Gian Piero de Bellis
Polyarchy : a Paradigm
(2002 - 2013)
|The end of occupations|
|The spread of activities|
|Towards a new reality|
One of the basic characteristics of the human being is the desire to be engaged in doing something. To remain still and inactive for long requires either a strong force of the will, like in meditation, or a potent social conditioning, as might be present in some (quite rare) tribes where nothing much is done by the members apart from occasional hunting or raising animals for food.
This aspect of doing something is also motivated by the drive towards the satisfaction of basic human needs like the:
- need of sustenance (physical)
- need of expression (psychological)
- need of collaboration (social)
For these reasons, idleness (doing nothing) has never being considered a virtue to be extolled. In fact, in the course of history, the human being has been variously characterized, in a positive sense, as Homo Faber (Appius Claudius), the Artifex of his destiny and, a Toolmaking Animal (Benjamin Franklin).
While every human being is, generally, an active person, it is also true that not all activities that need to be performed to satisfy human needs have been considered worth accomplishing. In some cases, individuals have tried to avoid certain tasks. These have been assigned to their subordinates.
For example, starting from ancient times and in situations of technological backwardness, the efforts needed to provide the means for sustenance and existence (food, clothes, implements) have been imposed on certain categories of human beings considered their inferiors (slaves, servants, helots).
In these cases, doing is not a free spontaneous choice but an imposed painful duty. For this reason it was qualified as Ponos (Toil) from which the word pain derives.
In ancient times, the attitude towards any type of activities performed with the hands (even the artistic work of a sculptor) was fluctuating.
This is quite evident in the history of the ancient Greeks. At first, and during a long period (from the 9th century B.C.) when the Greeks lived in small communities, manual work was considered the proper way to get the means of daily sustenance, and idleness was condemned and even sanctioned (as in Athens under Solon, 6th century B.C.).
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was the archetype of the enterprising individual, rich in foresight and energy. He was the one who presented humans with the gift of fire and made possible all subsequent activities and development. Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.), in his Prometheus bound, called him the "master of all arts (techne) and sciences."
The Greek heroes, as they appear in the poems of Homer, were celebrated, besides their bravery, for their mastery in doing things. Ulysses, for instance, is shown recounting how he built, with his hands, the nuptial bed carved out of an olive tree rooted to the soil. Even the Gods, in ancient Greece, were portrayed as not disdaining manual work: "Apollo builds the walls of Troy, while Hephaestus forges the arms and the shield of Achilles, Demeter plants corn and Dionysus grape; Athena, Circe and Calypso are weavers." (Pierre Jaccard, Histoire sociale du travail, 1963)
The most famous written document of the ancient times in celebration of work is the poem Works and Days (Erga xai emerai) written by Hesiod in the 8th century BC. In this poem the author openly states that:
"Both gods and men are angry with a man who lives idle … Through work men grow rich in flocks and substance, and working they are much better loved by the immortals. Work is no disgrace: it is idleness which is a disgrace. But if you work, the idle will soon envy you as you grow rich, for fame and renown attend on wealth. And whatever be your lot, work is best for you, if you turn your misguided mind away from other men's property to your work and attend to your livelihood as I bid you."
However, this attitude changed radically in the course of time, the more Sparta became powerful and Athens wealthy. By conquering territories and subjugating people, Spartans and Athenians reduced the vanquished into slavery and forced them to perform, as slaves, all sort of manual work. At that moment, manual work began to be seen as something demeaning for a free man.
Starting from the 7th century B.C., the only honourable occupations were, for the free Spartans, military training, and for the free Athenians, philosophizing and debating on political matters.
For Plato, manual work (ponos = pain, toil) was the despicable but necessary occupation of the mass of people but was not something appropriate for the elite made of free human beings. In the Republic, while extolling the noble function of philosophizing, he writes of people whose "bodies are mutilated by the arts and crafts" and "their souls are doubled up and spoiled as a result of being in mechanical occupations." (Book VI, 495).
And Aristotle, in the Politics, states openly that "those who are in a position which places them above toil have stewards who attend to their households while they occupy themselves with philosophy or with politics." (Book I, Chapter 7)
Clearly these attitudes could be held and the statements expressing them could be made, because the majority of free Athenians owned at least one slave. The total estimated figure of slaves in ancient Greece varies greatly: from a minimum of 20,000 in Athens to a maximum of 400,000, probably for the area of Attica (see Moses Finley, The Ancient Economy, 1973). However, apart from these figures, what remains constant and certain is the fact that in Greece (and later on in Rome) manual work came to be confined to people of inferior status.
In Rome the number of slaves kept growing after each territorial conquest. Some estimates put the number of slaves in the Italian peninsula, in different period of times, between 20 to 40% of the entire population (see: Richard Duncan-Jones, The Economy of the Roman Empire, 1974).
The effects of this abundance of cheap labour (in many cases the slave was used to the maximum with a minimum of maintenance costs) were that:
- technology in general, and technological devices applied to production in particular, were neither studied extensively nor introduced, even when somebody came forward with a new discovery. In Roman history a famous case in point was when the emperor Vespasianus (69 -79 A.C.), presented with an invention to transport columns up to the Capitoline Hill without the need for so many labourers, preferred not to use it in order to let the people of Rome to be occupied in some way. Even more remarkable is the fact that the use of the water-mill, invented in antiquity (an exemplar was operating in the Mithridates palace around the year 18 B.C.), did not spread until the Middle Ages. The most likely reason was that slaves could always be found to turn the millstone.
- productivity was very low, because slaves were keen on preserving their energy in order to stay alive and, usually, were not interested in a productive effort from which they will enjoy a quite insignificant gain.
To the Greek and Roman civilizations we owe some progress in the art of reasoning (philosophy) and in regulating social intercourse (law) but not very much in the field of technology, apart from that concerned with military and logistic uses (for instance, roads and bridges to move an army).
This way of life, i.e. an elite that relied on enslaved masses to perform manual works, could not last. Slavery was, as pointed out, the cause of technological backwardness and was associated with low productivity. In the long run, it condemned a society to intellectual and material decadence, and moral degeneration.
The disruption that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire prepared the way for the progression to a less constrictive (even if still compulsory) work relationship in the form of labour.
With the decline of Rome and the end of Roman military conquests, the number of slaves started to dwindle progressively. However, that did not lead to the emergence of free workers. The need for security was as pressing as ever and this has always led to the rise of some individuals and organizations to a position of power with respect to the masses. The arrangement was, as usual, the promise of protection in exchange for labour services.
The latifundia of the Roman period, abandoned or badly cultivated by slaves, were, in the course of time, subdivided by the old and new owners, and assigned to individuals (tenants) to be cultivated. The masters then extracted for themselves a quota of the produce and demanded also that the tenant used part of his time in performing specific tasks for their convenience.
This new work relationship can be characterized as the passage from slavery to servitude, i.e. from toil to labour.
The motives behind this change were essentially:
- economic: the continuous decrease in the availability of slaves, their consequent high cost and their low level of productivity;
- ethic: the spread of Christianity that made progressively less acceptable the existence of slavery as its justification became problematic for a religion that attributed equal dignity to every human being.
However, it took a long period of time before slavery disappeared completely, at least in Western Europe. Certainly, after the collapse of Rome, it was not any longer the widespread condition endured by manual workers.
The servitude that replaced slavery was still a condition that subjected specific individuals to a series of limitations and obligations. At the same time, as pointed out by Marc Bloch,
"this serf, so despised and confined in a state of such a narrow dependence, didn't present any trait of a slave" neither from the juridical point of view, nor according to social and economic conditions. ((Marc Bloch, Comment et pourquoi finit l’esclavage antique, 1947, Issue 2)
"He didn't live all the time under the orders of another man; he had his own roof and fireside; he was in control of the tilling of his fields; if he was particularly keen on satisfying his needs and particularly skilful, he was better nourished than his neighbour - or, if there was a market, he sold there his produce." (Marc Bloch, Comment et pourquoi finit l’esclavage antique, 1947, Issue 1)
In other words, we are here at the beginning of a very long path towards giving a certain degree of freedom and a first trace of dignity to manual work and to manual workers, after centuries of negative attitudes if not utter rejection of that condition.
A significant contribution to the birth of this new attitude should be given to monastic orders that not only preached the value of manual work alternated with meditation, pray and study (e.g. the exhortation Ora et Labora - Pray and Work associated to the name of Saint Benedict, around 480-547) but also practiced what they were preaching, engaging themselves in huge works of land reclamation, horticulture cultivation and the erection of impressive buildings at the service of the community and for the glory of God.
Clearly, all this was almost a natural outcome for a religion whose message came out of the son of a carpenter, who was himself a carpenter, whose disciples were fishermen and whose parables made reference to people engaged in common, practical activities. Moreover, the main propagator of this new faith was Saint Paul who had stated, in the most direct terms, that “those who do not work have not the right to eat” (Letter to the Thessaloniciens, II, 3) and had warned against those who want to live in idleness, relying on the work of others.
This relative relaxation of the control on workers and this beginning of a renewed dignity assigned to manual work constituted the material and moral underpinning for the emancipation of many servants. That took place when some of them decided to abandon the land and service to their masters in order to start a new life, by engaging in new trades.
During the period called the Early Middle Ages (5th century to 10th century), tilling the land, raising animals and producing food for themselves and their masters were the main activities of the labourers. The implements were rudimentary, with a very scarce use of iron tools, as if people had regressed to a more primitive state of technology.
However, the situation changed at the turn of the first millennium, especially after the introduction (from the 9th century) of a rigid padded collar resting on the shoulder of the horses, that permitted a much better utilization of the animals for ploughing the fields (i.e. faster, deeper).
The spreading of this innovation and the reintroduction of other past inventions like the water-mill (the Domesday Book records more than 5,000 water-mills in 1086 in England and Wales) made it eventually possible, for some rural labourers, to abandon the fields and to start new activities without affecting the level of food production that kept increasing.
A wider division of labour was then made possible by technological progress. The most enterprising of the rural labourers and some categories of people that were marginalized in society (like the Jews and the foreigners) engaged themselves in craft production and trade and some of them prospered beyond all expectation.
These occurrences introduced profound changes in the social structure and in the way some occupations were perceived and esteemed.
The Catholic Church that, in its early time, had developed a positive attitude towards manual work, once it became a powerful and rich organization, amassing vast land properties through reclamation and donations, started changing its views. And this was especially the case of the clergy higher in the hierarchy.
The social structure, also through the representation offered by Church authorities, was seen as composed of three categories of people:
- those who prayed and meditated (the clergy)
- those who fought and defended (the knights)
- those who cultivated and produced (the labourers)
This division was presented as a natural way of organizing society, but it was not acceptable to everybody, Signs of refusal are evident in the numerous revolts that set rural servants against their masters (clerical or lay). They were the manifestations of a rage that affected the servants, who were unwilling to accept their inferior status as a permanent condition. John Ball, the priest leader of the Peasant's revolt of 1381 in England, summed up the desire for an end to servitude and subordination in the famous interrogative sentence: "When Adam delved and Evan span, who was then a gentleman?".
The technological progress, associated with the aspiration to achieve personal emancipation, introduced cracks in this social structure that had lasted for a very long period. The restructuring of the hierarchy resulted in:
- The emergence of new categories of people, the artisans, the traders and the entrepreneurs, who would play a very important role in times to come.
- The re-affirmation of the dignity of work that will be considered, in some instances, to be a form of mission (a calling) acceptable to God and so prized with personal success and good fortune.
We find here the usual pattern that characterizes almost any process of aspiration leading to socio-economic emancipation. Those who are successful in their efforts and gain, in the process, wealth and power, are then inclined to search for a sort of religious or social recognition that would confirm that their success is in the nature of the things and that, what they have achieved, should be considered fully legitimate and acceptable to everybody.
At that moment, those who have emancipated themselves, forget their previous condition of submission to past masters and become the new masters. They then try to block further processes of emancipation, by others, that might compromise their status of wealth and power.
This happened with traders and artisans that organized themselves in guilds and associations. In this way they succeeded not only in introducing acceptable provisions for the protection of the category (mutual assistance), but also, in imposing rules restricting the access to the trade of new comers and charging monopolistic prices to consumers through accords that limited the quantities produced.
However, historical dynamics are almost impossible to control or suppress in the longer term. The introduction of better productive practices in agriculture (e.g. rotation of crops) and in the production of material goods (e.g. technical division of labour) led beyond the craft guilds and trades of the late Middle Ages to the workshops and factories of the Industrial age.
When that took place, a growing number of people moved towards the industrial districts established in villages that became towns and in the towns that became districts of the metropolis. These individuals were to become the working masses and what was required of them was to work with their hands, usually attending a machine, for many hours a day.
Since the Industrial Revolution the term "work" has become the common word used to refer mainly to people engaged in manual occupations in a factory.
This form of work was dominant in that period for two reasons:
- the high number of people involved in the production of industrial goods (the working class or the working masses);
- the important or even revolutionary role that has been attributed to those engaged in industrial work.
The two progressive concepts that emerged and developed in the 18th and 19th century, liberalism and socialism, have both assigned a substantial weight to work and an important role to the workers as producers.
For classic liberal thinkers, like John Locke, work, as personal effort, is the origin of personal property. A natural resource, transformed and made productive by work, becomes the property of the person who has put his energy into operating that transformation. Work was also, according to the classic economists like Adam Smith, the source of economic value.
Locke prized manual work to the point of writing, with reference to the education of a gentleman:
"I would have him learn a trade, a manual trade; nay, two or three, but one more particularly." (§ 201).
And he proposed "gardening or husbandry in general, and working in wood, as a carpenter, joiner, or turner; these being fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business. For since the mind endures not to be constantly employed in the same thing or way; and sedentary or studious men should have some exercise, that at the same time might divert their minds, and employ their bodies; I know none that could do it better for a country gentleman, than these two, the one of them affording him exercise, when the weather or season keeps him from the other." (§ 204) (Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693)
Adam Smith too, while ascribing to the technical division of work (like in the pin factory) the extraordinary increase in productivity, was in favour of overcoming the separation between manual and intellectual work. For him this was not in the nature of things as there was not much difference, at the start, between individuals involved in manual or intellectual work:
"The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were perhaps, very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance." (The Wealth of Nations, 1776, Book I, Chapter II)
In the Book V of The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith expressed a very strong condemnation also of the consequences brought about by the technical division of work pushed to the extreme:
"In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life." (The Wealth of Nations, 1776, Book V, Chapter I)
If was left to Karl Marx to carry this analysis even further by pointing out the relationship between work and technological progress and its ambivalent results:
"It is true that labour produces for the rich wonderful things – but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces – but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty – but for the worker, deformity. It replaces labour by machines, but it throws one section of the workers back into barbarous types of labour and it turns the other section into a machine. It produces intelligence – but for the worker, stupidity, cretinism." (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844)
And this is the consequence of the fact that
"labour is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labour is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labour is shunned like the plague." (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844)
For liberals and socialists of the classic tradition, work is the source and essence of production, property and worthiness of personal life. The problem for them was to transform work in such a way that all the negative aspects (mental alienation, material exploitation) disappeared and the positive side emerged, namely that it became the way to satisfy human needs by way of satisfactory activities.
To this aim a series of essential measures were advocated:
- The reduction of working hours (less time taken by working)
The reduction of the working hours characterized the technological and social progress of industry in the 19th century. It was brought about by the combined action of workers struggles and the foresight of industrialists. The most attentive and progressive industrialists realized, almost from the start, that long hours spent in a factory did not translate, necessarily, into increased production. Beginning with Robert Owen, it became clear that a shorter working day was the path to obtain a much better working performance.
- The introduction of technological devices (less effort expended by working)
The introduction of technological devices was the revolutionary aspect of industrialisation. In the early phases there were episodes in which machines were smashed because they were seen as a menace to gaining a salary by working in a factory. However, it became soon apparent that industrialization could expand worker's occupation even in the presence of mechanization. In fact, the end of the XIX century and the first decades of the 20th century, that were rightly defined as the Age of Mechanization (Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command, 1948), saw a consistent growth in the number of industrial workers.
Besides these measures that were progressively implemented in the past, two other demands were put forward, especially by classic socialists and anarchists:
- The participation of everyone in productive work
The sharing of productive work amongst everybody was considered the best way to abolish privileges and to push for the maximum possible reduction of the working day. This was the condition required for the expansion of free time and for the development of the worker's personality in all his aspects (manual-mental).
- The performing by everyone of unpleasant work
The requirement that everybody should share, at least for a certain period of their life, in undertaking unpleasant work (usually manual work) was also seen as necessary to overcome privileged positions and the reality of unappealing occupations assigned in perpetuity to the same individuals. To put it differently, this meant an end to the division between intellectual and manual work.
These two demands have not been met, as it will be shown shortly. Even when the number of people occupied grew, the figure of those directly involved in production went down. In fact, with the assistance of ever more sophisticated and high performing technological devices, a relatively smaller number of workers produced an increasing quantity of goods, in the factories and in the fields. As for overcoming the division between manual and mental work, the age of mechanization had exactly the opposite result of further separating the two and of fragmenting even more the nature of manual work. This meant that work became jobs and tasks to be performed on the basis of rules and methods decided by experts.
All this was to have widespread effects on the type of work and society that would emerge in the first half of the 20th century.
The spread of industrial factories throughout the western world, during the 19th and 20th centuries, has been characterized by:
- the growth in the dimensions of many industries
- the introduction of many technological devices
- the fragmentation of many working tasks.
The new way of organizing industrial production, qualified as the "Scientific Organization” of work, has been the result of:
- Technical motives: bigger industrial dimensions (more workers, more machines) required a higher degree of coordination amongst the different aspects and phases of production, and this was achieved by way of their standardization, specialization, synchronization.
- Economic motives: the spread of industrialization to many regions of the world, beyond England (the first workshop of the world), meant a wider economic competition and the need to produce more goods (larger market) at lower costs (competitive market). This was achieved by way of a better utilization of machines and men.
- Social motives: the workers entering the factories for the first time, some of them immigrants without any basic qualification, had to be put to work in the shortest possible time. As remarked by Henry Ford: "The rank and file of men come to us unskilled; they learn their jobs within a few hours or a few days." (Henry Ford, My Life and Work, 1922)
This new reality of industrial machines and unqualified individuals suited very well the managers who aimed at being in full control of the general organization of production and wanted a mass of workers who were docile and obedient.
Work then became jobs, and jobs were subdivided into specific tasks performed according to prescribed movements within prefixed times. In the USA, Frederick Winslow Taylor studied how a job should be carried out and instructed how it should be performed. In fact, the principles of the scientific organization of work prescribed “not only what is to be done but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it.” (Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911)
In other words, Taylor searched for what was supposed to be The One Best Way to accomplish a task in the shortest period of time. Similarly, the Gilbreths, husband and wife, examined the movements made by a worker and suggested changes that reduced worker’s effort and increased production.
In 1913 Henry Ford introduced the assembly-line for the production of the Model T car. He took the idea of the assembly-line from the slaughterhouses of Chicago where the carcasses were moved by a conveyor belt and were butchered in sequence by different individuals. With this important innovation in industrial organization, a turning point was reached in which the way tasks were performed (sequence and time) was dictated by the total machine (the assembly-line). The consequences deriving from that transformation were:
- a phenomenal increase in production that put, at the disposal of people, an incredible amount of goods at accessible prices;
- a strong rise in salaries that was the result of the high productivity achieved;
- a diffuse and manifest dissatisfaction for their jobs by the workers, the more they were becoming simple appendices to the mechanical apparatus of production.
Generally speaking, a better salary that put individuals in the condition to buy a larger quantity of diversified cheaper goods cannot fully compensate for a reduction in the mental capacity and human dignity of the workers.
This would be possible only if, what Taylor advocated, was a common occurrence, namely that the manual worker attached to a monotonous job "shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type." (Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911)
In fact Taylor was convinced that "the cost of production is lowered by separating the work of planning and the brain work as much as possible from the manual labor." (Frederick Winslow Taylor, Shop Management, 1911)
However, by demeaning the workers and the content of the work, a point was eventually reached when productivity started to wane. In the end, the refusal to work that appeared, more and more frequently, in the form of slack attitudes, absenteeism, strikes, or even sabotage, pushed the industrial managers to search for new solutions in the way work was organized.
The first attempted solution took the form of promoting a general amelioration of the physical condition of work, on the assumption that "nothing is more certain than that uncomfortable conditions will lower output wherever the worker has the slightest influence on production." (Charles S. Myers ed., Industrial Psychology, 1929)
For this reason, some experts in the organization of work, while aiming always at an increase in productivity, suggested remedies like:
- a reduction in the length of the working day, because "every reduction in the working day leads to a decrease in accidents, spoiled work, sickness and absence" and, in many cases, "to an increase in hourly and daily output." (Charles S. Myers ed., Industrial Psychology, 1929)
- improvements in the working environment (lighting, heating, ventilation, etc.)
- a choice of methods of work appropriate to each individual instead of imposing on everybody a supposedly existent "one best way." "It is far preferable to train the workers in broad general principles and to help in the discovery of the best method of work for each individual worker in accordance with his mental and physical make-up." (Charles S. Myers ed., Industrial Psychology, 1929)
- a better selection of personnel in order to assign a specific job to individuals more suited to perform it, on the basis of their skills and personality.
A further step away from the "Scientific Organization” of work came when Elton Mayo was charged, in 1924, to conduct a research at the Western Electric Company of Hawthorne in Illinois. The researchers, that, initially, intended to focus essentially on the relationship between material aspects of work (salary, working environment, etc.) and productivity, discovered the existence of other important and decisive factors (listed under the generic label of "human factors") responsible for the high level of performance expressed by a group.
In fact, Elton Mayo and his associates discovered that, irrespective of the changes, in a positive or negative direction, in the material conditions of work (e.g. better-worse heating, better-worse lighting) the level of productivity of a group of six female workers taking part in the research, not only was not affected but was on the increase in any case. This phenomenon was attributed, by Elton Mayo, to the fact that the workers had become a collaborative social unit and that trust and confidence had developed between the group and the direction. In the words of Elton Mayo: "Management, by consultation with the girls workers, by clear explanation of the proposed experiments and the reasons for them, by accepting the worker's verdict in special instances, unwittingly scored a success in two most important human matters - the girls became a self-governing team, and a team that cooperated whole-heartedly with management." (Elton Mayo, The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization, 1945)
In other word, the industrialists discovered that the best way to achieve the goals of a productive organization, that is a quantitative and qualitative high level of continuous smooth production, is to treat the workers in the best possible way in terms of material conditions and psychological factors.
This basic realization will characterize all the programs of improvement in the worker’s condition introduced in the factories in the first half of the 20th century. However, even taking into consideration these transformations, we can neither ignore nor omit the fact that we are still in a situation of division between manual and intellectual work, with executors that are told what to do and executives that say what has to be done. And this sharp division, that is alien to the nature of a fully-developed human being, can operate quite smoothly only in so far we are in the presence of striking differences between individuals in the mastery of skills and knowledge.
In the second half of the 20th century, with the nearly general satisfaction of basic material needs (food, shelter, protection), higher level exigencies related to knowledge acquisition and personal development came to the fore. A good salary and a satisfactory working environment did not, any longer, provide an adequate reward for people who wanted not only meaningful and creative jobs but also to be in control of what they were doing.
This was also the almost inevitable consequence of a general higher level of instruction. "In 1940, [in the U.S.A.] the proportion of workers with a high school or college education was 39.1 per cent. By 1950 it had increased to 50.3 per cent and by 1959 to 62.0 per cent." "As people acquire more education, their expectations rise as to the amount of responsibility, authority, and income they will receive."(Rensis Likert, New Patterns of Management, 1961)
On the basis of this new reality, a new approach to the organization of work emerged, under the name of "human resources". The main aspects dealt with by the theoreticians and practitioners of this new approach were:
- The improvement of jobs
- The development of participation.
The improvement of jobs
The starting point advocated in the "human resources" approach is that "the expenditure of physical and mental effort is as natural as play or rest. The average human being does not inherently dislike work. Depending upon controllable conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction (and will be voluntarily performed) or a source of punishment (and will be avoided if possible)." (Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise, 1960)
Through the analysis of the working process, the researchers discovered that jobs characterized by high fragmentation, high repetitiveness and low demand upon human skills and mental attention needed to be restructured because "nearly twice as many workers left the jobs with extreme mass production characteristics as left jobs with moderate mass production characteristics." (Charles R. Walker and Robert H. Guest, The Man on the Assembly Line, 1952)
This malaise, that resulted in frequent abandonment of work (turnover), led to low performance and a general disruption of the productive process. The suggestions put forward to counteract this tendency were:
- the introduction of periods of rest that would soften the impact of the stressful rhythm imposed by the assembly-line;
- the transformation of the relationship between workers and their job.
This could be achieved by:
- job rotation "which clearly means job enrichment for the individual" (Charles R. Walker and Robert H. Guest, The Man on the Assembly Line, 1952) allowing him to understand and control various aspect of the working process;
- job enlargement that "is simply the recombining of two or more separate jobs into one." (Charles R. Walker and Robert H. Guest, The Man on the Assembly Line, 1952)
These two changes marked the realization that the fragmentation of work had reached its final point. In a total reverse with respect to the Industrial Revolution, when the minute subdivision of manual work had increased productivity enormously (as in the famous example of the pin factory), now "certain plant managers in other industries have been finding that a law of diminishing returns applies to the subdivision of jobs and that a recombination of certain fractured parts has increased efficiency." (Charles R. Walker and Robert H. Guest, The Man on the Assembly Line, 1952)
The development of participation
Another theoretical assumption (based on empirical evidence) of the "human resources" researchers, was that "the average human being learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility." (Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise, 1960)
This inferred that people "will exercise self-direction and self-control in the achievement of organizational objectives to the degree that they are committed to those objectives." (Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise, 1960)
And to exercise self-direction and self-control means not only to be informed about the strategy (goals and means) of the enterprise, but also to have a voice in deciding the specific goals and means for implementing that strategy.
While these changes were introduced in the work organization of many industries, the general social and economic trend of the first half of the 20th century was that of a continuous movement of manual workers from the agricultural sector to the industrial sector. In 1870 in the United States 50.0 % of the workers were active in the agricultural sector. They were only 9.3 % in 1957 and still declining (3.6% in 1980). And then, from the second quarter of the 20th century, the service sector started a continuous growth that, eventually, led it to become the most important sector in the economy from the point of view of occupations.
And while most of the sons of the rural workers became manual industrial workers, the sons of what were the aristocrats of the past and of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois of the present found, increasingly, their occupation in professions and careers in the service sector.
In the past, most individuals born to aristocratic or wealthy families never had the necessity to look for work. They had already at their disposal all the necessary means of sustenance and so they could dispose of their time in any way they preferred, even in the most unproductive or destructive one.
However, a life concentrated entirely on personal amusements, without a focus of interest outside that realm, is, for many individuals, hard to conduct. So, apart from administering their own properties or being occupied in public affairs, many so-called gentlemen engaged in professions.
These professions and the people who practiced them could be put into three categories, assigning to their practitioners the general qualifications of “doctors”:
- The soul doctors: the priests. The clergy is one of the oldest professional bodies. During the Middle Ages and up to Modern Times, entering the clergy for the younger sons or being admitted to a monastery for the daughter of the aristocrats was a worthy way to embrace a profession and a mission of high renown.
- The social doctors: the lawyers. Lawyers existed in Roman society and they have continued to exist, since then, as one of the most consolidated professions whenever and wherever people have considered, or have been made to consider, necessary the recourse to external aid in order to resolve or get advice in a controversy.
- The body doctors: the physicians. The profession of the physician is also an old one (ancient Egypt). However, in medieval Europe the tradition was that "gentlemen did not work with their hands, and then were precluded not only from surgery, which was relegated to the barbers, but even from performing physical examinations." (Talcott Parson, Professions, in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 1972). This reluctance disappeared in England around the middle of the 18th century.
These were for a long period of time, the only recognized professions for which a course of learning was developed in the early universities (Bologna, Oxford, Paris), in the faculties of theology, law and medicine.
With the economic growth engendered, from 1750, by what was later called the Industrial Revolution, two developments occurred:
- a new social division of labour was made possible by an extraordinary growth in productivity. This freed many individuals from conventional occupations and made it possible for them to perform new social roles;
- the performance of these new social roles or professions became more and more acceptable to the gentlemen as time passed. They found in them a source of social prestige and economic success, if not also personal satisfaction.
With reference to these new social roles, we can still use the categories previously employed, though with some adjustments and additions relating to their practitioners and practices. We have then these new professional groups:
- The soul doctors. In a secularized world where the importance of the Church and of the clergy is reduced, the priests are replaced by psychologists and psychoanalysts that take care of the inner and immaterial aspects of the individual, the psyche. To them, we could add a series of other professional figures that are occupied in shaping the minds of the people with all sorts of packaged information (from knowledge to entertainment). Working as journalists, teachers, editors, film directors, screen players, etc., they are the makers of opinions, fashions, fads, ideologies etc.
- The social doctors. The emergence of a mass society dominated by the institution of the state has generated a continuous swelling of the category of social doctors. In fact, the belief that society is, like the human body, an organism that can be regulated and cured by professionals, has justified the appearance of specific practitioners that, under the umbrella of the state, are supposed to govern supposedly existent entities known as: the economy, the market, the nation, etc. and promote goals known as: growth, welfare, security, etc. They do all this in the name of a society that is implicitly equated to the state. We see then the appearance of economists, planners, administrators, welfare officers, social carers, etc.
- The body doctors. Better living conditions, that result from improved shelter and nourishment, mean that people live longer and that more resources are allocate for the cure and care of the body. This has produced a health industry with an incredible array of health professionals, each one focusing on a specific part of the body. Besides the GP (general practitioner), new professionals figure have emerged that shape, embellish, invigorate, beautify, the various parts of the body: the face, the breast, the muscles, the hands, the feet, the buttocks and so forth. We have then beauticians, masseurs, body-builders, plastic surgeons, etc.
The people belonging to these new professional categories, once they reached a certain status and grew to a certain number of practitioners, organized as a group. They then demanded, from new-comers to the field, the requirement to attend a specialized course of training, at the end of which one was supposed to receive a certificate, generally recognized by the state, that allowed him/her to enter and be part of a professional body regulated and protected by the state. This certification and institutionalization of the profession, was presented as the necessary way to protect the reputation of the category. However, in the past it was the public (the consumers) that discriminated between good or bad lawyers, good or bad physicians, and so forth, without the need for certifications and institutionalization from the top. So, it is quite appropriate to suspect that this regulation-bureaucratization of the professions was essentially the indispensable way to protect the category from losing the control over consumers.
This was confirmed by the fact that, in order to further guarantee and enhance the fortunes of each institutionalized category, the state expressly forbade and legally punished non-registered individuals from practicing the professions. After that, only state certified doctors or lawyers, who belonged to state registered orders, could open a practice. This is the equivalent, in modern times, of the restrictions imposed, during the Middle Ages, by guilds limiting access to and practice of a trade. And, in a more stringent version, is what the caste system is all about.
It is no wonder that, on the basis of all this (certification, registration, licensing), an anti-conventional mind like that of George Bernard Shaw was induced to say that: "All professions are conspiracies against the laity." (The Doctor's Dilemma, 1906). And Jules Romains, through the doctor Knock, showed how this conspiracy, i.e. this professional swindling, could be carried out to perfection (Jules Romains, Knock ou le triomphe de la médecine, 1923)
In more recent times, the way professionals act has been scrutinised and this analysis has produced the thesis of the "disabling professions" providing "disabling help". This occurs by a process through which:
- professionals instil in people's minds the conviction that there are new needs and new problems, and they present themselves as the only ones who hold the necessary solution;
- the ordinary human beings, after repeatedly having made recourse to them for treatment, become eventually unable to solve most personal problems for themselves and delegate almost everything to the supposed professional experts.
In general, it can be said that the professions, in the way in which they have emerged and have been organized, have been a way to grant an intellectual occupation to the sons of the aristocracy and of the wealthy bourgeoisie, in the past, and of the petite bourgeoisie in the present. However, this was not the only avenue opened to them. There was also a career in the military or in the civil service, that is, directly under the wider and growing wings of the state.
The rise of the secular state and of the laity, especially after the French Revolution, resulted in growing opportunities offered to the sons of some strata of society (aristocracy, bourgeoisie, and also petite bourgeoisie) to embark on a career in the service of the state, which would lead to the enhancement of state power.
Within the state, there were and there still are three main distinct career opportunities:
Politics. Politics has always been an area of intervention for the aristocracy and oligarchy. This opportunity has existed since the time of the ancient Greek polis (from which the term politics derives) through to the period when the gentry and the big landlords debated in the English Parliament. For many, their involvement in politics, resulted in laws which favoured them, for instance by enlarging the size of their properties (e.g. the enclosure acts). However, at that time, politics was considered essentially as providing a service to the community, rich in prestige and power but not in direct monetary remunerations. It was only with the modern democratic state that politics became a career, open to almost everybody, and to represent the masses was an honourable way to receive a regular income (at least for the time one was elected) and to amass a certain wealth (as a safe haven for the time one was not any longer in office).
The classic example of this can be found in one of the most dynamic and democratic of the Republics, the United States of America. In the USA, the so-called “spoils system” (the political winner gets all the opportunities to place his men in lucrative positions and in the control of lucrative activities) became the common practice from the first half of the 19th century onwards. The most successful and well-known implementation of the spoils system was Tammany Hall, a political district of New York city, where, at the beginning of the 20th century senator Plunkitt was celebrating the virtues of honest graft and the high mission of political patronage as the essential pillars of any career in politics.
Beyond politics, for those who wanted more discipline and action and less squabbling and babbling on political issues, there was something else. i.e. a career in the army.
Army. The army or better the practice of the army has been one of the main occupations of the aristocrats as leaders and of their followers as soldiers. As a matter of fact, fighting under the order of a chief or general has been, since immemorial time, a way to gain a living. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Italian term "soldi" (money) comes from soldiers, i.e. the pay of the soldier.
However, it was only with the French Revolution and with the levée en masse (1793),
that the army became a very important sector of the state in terms
of employment and career opportunities.
The development of the army as a professional career was sanctioned by the opening of schools of war and military academies, that prepared the necessary personnel for the task. Growing numbers were needed to direct and to perform the various military operations that big and small state powers undertook, especially starting from the end of the 19th century, when imperialistic adventures prepared the way for the two World Wars.
Imperialism was a constant source of demand for military personnel,
dispatched to distant corners of the world (India, Indochina, South
Africa, Morocco, etc.) where bravery (read also: cruelty) and discipline
(read also: blind obedience) provided an opportunity for advancement
in the ranks.
Irish, Scots and Welsh military personnel participated in large number in the construction of the British Empire, but there was also the need for civil servants performing a purely administrative function.
So, besides politics and the army, for those who preferred less harshness and adventure and a bit more regularity and quietness in their lives, another career opportunity was open, at home and abroad, within the bureaucratic apparatus of the state.
Bureaucracy. In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries almost every state kept enlarging its sphere of intervention; to that purpose they needed a growing administrative machine to control and regulate an increasing number of aspects of social life. So many social relations and personal matters got under the supervision of the state that many citizens became oblivious of any difference between state and society and started thinking that a society (i.e. autonomous social relations) cannot exist without a state (i.e. compulsory administered relations). It is no wonder that, out of this instilled conviction, bureaucratic personnel and users of bureaucratic "services" have multiplied almost exponentially.
France has been and still is a paradigmatic example of the pervasiveness
of state bureaucracy.
Karl Marx was conscious of this phenomenon already in the middle of the 19th century, when he described the French state as an "appalling parasitic body, which enmeshes French society and chokes all its pores" with "its enormous bureaucratic and military organization, with its vast and ingenious state machinery, with a host of officials numbering half a million, besides an army of another half a million." (Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852 )
And, towards the end of the 19th century, Gustave Le Bon remarked that "... the last of the bourgeois cannot see for his sons than a career on the payroll of the State. Instead of preparing individuals for the art of living, the school trains them to perform state functions for which no personal initiative is required at all. " (Psycologie des foules, 1895)
Since then, the French state has grown continuously in terms of personnel and the degree of social control. The state bureaucracy, with all his departments and offices and sections, is a gigantic body that has put all groups and their social expressions under tutelage.
During the course of the 20th century the bureaucratic phenomenon which provided occupations and careers, was present not only inside the state but also within business enterprises.
The mechanization and automation of work led to an increase in the production, and a new career personnel was now employed in the process of registering the procurement of raw goods and the sale of finite products, through an array of buyers, accountants, secretaries, marketing and publicity experts, salesmen, etc.
In a highly productive society, this climbing of the socio-economic ladder by way of a career in non-manual occupations was the appropriate response to a series of requirements:
- employing, in quite light and appealing occupations, the sons and daughters of the petit bourgeoisie;
- obtaining their support to the institutions (the central state and the peripheral administrations) and organizations (the big business enterprise and its collateral activities) that granted them not only an income but the possibility of a betterment in their standard of living;
- strengthening the power of those at the top of the pyramid by providing them with a considerable number of people under their command or influence.
In other words, the career mechanism is a powerful device for the growth of loyalty at the bottom and of patronage at the top. This mechanism was to be replicated everywhere in order to make sure that the masses were interested in the preservation of a system presented as the only one capable of assuring them a decent life.
For the masses to have an income became then equivalent to work under a master for a pay that (in real or monetary terms) would increase regularly. In fact two were the paramount objectives of the large majority of the people living in the 20th century: employment and growth.
Over time, the idea that everybody had to work, from being a moral precept became also a state policy. In modern England, the revised law against vagrancy and begging (Poor Law Amendment Act 1834) centred on the establishment of workhouses where people received relief in exchange for work.
The Industrial Revolution generalized the condition of dependent factory
work. Those who did not work were seen as people likely to fall into any
vice and depravity. For the common person, to have an employment, was,
at the same time, a duty but also a right.
The aim of granting employment became then,
- an economic imperative: the wealthy industrial élite had to provide work to the demanding masses because that was their economic role and also because, in so doing, they avoided social unrest.
- a social imperative: the trade unions presented unemployment as a dirty trick perpetrated by the industrial masters to generate an “industrial reserve army” that would keep salaries low and workers obedient, for fear of being sacked and replaced. So, the right to work became the main objective of trade unions.
- a political imperative: the politicians saw in full employment the way to achieve contented masses operating for the wealth and greatness of the nation. If not, through appropriate political measures, they needed to find a way of providing the highest possible number of work places.
Initially, and for some individuals, the machines were seen as the enemy because they were replacing the workers. But soon it became clear that machines were helping in producing more goods, making them cheaper; this generated an increase in the number of consumers that, in its turn, demanded an increase in the number of producers (employed people) attending the machines. Moreover, as an added benefit brought about by the introduction of machines, it was possible to reduce progressively the length of the working day (from a maximum of 16 hours) increasing, at the same time, the amount of goods produced.
It was only after extensive mechanization in the early 20th century, with the beginning of the industrial automation that followed it, that the concern for unemployment reappeared in a quite widespread and vigorous way.
The solutions proposed could be divided into two main categories:
a) a further reduction in the length of the working day in connection with the increase in productivity per working hour;
b) a further increase in the number of additional working opportunities (whatever that meant) and in the provision of welfare assistance, irrespective of the work provided.
a) Working Time Proposals
In the past many philosophers and social thinkers wrote about the possibility of reducing the working day to just a few hours. Amongst them we have:
- Paul Lafargue, for which "le travail ne deviendra ... un exercice bienfaisant à l'organisme humaine, une passion utile à l'organisme social que lorsqu'il sera ... limité à un maximum de trois heures par jour." [“work will not become .. a healthy exercise for the human body, a passion useful for the social organism, unless it is … limited to three hours per day.”] (Le droit à la paresse, 1880)
- Edward Bellamy, that envisaged a society in which "the working hours are short, the vacations regular" and "all emulation [i.e. work competition] ceases at forty-five, with the attainment of middle life." (Looking Backward: 2000-1887, 1887)
- Bertrand Russell who openly stated that "the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work." This because "modern technique has made it possible to diminish enormously the amount of labor required to secure the necessaries of life for everyone." For Russell, "if the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody, and no unemployment - assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization." (In praise of idleness, 1932)
- John Maynard Keynes who, in 1930, suggested "to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible." This would have meant the possibility of introducing a "three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week" (Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, 1930)
b) Employment-Unemployment Provisions
Ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s, providing employment and being employed has become the mantra of every politician, economist and of all the chorus of the mass media. Full employment has been the wondrous aim of a society run by state rulers. And this aim had to be achieved without reducing the number of working hours and without stopping the introduction of automatic working devices. This was because, a very short working day could have given time for people to think about organizing their lives without the dominating presence of their national political and economic masters. As for technological progress, stopping it could have given an undesirable advantage in the competition for industrial supremacy to producers operating in other lands.
So, the same John Maynard Keynes that only a few years earlier was suggesting a reduction of hours worked, now, with an incredible volte-face and using the weight of his intellectual prestige at that time, was advising state rulers to generate useless work in order to produce employment. In his economic vision, "To dig holes in the ground ... will increase not only employment, but the real national dividend of useful goods and services." (The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936, Chapter XVI)
The mix of policy measures devised and implemented by the ruling strata (political and economic) in order to achieve contradictory aims, namely to promote employment while, at the same time, increasing productivity via technological advancement, without any reduction in the working time, is something that seems almost unbelievable; and it is the clearest sign of the level of manipulation from the top and acquiescence from the bottom that has characterized a long part of the 20th century.
In fact, a sort of diffuse employment has been achieved through the following measures:
- employment in useless work
People have been paid to do things that have neither social nor economic value, like, just to give a few examples, opening and closing doors, pressing a button in a lift, making photocopies in a library, pointing to the entrance in a conference hall, and so on and so forth (except if this has to do with assisting quite old or handicapped individuals or in special cases of mass events). Patronage or prestige on one side and income needs on the other, can explain but certainly cannot justify these sort of occupations, especially nowadays when people can very well do this type of things by themselves or by relying on automatic mechanisms.
- employment in obstructive-destructive work
Bureaucratic and military personnel are the clear examples of employment that is not only parasitic but also obnoxious to the point that it should not even count as an occupation. To set up a huge military complex, to open embassies and consulates all over the world, to hire an army of paper-producing and paper-shuffling bureaucrats (e.g. over 40,000 people work for the European Union plus 15,000 lobbyists based in Brussels): all this makes for good employment statistics but is total economic nonsense.
In France, in the year 2008, the “fonction publique” (civil service) employed 5.2 millions people, that meant that one in every 5 employees worked for the state. How many of them performed a service demanded by the public at a price the public was willing to pay, could be assessed only if they were not a protected category paid through compulsory taxation.
In the USA, state and local personnel (full and part time) for the year 2011 was over 19,4 million people. Federal personnel in 2012 was around 2,9 million people to which we must add military personnel that were in September 2012, slightly over 2 million units. All in all, more that 24 million people (that is 7.6% of the population) work for one or the other entities that make up the state machine. Not all of those employees can be considered as performing obstructive-destructive work but no one can effectively assess which ones are really necessary unless those employees, like everybody else, offered services in competition with other agencies and providers.
- wasteful-corrupting assistance
The large expansion in the number and size of international bodies and the multiplication of non-governmental organizations and charitable institutions operating in so-called under-developed countries, has generated highly sought after occupations. The work done and the assistance provided are, generally, more detrimental than useful because resources are mainly employed in producing the usual plethora of research documents in support of bureaucratic measures; or the funds allocated go to enrich western enterprises and local bureaucracies. All this has a corrupting effect upon people, making them dependent on continuous hand-outs, and has a depressing effect on potential producers that are not motivated to do any effort to get out of a backward condition.
- security staff
The violent meddling of some bully states in people’s lives and the introduction of laws forbidding the consumption of certain substances, has multiplied the need for hiring personnel occupied in security jobs (e.g. in airports, in cities) and in the manning of prisons and centres of reclusion (e.g. for immigrants). Without the existence of authoritarian and totalitarian states those occupations would not be required at all.
- planned obsolescence
A way to employ people is put into effect also by designing and building objects that have a prefixed life span, not because of normal wear and tear but because of purposefully built-in breakability or obsolescence. This has been called “planned obsolescence” by Bernard London in his seminal paper of 1932 and it was meant to provide a serious attempt to get out of the depression. Bernard London pressed that “Government assign a lease of life to shoes and homes and machines, to all products of manufacture, mining and agriculture, when they are first created, and they would be sold and used within the term of their existence definitely known by the consumer. After the allotted time had expired, these things would be legally “dead” and would be controlled by the duly appointed governmental agency and destroyed if there is widespread unemployment. New products would constantly be pouring forth from the factories and marketplaces, to take the place of the obsolete, and the wheels of industry would be kept going and employment regularized and assured for the masses.” (Bernard London, 1932)
- consumerism and waste
Planned obsolescence is only part of a greater scheme that wants individuals to be full time employed workers and full time eager consumers. Only by constantly consuming, following the fads and fashion of the times and the fancy and fizzles of personal unlimited desires, can a society of employed masses exist in the presence of an apparatus of machines gushing out goods at an incredible pace. To give an idea, already in 1866 Joseph Dixon had put into operation a machine producing 132 pencils per minute (7920 pencils every hour). However simple consumerism is not enough; it must be associated and reinforced by pure and simple waste, as happens, nowadays, with the average English household wasting from £250 to £400 a year in food.
According to a report produced by the Institution of the Mechanical Engineers (January 2013) “due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage, it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach.” (Global Food , 2013)
The consumerist society and the throw-away society are the two faces of the same reality that has its foundation in the desirability and necessity, for the ruling elite, of having people in full-time employment.
- slowing down
Full-time employment generates also situations in which some employees behave (and must necessarily behave) in the way so poignantly highlighted in the famous Parkinson's law, that is: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." (C. Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s Law, 1957). This is true especially in the state sector that has witnessed the largest increase in employment. There personnel, generally, uses the full-time working day in order to do something that can be done in half time. Many employees have still quite long working days, as if the technological revolution in the offices (office automation or burotics) had never happened; and now even a longer working life is demanded for reasons that have nothing to do with productive work but all to do with the pension crisis (the impossibility to pay for the retirement of the employees).
- parasitic intermediation
Instead of direct action and self-help, we have a long chain of intermediaries that interpose themselves in between a certain service or good; this is especially true in the bureaucratic sector or in the professional sector where corporative interests conjure up schemes to impose their services with the aid of the law. You have to go through those professional figures in order to reach a result that could be very well reached without them or by going straight to the end of the chain.
- paid inaction
If there are still pockets of unemployment, the devised solution is to pay people to remain calm and quiet and do nothing. The welfare state is built in order to allow the unemployable to sleep until late in the morning or to sit in a pub and drink beer. As the saying goes: "most of the cost of a pint of beer is tax; most of the tax is spent on dole; most of the dole goes on beer." Moreover, if this paid inactivity produces energy resulting in riots and broken windows, the police will intervene and the glassmaker will have a brisk business; so employment in policemen and glass workers will grow.
- total destruction
The very final solution is total destruction, either engineered by humans or unforeseen but welcomed (at least by some economists and journalists) when it takes place in the form of a natural disaster. The theoretical proponent of this solution is, once again, the most popular economist of the 20th century: John Maynard Keynes. In his major work he wrote: "Pyramid-building, earthquakes, even wars may serve to increase wealth ... " (The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936, Chapter X). Thirty years later, the anonymous extensor (actually, Leonard C. Lewin) of the Report from Iron Mountain on the possibility and desirability of peace (1967) reiterated the same conceptual framework (peppered with plenty of sarcasm) when he wrote: "If modern industrial societies can be defined as those which have developed the capacity to produce more than is required for their economic survival (regardless of the equities of distribution of goods within them), military spending can be said to furnish the only balance wheel with sufficient inertia to stabilize the advance of their economies. The fact that war is "wasteful" is what enables it to serve this function. And the faster the economy advances, the heavier this balance wheel must be." (Report from Iron Mountain on the possibility and desirability of peace, 1967)
These obnoxious and obscene practices have been at work for several decades. Now, the technology of production and information associated with the reflection and realization, by a growing number of individuals, of the criminality, idiocy and inanity of these practices, is going to put an end to the mystifying world of employment and welfare, whose only justification was the fact that, in this way, people were receiving a monetary income.
In order to move beyond these absurdities, presented as solutions to impelling problems, we need to understand what has been happening in the field of technology and what subterraneous social changes have taken and are taking place, even against the wishes of the ruling strata, and where these changes might lead us.
The end of occupations (^)
The 20th century has been a disastrous century as far as social and political organization is concerned. It has been the century when genocides, world wars, concentration camps, forced migrations, political persecutions and many other abominable phenomena have taken place. At the same time, in the field of science and technology, a flow of radical discoveries and continuous improvements have pushed the capabilities of producing material goods to incredible levels.
The mechanization of production that had started in the 19th century, has continued in earnest from the beginning of the 20th century onwards.
Mechanization affected every aspect and field of life. In agriculture, the McCormick reaper, invented in 1831, was perfected and introduced progressively, starting from 1846. In 1884, the year of McCormick death, there were 80,000 reapers in operation. In 1903, in the USA, Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr built 15 "tractors", a term coined by them as combination of the words traction and power. In 1918 there were in the USA 80,000 tractors; the number doubled in the following year and by 1939 there were 1.6 million of them working in the fields (Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization takes command, 1948). When machines that combined many processes (e.g. harvesting, threshing, cleaning and bagging grain) were introduced on a large scale in the first half of the 20th century, a greatly reduced number of men and women could do the work done previously by a large population of rural workers.
In the United Kingdom the occupation in agriculture went from 12% of the labour force in 1911 to 5.0% in 1951 (and down to 2.6% in 1980). In the USA, as previously pointed out, the farm workers went from 50.0% of the work force in 1870 to 12% in 1950 (and down to 3.6 % in 1980). (Herman Van Der Wee, Prosperity and Upheaval, 1986). This phenomenon has been common to all the industrial economies of the world.
Most of the workers, not any longer necessary in agriculture, found occupation in the industrial sector. Here too mechanization of simple tasks, that could be performed better and quicker by the machine, went apace. In fact, the fragmentation of work, that was one of the main reasons behind the incredible rise in productivity during the early phases of the Industrial Revolution, made possible to understand the basic tasks of a complex process of production and a vast number of anonymous inventors were capable of re-assembling the different components in a mechanical device (a machine).
As highlighted by Siegfried Giedion, "Invention was in the normal course
of things. Everyone invented, whoever owned an enterprise sought ways and means
by which to make goods more speedily, more perfectly, and often of improved beauty." (Siegfried
Giedion, Mechanization takes command, 1948)
Mechanization increased productivity (production per unit) and permitted a rise in the salaries of the workers. Ford Motor Company more than doubled the daily salary to $5 at a time when it was, generally, $2.34 per day. This was possible because mechanization and the assembly line had increased production tremendously and had made possible a formidable reduction in the price of model T (from $850 in 1908 to $290 in 1925). Higher salaries and lower selling prices made the winning combination for producers and consumers, so that, by 1927, total sales of Ford motor cars reached the fifteen million figure.
This dynamic was replicated in one industrial enterprise after
the other, with the result that less and less people were necessary
to produced more and more goods.
Clearly, in a situation when the needs associated to a more comfortable life for the masses are still unsatisfied, mechanization doesn't reduce the number of people occupied, because new personnel is demanded to attend a growing number of new machines.
However, the moment arrives when a plateau is reached: basic comfort needs are practically satisfied, and machines become not only cheaper but also more automative and can be introduced in even larger number and attended by a less numerous personnel.
In fact, the process of re-composition of tasks in a machine continues until a point is reached when an automatic mechanism, i.e. a mechanism that is the combination of different devices, is invented and introduced. At that moment the automatic mechanism relieves the human being of all manual efforts and is able to perform, on its own, a full operation or cycle of operations. A smaller number of workers are then required, these become supervisors and controllers of what the automatic machine does, charged to intervene only when a problem presents itself.
As reported by Jeremy Rifkin, "between 1957 and 1964 manufacturing output
doubled in the United States while the number of blue collar workers fell by
3%." (The End of Work, 1995)
In more recent times, automation has appeared in the form of robots. "The total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots at the end of 2011 was in the range of 1,153,000 and 1,400,000 units." (World Robotics - executive summary 2012)
The introduction of automatic machines and robots in the industrial production does not necessarily mean that the general level of occupation is drastically reduced but only that the number of industrial workers is lowered and that more personnel is assigned to other types of work, not directly connected to production, such as administration, commercialization and advertising.
And this is what happened, at least in the first phase of automation. In a dynamics similar to that of the passage of workers from agriculture to industry, in the second half of the 20th century we witnessed the movement of workers from industry to services. This process has been portrayed by some authors, notably Jean Fourastié, Victor Fuchs and Daniel Bell.
In The coming of the post-industrial society (1973)
Daniel Bell presented, with plenty of figures, this evolution "from goods to services" as
recites the title of one of his chapters.
Already towards the middle of the 1950's in the USA the number of people employed in the service sector overtook those working in the industrial sector. Nowadays, in the world’s advanced economies, the employment in the service sector exceeds that of the two sectors, industry and agriculture, combined. The figure is in the region of 60-70% of people employed in the service sector. According to the USA Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2009 "services jobs accounted for more than 80 percent of U.S. private-sector employment, or 89.7 million jobs."
This reality and this trend could be seen as a positive development, (i.e. reaping the benefits of science and technology) if it were not for the fact that, "the most important growth area in employment [in the USA] since 1947 has been government." (Daniel Bell) A large part of it, as previously pointed out, consists of people employed in the bureaucracy and in the army. It is worth noticing that the world’s largest employers (2012) are the United States Department of Defence (3.2 million employees) and the People’s Liberation Army of the Republic of China (2.3 million employees).
If we consider the fact that automation in offices and, generally, in the service sector supporting the production and distribution of goods, is likely to reduce, in the future, the absorption of new personnel, it is possible that bureaucratic work in the state sector, assigned on the basis of cronyism and for political reasons, becomes the most likely avenue open to those looking for a job.
However, these kind of occupations do not represent productive
activities in terms of goods and services expressly demanded
by the population. They are like social burdens imposed by
As a matter of fact, these occupations are increasingly becoming and appearing as:
- Economically unsustainable: the be in occupations where you receive an income while doing nothing productive has put an incredible, and in the long-term unsustainable, weight on the collectivity because it means to finance, through debts to be paid by the saving efforts of future generations, the consumerism of a large part of the present generation.
- Socially unacceptable: the idea that the squandering of resources by the state is the necessary condition for granting occupation to large masses of parasitic workers is socially unacceptable to those who perform a useful function in the various areas of social and economic life, producing goods and services really demanded by the public, in co-opetition (competitive cooperation) with other producers of goods and services.
- Technologically unconceivable: it is totally irrational to employ people to perform tasks that might be extensively automated. The service sector should undergo a vast process of restructuring in order to make it extremely flexible and leaner in terms of occupation. This process should be similar to when automatic switches where introduced in the telephony that abolished completely a cohort of switchboard phone operators (in the late 1940s, there were still more than 350,000 operators working for AT&T in the USA).
It is then time to imagine and introduce a social organization that is not based on work (resulting in wicked occupations) and growth (resulting in whopping consumption) because the general scenario of human existence and production has changed so much, especially in the last two hundred years, that behaving as we were still condemned to a life of work, as starving animals, labouring in search of food and shelter, is ridiculously insane.
The spread of activities (^)
In the course of the 19th century, the time worked daily in industrial factories decreased progressively, as consequence of social struggle and technological progress.
From a peak of 15-16 hours a day at the beginning of the 19th century, it went down (in the United Kingdom) for children aged 9-14 to 8 hours actual labour in almost all textile mills, with 2 hours at school; and to 12 hours work for young persons under 18 (Factory Act 1833). In France, the workers achieved the twelve-hour working day after the February revolution of 1848.
The agitation of Chartists, Trade Unionists and those engaged in the Ten-Hour Movement in the United Kingdom was conducive to the introduction of the ten hour working day starting from the first of May 1848 (Factory Act 1847).
However, already in 1817 Robert Owen had fixed the goal of the eight-hour day of work and had formulated the slogan: Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest.
This demand of the eight-hour working day was taken up by the
International Worker's Association at its Congress in Geneva
in 1866 as an essential preliminary condition for the improvement
and emancipation of the working class.
This objective was reached at a later stage, in different times, in many countries, in one working sector after the other. We could say that the eight-hour working day and, afterward, the forty-hour working week, became a generalised achievement in the industrial countries during the first half of the 20th century.
After that, no movement for the progressive reduction of the working day has actually existed and no significant progress have been made in that respect. The introduction in France, in the year 2000, by law, of the 35 hours working week has affected mostly those employed by the state and has been continuously diluted and restricted for the workers in the industry. All in all, it has been more an exercise in political propaganda than a measure to achieve personal advancement.
Nevertheless, the fact is that, the continuous gain in productivity (in the second half of the 20th century) via the introduction of automatic machineries should have led, almost inevitably, to a progressive reduction of the time allocated to work, and should not have required legislation. This move would have been economically possible, socially beneficial and technologically sensible.
Let’s examine briefly an example where this has happened.
On December 1, 1930, on the eve of the Great Depression, W.K. Kellog, the owner of Kellog's factory, producer of cornflakes and shredded wheat, replaced the traditional three daily, eight-hour shifts in the Battle Creek, Michigan, cereal plant with four six-hour shifts. In other words he reduced the working week to 30 hours (6 hours per day) with a small reduction of pay the first year (7 hours paid instead of 8) and back to the previous level starting from the second years (6 hours work for 8 hours pay). As for production, “productivity was up, both because of the introduction of new technology and because of Kellog’s innovative approach to hours and work incentives. In essence, the management of Kellog’s was sharing the benefits of that increased productivity with the workers in the form of free time.” In interviews conducted in 1932 by the Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor "several women told the agents that the balance of their life seemed to be shifting from constraint/servitude toward freedom/control." (Benjamin Hunnicut, The Pursuit Of Happiness, 1994)
However, in 1943, in compliance with the President executive order of a minimum wartime working week of forty-eight hours, the managers at Kellog's factory reverted to the eight hour shift and never went back to the previous model. For the factory and unions bosses and for many, especially male, workers, work meant full time work and that, in its turn meant the eight hours workday (six days a week).
For many male workers, the eight hours working day attributed to them the important role of breadwinners, that have no time to perform menial domestic work. As for the bosses, their support for the eight hours workday derived from their answer to a theoretical question like: "If the most important part of people’s lives is outside the context of work, who is in control?" (Benjamin Hunnicut, The Pursuit Of Happiness, 1994)
So, in order to be in control of people's life, the bosses need to be in control of people's working time, even when the people occupied are doing something useless or something that, relying on technological devices, can be done in half the time. As poignantly expressed by Bob Black: "They want your time, enough of it to make you theirs, even if they have no use for most of it. Otherwise why hasn't the average work week gone down by more than a few minutes in the past fifty years?" (Bob Black, The Abolition of Work , 1985)
In the past, some of those thinkers who expounded the idea of a utopian society, introduced in their scenarios the notion of a relatively small number of working hours, with the distribution of work amongst all, and the performance by all of alternatively manual and mental activities. This was the case of Thomas Moore in Utopia, 1516 (no one works more than six hours a day) and of Tommaso Campanella in the City of the Sun, 1623 (no one works more than four hours a day).
For Karl Marx, technological progress brought about by the capitalistic mode of production would increasingly make possible the satisfaction of material needs with the least expenditure of human energy. This would allow for the transition from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. "The fundamental condition for all this is the shortening of the working day." (Karl Marx, Capital, 1894, vol. III, Chapter 48)
For Piotr Kropotkin the aim was that of “producing the greatest amount of goods necessary to the well-being of all, with the least possible waste of human energy.” (The conquest of bred, 1906)
Instead, a growing waste of human time and energy is everywhere to be seen. In more recent times Buckminster Fuller expressed his discontent about the fact that "We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors." (Buckminster Fuller, New York Magazine, 30 mars 1970).
The motive is that, only by inventing useless work or by encouraging people to centre their lives on increasing consumption, the political and economic masters could succeed in presenting the eight hours working day as something necessary and in the nature of things. This massive expropriation of time in favour of dependent work is the indispensable requirement in order to keep the bulk of salaried people under control from the top. Otherwise, the risk is that individuals could activate a transition from dependent work to independent activities and from material growth to personal development.
Nevertheless, this is what technology on one side and moral and cultural factors on the other are making possible, desirable and almost inevitable if we do not want to go from crisis to crisis and from depression to decadence.
If a consistent reduction of the working day did not take place
in the 20th century, now, in the 21st century, it is perhaps
time to aim for a more audacious objective: the pure and simple
abolition of work as a dependent occupation and its replacement,
by and large, with self-promoted self-directed activities.
To do so a series of changes need to be put in place:
The introduction of automative machines and automatic processes of production, that took a big push forward from the middle of the 20th century, needs to be pursued in earnest. The widespread use of computers for design (CAD : computer assisted design) and manufacturing (CAM : computer assisted manufacturing) is leading to a point where one could produce objects or components of them (modules) the way we now produce documents with a computer and a printer. The next phase of civilization, as far as production of objects is concerned, might be the cottage workshop where individuals or groups produce (design and manufacture) by themselves objects of daily use by way of user-friendly and versatile CAD and CAM.
Self-production (goods and services)
The existence and widespread diffusion of automatic devices, expert systems, personal digital assistants, smart sensors and so forth could bring back into the hands of individuals, families and communities the production not only of a series of goods but also of services that are now the regulated and protected domain of professionals. Kits for checking the state of the body (now performed in laboratories) and expert systems advising about possible course of treatment, could make the recourse to a doctor a rare occurrence (e.g. only in case of surgical intervention or rare ailments). The same could be said for the customized personal production of objects by way, for instance, of 3D printers.
A problem that afflicts people living in advanced societies is not under-consumption, e.g. under-nourishment that means not having enough food to develop or function normally, but over-consumption that manifests itself in overweight and obesity. This results in bodily dysfunctions and illnesses that should not exist if we were not obsessed and manipulated by the mantra of production, consumption and growth. As a consequence of that, often we end up buying all sorts of unnecessary goods that are soon discarded in increasing number.
In the consumerist societies based on buying on credit, following the fashion, and purchasing things on impulse or only as a way to psychological gratification, the quantity of useless goods or goods that remain unused or are thrown away very soon is staggering. According to a FAO document (2011), it is estimated that “the per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year.” On the whole, “roughly one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion ton per year.” (VV.AA., Global Food Losses and Food Waste, 2011)
Modularity in production
The way objects are produced nowadays represents one of the biggest sources of waste. Objects, instead of being easily disassembled and their defective or out-of-order components quickly replaced, are made as compact blocks, soldiered and internally inaccessible, so that when a part is malfunctioning, the entire objects needs to be replaced. This is also due to the generally high cost of getting it repaired by a professional. It is also the case when a product, like a computer, is upgraded. Instead of changing just an internal chip, the entire machine is sent to the scrap yard with enormous cost in terms of proper disposal and the unnecessary use of people's time, all in the name of employment.
Recycling, one of the three famous R of the environmental movement (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) should became common practice and is, in many cases, becoming widespread practice also through the use of the Internet. The market of second-hand or vintage objects has expanded tremendously in the last decades. What is a no more useful or no more necessary for one person becomes the precious acquisition of another individual, prolonging the life of objects and making it superfluous to expend time in their production.
One of the most important ways to eliminate unnecessary work is to produce objects that last. Clearly this seems not to be in the interest of producers who want a continuous and regular flow of consumers coming back to purchase their shoddy goods. That is why a general rethinking of the relationship between producers and consumers is necessary if we want to move to a radically new paradigm.
This paradigm, centred on the spread of activities but also on the introduction of other changes, needs now to be made fully explicit.
Towards a new reality (^)
The paradigm envisaged here is based on three developments taking place progressively:
Shredding obsolete occupations.
Some occupations can be greatly reduced in number or, in some cases, disappear, now or in the future, because the technology has transferred their tasks to the user-customer (e.g. automatic tellers). Bob Black, in a very trenchant manner, had this to say about obsolete occupations: "Right off the bat we can liberate tens of millions of salesmen, soldiers, managers, cops, stockbrokers, clergymen, bankers, lawyers, teachers, landlords, security guards, ad-men and everyone who works for them. " (Bob Black, The abolition of Work, 1985)
Perhaps some of those occupations are still necessary and should not be in the list. However, what should be the case is that no one should be paid out of imposed general taxation; this is the only way to ascertain how many of those employed in certain occupations are really demanded and so are justified. This means, to make an example, how many people producing warplanes will still be occupied in a situation of free allocation of funds.
Sharing necessary work
Some work that is difficult to automatize, not really pleasant but necessary to be performed, like cleaning the streets, should be shared by all those who are affected by the problem and relish the outcome (i.e. a clean street). These types of work should be taken as social functions, perhaps, in some cases, performed in a certain period of life (young), for a certain period of time (months), and with a certain social recognition (merit) attached to it. By the way, this is the type of work that, conducted in groups and occasionally, for short period of time could be considered like a social divertissement, an interesting diversion from other activities and already, in some cases (e.g. a group of young people cleaning a beach or a group of residents improving their street) is done in that spirit.
Starting autonomous activities
The technological devices invented and made available in the last few decades are characterized by the fact that they are (a) relatively inexpensive; (b) quite small; (c) giving high performance. This means that capital (productive tools) can be at the disposal of almost any person (or group of persons) who wants to engage himself/herself in the production of goods and services. Clearly, those who do not want to start their own activity could collaborate with this myriad of new small entrepreneurs, but it would be a different relationship than that of an industrial master and a dependent worker. These new units of production will be highly flexible and innovative workshops interconnected in a vast network of productive actors in cooperative competition (co-opetition).
These three developments will be accompanied by a general trend towards a new reality characterized by a series of re-compositions affecting human activities, as, for instance, between:
The re-composition between manual and intellectual work is possible because the differences amongst producers are more the result of the educational and cultural opportunities than caused by a natural outcome. This was very well pointed out by Adam Smith: "The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour." (The Wealth of Nations, 1776, Book 1, Chapter II)
In the past there was not a sharp division between agricultural (producing food) and craft (producing tools) activities, and the same people engaged in one or the other according to the seasons of the year (summer - winter). Nowadays, the industrialization of agriculture and the greening of industry could lead to an interpenetration between the two, with rural fields and industrial workshops scattered evenly on the land. This will also greatly reduce the need for occupations in the transport sector, putting in direct contact producers and consumers.
The social division of labour between men and women has crystallized and opposed roles and functions in such a way that both have been mutilated of some personal qualities and life experiences. In our age, the successful automation and robotization of many heavy tasks has made possible for everybody, irrespective of their sex and strength, to perform all sorts of activities. A situation might be reached (and has already been reached in many cases) where productive activities (domestic and social ) are interchangeable between men and women and what counts is the personal attitude and interest in engaging, preferentially, in some of them.
While costly and bulky machines in the age of industrialization have favoured the concentration of production in large compounds, the miniaturization and relatively small cost of productive devices in the age of post-industrialization, coupled with a vast communication network, have made possible a vast decentralization of production (of goods and services). Performing an activity at home and from home is a very convenient, flexible and generally pleasant way to avoid the stress of daily commuting, besides being, quite often, much more effective in the production process.
The aspiration of practically every human being is to engage in an activity so interesting and satisfying that the differences between work and play (almost) disappear. This is presently the case for many artists, writers, scientists and entrepreneurs. It might be the case for an increasing number of individuals once they start their own creative activity, leaving behind a situation of dependent monotonous work. In fact play is a voluntary stimulating free activity, and a productive engagement chosen voluntarily, performed autonomously, putting into use personal skills, can very well have the qualities of a playful experience.
The re-compositions envisaged in this new paradigm mean that productive life-enhancing activities will be carried out by individuals that perform/impersonate various roles as:
Producer + Consumer (prosumer)
The term prosumer was first introduced by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave (1980). With it the author intended to give a name to a new figure re-proposing an old practice, that is, self-production for direct use. The most popular form of it is the do-it yourself amateur, the self-reliant person that is capable of providing directly and autonomously to a variety of personal needs. This is also made possible by the introduction of working tools and service kits that facilitate the self-execution of many tasks. The example presented by Toffler is the introduction, early in the 1970's, of the do-it-yourself pregnancy test kit. As for the more conventional do-it-yourself (work and repairing in the house) a sign of the spreading of the prosumer is the fact that, in the USA, between 1974 and 1975 "for the first time, more than half of all building materials ... were purchased directly by homeowners rather than by contractors doing work for them." (Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave, 1980).
User + Designer (usigner)
The availability of powerful software tools, in some cases in open access, has multiplied the number of people designing further software programs as an answer to certain needs. The time when the users will design and produce some of their own artifacts or intellectual productions and will circulate them (through direct sale or free of charge) is already with us. This is the most visible sign of a collective intelligence that is spreading everywhere. The first stage has been the utilisation of users-consumers as designers in the process known as crowdsourcing. The next phase will be the user designer becoming direct producer. At that point most of the old divisions coming from past ages (capitalism and industrialism) will be foregone realities.
Doer + Decider (docider)
The biggest change in the social scenario of production and consumption is the unification between doers and deciders. This will mean the realization of the ever-present aspiration of the disappearance of the division and contraposition between masters and servants. That doesn't mean that relations based on authority (knowledge) and apprenticeship (learning) will cease to exist. As clearly expressed by Mikhail Bakunin : " I am conscious of my own inability to grasp, in all its detail, and positive development, any very large portion of human knowledge. ... Thence results, for science as well as for industry, the necessity of the division and association of labour. I receive and I give - such is human life. Each directs and is directed in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination." (Dieu et l'état, 1882)
The individuals engaged in building the new reality will abandon many of the categories and terminology of the past (employment, jobs, markets, industry, etc.) and will move to a world animated by the ever-lasting principles and practices of caring and sharing.
For the first time in history we have solved, from a theoretical-technological point of view, the economic problem of satisfying basic human needs (food and shelter) for all. We have now to solve it at a practical-social level, through the engagement in productive activities that lead to our voluntary caring and sharing of resources (goods and services).
The so real and widespread opportunity to participate in personally worthy activities in a network of socially worthy individuals is, for all of us, a chance not to be missed.