Labour and Unemployment: a philosophical problem

by Adriano Autino - october 26th 1997


The employment, cross-road of philosophical and social paths

The ground of the employment present itself, in this last close of the century, like a cross-road on which are meeting, drammatically, at least the following themes:

  • the philosophical options of the address of development on the world wide arena
  • the transformation of the production modes, in the technologically advanced society
  • the transformation of the social composition in post-industrial society
  • the mondial process of globalization of the economy
  • The very large majority of the political, social and trade-union currents, but also of the anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, is nowaday characterized by a painful delay, both in the social analysis and in the elaboration of new development philosophies. To fulfil this last task, in my opinion the very prioritary one, we firstly need to understand that the previous philosophies, based on the paradigma of the unlimited resources, had concluded their, let me say "productive", cycle, and this happened starting from the awareness of the limits to the development. In order to return to look forward we need to refound the philosophy, acceding a vision of the world very larger, respect to the actual one.

    Although it could appear more tidy and coherent, for a project man, to follow a so-called top-down development, starting from the great philosophicl questions to reach the economical-political details, the reality of the social processes doesn't follow any standard nor structured methodology, and develops instead, on the planetary scene, in an absolutely caotic way, unequal and combined. It is not thus unuseful exercise the one to try to sever, among the initially listed themes, the existent connections and relationships, trying to conceive analytic tools, allowing to a better understanding of the problems and the possible solutions.

    No dubt that the industrial tayloristic production mode had, for good and evil, created the technological and social basis, prerequisit for any further development of the civil society. In first thre quarters of this century, effectively, the working power was concentrate, for the 90%, in the factories, thus perfectly incarnating the productive scenario so sharply designed, and minutely analyzed, by Carl Marx. A reality of repetitive gestures and roles all perfectly sostitutable brought us to a massification and to an individual alienation that could, if it continued for some more decades, to carry all us to a complete madness. In these two considerations, chronologically framed in their historical context, is the extimation of the progressive character and, successively, of the oppressive and conservative character of the industrial tayloristic production mode.

    If the assertion of the industrial production had once contributed to give dignity to the human beings (for a comparison please see some current morals still in force in pre-industrial countries, where it is considered perfectly moral to rent the daughters for some dollars a day to occidental people in transfer) the progressive assertion of the automated mode of production plants the basis for a furter step of social maturation, and this step is effectively going on. As the famous japanese soldier kept on combacting his II world war in the small island, the trade-unions and the left wing political currents keep on acting as if the most desirable goal of a young people was still the "working place" in a factory or, at least, in a big company. And this while, since decades, youngs and less youngs, for brave choice or for need, they invented jobs, they started to navigate on always smaller boats, wondering that in the sea of the post-industrial economy, although stormy and difficult, it is possible to navigate.

    There is, in this development (which the trade-union and political bureaucracies fear as the pestilence, because it will be able, finally, to send in a museum those who are structurally unable to update their social analysis), a certain coming true of that destiny of emancipation designed by some great revolutionaries of progressist faith.Certainly, not in the way tidy and equalitarian they hoped, but the history never develops according to the desires, neither the ones of the most great and generous minds. Nowaday, probably, the majority of the working power isn't anymore in the big factories (Taylor-saurus on the way of extinction) and, while trade-unionists, sociologists and politologists despere for the jobs disappearing bacause of the technology (!) this majority lives and works, by means of that same technology that made possible their exit from the factories (the nostalgics of the tayloristic way of production prefer to speak about expulsion from the factory). In 4 millions of new companies are born in Italy, in 30 years. The Istat data report 600.000 companies in the 1961, with 50 millions inhabitants, and 4,5 millions of companies in the 1991, with a numerical population more or less the same. The relationship between companies and citizens passed from 1/00 to 1/10. This means about 4 millions of new entrepreneurs. If we considere that each entrepreneur has around him from 3 to 5 people that share honours and responsibilities, we have some 20 millions people that changed their social status (not necessarily economical status).

    In this context of strong social maturation we attend to the curious delayed happening of some options that, maybe, could be resolutive twenty or thirty years ago. While it is always more difficult to define the borders and the real consistency of the social classes the italian political world is anxiously trying to get in line with bi-polar crietria; in the mean time the ideological and political identuty of any pole appears always more obsolete and misted. While the reality of the labour is emanicpated from the ripetitivity and interchangeability of the roles, and the majority of the working power is nomore in the factories, it arrives on the tables of some european governements the 35 hours working week with no salary reduction (a slogan carried since some decades on by the trotskist minority of the workers movement). In the today work many creative components exist. If the measurement of the assembly line was objective and deterministic, quite another problem is to measure the productivity of the intellectual and creative work. The majority of bothe the productive and service world works nowadays on goals and committments: they make what is to be done to follow the plan agreed between customer and supplier. I don't want to deny the content of alienation still present in the work (that in some cases could maybe increase) neither the persisting dangerousness of some kind of jobs (the "withe deaths", unfortunately, continue, even if they don't speak about it as in the '70s) but it is worth to underline that the people are more realized in this reality than in the precedent one, even if they work (but for themselves!) more then before: they make it in a more passionate way! When a small enterprise take an order has one only care: to respect the delivery dates agreed with the customer and remain in the foreseen costs. How many hours per week does work an operator of the information? Who can criticize if, to develop a certain argument, it was used too much time? If he will decrease his engagement, could somebody else to write his pieces? No dubts that, in the age of the heavy metal, the reduction of the working time had carried to an increase of the employement. It existed then a big power, compact and rapidly orientable (like the athoms in a ferro-magnetic material) but this power was characterized by an enormous economic-entrepreneurial inertness.

    Nowaday this socio-productive materia is strongly changed, it is taken to pieces and unburdened, passing from the status of solid metal to a corpuscular status, with a more thin granulometry, characterized by no more structural and strong links, but by weak links, network like. The social subject which populates this new reality is a human being much more aware of his responsibilities as an individual on the face of the planet, and he is much less prone to rely upon the initiative of somebody else, and he is much more aware of his own entrepreneurial potentialities. Although a paternalist and out-of-date left-wing (and we don't yet see unfortunately the sprout of different left-wings) wanted to drive him back and to petrify him in the role of eternal dependent, this subject got the freedom, at least in part, from his chains and he is more emanicpated, socially, than the one that, 30 years ago begun with the '68 a rebellion path, without yet knowing where he would land. Sure, this subject has the worst difficulties that nobody previously had to recognize himself as a class, Sure, the new companies are individually much more politically weak than their mothers of the previous age, but they are ready to move, and the communication means are not lacking, if they wanted to do it in a joined way. Towards where?

    Between "sustainable" renunciation and the development

    If it keeps on existing, and appears increasing, a european phenomena of the unemployment (but, in a context of emancipation, I prefer to say intellectual, cultural and productive inactivity), it is not due to the responsibility of the new technologies that expulsed the workers from the factories, but to an heavy lackness of philosophicl elaboration, in materia of the great development addresses.

    The progressive saturation of the development spaces on our planet already acts, culturally, since some decades, at least since the Chernobyl disaster. The new awareness of the limits of the development, in the narrow borders of the world as we today think it, brings to a series of cultural rimotions and de-evolutionary behaviours:

  • the cry in memory of the nature "killed by the technological progress", proper of various ecologisms, or ecozism, as somebody is starting to better define them;
  • the cry for the sudden disappearing of the work and even of the economy (Vivianne Forrester "L'horreur economique");
  • the theorization of the primacy of the entertainement industry, probably extimed more "sustainable", because it takes us at home;
  • the incoming different options of genetical suicide;
  • the increased popularity of the virtual relationships, always more reifyied, anyway, not procreating;
  • and, last horrible phenomena, the unbelievable increase of the pedophilia.
  • The Mankind seems to turn and look back lost and puzzled, because it scored in such few time so much road, almost if it was preferable to go slowlier, and to enjoy for at least one century the thoughtlessness of the american dream of the afterwar: Cadillac with big wings, gasoline at few cents per liter and big illusions on the infiniteness of the resources.

    In a philosophical-cultural context as the one nowaday ruling, that substantially accepts as unpassable the limits of our actual world, and refuses thus to go over those limits, all the social phenomena, starting from the one of the unemployment, are lived as awful, unresolvable, problems. In this philosophy of the renunciation they opt thus for charitable solutions, as if the world was a big hospice for old people, where they only have to wait for the death, dreaming a nature no more polluted, forests and valleys where one could hear the wind and the birds singing... finally free from that troublesome noise of the children. In the mean time, they keep on exerciting themselves in a litanic invocation of the work and of the enterprise.

    In this context it is not wondering to see that in the USA (notoriously and by definition the avanguarde) the palm of the best popularity goes to the entertainment: what shall we do in a hospice, if not watching the television or, as a maximum, to play with the internet or with virtual reality? And if some natural phenomena as the cold, the drought, the earthquakes, and maybe the AIDS take away before the time some kind guests, what is the importance? If one accepts the natural limits of our world it must also be accepted the Nature as the supreme distributor of life and death, development and extinction: it is written in the small clauses of the contract, those who nobody reads, until it is too late. On this road we can only go, in the best hypothesis, to a slow decadence and progressive onsolescence of our culture. But one can already hear unquieting structural creackings, and dull blows shake our cosmic ship. In a perspective of cultural decline, who will seriously to take care of the, expensive, maintenance?

    In the our actual conditions, to cherish in the illusion of a new virtual world it is second, as dangerousness, only to the illusion that the Nature could recover our errors at our place, and in the our interest.

    A new horizon of development

    Quite another result we had if, instead, we start to think and to move finally toward the frontiers of our world. If this movement will start, and about me I will do my best to help it moving, an anormous and without preceedings revitalization of the economy will start. We will then realize how it was stupid the charitable cultural, practically as to refuse to breath.

    Let's understand us: the man is anyway turning to the frontiers, it is not to be discussed the if, but the how, with which resources, with which help and with which results. No dubts that, sooner or later, many free spirits will refuse the perspective of a more or less sweet euthanasia and will prefer to risk their own life in order to give life to new spaces of development. The point is another. To go over the limits it was never so difficult and binding as in the rpesent age, because it requires the maximum of our technological culture. Those few or many brave hearts will maybe have too many possibilities to fail, if they will not act, this time, togheter with the rest of the Humanity, in a big joined and integrated effort. And a big failure could be, in the immediate, so dangerous as doing nothing.

    We have a desperate need, nowaday, to open a large discussion on the global addresses of the development. The geographical horizon of such a discussion can only be planetary, the time horizon can be the next century. The discussion should refer firstly to the priority of the scientific and technological research. The goal should be the one to clearly indicate a preferred direction on which to convey efforts and investments. It is awful infact to think to how many financial resources are actually locked on merely speculative activities: the phenomena of "few powerful guys which hadn't no more the need of the work of the others" of which Vivianne Forrester speaks about it exists, and moves billions of dollars each day, or, better, it take them away from development goals. Just not to speak about the economy of the various planetary mafias. But I strongly thrust that, if the correct goals will be indicated with enough resonance, another economy will quickly raise and develop, based on new fearless initiatives, of enterprises financed by means of the popular shareholding. Such new economy will be able to convey important resources toward the development, and to turn into account the only true capital, abbundant and renewable that we hold: the human resources. But we need to act soon, before somebody will decide, over our heads, that this human capital must be partially destroyied, as it happens periodically to the financial capitals in the Stock Exchange.

    We have thus many work to do, and by now we refuse to see it, while different options are contrasting in the society. Speaking about the "new man" (in "Literatur and Revolution") Lev Trotsky wrote "The medium human type will raise itself to the level of Aristotele, Goethe, Marx. On this crest will raise themselves new peaks." And, in other steps of the same text, dialoguing with the futurists, he mentioned the future development of political popular tendencies on options of architectural design, or on the re-modeling of the world to get it more suitable to the human development and evolution. All this is not surely becoming true in the environment of the socialist revolution that Trotsky augured, but it is happening, in different and less evident ways. The mass schooling really created a cultural larger and higher basis, and it really exists the need to divide us and to give birth to a dialectic between options different from the ones, trite and obsolete, of political currents which nowaday are moving in the vacuum, void of social and cultural background, but to discuss and take position about the great choices that we must face:

  • the continuation of the human development beyond the limits, on one side;
  • the acceptance of the limits, of the closure on itself and of the death of our culture, on the other side.
  • No dubt that, in a context of worldwide globalized economy, the problem of the development is given in the worldwide dimension. The ruinous crack of many utopistic attempts, based on the illusion that the form of the government was essentially enough to ensure the development of the democracy teached us that, maybe, we need to pay much more attention to the people, to their moral qualities and to the love that they really show (with facts) toward the Humanity. In our definition of neo-humanist (and this is a proposal of definition, made to the maybe 10 people with those I'm discussing, but obviously there is room enough for everýybody!) there are no other motivations, at the present moment, but the strong, determined will to assert the option of the human development against the renounce to the development, the love against the egoistic and suicide closure, the life, against the death. In this feeling there is also, by my side, the desire to grant the teaching of some great and humble contemporary figures, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for instance, that continued to make the well, so that even the last, appearently most unmeaningful, human breath could continue: that breath could have a determinative world for our future. And the next Galileo Galilei could birth among the brasilian ninhos de rua or in a kenian bidonville. Personally I take very important, in a perspective of bigger investment on the human resources, that the big world of the Volounteers accepts pollutions by the world of the Scientific Research, and that the world of the Scientific Research accepts to confront itself and to cooperate with the Volounteers world.

    If the option of the development will succeed to take the effective political direction (and this appears not easy and not expected, both for the power of the countrary options and for the snatchous egoism and the absolute lacking of ideals of many bureaucracies that infest the governements of the politics, the economy and even of the scientific research) all the human activities will be refreshed, at all the levels. Finalized to goals of development on the frontier of our world, our activities will need all the available intelligences of the world, 6 billions people, and they will probably still be not enough. The creativity will have a new, formidable impulse, and the network worldwide communication link of so many new research vectors will bring to discover solutions unthinkable before, and will raise to a new importance sectors as:

  • agricolture in extreme conditions
  • the presidium of the border of the deserts, the progressive claim and development of new fertile ground,
  • the study, the understanding and the reproduction of the life and oof the ecosystems. the most difficult challenge, from which will depend, in last analysis, our survival
  • the turning into account of sunward regions as energy producers,
  • the better use of the hydric resources and the hydro-geological maintenance of the ground,
  • the development of living space, towns, research and productive activities on the sea surface and the sea depths,
  • the use of the space technology and of the orbital facilities will exit the space agencies and serve to many small and medium industrial and commercial projects.
  • To all this will be functional the satellite technologies. And all this will be finalized and coherent to a big project of colonization of the Solar System, to be started and developed during the next century. The new companies, ready to move, will then know where to go, and also the youngs (our future) will find enough opportunities to make experience and apprenticeship. The problem of the unemployment will be, then, only a far remembrance.


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