The Vocabulary of Good Social Life

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A Critical Point - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/7

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on November 10, 2013

logo_avvenire

There is a social and economic law which is as important as it is forgotten. It is what Luigi Einaudi called "the theory of the critical point", which he defined as "fundamental in science, both economic and political" (Lessons of Social Policy, 1944), which he attributed to his countryman Emanuele Sella (an economist and poet who also wrote a treatise on "Trinity" economics). The idea is the existence of an invisible but real threshold, of a critical point, after which a positive phenomenon turns negative, changing in sign or nature. Today we could apply the law of the critical point to finance, but also to taxes (if they exceed a threshold and so end up penalizing the honest people who pay them).

[fulltext] =>

Einaudi wrote: "it is reasonable that every family would like to possess a radio. But the radio can become a perfect instrument of mental degradation for mankind. The transition from the radio that entertains and educates and makes one forget the pain to the radio that is the cause of the mental degradation of humanity is gradual". If we change the subject of his idea and instead of 'radio' (which nowadays is one of the most creative and critical instruments of the media) we put 'TV', the logic of his analysis becomes very meaningful and up-to-date, which can also be extended to all comfort goods.

In the early stages of development, the availability of goods that increase the comfort is important for general welfare. The examples are many. Just think of what has been the invention of the washing machine for the welfare of our grandmothers and mothers: this comfort product became an ally for improving the standards of their and everyone's lives. Or the introduction of pay-TV that allowed you to see the football game from your warm and cozy home, without any risks. Something similar happened later with the advent of social media, but also with mobile phones, comfortable cars and big houses. But there are many studies now that tell us that the effects of comfort goods on welfare are changing their sign, or nature, once you get beyond a critical point. Pre-cooked food is very useful when you are late and have twenty minutes to prepare dinner, but if over time this becomes the only food in the fridge, and the joy of preparing a (healthy) meal - maybe together - is lost, it is likely that your life is deteriorating in quality. It is great to spend a bit of time on facebook, especially if you can chat with someone you have already met off-line. But if the daily hours spent surfing the Internet become six or eight, the effect of new media on welfare changes radically. And if the "consumption" of football on the couch at home were to grow to the point of emptying stadiums, the well-being that we gain from watching it on TV becomes very little as it is being played to very few spectators, which would ultimately lead to the end of that sport (and market).

But why - and this is the crucial question - should we fall into such traps, and not stop before passing the 'critical point'? The reasons are many. The first one is presented to us by Einaudi himself: graduality. The turning point is reached and passed bit by bit and unnoticed, or noticed too late. A second explanation is called "salience": there is a strong tendency in us to see the comfort goods better and the others like the relational or civil goods less. When we calculate the relative weight of the different types of goods in our happiness, we tend to overestimate the merchandise type of goods and underestimate the non-market goods. The latter ones are the most ordinary and everyday ones (like family relationships, or democracy) and we see them less, they are less salient (outstanding) - except when we eventually realize their value and price, once we lose them. Finally, there is our capitalist market: there is a whole industry, becoming fiercer and fiercer, which is rationally oriented to sell comfort goods, while no one is paying for adverts that encourage us to invest in relational goods or freedom. In this regard it may be interesting to watch "Spot impossible (Impossible spot)" (on YouTube) by my friend and colleague Stefano Bartolini.

Then there is another area touched upon by Einaudi's writing: "A society of obedient people soon becomes victim of a tyrant or of employees and mandarines. What Saint Benedict, Saint Francis and the other great founders gave to the monastic orders was called the 'Rule'. As long as the convents were poor, only men who were ready to sacrifice entered. So the monastery prospered, and the donations of the faithful flowed in; and many wished to devote themselves, their family and property to it. But wealth gives birth to corruption. ...Everywhere, at a distance of more or less one hundred years after foundation, we are witnessing the same thing happen". Here the passing of the critical point produces the distortion of an element that in time turns into its opposite (subjection, accumulation of wealth...). This is an expression of an ancient golden rule: the vicious behaviours are often nothing more than primitive virtues which have been perverted for wanting to save the form and not the substance that had generated them - this is how prudent savings turn into greediness, or the justly earned profit evolves into parasitic revenue. To take an example: the founder's unconditional and to-the-letter fidelity in cultural or spiritual movements was, in the first generation, vital and essential for the birth and growth of those experiences. But at some point it triggered a self-destructive mechanism that blocked the vital need of renewal and reformers, up to the point that it died away in the name of the ancient virtues (loyalty) that gradually mutated into vices (immobility). The monastic movements, Franciscan or Dominican are still alive after many centuries because they were able to generate many creatively faithful reformers.

There are, in fact, steps to be taken in order to avoid, prevent or at least manage these crises, which sometimes become real 'death because of passing the critical point'. A first basic rule is to raise individual and collective awareness in times that are still happy that the critical point exists and that it can be passed without noticing it. Knowing that you can easily fall into these traps is the first antidote that can save you, especially if it is part of the rules of governance and institutional foresight. But even more important is the presence, or the introduction of a jubilee culture. Among the people of Israel every fifty years all the goods were returned to their original owners and debts were erased. If the movements and communities born of idealism were to return to their initial poverty, demobilizing and putting into circulation their assets accumulated over decades, and if they were to end up back "in the streets", they would find that prophetic power for themselves that they have naturally lost in the meantime; and there, in the suburbs they would meet many others who are in search of the same ideals that are no longer in the places of ordinary life of their times.

Finally, it is not difficult to see that we have already exceeded some critical points in the West, probably without even realizing it, or without listening to those he used to say or shout it out -  also because when the critical point is exceeded, it disappears from the visual horizon of civilization and is left behind. We have passed it, or we are very close to it as regards the natural environment, the spiritual capitals, the use of water, the use of public land, many tissues of community, the use of incentives, controls, competition, or keeping up injustice in the world. We have certainly gone beyond the critical point as regards outer life (consumption, goods, technology), and so our great hunger for and inability of interiority, meditation and prayer in which we have fallen gradually are all seen as normal. The same happened to immunity. The well-known modern conquest of spaces and moments of private life that used to be immune to people of power and bosses has turned into a 'culture of immunity' where there are no more hugs and getting close, which is slowly killing everyone and everything; and a whole lot of loneliness is flooding our cities and our lives. We are getting used to suffering alone, dying alone, growing up alone in closed rooms, with no friendly people but a lot of demons around who rob us of our children.

To talk about these major civilian issues is a first decisive step to become aware of this, and not to exceed other critical points on the horizon. To stop and turn back even: in some rare but glaring cases people have been able to do so.

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

Translated by Eszter Kató

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A Critical Point - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/7

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on November 10, 2013

logo_avvenire

There is a social and economic law which is as important as it is forgotten. It is what Luigi Einaudi called "the theory of the critical point", which he defined as "fundamental in science, both economic and political" (Lessons of Social Policy, 1944), which he attributed to his countryman Emanuele Sella (an economist and poet who also wrote a treatise on "Trinity" economics). The idea is the existence of an invisible but real threshold, of a critical point, after which a positive phenomenon turns negative, changing in sign or nature. Today we could apply the law of the critical point to finance, but also to taxes (if they exceed a threshold and so end up penalizing the honest people who pay them).

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Regenerating Overturned Virtues

A Critical Point - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/7 by Luigino Bruni  Published in Avvenire on November 10, 2013 There is a social and economic law which is as important as it is forgotten. It is what Luigi Einaudi called "the theory of the critical point", which he defined as "fundamental in s...
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Types of Capital - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/6

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on November 3, 2013

logo_avvenire

"Bad" poverty is constantly growing, while "good" poverty is diminishing. We are becoming poor quickly and in a bad way because the deterioration of our civil, educational, relational, spiritual and government capital has passed a tipping point, triggering a chain reaction. We are living through a capital decline. The types of poverty that we can measure are manifested as the lack of flows (jobs, income), but in reality they are the much deeper and more long-term expressions of "capital account" processes that do not really depend on the financial crisis of 2007-2008 or on German politics. These, in fact, form our usual, and now sickly, alibi to cover out the real reasons for the serious things that are happening to us.

[fulltext] =>

By now there are many who are against the view that our decline is caused by the deficit and deterioration of productive, technological, environmental, infrastructural, institutional capital. And this is a sacred truth. At the same time, no-one says that the crisis of these forms of capital crucially important for economic growth originates mainly from having used up some more fundamental forms of capital (moral, civil, spiritual), the ones that had generated economics, industry and civilisation. Industry, and before it, the farming, fishing and handcraft cultures of Europe were generated by a complete history of humanity, a centuries and millennia-long process.

Our economic, and therefore, civil revolutiondoes not come from the void - on the contrary, it was the flowering of a centuries-old tree with deep reaching and fertile roots. We should not forget that our entrepreneurial classes are there as a result of the evolution of tens of thousands of tenants, farmers, craftsmen, all of them already prototypal entrepreneurs who had grown to create a new mode and a wider scale for themselves. We should also not forget that there were other decisive elements for our economic and civil ‘miracles’: compulsory education, internal emigration, enormous and almost infinite consumption, unpaid relational and home jobs for women that did not figure in company costs but of course added to the overall return and profit of the enterprise. Every now and then we should also remember that behind the "issue of the South" (in Italy – the translator) that is still an open question with tragic traits (just consider the data on unemployment or school drop-outs), there are certain political choices made about the types of capital to be invested. It has always been and is still thought that the industrial capital is of crucial importance (cf. Cassa del Mezzogiorno, "Fund for the South" - a public effort by the government of Italy to stimulate economic growth and development in the less developed Southern Italy established in 1950 - the translator); but we never did enough to spread cooperatives or rural saving banks in those regions. To bring factories was undoubtedly a way of civilising (to bring toxic refuses later was not); but together with this capital a great political action would have also been necessary to trigger the development of co-operative culture and practices that would have made the development of civil capital possible. I do not believe that the people of Sicily have different anthropological traits than the people of Trentino (a northern province of Italy – the translator) and that therefore it is for cultural reasons that they are incapable of cooperation (or capable only to co-operate in the wrong way). Instead, I have always thought that while the parish priests, politicians, trade unionists of Trentino launched the rural saving banks, cooperatives and cooperative centres in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, their southern colleagues were busy doing other things (in compliance with national politics) and they made it possible for some great and shiny people (like don Luigi Sturzo – an Italian Catholic priest and politician, born in Caltagirone, Sicily, who is considered one of the fathers of Christian democracy – the translator) to remain as bright stars against the skies of dawn that would not be followed by daylight.

Economic flows are first born as moral and civil capital that then become industrial capital, that is, work, income and wealth. Let us try to imagine what Italy (which, in a certain sense, is Southern Europe) would be like today if the great political parties and national politics of the twentieth century as well as the church itself had done their best also in trying to reach out to the South in the cooperative movement of consumption, credit and agriculture, accompanied by educational programmes and internship possibilities. "If"-s and "but"-s are not very useful when talking about history, but they may be of great help to us at the present. Were we to start over again, incentives should be oriented towards the South where there are great many potentials, economic ones, too, that have not been given expression so far and there are great many civil injuries waiting to be turned into blessings.

There is another form of capital that is also rapidly deteriorating. The market economy of the twentieth century was generated partly by a great spiritual and ethical heritage created by millions of educated men and women who got used to suffering, the fatigue of work, the painful shortages in life, history and war. These people managed to remain strong and resilient against both good and bad types of injuries. There is an immense quantity of spiritual and civil energy that was produced and developed throughout the centuries by a land irrigated by Christian compassion, by the simple but true faith of the people and also by ideologies that were often capable of offering a larger horizon than the roughness of everyday life. Inside our good capitalism there was indeed this community "spirit", too. The spiritual capital of a person, and therefore of families, communities, schools, companies, has always been the first form of wealth for all the nations. A person or a people can survive any crisis without giving in as long as they possess the spiritual capital they can draw upon. They do not die as long as they know how to reach into their own souls and into the world's soul to find something or someone to grip on to be able to make a fresh start. Without personal and community spiritual capital it is impossible to bring about a new enterprise, to find the moral resources for taking up a path that is risky for it and for others, too, and for coping with suspensions, adversities and misfortune which are all parts of an entrepreneur's life. What old and new types of spiritual capital are we passing on or creating for the new generations? Are we providing our youth and ourselves with the spiritual resources for the crucial milestones of existence? When they get down and look inside themselves, do they find anything that makes them lift up their heads? If we cannot find a new-old spiritual foundation for the Western World, depression will become the plague of the 21st century. The signs of the fragility of the present young and adult generation tell a lot about it, if only we listen more carefully.

To manage to start a new phase in the spiritual alphabetization of the masses is, therefore, a primary need for the Common Good. We should use all possible means (including the web) and venues (including markets, squares and companies) to bring it through. There is an immense demand for this "good" which in great part is latent and potential at present. But it is necessary to be able to retrace it inside this lack of spirituality that (seems to) dominate our era - by doing what the shoe factory's owner did as he was presented with a dispiriting report (“Everyone walks barefooted here”) by one of his agents in a far-away land. He stated: "So there is an immense market opening up for us there". We are about to step on a decisive path, and this is indeed an epochal moment: if the demand for spiritual goods does not meet a new "offer" by the great and millennium-old religious traditions in possession of a rich heritage able to produce new spiritual goods that are passed on today using new, lively and clear vocabulary, then the market itself will be the one to create, offer and sell spirituality, transforming it into merchandise (as it is already happening: see the multiplying, shamelessly deceitful for-profit sectarians). And so the cure will be worse than the illness.

We should invest in spiritual and moral capital and do extraordinary maintenance work to save what is left of it for us. Our Antonio Genovesi knew it well; his civil message of hope for Italy and Europe will be celebrated on 14th November at the Institute of Lombardia: "The channels of communication are not only physical, but moral, too. Straight, easy and safe roads: rivers, and ferry routes; utility work machines...these come first. But the moral channels are also required. If the most beautiful, wide, straight roads like the Via Appia or the Via Valeria (in Rome) remain infested by FEAR, SLAVERY, ANGER, INJUSTICE, PENITENCE and MISERY, they will not be travelled at all, not even by wild beasts."

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

Translated by Eszter Kató

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Types of Capital - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/6

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on November 3, 2013

logo_avvenire

"Bad" poverty is constantly growing, while "good" poverty is diminishing. We are becoming poor quickly and in a bad way because the deterioration of our civil, educational, relational, spiritual and government capital has passed a tipping point, triggering a chain reaction. We are living through a capital decline. The types of poverty that we can measure are manifested as the lack of flows (jobs, income), but in reality they are the much deeper and more long-term expressions of "capital account" processes that do not really depend on the financial crisis of 2007-2008 or on German politics. These, in fact, form our usual, and now sickly, alibi to cover out the real reasons for the serious things that are happening to us.

[jcfields] => Array ( ) [type] => intro [oddeven] => item-even )

Not All is Merchandise

Types of Capital - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/6 by Luigino Bruni  Published in Avvenire on November 3, 2013 "Bad" poverty is constantly growing, while "good" poverty is diminishing. We are becoming poor quickly and in a bad way because the deterioration of our civil, educational, relat...
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Poverty - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/5

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on October 27, 2013

logo_avvenire

Poverty is an essential dimension of the human condition, it is one of those "first words" in everyone's life. A major fault of our civilization is to consider it a problem that is typical only of some social groups or peoples, the ones that time and again become the "contractors" of poverty. And so we would like to immunize ourselves more and more against the poor, expelling them like scapegoats to stay outside the boundaries of our civil society. We do not know poverty anymore and we do not recognize it, because we have forgotten that we are born into absolute poverty, and that will end his life in no less absolute poverty.

[fulltext] =>

But if we look at it more carefully, we could realize that our whole existence is a tension between wanting to accumulate wealth to bridge this radical anthropological poverty, and the awareness that grows with the years as we realise that the accumulation of goods and money is only a partial answer, and altogether inadequate to the need to reduce the real vulnerability and fragility from which we come, to defeat death. This awareness is at its highest when (and if) we think about how we finish our existence, naked as we arrived upon entering, when riches and wealth will pass away, and only the rest of ourselves - if any - will remain here.

This is the intuition behind the choice of those who decide to decrease the role of money and goods in their lives because they realise that the decrease effectuated on some goods enables the growth of other goods generated by that new, different type of poverty, which is a poverty by choice. This is the ethical and spiritual journey of Jesus Christ ("Though he was rich...he became poor that ye by his poverty might be rich"), which was later adopted by Francis, Gandhi, Simone Weil and many other giants of humanity and spirituality. By their poverty, which they chose themselves, they have enriched and continue to enrich life on earth, especially that of millions and millions of poor people who have not chosen, but only suffer their poverty.

These great lovers of liberating and prophetic poverty are joined by many other men and women of yesterday and today (and tomorrow). A lot of them are found among the poets, nuns, missionaries, responsible citizens, even among journalists, businessmen and politicians.

Without choosing to become poor of power, wealth or ourselves, we cannot fight long and exhausting battles for justice that may lead us to dedicate our entire lives, or even to die for those ideals. Only these of the poor can give their lives for others because they do not consider it a possession to be jealous of. Whoever is not able to give their lives for their ideals thinks mighty little of those ideals and their own lives, too.

Iranian economist Rajiid Rahnema offers an insight to the complex semantics of poverty when on one of the pages of his great work he distinguishes the different forms of poverty: "The choice by my mother and my grandfather who was a Sufi like the great poor of Persian mysticism; that of certain poor people of the neighbourhood where I spent the first twelve years of my life; that of women and men in a globalizing world of modernization, with an income that is insufficient to enter the race of needs created by society; the one connected to the unbearable hardships suffered by a multitude of human beings reduced to cases of humiliating misery; and lastly, the one represented by the moral misery of the classes with property and some social environments in which I came across in the course of my professional career."

And this is where a crucial discourse opens up on the different types of poverty which has been silenced too much. The bad type of poverty (such as the last four mentioned by Rahnema), the type that should be urgently eradicated from the planet, is first of all an absence of "capital"that stands in the way of the generation of "flows" (including the work and a proper income for it) that would allow us to carry out activities that are essential for living a dignified and maybe even beautiful life. If we look at the many and growing forms of unwanted and suffered poverty in which people find themselves trapped (they are still too many in the world, and still too many women, too many children and great many girls), we realize, or we should realize that situations of poverty, insecurity, vulnerability, fragility, failure and exclusion are the result of lack of capital. However, it is not the lack of financial but rather, relational capital (broken families and communities), health, technological, environmental, infrastructure, social, political, and even more educational, moral, motivational and spiritual capital; a hunger for philia, agape.

In order to understand then what kind of poverty a person identified as poor (because they have less than a dollar or two a day) is experiencing the first step should be to look to their capitals, and to see if and how they become flows. The intervention, then, should take place at that level. And this way we could find out - if we look careful enough - that living on two dollars a day in a village with drinking water, which is free of malaria, with a good basic education is a type of poverty that is very different from that of the person who lives on two (or even 5) dollars per day but does not possess those other capitals, or owns less of them. As Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen has been teaching us for decades now, poverty (the bad type of it) means not be in the - social and political - positionto be able to develop one's potentials which thus remain stranded in the very low funds (capital) not allowing for the journey of life to be long enough or not to be too rough and painful. Therefore poverty, every type of poverty, is much more, and something quite different than the absence of money and income. This is what we can see in some dramatic cases when we lose our job and we do not find another because we are not in possession of the "capital" that would be fundamental (not just high education, but also to have learned a craft over the years).

The capital of persons and that of peoples, and so wealth and poverty, are always intertwined with each other. Some capital, wealth and poverty are more crucial to human flourishing, but, except for extreme cases (even if they are highly relevant), no one is poor to the point of not even having some form of wealth. Perhaps it is this intertwining that makes the world a less unjust place than it appears at first sight. At the same time one should be careful not to fall into the "rhetoric of happy poverty" which can often be found in those who praise the needs of others while looking at them from the comfort of luxurious villas, or pass by in armored cars on the outskirts of the cities of the southern hemisphere taking part in the so called - and sometimes quite dubious - "social tourism". Before we can talk of the nice type of poverty we must look into the eyes of the ugly types of it, and possibly get a taste of it, too. But the awareness of the ever-present risk of falling into the bourgeois rhetoric of praise of beautiful poverty (that of others, never known or touched), should not go so far as to delete an even deeper truth: every process leading out of the traps of poverty and need always starts by recognizingthe dimensions of wealth and beauty present in the "poor" that you would like to help. Because when you do not start from the recognition of this heritage which is often buried but real, the development and "empowerment" processes of the "poor" are ineffective if not harmful, because there is no respect for others and their wealth and so there is no experience of the reciprocity of wealth and poverty either.

There are many types of poverty of the "rich" that could be cured by the riches of the "poor" if only they knew, met or touched each other. And if we do not start to get to know and recognize poverty, all forms of poverty, we cannot go back to generating good economy, which always rises from the hunger for life and future of the poor.

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial 

 

Translated by Eszter Kató

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Poverty - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/5

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on October 27, 2013

logo_avvenire

Poverty is an essential dimension of the human condition, it is one of those "first words" in everyone's life. A major fault of our civilization is to consider it a problem that is typical only of some social groups or peoples, the ones that time and again become the "contractors" of poverty. And so we would like to immunize ourselves more and more against the poor, expelling them like scapegoats to stay outside the boundaries of our civil society. We do not know poverty anymore and we do not recognize it, because we have forgotten that we are born into absolute poverty, and that will end his life in no less absolute poverty.

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Prophecy and Injustice

Poverty - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/5 by Luigino Bruni  Published in Avvenire on October 27, 2013 Poverty is an essential dimension of the human condition, it is one of those "first words" in everyone's life. A major fault of our civilization is to consider it a problem that is typical onl...
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Relational Goods - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/4

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on October 20, 2013 

logo_avvenire

Our interpersonal relationships are the most important good and bad things in our lives - this has always been part of popular wisdom. Myths, literature, stories and traditions do nothing but talk about this for thousands of years, telling how richness can become a great evil in the wrong relationships, and how, in the context of material poverty the little possessed may be multiplied if it is shared in the community.

For some decades now social scientists and even some economists (the first one was Benedetto Gui in 1986) have been realising this, too, and they started using the expression 'relational goods' to indicate the type of goods where it is the relationship between persons that constitutes the good itself.

[fulltext] =>

Relational goods mean a whole lot of things today. Some people use this expression to refer to those personal services the value of which depends mainly on the quality of the relationship between the persons involved. If a night out with friends in a pizzeria should count as an instant of well-being surely depends on the quality and price of the pizza, on the beer offered, but above all (in about 80-90%?) it derives from the quality of relationships that we generate together. It is so much true that if there is an argument on a trivial matter, mighty little of that 'well-being' will be left for us, even if the pizza was perfect. The satisfaction (or the lack of it) that we derive from assistance, curing, but also from visits to the doctor's or from school depends in great part from the quality of human relations and encounters lived in them. It is a 'lot' that later becomes 'all' when it comes to children, long stays in hospital or our relationship with our elderly parents. In relational goodsmotivations and intentions of the persons involved have got a particular role that 'produce' and, simultaneously, 'consume' these goods. The reason for this is decisive. If, for example, the consultant or the insurer asks me for my children and my family 'because' he knows that creating this familiar atmosphere makes the closing of the contract easier (and more advantageous to him), and this motivation is revealed to me, the pre-commercial dialogue does not generate any relational good (but, more probably, a 'relational harm').

 Actually, relational goods are goods of great value that is kept only up to the point when we start attaching a price to them in order to transform them into merchandise and put them up for sale. They die away if they lose the active principle of being gratis, i.e. freely given. Relational goods orientate and condition our choices starting from the smallest, every day ones to the great and decisive choices we make.

It would be enough to think every now and then of how much relational goods (and harms) weigh in the quality of our work, for our staying with or quitting a company. Even after moving houses to live in another neighbourhood, we tend to occasionally go back for breakfast in the good old café, because along with the brioche and cappuccino we also "consume" the goods ​that derive from meetings, jokes, or even the teasing of friends for their favourite football team. Without taking into account the need for this kind of nutrition, we would not be able to understand why many elderly people leave their house several times a day to buy bread, then again to get vegetables and finally milk: with these products they also 'consume' relational goods, and feed on them. If we take away the demand and the need for relational goods from the political horizon, just because it was left out by its engineers and consultants, we fail to understand and love our cities, their true poverty and their real wealth, to understand the real costs and the real revenues of the final balance, for example, the small shops of the city.

However, these relational goods do not exhaust the relational nature of goods. All goods, and not only those that we now call relational, carry in themselves the imprint of persons and human relations that have generated them. The weight, shape and visibility of this imprint varies from good to good, but never disappears completely, and we can see them if we want to. Seen from this point of view, all goods become relational goods. It is easy to understand if we think of handicraft products. In the handcraft culture - which is still well and alive, and has never been completely overgrown by industrial culture - a violin, a piece of furniture, an arch were recognisable way before reading the signature of their maker (which was often omitted because it was simply unnecessary). From the object, the subject was but a step away, from the creation it was an easy move to the 'creator'. But there is also the case where the personal imprint is absolutely visible, so much so that it is not possible any more to distinguish between author and work: this is what happens in artistic creation. An artist never completely 'alienates' his work when they sell it because in that work of art a piece of their life, love and pain is incorporated and will remain so for ever.

In our market society, after decades of domination by nameless and impersonal mass products there is now a strong and growing tendency of re-personalising goods. There is a will to give way to the emergence of those "relations between persons, disguised as the relation between things" (Marx, Capital). In the markets, on the shelves, on the web we see merchandise and services, however, behind these there are invisible but most real types of relations of work, production and human relations of power, love and pain. We need to train our view and sharpen our hearing, so that we should be able to hear voices and see faces not only behind the fruit counters or the cash desk of a store, but also behind refrigerators, shoes, clothes, computers, because they are really there. A coffee consumed in a bar free of slot-machines, maybe sipped in the company of friends, is not the same coffee that I drank some time ago in the bar of the next street, even though it was made ​​with the same mixture and with the same machine. It tastes very different, but you need spiritual and civil glands to taste this difference, glands that are out of use any more and being wasted right now.

We should learn to ask more questions of our goods (and harms, too), to interview them, to enter into a dialogue with them. It is not and it should not be enough anymore to talk about the quality of the merchandise and the prices. We should ask for stories of people and circumstances that should be telling us about justice, respect, rights and reveal to us what is invisible to the eyes but is becoming essential to many of us now. Some of this invisible information is being now revealed by the specific labels on the wrapping of products and by the quality marks on them. But it is not enough because goods contain many more important and decisive stories that we don't know. Those labels do not tell us, or not in enough detail whether the wages paid to workers in the cocoa or blue jeans factory are fair, nor about where the legal seat of the company is. They are silent about whether women and mothers were given the opportunity to work well, and they do not tell us where the profits end up, nor about how many and what contributions by other companies are included and paid from the wallet of the company that sold me the product. The ethical supply chains of the products are still too short, terribly short, and they stop just where the things that matter and will count more and more for democracy start.

Our capitalistic culture is making us attribute growing importance to calories, salts and sugars.  But we cannot and should not forget that there exist social calories, salts of justice and other types of excessive sugars that may cause civil and moral heart attack, obesity and diabetes.  

Goods are symbols, and like all symbols operating by their presence or absence they show us something or somebody that exists and is alive somewhere else. Somebody or something that we may choose to ignore and pretend that they do not exist, deny and forget them. But they do not cease to be alive and real. And they keep talking to us, telling us stories and waiting and hoping for us to listen.

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

 

Translated by Eszter Kató

 

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Relational Goods - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/4

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on October 20, 2013 

logo_avvenire

Our interpersonal relationships are the most important good and bad things in our lives - this has always been part of popular wisdom. Myths, literature, stories and traditions do nothing but talk about this for thousands of years, telling how richness can become a great evil in the wrong relationships, and how, in the context of material poverty the little possessed may be multiplied if it is shared in the community.

For some decades now social scientists and even some economists (the first one was Benedetto Gui in 1986) have been realising this, too, and they started using the expression 'relational goods' to indicate the type of goods where it is the relationship between persons that constitutes the good itself.

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Something Essential

Relational Goods - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/4 by Luigino Bruni  Published in Avvenire on October 20, 2013  Our interpersonal relationships are the most important good and bad things in our lives - this has always been part of popular wisdom. Myths, literature, stories and traditions do no...
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Goods - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/3

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on October 13, 2013 

logo_avvenireEven if our times are more and more dominated by invisible technology and finance that have no human face, the protagonists of economy are still persons and goods. Every step in economy - from consumption to work, from saving to investing - is an intertwining of persons and goods. And even when people act in the framework of complex institutions, rules and contracts, and even when the goods lose their materiality and seem to be vanishing away, at the end and at the beginning of every economic move we will always find goods and persons. Therefore, in order to be able to write a new vocabulary of economy, parallel to the reflections on persons - as citizens, "consumers", entrepreneurs, workers - it is necessary and urgent to create a new way of thinking about goods, about the objects of economy, and so about consumption and other practices of life. 

[fulltext] =>

Yesterday, today and tomorrow - the economy is something that is always changing evolving and involving along with persons and goods that are changing, evolving and involving. There is a mysterious relationship of reciprocity between persons and goods. If it is actually true that goods are channelled back to people (the only ones on earth to have freedom and therefore, responsibility), then once the goods are generated, they acquire a life of their own and a great capacity to change our lives, well-being and freedom. This is a formidable law of human existence that the great myths have told us and keep telling us in many ways. In fact, we do not only generate children to modify and radically change our lives forever; the things that we create change us, too, they transform us, they make us better or worse and they do not leave us intact. The world is not the same any more after a baby is born, we know this; but even if in different and ever newer ways, the world is in continuous change because of our artefacts, products, encounters and goods. Through the creation, exchange and consumption of goods we nurture and take care of the world, too.

To name merchandise, the first economists chose the word "goods", which is a term borrowed from philosophy and theology. Good (in Italian: bene), in fact, derives from the moral category of good (buono, or bonum in Latin). And therefore it is good to increase goods because - and if - these are good things, they increase the good in people, in families and in cities, they increase the Common Good (bonum commune). For this reason ethical reflection on economy was originally based on the hypothesis that not all goods and things in the economy are good (good things). For example, the ancient ethical reflection on the vices (lust, gluttony, greed, envy...) cannot be comprehended outside this fellowship of goods and the Good, as well as goods and needs.

However, there is a certain point of the cultural and anthropological trajectory of the West where the individuals are not any more willing to accept to be told by someone (tradition, society, religion, a father...) what the "good" goods and the "real" needs are, what the really useful things may be. The subject becomes the only designated person to tell if something is good for them or not, thereby expressing a demand of the paying market. National wealth has then become the sum of these goods (merchandise and services), defined by single persons and the GNP does but measure these goods. And so our economic richness is populated by a billion different goods, measured only by the monetary meter: antibiotics, tickets to watch Pirandello and Ibsen plays in the theatre, flowers bought to give to our loved ones, relational goods, together with the spending for legal services that are generated by our litigations and crimes, landmines, slot-machines, pornography. It's all about goods, GNP and growth. It's all about labour, some say; but it is not difficult to imagine the human quality of the work of someone, perhaps a woman, who has to do printing in a company in the pornography business to make a living - and make richer those who speculate on those "goods".  Not all labour and not all employment are good things, and they haven't been so either. Goods have lost touch with the Good and without this connection we lose the cultural categories to understand that it is not always the increase of goods that is Good, and that not all goods are good things, that not all growth increases happiness or well-being.  The contrast between our goods and the good becomes visible in all its tragic clarity when we look at our natural environment that is all too often the meeting point of individual goods and the Common Bad.

What ethical criteria have we got today to tell whether an increase in percentage of the GNP is good or bad? We should know and tell how and because of what "goods" has the GNP changed, but we are not capable of doing this. If we admit all this with all the drama inherent in it, we still shouldn't forget that one of the conditions for democracy is the presence of a greater number of goods in the world in comparison with those that are good only for me because in this "reject" there may be and there are also those things that are good for me but not for the others and not for the majority. A fundamental exercise of democracy is to tolerate the existence of more goods than those that we actually like. A 'democratic reject', however, should not keep us from engaging in the posing of difficult and risky questions about the moral nature of economic goods and to convince ourselves about the goodness of our goods and that of others.

There is a last remark, too. There are many goods on earth (and many bad things, too) that are not merchandise. In other words, many things have a value but no price, even in the midst of a very quick transformation of (almost) all goods and bad things as regards merchandise. A new indicator of well-being could then be calculated on the basis of the difference between goods and merchandise, which would give us an idea of how much gratuitousness is able to resist the imperialism of merchandise. But beneath the world of things there is something more. The economic value of goods is only a minimal part of their total value. We generate much more goods than the prices and the GNP are capable of measuring. It is a 'value credit' that may compensate, at least partially, or in its entirety, the debt of many bad things that cannot be compensated for in money because they are too human and painful to have a monetary equivalent.

This surplus value over the actual price regards many goods but is especially true for many personal services, for curing, education, health and research... The total value of a medical visit that helps to find the solution for a serious health problem includes a human and moral value, too, that no fee whatsoever can balance. The economic value of a teacher that helps our children to grow and improve is infinitely greater than their pay. This overflow exists (in different measures) in every type of work and the millionaires make it visible with more clarity by the spotlight of indignation. This is what lends a moral value to that "thank you" that we usually say at the petrol station or to the bar tender after having paid.

We all know, feel and suffer these things. It is also for this reason that workers have a vital need for being satisfied and living well - a need that is almost never fulfilled - that of the other forms of symbolic and relational payments that fill in the gap between their salary in money for the "good of work" and the gift of life in work. This anthropological surplus makes work greater than the salary-merchandise and it does so always and anywhere. When we convert values into prices and goods in merchandise, we should never forget the difference between the value of things and their monetary measures, between work itself and its total price. Recognising it and acting accordingly is an act of economic justice that is the foundation of good social life.

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

 

Translated by Eszter Kató

 

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Goods - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/3

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on October 13, 2013 

logo_avvenireEven if our times are more and more dominated by invisible technology and finance that have no human face, the protagonists of economy are still persons and goods. Every step in economy - from consumption to work, from saving to investing - is an intertwining of persons and goods. And even when people act in the framework of complex institutions, rules and contracts, and even when the goods lose their materiality and seem to be vanishing away, at the end and at the beginning of every economic move we will always find goods and persons. Therefore, in order to be able to write a new vocabulary of economy, parallel to the reflections on persons - as citizens, "consumers", entrepreneurs, workers - it is necessary and urgent to create a new way of thinking about goods, about the objects of economy, and so about consumption and other practices of life. 

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The Price is Unfair

Goods - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/3 by Luigino Bruni  Published in Avvenire on October 13, 2013  Even if our times are more and more dominated by invisible technology and finance that have no human face, the protagonists of economy are still persons and goods. Every step in economy - from c...
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Wealth - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/2

written by Luigino Bruni 

published inAvvenire on October 6, 2013 

logo_avvenire

There are many types of richness, just as there are many types of poverty. Some of them are good but others, even if they are very relevant ones, are bad. The great cultures of the world knew this well; ours, which is not a great one, has forgotten it. The plural and ambivalent nature of richness is inherent to its semantic texture.

The word richness is a distant derivative of rex in Latin (king), therefore it has to do with power and even with disposing of people through money and goods. To possess riches has always been and is still deeply connected with the possession of people; and the border line where democracy turns into plutocracy (the rule of the rich) is always quite faint, fragile and little guarded by those sentinels who are not paid by the plutocrats.

[fulltext] =>

But richness also means wealth, and this English word comes from weal, meaning well-being, prosperity, individual and collective happiness. Adam Smith chose to use the word wealth (and not riches) for his economic study (The Wealth of Nations, 1776), also to suggest that economic richness is something more than the mere sum of material goods or our GNP.

In order to express this second type of richness, Italians and many economists from the Latin peoples chose the term “felicità pubblica” (universal happiness) so as not to misvalue the complex passage from richness to happiness. From the second half of the nineteenth century the tradition of “pubblica felicità” became an underground river and the old idea of well-being understood by wealth gradually disappeared. And so in the whole of the West the semantic range of richness became much poorer - and so did we. We have created a financial type of capitalism that generated much of the wrong 'richness' that did not improve our lives or that of the planet.

We have to urgently restart to differentiate between the forms of richness in order to discern the 'spirits' of capitalism and start saying publicly and with great force that not all things we call riches are actually good.

There is no good in the 'richness' that is born from the overexploitation of the poor and the fragile, or the one that comes from preying on Africa's raw materials, from illegality, from gamble, from prostitution, from wars, from drug trafficking, from the lack of respect for workers or nature. We should possess the ethical force to say that this type of pseudo-richness is not good and to say this with no 'if' or 'but' added. There are no good uses of these bad types of money, and least of all the financing of non-profits or institutions for seriously ill children - these children will 'judge' our capitalism.

Where does the good and real richness come from then? What about its origins and characteristics? For Smith, who also posed these questions and placed them in the focus of his research, richness was born out of human labour, and he wrote this as the first line of his study Wealth of Nations: “The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes”. Natural riches, the seas, monuments and works of art do not always become economic or civil richness if there is no human labour that is capable of making revenue out of them.

But if we look at the deep roots of richness, we discover something that could be surprising for us, because we may realise that its more real nature is actually it being a gift, something donated to us. The good type of richness that is born from work depends on our talents (the talent, that, according to the parable, is given to us), that is, from the gift of intelligence, creativity, ethical and relational givens.
Behind our richness there are providential events that are neither based on our merit nor just the fruits of our dedication (which is always essential, too): being born into a certain country, being loved by our family, having the opportunity to study in good schools, meeting a certain teacher and then the right people along the way etc. How many potential Mozarts or Levi Montalcinis have been already there who did not flourish just because they were born or brought up somewhere else, or simply because they weren't loved enough?

This tension between gift and injustice can be felt in the myth of Pluto (the Greek god of richness) who, after he is blinded, distributes his riches to people without being able to see either their being right or having merits. Similarly, we find the awareness of the gift of richness at the roots of the institution of the jubilee year in Israel, when, once in every fifty years “everyone is to return to their own property.” (Leviticus) However, we have already forgotten and deleted from our civil (and fiscal) horizon that the possessing of goods and riches is a relationship, a social matter: “You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody..." (J.J. Rousseau, The Social Contract). If we delete this deeper and more real nature of richness and the universal destination of all goods, we also lose the feelings of civil recognition for our riches.

To every good type of richness, the foundation is gratuitousness - charis. Therefore we have to look at the world and say the following to each other: “I am you who make me rich”. And never to stop thanking each other. What is my richness if not the fruit of a combination of relations, some of which have got very old roots? In the mediaeval ages the foreigners were inserted among the poorest people in religious processions (the order was based on the census) as they had no friends which made them lacking the most important richness, that of relationships.

Without this recognition and gratitude for the relational nature and gift of richness we end up considering every re-distribution of it a mere usurpation that, in turn, we perceive as a serious profanation by others' hands reaching right into our pockets. Entrepreneurs, too, know that their (good) richness really (and above all) comes from the richness of lands owned, the richness of talents and virtues of the workers, from the moral richness of contractors, banks, clients and public administration, from the spiritual richness of their people (and this is why the fiscal evasion is a serious act of injustice and non-recognition). And so, every now and then they return home after having relocated and tried themselves elsewhere because without these different types of richness they did not manage to grow even their financial richness. If richness is primarily a gift, then the sharing of it and the use of it for the common Good is not an act of heroism but an obligatory act of justice. We can and we have to share it because we have received it in most part. When a culture loses this deep social and political sense of their own richness, it perishes, declines and fades away.

Today the economy suffers and does not generate its typical good richness because the other forms of richness have been impoverished and a relevant part of this impoverishment was caused by the same financial economy that has consumed moral and spiritual resources without any efforts to regenerate these. This was similar to the behaviour of the bee-keeper who, in order to make more money with his bees, focused only on his beehives and ignored and polluted the surrounding environment. And so the fields and orchards have impoverished and today his bees that are very exhausted produce less and less honey, of worse and worse quality. If this bee-keeper wants to make good honey again, he should extend his problem's horizons and understand the real cause of his crisis. Then he should start work in the fields and in the orchards of the surrounding area with the same care he treated his bees and beehives. Every good is also a common good because if it is not common, in fact, it is not a good. To leave the 'employee area' and return to the land to take care of the fields and the orchards, of common goods: this is the main challenge to tackle if we want to return to generating the good type of richness, and therefore, work.

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

Translated by Eszter Kató



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Wealth - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/2

written by Luigino Bruni 

published inAvvenire on October 6, 2013 

logo_avvenire

There are many types of richness, just as there are many types of poverty. Some of them are good but others, even if they are very relevant ones, are bad. The great cultures of the world knew this well; ours, which is not a great one, has forgotten it. The plural and ambivalent nature of richness is inherent to its semantic texture.

The word richness is a distant derivative of rex in Latin (king), therefore it has to do with power and even with disposing of people through money and goods. To possess riches has always been and is still deeply connected with the possession of people; and the border line where democracy turns into plutocracy (the rule of the rich) is always quite faint, fragile and little guarded by those sentinels who are not paid by the plutocrats.

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The Horizon of Talents

Wealth - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life/2 written by Luigino Bruni  published inAvvenire on October 6, 2013  There are many types of richness, just as there are many types of poverty. Some of them are good but others, even if they are very relevant ones, are bad. The great cultures of the world...
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Commentary - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on September 29, 2013 

logo_avvenire

Some people are convinced that the worst part of the crisis is over by now; others believe that the real "great crisis" has just begun. One thing is for sure: we have to start realising that "crisis" is not any more the proper word to describe our times. Actually, we are living in a long transitional period of a paradigm shift that started well before 2007 and is very likely to last for long. Therefore we have to learn quickly how to live well in the world as is given to us today, including the realm of work, too. We need to learn a new vocabulary of economics that is more suitable for us to first understand this world (not that of yesterday) and which is likely to offer us the instruments to act and maybe improve it, too.

[fulltext] =>

There is a new kind of neediness: we do not manage to understand our own economy any more, we don't understand how we work and how we don't work. If we become aware of this new 'lexical' neediness, and so of this mindset, we will start - or perhaps continue - to write a kind of "Vocabulary of Good Social Life" for ourselves. It is an expression taken from (or given to us) by economist and historian Ludovico Bianchini from Naples who held the same teaching post, only a hundred years later, as Antonio Genovesi. He chose the title On the Science of Good Social Life (Della scienza del ben vivere sociale) for his study in economics(1845). No new word is born out of empty space. A new word always feeds on and develops from old words and makes way for the words of the future. Therefore it is always temporary, partial and necessarily incomplete; it is working material, a toolbox for reasoning and acting.

There are some fundamental words of social life that need to be rethought and some of them even rewritten if we want civil and economic life to be 'good' and, possibly, just, too. Right now we are conducting a very mean economy - also because we are thinking and saying bad things about economic and civil life. There are many words to be rethought and rewritten. Without doubt, the following are among them: richness, poverty, entrepreneur, finance, bank, common good, work, justice, management, income distribution, profit, company's property rights, indignation, Italian model, capitalism, and many more. The new vocabulary is also necessary to understand and so revaluate the specifics of Italian and European economic and civil tradition. In fact, the 21st century is (dangerously) becoming the century of a single socio-economic thought.

We are losing too much biodiversity, anthropological richness, cultural heterogeneity. Not only thousands of living species are disappearing, but also some living forms of enterprises, banks, artisan traditions, visions of the world, entrepreneurial culture, co-operation, professions, know-how's and labour ethics are dying, too. And many of those words that are being born now are very much like those aggressive and parasitic species that speed up the decay of old and good types of plants. There are less and less forms of companies, governing styles, banking types and cultures because they are crushed by the ideology of "business is business". Here, business is only derived from the Anglo-Saxon, and particularly, from the US usage of the term where even banks are all the same: they all gamble with our savings and they all love and serve certain territories, families and companies.

European economy has a long tradition of biodiversity which is a product of its long history, of those many centuries that the type of capitalism that is colonising us right now does not possess. Whoever forgets about this long history and this richness will do enormous and often irreversible harm to society and economics.
The 20th century, however, was a century of the plurality of economic systems and capitalisms. This century that seems far in the past now saw several types or forms of market economy unfold. The German social market economy, collectivist economy, the Italian mixed economy - a "mix" that was fuller than the exclusively private/public relationship -, the Scandinavian, French, English, US, Japanese, Indian, South American model, and, in the last flashes of it, the Chinese hybrid model, too. All this variety of market economies, be them capitalistic or not, were later accompanied by great, sometimes enormous, sites of traditional economy that persisted even in our old European continent. All this biodiversity is disappearing in the 21st century.

It is always diversity that makes the world beautiful; biodiversity of civil and economic forms make it as gorgeous and rich as butterflies and plants. The Italian and European landscape are part of the human heritage not only because of the hills and forests (connected to the great monastic charisma of the mediaeval ages and therefore to spiritual biodiversity). Our squares and city walls were made beautiful not only by the surrounding vineyards and olive gardens but also by the cooperative companies, thousands of regional banks and cooperative banks that were all the same yet all different, savings banks, luthier (makers of stringed instruments) wokshops and mountain stables, the district enterprises, brotherhoods, houses of mercy, Don Bosco's schools and those of the Religious Teachers Filippini (Maestre Pie), the hospitals of the Handmaids of Charity (Ancelle della carità) next to the public and private ones. Every time such an institution dies, maybe because of wrong legislation or unprepared consultants, our country becomes poorer and we become less cultured, less profound and free and we burn down centuries of history and biodiversity. 

Where there is no biodiversity, there is only sterility, incest, dwarfism - these are the illnesses that the financial type of capitalism is experiencing nowadays. In fact, it is unable to produce nice work and good richness, exactly because it is too much flattened out onto a single culture and on a single active principle (the maximisation of profit in short time). This loss of civil and economic (and therefore, human) biodiversity is a very serious illness that questions democracy itself which is and has always been strictly connected to the fates, forms and plurality of the protagonists of market economy.

And this is where new challenges open up that are decisive for the quality of our present and future: up until where do we want to extend the mechanism of pricing to rule our lives in our towns? Are we sure that the way we are directing our companies, especially the large ones, has got a future? Will workers always be left out of the management of companies? Do we want to continue to prey on Africa or can we start a new chapter, one of reciprocity, in our relationship with those distant, yet ever closer peoples? When are we going to stop stealing the future of our grandchildren by getting indebted because of excessive and egoistic consumerism? Is it possible to extend the system of hotel ranking called "trip advisor" to all market goods in order to create a real economic democracy? Do we have anything to say in the name of Europe about market and business? These and other difficult questions and challenges cannot be processed successfully if we do not learn first to think and talk about them using the proper words.

There have been too much of damages in these past years that are not only economic, caused by those who produce "bad things" instead of "goods" in costs and incomes alike, masking vices to look like virtues. These damages are continuously, albeit not always intentionally, produced. We all - citizens, economics, institutions, media, politicians - have to gear up and create a new economic and civil language that can help us give the right name to things in order to love them and improve them. In all of the renaissance type ages words fade very quickly and no other historical age has made words and concepts disappear as quickly as ours. If we really want to re-create work, civil concordance, cooperation and richness, first we need to know how to say them, how to call them. When one would like to pass from 'chaos' to 'cosmos' (order), the first fundamental human deed is to name things, to get to know them, to look after them and nurture them. However, the most important word we need to learn again to recognise and say the right way is the name of the other. For whenever you forget that most important of words, the first name, you don't manage to call to or name yourself or things in general, including some very important ones like economy. Only if we call them by the right name will they start to give response to us.

 

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

 

Translated by Eszter Kató

 

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Commentary - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life

by Luigino Bruni 

Published in Avvenire on September 29, 2013 

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Some people are convinced that the worst part of the crisis is over by now; others believe that the real "great crisis" has just begun. One thing is for sure: we have to start realising that "crisis" is not any more the proper word to describe our times. Actually, we are living in a long transitional period of a paradigm shift that started well before 2007 and is very likely to last for long. Therefore we have to learn quickly how to live well in the world as is given to us today, including the realm of work, too. We need to learn a new vocabulary of economics that is more suitable for us to first understand this world (not that of yesterday) and which is likely to offer us the instruments to act and maybe improve it, too.

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Some Words for the Hard Times We Are Living

Commentary - The Vocabulary of Good Social Life by Luigino Bruni  Published in Avvenire on September 29, 2013  Some people are convinced that the worst part of the crisis is over by now; others believe that the real "great crisis" has just begun. One thing is for sure: we have to start realising th...