by Giovanni Carlini

Paraphrasing Ulrich Beck (society of risk), we seek individual safety to problems which objectively are in common with many people/ That is due to the fact that we are alone, without a community to guide us. Analysing the concept of community:

– It offers security, but also requires the limit of absolute fidelity

– As in a family, children, who until before puberty they believe without doubts whatever their parents say, and including themselves in a family nucleus, forming a community in its concept and actuation. However, when they start rebelling, for instance when they argue on what time to come back home in the evening, the community spirit ends and therefore the basis for society’s community vanishes

– Adding on to the last point: the comprehension that is fundamental in a community comes before all decisions. It is not the objective, but the starting point of any form of aggregation. It is a mutually binding feeling, a real strength of those who live in a community because, thanks to that comprehension, unity prevails on forms of separation (p. 11 Community. Seeking Safety in an Insecure World, 2001 Z. Bauman)

– This extreme need of certainty represents the limit of a community. Because communication has opened and distances shrunk, the constant influx of news from which to gain a perspective has rendered the community obsolete. One reference can be to the Renaissance when the reform and counter reform transformed the community/village perspective in cities, region and dukedoms. Big cities were born, with urbanisation tailored to man

– Robert Redfield, American anthropologist, describes the need of the community to be threefold : being peculiar (Us vs. Them), small and auto sufficient. These are present in the village, town and family

– Today, the ethical communities (other than aesthetical) have been destroyed. The last remaining are families.

– They were destroyed, although they were already worn out, for the needs of capitalism, which transferred the masses from villages to city, devaluing local in order to progress. This needs to be analysed. For a long time local production has been deemed inefficient compared to the industry. Only one sociologist, Thornstein Veblen, tried to recuperate and show us the value of something well done with artisanship. By studying work, he found out that reluctance to work is something against the spirit of mankind. With this Veblen foes against Freud, who in The Future of an Illusion and Civilization and Its Discontents affirms that emancipation of some requires repression for others.

– A second passage of the destruction of the ethic community came with the birth of the nations, nationalising the masses extracted from the villages

– A third passage came with the transition from solid society (production) to liquid society (globalised and focused on commercial transactions). The distinct element of solid society is the vision of a final objective where economy would be stable and a society would be just with laws and rational ethics. Liquid modernity distinguishes itself by conceding full freedom to find an equilibrium, which is never found due to constant experimentation (p 72)

– As Beck anticipated, in these three passages man is alone

– Capitalism transformed principally with two roads: Taylorism and the human relations movement (Mayo). The latter, united with Fordism (doubling wages) granted great social cohesiveness for around 50 years, especially the 30 years post WWII (p.37). 

– Identity substituted the community. Unfortunately identity cultivates in the extreme individualisation of the social relationships, becoming like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, who loves make women fall in love with himself but as soon as he succeeds he walks away.

– The end is defining secession of a successful man as the going back to the private sector (Richard Sennett) and an impoverishment of the social push of wealth and betterment. The closed mindedness of the private has an hedonistic effect that makes consumption its key as a feast of plenty. Pierre Bourdieu with temptation/seduction as system of social controls which substitute the outdated repression and assimilation.

– When did society turn to mass consumption? In the 
last quarter of the 20th century. With consumption emerges the question of the value of the goods. At the start, consideration was placed on to the work required to produce it, but later on, the marginal utility was considered. Simmel proposed the sacrifice to obtain good and Marx the necessary sweat, but it is understood that the desire for good is the true unit of measure.

– A discussion of its own right is then made to confirm the solitude of modern man, considering the relationship between God and humanity. Pico Della Mirandola (The Dignity of Man) affirmed: God posed a creature of undetermined nature in the centre of the universe and said: “I haven’t assigned you a specific neither a position, a form, nor a special role. Due to this you will be able to have, based on your desires and reason, all those places, roles and forms you wish (..) It will be yourself, without limitations, to decide what nature you want to be.
This means that man is alone.
Concluding, in a globalised society:

a) Those who are poor are not a reserve basin for the industry but are indigent (poverty transforms into misery)

b) Globalised societies cannot employ everyone, and this is the new limit of the Western society

c) With the excuse of multiculturalism, western societies are blocked on the study of the victims (immigrants, unfits and micro groups) without analysing the big thematics like redistribution of richness, which has become taboo (Stefan Collini)

d) The newly rich close themselves in the private sector (secession of the successful man) and this is seen also with the rebirth of localism (which the author calls do it yourself) which contrasts globalisation. Protests are rampant, which are all part of the nervous nihilist conflict. Interesting are the ideas from Sharon Zukin (1995) on the public space in the US metropolises, which are conceived as controlled space, protected with insecurity and generalised endangered condition.

e) The spiritual and real solution of man, in this urban scare (Zukin) is consumerism.

f) In the business sector a Managerial Revolution occurs, term copied from the book by James Burnham (1941), whereby thanks to managers, there is a division from property and duties, which however does not exist in paternalistic Italy.

g) Community spirit needs to be regained, first in the family, and then in the business sphere, constructing a group that will protect and help the single person by facing collective problems)

Translated by Andrea Anastasi