The new and hard challenges facing modern capitalism as we enter tomorrow’s world: continuing creating wealth and spreading social and economic progress together. Challenge or utopia?
When the Winds Of Changes Shift
From Plato’s Republic to Campanella’s City of the Sun, through to Huxley, Orwell and the utopias that have emerged in every branch of human knowledge during the course of the XX century (politics, science, art, literature, architecture and town planning): all of them reflect a natural aspiration for social renewal, a yearning for a perfect world free of pain and deception. Utopian thought has always produced “imaginary elsewheres”, “inside-out worlds”, “promised lands”, “rigorously geometric urban planimetrics”. An existential malaise that kindles man’s desire for something new and better to believe in, utopian visions acquire greater substance in periods of decline or transition, when people’s expectations of ideal and real change rise. So what conditions could be more conducive to the growth of a new utopia than the current economic situation?
If “crisis” is an endemic phenomenon of the capitalist system, marking out its cycles of growth and slowdown, the global recession of the last few years merits greater analysis as a positive force, a lever for change, for a period of transition and evolution. As such, if its underlying causes can be traced back to a vision of the economy as a natural science, guided by absolute and fixed laws, then the transformation it prefigures can be sought in a vision of the economy as a science of man.
The West’s economic system is built on an ideal homo oeconomicus focused exclusively on his own well-being and lacking any ethical and social impulses and values; the concept of growth has been equated with a mere quantitative increase in GDP rather than with a qualitative improvement in lifestyles and the world; scientific and technological progress and the need to respond to the challenge of international competition have generated an exaltation of man’s intellectual capabilities, to the detriment of his spiritual and moral virtues. Now that the collapse of the financial system has shown just how unachievable that system is, the global market and civil society in general have to establish a correct balance between economic principles and ethical values, between scientific research and philosophical analysis, between free enterprise and civilization. The scenario emerging from today’s crisis is a society striving to recover man’s spiritual dimension as a cornerstone of our political, economic and urban system. A utopia?
Possibly. Yet utopias have been a constant of the history of the world, desirable and vague, maintaining the ambiguity inherent in the term itself, as used by Thomas More in 1516 in his De optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia, and man has always been left to ponder the sense of pursuing them: a “place of good” (eu-tòpos) or a “no place” (ou-tòpos)? A dream or a plan? A model impossible to achieve or simply still too far away? Like Lamartine, we like to think of utopias as just premature truths.