Avvenire - 21/04/2010

A book by Luigino Bruni on the social foundations of the economy

Doing business? Before everything, it´s a question of fraternity

By Luca Miele
Published in Avvenire on 21/04/2010

What nexus links market and community? Does the first establish or amputate the second, guarantee it´s survival or betray its fundamental vocation? And still: where does the individual - whose "birth" is one of the great contributions of modern times - belong in respect to the market and the community? Luigino Bruni in the book Ethos of the Market (Bruno Mondadore, pp.240, 18 Euro) searches the anthropological foundations of the economy, borrowing the theoretical system that supports his investigation from studies by Roberto Esposito. "The munus that the communitas shares," writes Esposito in Communitas, "is neither property nor a belonging. It is not having, but on the contrary, is a debt, a pledge, a gift-to-give. The subjects in a community are united by a 'responsibility' that makes them not entirely masters of themselves. More precisely, it expropriates them from their initial ownership - it is worth saying - from their subjectivity."

The community, according to Bruni, is a wound that exposes the other to a risky connection: fraternity. If the sacred community does not admit the existence of the individual, if Greece cultivates philià - friendship that creates the polis as a community of equals and not differently - "it is only within agapic humanism that the tragedy of the communitas truly begins. Who freely welcomes the agapic dimension of love knows to have an obligation towards the others (that of loving them unconditionally and without measure)." It is not by chance, then, that Franciscanism was a kind of "laboratory" for the birth of the market. Still between the Medieval Age and Modernism, a fracture was produced that progressively brought about the obliviation of Franciscan fraternity. With the theorization of the contract, individuals associated themselves in the community only under the agreement of immunizing themselves from the agapic character of being together. Hobbes´Leviathan is a state of fear, in which everyone´s common possibility of being killed is what unites individuals. Thanks to English philosophy, writes Bruni, "European society has found itself again from thecommunity without individuals and by the individual without community." There are already all the premises for the self-affirmation of the market. Civil society "governed by the category of indifference or non-involvement" is then born. The market is then that universal that founds itself "on the expulsion of any ability to be in relationship", a system that nullifies the munus, and the logic of gift that keeps it together. And yet, if the market seems to make itself totalitarian today, Western society has also elaborated other visions, capable of recuperating that ability to be in relationship that has been sacrificed. Bruni highlights the tradition of civil economy that comes from Naples, exemplified in the thought of Antonio Genovesi. In the Neopolitan school, society once again makes itself "fraternity".

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