here that we encounter our humanity and that of others. And, almost always, a new appreciation and a new gratitude for work are born and we see and discover them as a gift. Few organisations actually give more joy of the work well done, and so very few (if any) give more misery of bad work, even when we cannot do otherwise. We all have grown up watching the grown-ups work.

I "got to know" my grandfather Domenico when, as a child, I saw him in his workshop building a small stool for me with his own hands. Only there did I realize what his big, callous and expert hands really were, and it was from then on that I really got to know him. The only thing I have left of him now is that cutty-stool, kept in my studio next to my books, and his spirit is perfectly and entirely present in those pieces of wood, because one day I saw him incarnating in that object, built as a gift to me.

A severe form of poverty of our children is not being able to watch the work of adults anymore, because too many jobs are becoming abstract, invisible, confined in far away non-places, inaccessible especially to children and young people. What work will they create tomorrow if today they live immersed in a thousand shows, but are deprived of the sight of work being done, which is the greatest show to see on this earth? A great gift for our children is to give them a chance to see real and concrete work, to begin to see the world from there.

There are few more real human and spiritual experiences than walking through cities and watching people as they work. Therefore, there is no better way to celebrate work than starting to watch it again, seeing it, recognizing it, and then returning with feelings of thankfulness. Our esteem and appreciation – on a personal and collective level – for work and for workers is the first and real reform the world of work needs. And maybe, on this day of non-work, let's read a few pages of the classics of the Italian civil tradition about work again: "There is no work, or capital," Carlo Cattaneo wrote, "that doesn't begin with an act of intelligence. Before any work, before any capital there is intelligence that begins the work, and first impresses the character of wealth on it."

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Buon 1° maggio con l'editoriale di Luigino Bruni su Avvenire di oggi. 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Commentaries - Work, its non-places and value

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 01/05/2016

Falegname ridA great utopia of our capitalism is the construction of a society where there is no more need for human labour. There has always been a spirit of the economy that dreamed of "perfect" enterprises and markets to the point where you can manage without humans beings. Managing and controlling men and women is much more difficult than managing docile machines and obedient algorithms. Real people go through crises, they protest, they enter into conflict with each other, they always do things other than those that they should do according to their job descriptions, often they do better things.

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Human Wealth

Human Wealth

Commentaries - Work, its non-places and value by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 01/05/2016 A great utopia of our capitalism is the construction of a society where there is no more need for human labour. There has always been a spirit of the economy that dreamed of "perfect" enterprises and m...
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    [title] => Through Risen Eyes
    [alias] => through-risen-eyes
    [introtext] => 

Commentaries – How wounds and crises become blessings

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 27/03/2016

Gesù Risorto Pochet 01 ridResurrection is a great word on earth. Life reborn from death is the first law of nature, that of plants and flowers that fill the world with colour and beauty, because they tell us that life is greater than death that feeds it. Women and men are reborn many times throughout their existence, finding themselves resurrected after grief, abandonment, depression or diseases that had crucified them before. Sometimes we rise again by resurrecting someone else from their tomb, and those have surely been the most beautiful and true resurrections we have witnessed. If resurrection had not been a human word, a friend and something familiar, those women and men of Galilee would not have been able to perceive anything of the unique mystery that had been completed between the cross and the day after the Sabbath.

If resurrection is a human word, then it is also a word of economics. There is much resurrection in the economy, in business, in the world of work. We can see it every morning, even in these times of crisis, and especially in these times of crisis.

[fulltext] =>

But we must learn to see it and recognize it, looking at the world with "eyes of resurrection." It is not easy to see and recognize the risen ones or resurrections for many reasons, but mainly because the bodies of the resurrected are bearers of the stigmata of passion. And our wounds and those of others make us afraid, so we flee from them and we cannot experience them as the beginning of resurrection and the sacrament that always accompanies it. And as we are looking for resurrection in the absence of wounds and pain, we do not find it, or maybe confuse it with success. We do not see resurrection because we think it's the anti-cross or the opposite of passion, and not its fulfilment. We flee from those crucified and abandoned, and do not encounter the resurrected that can only be found there. Resurrection begins on the cross, and its signs are forever.

The Risen Christ is the resurrection of his wounded body. The novelty of this resurrection is found in its corporeality, too. The resurrected body, however, is not a return to the body of Thursday (the day before the Passion); resurrection is not an event that erases the signs of the lashing and the Way of the Cross. The Christ appears with his wounds, the light of resurrection did not eliminate the stigmata of Good Friday. The glory of the risen one is therefore not the glory of the ancient hero: his is a wounded glory which is humble and weak. Risen ones appearing without wounds are ghosts, illusions, dreams or ideologies, and so their light is fake. Our resurrections start while the abandoned on the crosses are crying out. And if we do not learn to cry out, we shall not learn to rise again either. We shall not understand the logic of the beatitudes if we do not look at them from the perspective of someone resurrected with the stigmata.

The wounds that remain after the resurrection are fundamental to understand the economics of salvation, but also the salvation of the economy. If the wounds remain on the resurrected bodies, then there is an economics of the crucified and an economics of the risen. The cross and resurrection are in the same economy, in the same life. Therefore, to find the instances of true resurrections in our society and economy, we should go and look where no one is looking any more. We should start searching among the many companies that are being set up by immigrants and their wounds, the many cooperatives that flourish inside prisons, among those young people who decide not to leave their country and land, and humbly learn the ancient skills of the hands, or in the midst of those workers who do not capitulate in the face of the many reasons for property and the market but resurrect their company. Without making the mistake of thinking that the wounds that generated the resurrection will disappear one day, and there will be only light, everywhere.

When we hide the marks of our wounds, our resurrection stories - even the authentic ones - do not become credible places of hope for those who are still in the phase of the cross. In our economy there are too many disheartened people waiting to put their hands into the wounds of the resurrections, to be able to understand and love their own, not yet resurrected wounds in a different way. Resurrections are not found where wounds terminate, but inside them.

Among the many meanings of the word pèsach (Passover), the first Easter, there is also the verb limp (psh). When the reader of the Bible reads "limp" they think of Jacob, the great limper. At the nightly ford of the Jabbok River, Elohim wounded him in the sciatic nerve, made him lame and changed his name to Israel. According to the rabbinical tradition, Jacob limped for the rest of his life. In another night fight, at the ford of the Red Sea the new people was reborn, but the sign-memory of the slavery in Egypt has never disappeared from its body. From the great battles of the Golgotha ​​a resurrected body with the stigmata flourished. Resurrections are wounds turned into blessings, never deleted. When we rise again, our wounds remain, but become luminous. True resurrections can be recognized by the light that radiates from their wounds.

Editor's note - The image of the "Risen Christ" by Michel Pochet (CentroMaria) is located at the Mariapolis Faro (Križevci, Croatia)

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La riflessione su "Economia e Resurrezione" di Luigino Bruni su Avvenire di oggi. Buona Pasqua! 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Commentaries – How wounds and crises become blessings

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 27/03/2016

Gesù Risorto Pochet 01 ridResurrection is a great word on earth. Life reborn from death is the first law of nature, that of plants and flowers that fill the world with colour and beauty, because they tell us that life is greater than death that feeds it. Women and men are reborn many times throughout their existence, finding themselves resurrected after grief, abandonment, depression or diseases that had crucified them before. Sometimes we rise again by resurrecting someone else from their tomb, and those have surely been the most beautiful and true resurrections we have witnessed. If resurrection had not been a human word, a friend and something familiar, those women and men of Galilee would not have been able to perceive anything of the unique mystery that had been completed between the cross and the day after the Sabbath.

If resurrection is a human word, then it is also a word of economics. There is much resurrection in the economy, in business, in the world of work. We can see it every morning, even in these times of crisis, and especially in these times of crisis.

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Through Risen Eyes

Through Risen Eyes

Commentaries – How wounds and crises become blessings by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 27/03/2016 Resurrection is a great word on earth. Life reborn from death is the first law of nature, that of plants and flowers that fill the world with colour and beauty, because they tell us that life i...