On the border and beyond

Moletto Cascais 150This section contains all of Luigino Bruni's editorials of the series entitled "On the border and beyond", published in Avvenire from 22nd January 2017



The Sad Empires of Merit

On the border and beyond/4 - A "famine of gratitude" fills the world of the damned

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 12/02/2017

Sul confine e oltre 04 rid"Affliction is by its nature inarticulate. The afflicted silently beseech to be given the words to express themselves. There are times when they are given none..."

Simone Weil, Human Personality (English translation: Richard Rhees)

Merit is the great paradox of the economic cult of our time. The first spirit of capitalism was generated from the radical critique of Luther's theology of merit, but that "rejected stone" has now become the "cornerstone" of the new capitalist religion, which is emerging from the heart of the very countries built on that ancient anti-meritocratic Protestant ethic. Salvation for "sola gratia" and not through our own merits was placed at the centre of the Protestant Reformation. It was also a revival of Augustine's polemics against Pelagius (Luther was an Augustinian monk), a millennium later. The anti-Pelagian criticism was essentially a surpassing of the ancient idea that the salvation of the soul, the blessing of God and heaven could be earned, purchased, bought or earned by our actions. The theology of merit also wanted to imprison God within the meritocratic logic, forcing him to punish and reward based on criteria attributed to him by theologians.

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The idols are never satiated

On the border and beyond/3 - This market devours life and provides just a little money in return

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 05/02/2017

Sul confine e oltre 03 rid"(C)apitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was. Within it, everything only has meaning in direct relation to the cult: it knows no special dogma, no theology."

Walter BenjaminCapitalism as Religion (translated by Chad Kautzer)

The capitalism of the nineteenth and twentieth century was animated by a Judeo-Christian spirit, a spirit of work, effort and production. But we no longer understand the spirit of our capitalism if we continue to look for it inside Christianity or the Bible. Market society in recent years has been increasingly resembling a religion, but the traits that it is taking make it more akin with the Middle Eastern cities of three thousand years ago, or the Greek and Roman ones of some later centuries. With their public spaces occupied by many statues, temples, steles, altars, shrines, and their private spaces filled with amulets, household gods and a huge production of household idols. And their many sacrifices, around which their life, parties and death were ordered. The Judeo-Christian humanism was, above all, an attempt to empty the world of idols and free it from the sacrifices. It was an only partially successful attempt, because the tendency to build idols to worship has always been too strong in men.

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Resisting the Pied Piper

On the borders and beyond/2 - While the individualistic market triumphs and shakes

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 29/01/2017

Su confine e oltre 02 rid"All passions have a phase when they are merely disastrous, when they drag down their victim with the weight of stupidity — and a later, very much later phase when they wed the spirit, when they "spiritualize" themselves."

F. NietzscheTwilight of the Idols (English translation by by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale)

A particularly important form of the "creative destruction" of the capitalism of our time is the one it performs about religion. Market economy has grown and keeps growing with the consumption of the sacred territory, which, deconsecrated and turned into an undifferentiated and anonymous profane space, has become a new area cleared for trading. The merchants are back in the temple, all the temple is becoming a marketplace, even the sancta sanctorum (the holy of holies) was put to produce income.

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Break away from creative destruction

On the border and beyond/1 - Between market and gratuitousness, finding new ways

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 22/01/2017

Su confine e oltre 01 rid"We can love nothing but what agrees with us, and we can only follow our taste or our pleasure when we prefer our friends to ourselves; nevertheless it is only by that preference that friendship can be true and perfect."

F. de La RochefoucauldReflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims (English translation: J. W. Willis Bund, M.A. LL.B and J. Hain Friswell)

In our time, loneliness grows along with the desire for community in us which we try to satisfy with methods and tools that end up, too often, increasing it. The market society needs individuals without strong and too deeply rooted ties, and it has the economic and political means to make them more and more so. People with significant interpersonal relationships, with a cultivated inner life are just imperfect consumers who are difficult to manage.

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