The interview Aldo Bonomi

Farewell Province. The Table that counts today is in Brussels

Against an epochal change like the one that we are living, the territorial dimension must suit new economic parameters by paying attention to all flows, no matter of what kind they are: from the broadband to highways up to finance in general. As stated by the sociologist Aldo Bonomi, columnist of “Il Sole 24 Ore”. Interviewed by us

“There are no doubts: what we are living is an epochal change. From this point of view it does not make sense to talk about crisis because today the majority of the economic and social fundamentals with which we had learned to cope are changing– even more, they have already changed. We are rather going through a metamorphosis, not a simple passage”. The picture of the Italian situation is clear for Aldo Bonomi, sociologist, columnist of “Il Sole 24 Ore”, founder and director of the Aaster Consortium. It is a survey that Bonomi has traced in great detail in his latest book – the endless capitalism – where the sociologist outlines with examples the trajectories of the future economy and society. Discovering that small entrepreneurs and knowledge workers do not passively suffer the crisis but they react by updating their competences, operating on the market, cooperating from Piedmont to Veneto, from Emilia to Lombardy. In the North of the Country, but also in Tuscany and going down, to the South. In the territories, in other words, whose geographical and dimensional concept must be necessarily changed. “If the economic parameters have changed, also the territorial dimension must be consequent to the new situation. I think that it is clear, in fact, that the provincial one has become by now inadequate. On the other hand, this mirrors a Napoleonic scheme that had its variant with the introduction of regions but that nowadays can no more take the picture of the social and economic implications of the transformation processes in course”. What should we do, then? “If the local key can no more offer the interpretation of these changes, it is necessary to modify it and to start reasoning on a large scale, by planning actions on wider dimensions, with all the difficulties arising from the typical “bell tower” vision of our Country. Even if it is not an organizational matter, but we are rather dealing with the definition of the most opportune territorial platforms”. Because today we reckon more at continental than at local level. “The problem, in fact – goes on Bonomi – is that the table that matters is neither in Milan, nor in Bologna and even less in Rome: it is in Brussels. And to gain a place at that table it is necessary to be bearers of instances that go far beyond the provincial level, at least of the province as we have meant it until today.

But how can we define these territorial platforms?

It is not easy and anyway there are no predefined rules. The key of the new economy are flows, of any kind: broadband as well as highways, finance and so on. Places, platforms are requested to intercept these flows. Also representatives, both economic, of enterprises and political ones, who today talk to you without understanding you, do not escape this change. And also the way of doing business must come to terms with this process.

But what has changed? Is this capitalism at the end, as the title of your latest book seems to suggest?

It has certainly transformed. Until some years ago we were used to having the capital on one side, labour on the other, with the State in the middle that mediated. Now we have to cope with a big part of burnt capitalism, withered in the fire originated by what I call finance-capitalism, with a large part of the State that does not exist anymore and with the labour affected by a serious crisis.

But how can we get rid of that?

Well, it is easy to narrate how things are going, a bit less to say how to solve these problems. I trust in the possibilities of overcoming this time, aware of the fact that we will have to get acquainted with continuous turbulences. Provided that, however, we start reading again what is happening in the present social and economic dynamics, that we make the perverse finance-capitalism land and that we understand that the turbo-capitalism era, which has characterized the development of the majority of the Country in the course of last years, has ended.

What are these dynamics?

Let’s start from an assumption: capitalism has already lived a Darwinian evolution: the selection has already taken place, even if perhaps it is not completely accomplished. Second: it is rising a category that we might likeably define that of “geeks”, that’s to say young people relying on great knowledge of means but not able to make the latter concrete, when on the contrary all enterprises would need these competences, which range from marketing to information science, from the use of social networks to long networks. Then there are the new models of social cooperation, able to generate welfare from the bottom, providing a care service that the State will be no more able to supply. Well, these are three blocks that we should keep together”.

And it is not easy, having to deal with increasingly scarce resources …

We actually need expansion policies. From this point of view I regret assessing that the policies neglected by the Government to boost employment favour those who have not studied compared to those who, on the contrary, have gained competences. It is the legacy of Post-Fordist theories, today outdated. Investing in the latter means to waste resources.

And to what end is society coming, in this context?

The metamorphosis has eaten not only the economic capital but also the social one. It has eroded the relationships inside of which the will of doing business was born. Enterprise that is competitive, but anyway connected with the solidarity of the three C – bell tower, community and shed – by the family. Today also this DNA is shearing off, as demonstrated by the difficult business transmission. Also the family cohesion is not so strong as in the past, circumstance that finally puts in troubles also the “Family SPA”, already in the throes of the financial problems determined by the bursting of speculative bubbles since 2008 onwards. These dynamics have notably hindered the turbo-capitalism, that’s to say that capitalism born from the bottom, that proliferation of enterprises that have represented the molecular capitalism by which the Italian economy has been supported for a long time and whose diffusion, in the past, was facilitated by territorial banks, too, now replaced by big Groups less linked with small communities.  Also for this reason I think that it is necessary to overcome the localistic vision that has characterized the social-economic system until now”.

What direction should our manufacturing system pursue in its growth?

It must know the networks represented by banks, by trade chambers, by universities and logistics. To enter flows, as I said before. That are dynamic by definition and that for this reason need a great spirit of adaptability.

You have just spoken of “making the finance-capitalism land”: how can this happen?

I think that the trace to be followed is the possibility to act in such a way as to make the key word, Economy, keep together the 3 T of the new economy (Technology-Talent-Tolerance) with the 3 T (1) of Earth as resource, Territory, to be reformulated, and of the Preservation of the eco-system. It would be a good way to design the social and economic future of our communities.

(1)Translator’s note: in Italian, the original language of this interview, Earth, Territory and Preservation begin with the “T” letter



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