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



Let us violate the big taboo

On the border and beyond/9 - For a market also directed by the "invisible hand": the gift

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 19/03/2017

Sul confine e oltre 09 rid"Even if the world we live in is less violent than any world of the past, this is only one aspect. The other aspect shows exactly the opposite: a frightening increase in violence and in the threat of violence. Our world saves more lives and simultaneously produces more victims than it has ever happened in the past."

René Girard, Violence and the Sacred

Gratuitousness is the main taboo of capitalism. It is feared as the greatest danger, because if it were let to run freely in the territories of capitalism, they would be infected and its "poison" would cause its death, or - and it's the same thing - it would transform it into something substantially different. It is difficult to decipher the taboo of gratuitousness in our economy (and society) because it is covered by another taboo: that of the recognition of its existence. So to understand the profound relationship between gratuitousness and capitalism we must violate this first taboo, by starting to simply talk about it.

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But the future is "without merit"

On the border and beyond/8 - Sociability at a good price will run wild and betray us

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 12/03/2017

Sul confine e oltre 08 rid"To seek, not the fruit of benefits, but the mere doing of them... - this is the mark of a soul that is truly great and good."

Seneca, De Beneficiis
(English translation by John W. Basore)

Sine merito: without merit. This was how the first so-called Mounts of Piety (Monti di pietà) were called from the Middle Ages to Modernity. these were prototypes of the community banks created and promoted by the Franciscan "Observants" (Order of Friars Minor). To emphasize their nature as humanitarian or philanthropic institutions, the presence of merit was denied. A few centuries ago, Bernard of Clairvaux described the passion of Christ as: donum sine pretio, gratia sine merito, charitas sine modo: a gift without a price, grace without merit, love without measure. Saying 'gift' excluded a price, saying love eliminated measuring and saying grace denied merit. Merit, price and measure on the one hand - gift, grace and charity on the other.

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Money is Omnipotent

On the border and beyond/7 - The sacred tool that can buy anything. But how long?

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 05/03/2017

Sul confine e oltre 07 rid«In a world where money can buy anything, money becomes everything.»

Giacomo Becattini, From a Private Conversation

From the dawn of civilization, money has always had the invincible tendency to enter the territory of the sacred. The keepers of the sacred have always sought to keep the flow of money in its banks, but at certain times in history money and the sacred became allies and gave birth to idolatrous cults and many variations of the "markets of indulgences". In our time, the flooding of money has generated a much more radical and pervasive economic cult than that of the previous ages. But this new religious pathology is not generating antibodies and reformers who would be able to understand the seriousness of this new global market, and react effectively.

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The Easy Gods of the Markets

On the border and beyond/6 - The "catchy tunes" of spiritual illiteracy

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 26/02/2017

Sul confine e oltre 06 rid«My words are too difficult for you, that's why they sound too easy.»

Yehudah ha-Levi, Kuzari

The golden rule of mutual benefit is the basis of much good life for human beings. The market is a network of exchanges of mutual interests, but also associations and even communities and families can be described as a network of mutually beneficial relationships. When it comes to educational processes, in actions aimed at reducing economic and social vulnerability, if we move within the register of mutual benefit we have more hope of giving life to practices that respect the dignity of the person and are more responsible and less paternalistic. For this reason, many wise men of all ages have pointed out reciprocity (not altruism or in the individual interest) as the first rule of community and social life. But there are places of living where looking for mutual benefit is not good, because satisfying mutual interests only and simply leads to the distortion and degeneration of those relationships. One such area is that of spirituality.

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Salvation is not a company

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 19/02/2017

Sul confine e oltre 05 rid"Workplace spirituality seems to be a significant new management paradigm that business executives can use to improve their organizations by increasing, among others, the levels of organizational commitment, satisfaction and performance of their employees."

Sofia Lupi, La spiritualità nelle organizzazioni (The Spirituality of Organisations)

In the 'spirituality market' the ancient 'Gresham's Law' is making a return: bad money drives out good money. This law made a re-appearance every time two types of currency were being handled in the streets: the good and the false type, neither of them easily recognizable as such. Bad money infested the streets and the squares, and within a short time the good type would disappear from circulation.

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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 by Luther’s radical critique of merit (that is, the merit-based Christian theology of his time), 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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