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 great freedom of the holiday

On the border and beyond/13 - There is more to life than just work and much more than consumption

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 16/04/2017

Sul confine e oltre 13 rid

"Live!  Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.... A new Hedonism— that is what our century wants. You might be its visible symbol. With your personality there is nothing you could not do. The world belongs to you for a season..."

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The capitalist religion wants to abolish the holiday. It declared a real war against it, which is accompanied by an explosion of entertainment and leisure offers that contain nothing, or too little, of the experience of the holiday. This is another expression of the now famous 'creative destruction' of the twenty-first century capitalism, which first eliminated the holiday and then started selling goods to us trying to replace it. But it cannot, because gratuity cannot be sold or bought. And so its entertainments leave just a great emptiness in us and a great longing for the real holiday, of which mostly children and young people have the greatest need. Only the civilization that knows the different times and free spaces of gratuitousness can be a culture capable of and characterized by celebrating holidays.

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The infinite temple of care

On the border and beyond/12 – The time of a different rhythm and relationships that can change life

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 09/04/2017

Sul confine e oltre 12 rid'When you were coming down from the quarry this afternoon with the loaded donkey cart, weren't you approached by a stranger? Didn't you give him a piece of bread?,' the carabiniere went on asking. (...) 'Is it a sin that he is accusing me of? Is it a sin now to do an act of charity?' 'Couldn't you see,' pursued the carabiniere (...), 'that the man was an enemy soldier?' 'Was he an enemy? What does that mean?' 'What did he look like?' asked the carabiniere. 'He looked like a man', Caterina answered.

Ignazio SiloneA Handful of Blackberries (English translation by Darina Silone)

Ora et labora is not only the image and the message of monasticism. It is also the breath of our civilization, which was founded by chanting to different measures, composing a symphony from the variety of rhythms, in the alternation of sounds and silence. The words and the spirit of work are different from those of prayer: they are allies and friends, because they are near and far from each other, intimately close and foreign at the same time. When, in those ancient monasteries, monks were returning from the vineyard and entering the choir for prayers, they were given some time for the transition. It was to another rhythm: that of prayer and the opus Dei, which had a different pace, a different rhythm, a different sound. It pierced through historical time to touch, or at least draw near, eternity to try and defeat death. That first last supper and the cross was experienced again, even the stone was rolled. When you cross the threshold to enter the templum, to a certain extent you become lord of time, you feel that you aren't dominated by the only rational and ruthless tempus, but travel freely between the first day of creation and the eschaton. The adam walks in the gardens of Eden again.

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The devouring utility of the futile

On the border and beyond/11 - Rites that consume life and the meaning of work

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 02/04/2017

Sul confine e oltre 11 rid"Generosity, nobility have disappeared, and with them the spectacular counterpart that the rich reciprocated to the miserable."

Georges Bataille, The Notion of Dépense

The many, too many people who work little, badly, or not at all, are not the only symptom of serious disease in the realm of work. Another serious sign of its bad condition, although still barely visible, are those workers who work too much, those who dissipate enormous energies in the new rites of businesses, the new sacrificial victims sacrificed to the new gods.

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The Era of Partial Gifts

On the border and beyond/10 - Trust to find the language of reciprocity again

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 26/03/2017

"Sul confine e oltre 10 new ridThe obligation of reciprocity in the exchange is not a response to specific powers linked to the objects, but a cosmic conception which presupposes an eternal circulation of species and beings"

M. Mauss, The Gift

At the origin of the ethos of the West there is the gift with all its ambivalences. Many origin myths associate human history with the refusal of people to stay and remain in a state of the harmonious reciprocity of gifts. The tales of Prometheus and Pandora (meaning: "all gifts"), or those of Adam and Eve tell us the same story in different languages: ​​that human beings are unable to build their own civilization on free gift. But they also tell us that there is a profound relationship between gift and disobedience, between gratuitousness and authority, between freedom and hierarchy.

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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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