What coronavirus introduces, among other things, is a dramatic change in our lives, from rules to habits.
And it will also affect the mentality and understanding of the state of affairs.
We discussed this with prof. Stefano Zamagni, former president of the Third Sector Agency, professor at Johns Hopkins University, dean of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Bologna, one of the main collaborators of Pope Benedict XVI in editing the text of the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (in 2007-2009) and, from 2019 , president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Professor Zamagni, as Wikipedia also reports, you are a global expert in the field of social economy. What is your point of view on the current situation?
“Look, those who know the Italian character, and here the story is clear, know that Italians have a specific feature: they must reach the edge of the abyss; when they get there, they put off all disputes, roll up their sleeves and start again. It has always been like that. This leads me to the conclusion that when this crisis situation is over, there will be a strong revival of our people’s interest in what we call “the common good.”
What do you mean?
“This pandemic shows us that the” total good “orientation has led to the failure we are now observing. We must replace the adjective “total” with the adjective “common”. This means that people, and above all companies, must act in order to stay on the market in conditions of good development and economic and financial balance, but not only: it is a mistake, and here responsibility also lies with professors of economics, it is stated that the goal the company is maximizing profit for shareholders (shareholder value).”
They say so indeed. What, in your opinion, is the company’s purpose?
“Historically, the company was born with the mission of producing value, or rather creating value. This value cannot be transferred to profit without coverage. Profit must be a share, even significant, in value, but not in everything as it has been in the last 25-30 years.
In this respect, many economists change their point of view.”
And how can you define this change?
“There would be many, but I’m going to pay attention to four points in particular.
The first point is what we just said. The second thing is to understand the correct nature of bureaucracy: today everyone is against bureaucracy, nobody even thinks about talking about it well, but it’s a very serious mistake.”
This is curious. Why?
“Because bureaucracy is not a cause but an effect. The reason for bureaucratization is the search for income, and the search for income is a state of mind that affects both the public and private sectors. This is due to the fact that bureaucracy is an instrument that allows (the state or private entrepreneur) to acquire and maintain rent-seeking positions.
Income is the number one enemy of both salary and profit: the higher the pension, the lower the profit and thus the lower the investment rate in innovation. On the other hand, the lower the salary, the lower the actual demand.
This pandemic will sweep away this mentality because it has shown that if a company does not introduce real innovation, it falls out of the market. Let’s look at a banal and direct example: the only companies that managed to work are those that launched the so-called smart working (15-20%); not only because they placed computers in employees’ homes, but because they changed the organization of work. Until now, again because of the search for profit, companies and organizations do not want to change the way of production, sticking to the outdated model of Taylorism and at the same time losing its resilience.
If we introduce this concept into public administration, we will understand why all political parties, from left to right, want to keep bureaucracy. They all promise to limit it, never doing it: bureaucracy serves politicians to maintain their power.
Enterprises – clearly and fortunately there are praiseworthy exceptions – do not criticize this strongly and firmly, because they themselves fall victim to bureaucracy, and are therefore afraid that by acting against public bureaucracy, it will eventually turn against them.”
So, if I properly follow your reasoning, when we have explained the need to focus on the common good rather than the total good, then we need to work out the causes that generate bureaucracy. Third thing, what would it be?
“The third thing is education.
The structure of the university education sector should be completely changed. The current structure is still the structure of the Gothic reform of twenty years of fascism: a Taylorist type structure where the teacher acts as a workshop manager who checks if students learn their lessons and where the institution functions as a courtroom where young people are assessed and sanctioned (including sense that if the sentence is negative, they fail.
The question is: why, for over seventy years, all political forces have not had the courage to change the fascist system in such an important issue as education? Why was it limited to approving reforms, not transformation?
It is obvious that we must wait for the citizens to organize and speak up if we really want school to become a place of education, not just studying.
Take the case of the reform known as Alternanza Scuola – Lavoro (“school-work alternation”): the one who invented it, I hope, had good intentions, but made a huge mistake! There can be no question of alternation between school and work, but rather of school-work coherence.”
The third point is inherent in education reform, which also applies to what was said at the beginning. And the fourth point?
“Finally, we are dealing with a scandal due to the fact that during this crisis period the third sector was kept out of the way: we have the best third sector in the world among volunteers, social cooperatives, social enterprises, NGOs, foundations and was not involved in the decision-making process .
The social dimension is not guaranteed by the state, hospitals, police or carabinieri, but by the third sector.”
How do you see the situation developing?
“Now that the events have reached the inevitable turning point, you will see that when this crisis ends, it will cause a domino effect.
People have already understood what we have talked about before is just a matter of waiting for some collective entity to start the process. It won’t be long, a few months, by the end of the year at the latest.
And it will not be a matter of finding a leader, they will appear later. Rather, it is a matter of raising awareness of organized civil society.
Once the critical mass is reached, the process of rebuilding the country can begin.
Please go to the website of the “Politica Insieme” association and you will have an idea about the current state of affairs.”