SYSTEMIC COMPLEXITY AND ECO-SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
towards a unified theory of cognitive field *
by Ivano Spano
* Relazioene tenuta al corso di
perfezionamento sullo sviluppo eco-sostenibile nel settembre 1997 patrocinato dalla
Society and Nature
The Subject Between Everyday Life and History
"Our" time, the enlightened time characterised by
the idea of a progressive progress, is based on a reversal of the values and the relations
which guided and informed the previous human experience.
A historical hypothesis based on the relation man-nature has
taken the place of a vision of the world founded on the relation man-god:
What men want to learn from nature is how to use it in
order to wholly dominate nature and men. (M. Horkheimer - T. W. Adorno, Dialettica
Man founds himself upon nature (and its limits) by means
of his reason and knowledge:
Knowledge, which is power, has no limitation neither in
subjecting creatures or in humbly submitting to the masters of the world. (M. Horkheimer -
T. W. Adorno, Dialettica dellIlluminismo)
The unlimited faith in progress, the successive
"technological challenge" and todays "technological hope", a
necessity of scientific acceleration as an answer to the contradiction of the society of
capitalism, scan a new "historical time", a new social time and a new everyday
The sense of this historical time seems already characterised by
the extraordinary acceleration of the times of environmental variation-modification due to
This "historical time" is directed by a powerful
equation which the capital puts as a summary of the enlightened middle-class culture
founding it: the coincidence of public (collective) interests with the private ones
(belonging exactly to the capital).
The capital becomes both interpreter and actor of the collective
happiness: within its paradigm there are all the possibilities of progress and welfare for
everybody. As such, the capital blocks history (as a process of transformation of the
answers given by men to the problems of the reality he lives).
The society (of the capital) becomes a substance of the single:
The individual and the society become a whole thing,
because society penetrates with strength in the individuals below their individualization
and obstructs it. But the fact that this unity is not a superior form of being subject,
but leads the subjects to an archaic state, is shown by the barbaric repression exerted on
them The identity appearing is not a conciliation of the universal with the particular,
but the universal as absolute, where the particular disappears. The singles are
intentionally transformed as similar to blind biological behaviours, and become similar to
the characters of Becketts novels and plays. The "absurd" theatre is
realistic. (T. W. Adorno, Minima Moralia)
Historical culture takes the place of history considered
as knowledge, science and practice (Hegels history, for example, is seen as a
process of disclosure of the subject, while Marxs history as accomplishment of the
process of mans liberation, the worlds overcoming of any necessity and its
transformation into the world of freedom).
From this moment onwards, history is nothing more than a
cultural phenomenon, a trend of the general culture tending to become more and more
subtle, a partial discipline and a culture fragmenting and dissolving in particular and
This culture represents the deterioration, the senility of
history and the mere exaltation of historical details. It is the process which invested
all the fields of knowledge and imposed its fragmentation:
...since the beginning of the 19th century, the phenomenon
of specialization of sciences had an ineluctable historical character. In fact it only
reproduced, within the organization of the researches, one of the most typical situations
imposing itself on the rising industry for evident economical reason: the subdivision of
work. (L. Geymonat, Lineamenti di filosofia della scienza)
Knowledge breaks itself into innumerable fragments and
becomes specialized; every specialist knows only the small part of it which escapes to its
complexity and is completely incomprehensible to a person who does not cultivate the same
speciality for its language and specialist methods.
It is the lack of interest... on behalf of the
specialist scientists towards any kind of generality, and therefore an
increasingly marked separation between science and philosophy. This philosophical release
is the basis of the so-called neutrality of science, which is above all
theoretical neutrality, or better a refusal to admit that science can in any
way compromise itself in non specialist problems. (L. Geymonat, Lineamenti...)
For history, too, this de-construction (of totality of
complexity) can match with the construction of particularity.
The unitary historical time is banished to the myths as a way to
define existence which is no more historical (it does
not belong any more to the contemporary historical experience).
Historical time and history are organized by means of a paradigm
which is articulated according to pertaining oppositions: history of progress and history
of obscurantism, history of reason and history of madness, history of civilization and
history of barbarity, history of democracy and history of inequalities (using Thomas
Kuhns words, paradigms are "universally recognised scientific achievements,
which for a certain period provide a model of problems and solutions acceptable to those
who practise a certain field of research", T. Kuhn, La struttura delle rivoluzioni
Is it possible, then, to speak of historical alienation? Of
course yes, if we define alienation not as a simple loss of a mislaid essence of an
initial and generic humanity, but as a loss of the possible as the impossibility to
(actually) put a possibility into action, as a blocked virtual element (and it seems that
the opposite concept of it, the idea of "possibility of..." coincides with the
same concept of freedom we find in Marxs philosophy).
But how does this alienation reveal itself as work?
The answer could be: through the charm of history leading the
subject to accept "the weight of history" and to transform it in
The historical reasons which lose every possible abstraction
coinciding with the reason of State (see F. Meinecke, Lidea della ragione di
stato nella storia moderna) dominate the individual, in-form him/her, establish the
unconscious (unsurmountable, inevitable) limits of his/her everyday life.
The conscious limit and the norms of its acting are included in
words such as modernity, modern life, modern times. But these words describe a rhetoric,
not a series of concepts: a lot of ideologies, of false, artificially perfumed and,
perhaps, fluorescent flowers.
Modernity claims to get rid of historicity: the latter appears
to be the repository for the old-fashioned, the decayed, the never changing. On the
contrary, modernity means not only being in step with times and always original,
fashionable, but also looking for novelties, rapid and up-to-date information (more than
knowledge), specialisation (more than recomposition and complexity), induced needs and
common sense, and all concerns the undifferentiated, the levelled, the ephemeral.
"Modernity glitters and lightens on slackness"
(H. Lefebvre, la fine della storia): it masks the unchanged below the sometimes
rough, sometimes refined appearances of novelty, cultivates snobbishness and, on the other
and, scientism and pretends they are high culture.
"Scientism is the fundamental structure of the
middle-class ideology which works by deducing what is not knowledge (exactly the
scientism) from knowledge at the price of false reasonings, illicit extrapolations, an
immoral return to analogies, constant passages which are disguised from the fact to the
right and from the right to the fact, and other compulsions imposed to logic. Scientism
intends to submit knowledge to an apparently strict treatment, pulling it out from its
very ground and transforming it into ignorance, in order to give to the latter the
appearance of knowledge". J. P. Sartre, Lidiot de famille.
Modernity gives above its multicoloured light to the darkened
scene of everyday life. "Modernity and everyday life, two prostitutes and
accomplices": the beauty and the filthy, one sparkling, shining, the other pale,
but interacting together, cheating together, multiplying
their frauds. Their alliance does not suppress historicity, but in any case indicates
their surrendering, maybe their stop. Would it be possible that historicity becomes itself
a disguise of everyday life? (H. Lefebvre, La fine della storia)
As a matter of fact, everyday life is no more the
organisation of time and the rhythm during which individual history develops, but it
acquires the character of the repetitive, the already experienced, the banal, the natural,
the familiar (the fatal), while history appears in a dimension which does not belong to
the subject, which takes place out of him/her and can burst into everyday life like a
catastrophe involving the individual (in the same fatal way).
This is a deceiving vision which breaks the reality in
historicity of history and non historicity of everyday life: history changes and everyday
life remains constant, even if within an apparent mobility inspired by modernity.
The subject looks for his/her certainties in this constancy, and
experiences transformation and history as insecurity and drama. Everyday life, if
separated from history, becomes an impotence: we do not understand that history is the
possibility to break the repetitive and the banal aspects of everyday life in the same way
as everyday life submits history, because everything has its own daily life.
But how can we understand the reality (which can be banal,
instrumentalized and repetitive) of everyday life? The reality of daily life is an
historical product, and, therefore, what separates the autonomy of the subject from
his/her automation can be historically modified.
In this sense it is not possible to understand the reality of
everyday life, but this latter has to be understood according to reality, to its
transformation, to history.
In order to discover the truth about an alienated daily life, it
is necessary to detach ourselves from it, to free it from familiarity: we must exert a
violence on it, break the (daily) constituted order, we must "release" history.
Todays history is, therefore, that of the processes of
homogeneity which are mistaken because of the diffusion of equality and the development of
democracy: history has lost its substance becoming history of reproduction and repetition,
banality and normality.
Hence we can get a conception of society assimilating it
surreptitiously and abusively to an environment, that is a system of interactions and
balances (while society is a system of violences, of constrictions already containing some
collective norms of evaluation of the quality of these relations before any relation
between itself and the individual). This means to accept the idea that the individual must
subscribe to the reality of this society, and therefore adapt to it as a given reality
which is not at the same time a good, a product of the collective action, a democracy.
this democracy makes all the people listeners at the
same level, in order to authoritatively give them to the same programs of different
channels. (M. Horkheimer -T. W. Adorno, Dialettica dellIlluminismo)
This society-civilization of repetition, reproduction and
homogeneity has ended by repetitively reproducing also the thought, the capacity to
reflect upon reality.
"A modern mind is no more able to think of the thought,
we can mostly put it into time and space" (R. Jacoby, Lamnesia sociale),
you can classify it.
History of philosophy, then, is history of forgetting and
philosophers, as Nizam affirms, may also not want to cheat, but their philosophy is
grounded on slavery. In short, philosophers represent the "watch-dogs" of the
In the capitalistic society, also isolation and psychic
mass-depauperation are products of the society acting for its own preservation. So, while
society reproduces itself abstractly exalting the individual, the subject tends to
The psychic dimension, too, which is in relation with the
subject, loses its sense and originality:
Also the possibility of choice of the unconscious are so
reduced (if not already so rare at their origin), that the dominant groups of interest
convey them in few channels with the methods that psychology has happily experimented for
some time in totalitarian and not totalitarian states. The unconscious is manipulated in
order to protect it with care from the Egos look; poor and undifferentiated, it
matches happily with the standardisation and the administrative world. (T. W. Adorno, Scritti
Also what dreams reveal to the subject are, by far,
predetermined. Is then the "freedom to dream" greatly conditioned, too?
Today we are "afraid to fly"(E. Jong), that is to
erect ourselves upon reality (to space ourselves out from immediacy), to reveal it, to
know it, to recognize it and find ourselves with it, to become fulfilled as reflective,
What "syndrome" can we define for this society denying
the subject and the possibilities of his/her fulfilment?
We can say that society has lost its memory and, with it, its
mind (see R. Jacoby, Lamnesia sociale).
We suffer from "social amnesia": memory is brought out
of the mind by the social and economical dynamics of this society.
This happens making social and human relations appear as
natural, given, as immutable relations among things.
In a few words this corresponds to the concept of making a thing
of any reality.
But as Marx says (K. Marx, Resultate des unmittelbaren
produktionprozesses): "Transforming reality into things means forgetting".
Social amnesia is therefore a process of cancellation of memory
and removal of that human activity (history) which has built, builds, and can rebuild
In this historical condition, what is normative is no more the
subject but the social order(of the capital), instituted as a number of (coercive) rules
which everybody must worry about.
To say it as Bergson does "Human vital order is made by
a number of rules lived without a problem" (H. Bergson, Les deux sources de la
morale et de la religion).
Apropos of this Mainardi remembers how
the human style of life has begun to modify the
environment to protect his/her genes instead of evolving them to adapt to the modification
of the environment... And this modification of the environment has gradually become a
submission of the environment, its integral taming process... (D. Mainardi, Intervista
The definitions of "progress" and
"wealth" need then something more than just the cold but dramatic
"calculation of the capital", the calculation of the productivity of economical
choices. Technology itself is submitted to the law of decreasing yields, and the problem
of the organisation of material and social basis need the support of other sciences and
other parameters which are different from those belonging to economics and productivity.
On one hand, then, thermodynamics and, in particular, the law of
entropy and its fourth principle, that is degradation of matter and its becoming
unavailable as it happens for energy, and on the other hand biology and, in particular,
the delicate biological balance seen as a living system of complex nature (continuous
interaction of atmospheres, oceans, plants, animals, micro-organism, molecules, electrons,
energy and matter), all this sets universal limits to human action.
Reaffirming, then, the centrality of biology and the great
biophysical laws of nature bears in itself a great meaning, beyond any possible
deterministic simplification: if there are biological norms it is because life, being not
only a submission to environment but also its institution, puts for this reason some
values not only to the environment but to the organism itself. Therefore the organism is
not thrown in an environment where it must adapt, but it structures its own environment
and at the same time develops its capacities as an organism.
It is what Canguilheim calls the "biological
normative" (for an explanation about the concept of determinism in relation to the
dialectic materialism, it is important to see the work by S. Timpanaro, Sul
materialismo), that is the capacity of being and becoming among interacting factors
whose dynamics and complexity define the nature itself of the system as well as biological
As a matter of fact, words like "progress",
"progression", "perfecting" are improper in biology because they
recall too much regularity, pre-established drawing, anthropomorphism. What perhaps
characterises the living being better (when living means who is bearer of a genetic code)
and their evolution is the opening, the tendency to make the execution of the genetic
program more elastic, because it allows the organism to increasingly develop its relations
with the environment and to extend its range of action.
Every evolution, then, intended as increase-change of the
genetic program is the result of the tendency to augment the interactions between organism
and environment. As the organisms become more complex, their reproductive processes do the
same, too. An accidental series of mechanisms appears, helping to mix the genetic programs
and obliging the organism to transform itself.
Sexuality, for example, as a reproductive mechanism seems to
have intervened rather late in the course of evolution. At first it represents an
auxiliary instrument of reproduction, something unnecessary. As a matter of fact, nothing
obliges a bacterium to use the sexual mechanism to reproduce itself. From the moment in
which the recourse to sexuality becomes compulsory, the genetic system and its
possibilities of variation modify themselves. Every genetic program does not form any more
as a perfect copy of a unique program, but as a re-assortment of two different programs.
A genetic program is no more a patrimony of a race, but it
belongs to the community, to the whole of the individuals interacting with each other
through sex. In this way we can have a sort of "common genetic found", from
which every generation can draw to build new programs.
To identity, which is required by the strict reproduction of the
program, sexuality opposes diversity as the result of the re-assortment of the genetic
programs in every generation.
No individual is like another: sexuality obliges genetic
programs to cover all the possible combinations. Therefore it forces to change, to evolve
(For these themes, I used as a reference the work by F. Jacoby, La logica del vivente).
From this viewpoint, the phenomena of social organization (and
historical time, too) should be seen as a "mimic" of the vital organization (the
biological time), where miming does not simply mean copying, but tending to recover the
sense (or better, the nature) of a reality, of a system, of a creative and productive
The overcoming of the barrier between historical and biological
times should be therefore considered as a collective historical problem, concerning
exactly the species, as an affirmation of a conscience of species and capacity to pass
from a social coercive normative, reproducing the status quo and its logic of
denial (of mortification), to a social one proposing it. There the subject can regain its
progressively alienated nature, overcoming what is the ground for this structure, an
antinomy seen as a scientific justification of the separation between object and subject
(science instead of philosophy), man and woman (conscience of power and not of species),
logos and eros (conscience of power and instituted production instead of vital processes),
economics and ecology ( a logic of induced and surreptitious needs against the processes
of realisation-individuation of the subject), culture and nature (conscience of mans
position of power instead of his reconciliation with nature).
The reason of antinomy has also accumulated a series of
oppositions which are not pertaining, but that in their first terms constitute, as a
matter of fact, the result of this historical period. Within it all the meaning of the
second terms (where the first ones come from) is concretely denied. We are speaking of the
- rationalism against reason;
- nationalism against nation;
- individualism against individual;
- structuralism against structure;
- formalism against form, urbanism against urban;
- scientism against science;
- growth against development;
- original against difference;
- verbalism against communication;
- historicism against becoming, etc.
The problem, then, is to reflect upon a project including all
the terms which characterise human experience and allow the subject its becoming. It is
necessary to reconcile the social with the natural, historical times with biological ones,
that is to allow the man to regain the nature, its own nature.
But if we want to quote Marxs words (K. Marx,
Manoscritti economico-filosofici del 1844)
the fact that man lives on nature means simply that the
nature is his/her body, with which he/she has to stay in constant relation, in order not
to die. The junction of physical and spiritual life of man with nature means simply that
nature is joined with itself because man is a part of nature... History itself is a real
part of natural history, of nature becoming man. In a second time natural science will
submit the science of man, in the same way as the science of man will submit the science
of nature: then there will be only one science.
New Paradigms of Knowledge: Complexity
But, in this century, a great part of science has put in
doubt the old deterministic and mechanistic image, opening the way to qualitative,
indeterminate, relative, catastrophic and dynamic phenomena. They were far from balance,
upsetting the scientific reason that established dichotomies such as: philosophy/science,
subject/object (knowing subject/known object), cause/effect, space/time, wave/corpuscle,
In particular, the correspondences, the interrelations which
developed in the last decades among some disciplines at the border of chemical and
physical sciences and sciences of the living, such as the theory of systems, the theory of
information, cybernetics, the theory of evolution, the thermodynamics of the systems far
from balance, the mathematics of catastrophes, etc., gave life to a conceptual
constellation summed up in the idea of complexity. Complexity does not only bring back in
the field of knowledge what was excluded before (the uncertainty, the disorder, the
subject, the contradiction, the relation with the environment, etc.), but it also allows
to put new questions to reality through which it can define the scientific investigation.
Therefore it is possible to refer to complexity as a "challenge" (Bocchi-Ceruti)
as a learning to learn (deutero-learning) and not as a new paradigm.
Isabella Stengers (Perché non può esserci un paradigma
della complessità, in La sfida della complessità, G. Bocchi-M. Ceruti)
explains how the idea of paradigm, seen as a model which allows to represent the game
between scientific concepts and possibilities to experiment, is strongly linked to the
classical science and the presupposition that it is possible, even if only theoretically,
to obtain a sure and absolute knowledge.
Replacing the word "complicated", something which
cannot be taken to pieces and brought back to simple elements, with the word
"complex" does not represent, therefore, a pure recourse to a linguistic
analogy, but the access to a new epistemology, where there is no theoretical possibility
of a sure knowledge.
Ilya Prigogine sums up this epistemological jump in this way (Lorigine
della complessità, in Physis: abitare la terra): the description of systems
has a character which is necessarily statistical and probabilistic; contemporary dynamics
describes an unstable universe, a non-integrated system where each point can go in all
directions. The scientist cannot know a point, but only a region, and this region holds
trajectories going in all the senses. He owns a finished piece of information, and knows
just a part of the universe, both because it is exactly an unstable universe and because
he is involved exactly in this universe.
Temporality and subject appear as containers of those concepts
which differ the concepts of viewpoint of complexity from that of classical science.
If the perspective of irreversibility is assumed with coherence,
if we think that chance and necessity co-operate to keep on generating new phenomena, the
finished viewpoint cannot be justified as complementary of the infinite viewpoint, but it
has to obtain its own positive definition, or better scientific formalism must no more
imply the possibility of an infinite viewpoint.
According to the new epistemology, then, the observer, the
cognitive subject is no more an abstract operator who enjoys a transcendent position
towards the phenomenon (known object); the subject of knowledge regains its concrete
determinations and therefore its singularity. At the end it is the subject to give
existence to the characteristics of reality. It follows that the process of scientific
investigation does not present itself as a synthesis of the real, but as a proliferation
of objects, levels and spheres of different realities. The reason for this is that the
observer is always more conscious to use a particular language, to have limits of
communication and limits in storing information, as well as a particular approach to
reality, a particular methodological cut.
Knowledge reveals an "idiosyncratic" nature in
relation to the singular nature of the cognitive subjects.
We can outline, then, an epistemological perspective of
"constructivism" whose problem is not to render homogeneous different viewpoints
but to understand how they can be born from one another without synthetizing in a model
(paradigm) but remaining complementary. This word sends us back to the intuition of Niels
Bohr who, during the 30s, introduced the concept of complementary elements inside quantum
physics, in order to better understand the relationship among opposite concepts. Bohr
considered corpuscles and waves as two complementary descriptions of the same reality,
each being correct only in part, and having limited fields of application.
Both the aspects are necessary to provide a complete explanation
of the atomic reality, but they must be applied within the limitation fixed by the
principle of uncertainty (Heisenberg). Therefore we must be aware that the more we stress
an aspect, the more the other escapes us or appears indeterminate.
Now the unity of the process of knowing appears as a unitary
convergence of some proceedings of construction thanks to the indispensable multiplicity
of the constitutive viewpoints of a cognitive universe, complementary viewpoints which are
antagonist and often contradictory also within the processes of construction of the same
system of ideas, of the same tradition.
Organizational Complexity: The Logic of Living Systems
The course of evolution, even if complex, is
submitted to some simple and general laws which can be explained and understood through
scientific methods. From the reality of scientific research, in all fields, we can also
point out the hypothesis of the possibility that these laws are valid for physical,
physico-chemical and biological systems, too, and also for socio-cultural ones.
On the other hand, our biospherical habitat, the fundamental
processes of life, the flows of energy and matter, as well as those of information, the
characteristics of human relations, all this has become extremely complex and unstable.
In these conditions, the theories referring to the global logic
of evolutionary processes have a particular value of "survival".
On one hand they provide a number of practical indications as
possible answers to those problems which, despite the widening of the field of knowledge,
develop in a contradictory way their negative value. On the other hand they favour the
research based on the hypothesis of a unitary evolutionary process.
A unified universe of field is the logical base for an
integrated evolutionary process which builds the dynamic systems with the gradual
progression starting from physics and concerning chemistry, biology and social sciences.
Nowadays, with the overcoming of mechanism, the universe is seen
as a potentially integrated multidimensional field, really able to generate the phenomenal
complexity that one can experience in everyday life, as well as in science.
Today there is the possibility to integrate sciences both
horizontally and vertically.
This possibility needs some basic dynamics of evolutionary
transformation not only having its roots in the physical processes, but also applicable to
specific transformations of the living domain and, as a consequence, to the social one.
This task is seen on all sides as one of the best realisations of human reason.
In such a unitary vision, the old dichotomies
individual/environment and mind/body blend in a more natural dynamic interrelation between
indivisible polarities. The duality and the antinomic reason, born from observing and
describing the object always from the same viewpoint, become thus mental categories no
longer necessary and, above all, exhaustive. Today we can no longer accept the idea that
it is possible to reduce anything to its components, an idea that for many centuries has
had a profound influence on the scientific thought.
Quantum and relativistic physics have thoroughly changed this
knowledge. In great contrast with the general reductionist theory, the new physics has
revealed the deep connection between the microscopic and the macroscopic world. This shows
us that it is impossible to come to a complete comprehension of the matter simply by
studying its very components.
The principle of uncertainty by Werner Heisenberg stresses,
then, the impossibility to know at the same time position and velocity of a particle.
While measuring it is impossible to detach the reality of a
subatomic particle from its own environment.
The meaning of this is that the more we insist in describing one
aspect, the more the other becomes uncertain, undetermined.
This way the individual, that is the man victim of the
reductionist science, has again a central position in nature. The act of observing in
quantum physics is not a random element: the observer enters the subatomic reality in a
fundamental way, and the equations of physics decode in their description the very act of
Recent scientific studies stress a conception of reality as a
network of relations: each part can be understood only in relation to its context. That
is, fundamental properties cannot exist unless linked to the whole system. The idea of
system implies the nonexistence of objects or substances but of organizations; not simple
elements but complex units; not aggregations of elements but systems of systems.
The atoms, being no longer considered as solid particles, are
today seen as spaces where small elementary particles (electrons) orbit around their
During the 30s, Niels Bohr had already affirmed that
"isolated material particles are abstractions,
since their properties can be defined and observed through their interactions" (I
quanti e la vita, 1965)
In 1935 the physicist Henry Stapp (see S-Matrix
Interpretation of Quantum Theory, 1971) emphasised the quantum concept of particle in
the following way:
"an elementary particle cannot be analysed as an
entity with an independent existence. It is essentially a number of interactions towards
other things". Therefore quantum theory does not deal with things but with
To better understand reality, then, it is necessary to overcome
the models of Aristotle (form/substance), Descartes (mind/body) and Newton (reality in its
elementary components), which are the basis of many of our ideas. We need a model
including at the same time unity, multiplicity, totality, organization and complexity.
The sciences of complexity, for example, propose a unitary
evolutionary process which builds the systems as a whole with a gradual progression
including physics, chemistry, biology and social sciences.
This unitary evolutionary process is based on the fact that all
the systems emerge into a flux of energy and are fundamentally opened, that is in constant
interaction with the outside.
The fluxes of energy organize structures of an always increasing
complexity, fixing part of the energy in relatively stable systems. As the level of the
fluxes of energy lowers, a growing number of energies is channelled in structures becoming
more and more complex.
In time, therefore, emerging systems become always more opened
and highly organized. We can thus build systems
through a series of progressive integrations of structures subordinated with one another:
each of these unities, formed through integrations of subordinated unities, is what Jacob
(see La logica del vivente, 1971) defines as "integrone" and Ageno (see Le
radici della biologia, 1986) as "coherent unity".
If compared to the previous ones, each level of organisation has
new characteristics and properties: different means of communications, different circuits
of regulation and a different internal logic. In order to differentiate the system,
increasing the rate of autonomy and its exchanges with the outside, is indeed necessary to
develop both the structures linking the system to the environment and the integrations
among the different components of the system.
We can therefore consider the human organism in its own
environment as a number of complex systems, which are regulated by homoeostasis ; above
the complex system called "human organism", there is the socio-cultural
"integrone", the "coherent unity" between organism and environment.
The core of the socio-cultural integrone overcomes any
biological explanation: in order to study it, it is necessary to link the different levels
of observation of physiology, behavioural sciences and sociology.
In order to make it possible, it is necessary to abandon a
mechanistic viewpoint and to adopt a more complex one.
The systemic theory, as said, sees the world in terms of
relations and integrations.
The systems are integrated totalities, whose properties cannot
be reduced to smaller unities. This theory allows us to begin the understanding of
biological, social, cultural and cosmic evolution, following the same model of dynamics of
If the neodarwinian theory, for example, considers evolution as
moving towards a state of balance, with organisms adapting to the environment better and
better, according to the systemic theory, instead, evolution works moving away from
balance, and the centre of attention is shifted on the co-evolution of organism plus
environment, towards an increase of complexity, co-ordination and interdependence. What is
evolving is, therefore, the organism in its own environment. If we extend the systemic
conception to the description of social and cultural evolution, Bateson (see Mente e
natura, 1984) proposes to define the "mind" itself as a typical phenomenon
of living organisms, societies and ecosystems, and describes the necessary criteria to
speak about it.
According to Bateson, mind is not an entity interacting with
matter: both (one and the other) are manifestations of the same systemic properties. Mind
and matter do not belong to two separate categories, but they simply represent different
aspects of the same process.
But already during the 30s, while studying the physical world,
Jeans James (see The Mysterious Universe, 1930) affirmed that "the universe
begins to seem more like a great thought than like a great machine", in the same way
as todays physicists and cosmologists speak about a universal mind pervading the
cosmos and leading it through the laws of nature to achieve its aim. Paul Davies (see Dio
e la nuova fisica, 1984) specifies this conception by saying that "nature is a
product of its own technology and that the universe is a mind, a system that observes and
organises itself autonomously".
But the similarity between the structures of matter and mind
should not astonish us, because human conscience plays an important role in the process of
observation of events on a subatomic scale.
The crucial character of quantum theory is that the subject is
necessary not only to observe the properties of an atomic phenomenon, but also to cause
and generate these properties.
The psyco-physical unity of the individual is, then, an open
system, too: it must keep a constant flow of exchanges of matter, energy and information
with the environment, in order to let it survive. It is a system in a state of dynamic
balance, which maintains a "stationary state" thanks to the right functioning of
automatic regulation mechanisms, whose action deals with the changing conditions of the
environment. These mechanisms must be quite flexible in order to prevent the dynamic
balance of the system from overcoming the parameters of variability delimiting the
stationary state (homoeostasis).
Whatever is the nature of the flexibility (physical, mental,
social), it is essential in order to allow to the psyco-physical system to adapt to the
environmental changes: a loss of flexibility (rigidity of its own status) should bring to
a loss of health.
Organizational Thought and Ecology: The
All this brings to the necessity to produce a moment of
true verification of the epistemological grounds of the different theoretical fields
towards an hypothesis of "re-foundation" of sciences, a "scientific
revolution" which cannot surely coincide with a modification of paradigm but with a
process of "re-structuring" of the whole field of knowledge.
By accepting what Ervin Laszlo indicates, we have to refer to a
new figure of scientist, the "general scientist".
"The task of the
general scientist is then to put these data in a coherent order, discovering structures
and isomorphisms applying criteria of consistency, as well as of omni-comprehension and
reciprocal extensibility, and creating concepts and theories placed on a higher level than
the one where are placed concepts and theories of the specialist scientist. This
scientific task of the "second order" (which is meta-scientific rather than
"meta-physical", since it goes beyond the field of a single discipline such as
physics. On the other hand, it is stricter than the great majority of the metaphysical
speculations of the past) is not only legitimate: it is also necessary." (E. Laszlo,
Levoluzione della complessità: lordine mondiale contemporaneo in G.
Bocchi, M. Ceruti, La sfida della comlessità, 1985)
This is much more
significant in relation to the cognitive models within which there are the articulation of
the ecological thought and the emergency of the notion of eco-system.
The environment, then, stops to be an exclusively territorial
unit and becomes instead the result of the union of a biotopos (the geophysical
environment) and a biocenosis (all the interaction of the living beings inhabiting the
What organises the environment, then, and makes it a system is
exactly the whole of the relations among living beings combining with the limits and the
possibilities provided by the biotopos (the geophysical environment) and retro-acting on
Ecology, then, presents itself as a science of the interactions
of combination-organization which happen among all the physical and living components of
Therefore ecology needs the thought of organization as an
ordered number of relations between the physical and the living and their reciprocal
The eco-organization is inseparable from the constitution, the
preservation, the development of the biological diversity.
In order to organise itself, life today needs life itself more
than ever, and the ecological dimension corresponds exactly to this need.
This assertion appears as very significant in all its evidence
and actuality. From the "Report by the Club of Rome" (1970) till today, we can
see always more clearly the limits of the development, of "this" development, as
well as the cognitive and institutional apparatus put in being as its support and
legitimation (see A. Peccei, I limiti dello sviluppo, 1972).
In this direction, the centrality of the relation between
economics and ecology goes in any case beyond the problems put by the development of
pollution and concerns:
- the progressive unavailability of the resources, both in terms of quantity (as to
the continuous demographical increase on a world scale) and quality, and so the
characteristics of many resources progressively pauperised (it is worth recalling to our
mind, for example, the progressive transformation into desert of the agricultural
territory and the impoverishment of the organolectic characteristics of the alimentary
- the progressive development of the processes linked to entropy and the consequent
unavailability of energy;
- the progressive degradation of matter and its becoming unavailable as well as
- the increasingly more uncontrollable relapse (environmental impact) of the
scientific discoveries (see, as the last of them, bio-engeneering) and of the
- the "extraordinary" environmental variation-modification due to
mans work to such a point that the induced acceleration of the development of
biological processes is no more (or less and less) compatible with their own nature.
The emerging historical datum then resides in the fact that the
present mechanisms of growth, the growth of the economically developed and ultra
industrialized nations, do not produce or coincide with balanced processes of development
which are adequate to the articulation of the social needs. The "progressive"
progress, put as the basis of the capital in order to legitimate its project of society,
remains as an ideological value which is continually being weakened by the evidence of the
contradictions of this model of growth.
But the particularity of the crisis lies in having overcome
every limit of the economic dimension.
This crisis concerns also work, the relation with other
individuals, our relation with nature, with our body, with the other sex, with society and
history. It goes across the generations and torments the societies, urban life and its
mechanisms, the territory and the environment, the institutions and the cognitive models.
But, paradoxically, it is exactly in this moment that humanity
has the possibility to control the course of evolution. The development of the cognitive
models such as the theory of complexity and the hypothesis of re-composition of knowledge
has produced the acquisition of the fundamental principles of evolutionary processes and
the possibility that these principles could guide the course of the events of the real
Ervin Laszlo says:
course of history is perhaps the highest exercise of that liberty that is intrinsic to the
human condition. Exerting this liberty, and doing it for the welfare of the majority of
people, is the highest moral act. It is an act that could lift the blanket of pessimism
produced by the feeling of impotence in front of the problems growing rapidly, and leave
us in the light of the intentional conscious action" (Levoluzione della
On a concrete field of
action, we have now to reflect upon the politics of transformation, care, preservation and
exploitation of the resources, the territory and the environment as results of a process
of accumulation of all the human, social and material potentialities.
The emerging concept is that of an "integrated
planning" as definition of a new order of society and territory where the Plan, or
the Plans, execute their merely binding function, on the basis of concomitant politics of
experimentation and verification, of accessibility and fruition of the collective
resource, of integration - either in the stages of project, management or verification -
of the different cognitions, operators and subjects.
From this viewpoint, it is important to evaluate the possibility
of a re-reading of the same concepts of "yield of the productive processes", in
order to conciliate the transforming processes of the resources with the exigency of their
Therefore we must not only consider the costs required for the
preservation or the restoration of a damaged environment (the so-called "defensive
costs"), but also measure the environmental effects in terms of product.
The European Community has already engaged itself with the FAST
program "Previews and Evaluation on Science and Technology", whose aim is to
detect "the number of activities and methods used for the studies- having as much
preventive and anticipatory character as possible - on the aspects and consequences of
technological innovation. They are analysed considering most of all their interaction and
the different groups of people exploiting them, in order to discover the most suitable
role and social use of the scientific disciplines and the technologies in question.
Starting from a local level, the fundamental reason of being of
the scientific and technological innovation lies in the specific capacity of knowledge of
the surrounding context, in order to better act locally in an effective way coherent with
the exigencies of transformation and preservation of the resources.
In this context, the concept of "local" needs an
adequate re-definition, in order not to refer to theoretical and practical models
belonging to administration, economics and also to culture and experience, but however
reducing their limits.
A conceptual jump needs to consider the local as a viewpoint
assuming the uniqueness, the specific as a value, the complexity as a rule, the social and
economic self-organization as a modality.
In this context, the local has not got a scale ("local =
small", as it would be for a certain kind of romantic way of seeing the environment),
and cannot be confused with a particular level of development.
The development is a complex problem concerning together
economics, environment, the territory, culture, the identity, man and his/her needs, the
capacity of being an active subject of a government.
Therefore the development of the local societies brings us back
to a project requiring the overcoming of the territory as a mere support of the economic
activities or as a ground- resource to consume within the idea of unlimited growth. The
territory then assumes the valence of ecosystem (interaction of man-society and nature)
and of local society seen as a complex reality.
It is exactly within this hypothesis that the same subject who
makes technological innovations should concentrate.
Today these subjects are mostly firms and big apparatuses. The
firm has spread both the innovation of process (the use of robots and computers) and of
product (we should think about the percentage of culture and advanced technology embodied
in many new products), as well as a new logistic organization (transports, tranfers,
The innovations coming from the new apparatuses (military
apparatus, telecommunications, etc.) seem to concern more restricted fields, but it is
through the role of the public operator in the development of the economics of services to
people and that of environmental technologies.
It is a question of using new technologies for the effects they
can have in the field of sanitary services, the services to families (video-assistance,
tele-medicine), the logistics for the people, the infrastructures for the residence.
On the other hand, the so-called "green industry",
opens enormous perspectives to the technological innovation concerning not only the
repairing interventions, but also the analysis, the control and the evaluation of all the
In this context, it is also of great importance the concept of
"energetic mix" of different sources. The energetic mix takes, in fact, the
resources of the territory as a value and the ecosystem as field of action. It can only
refer to the uniqueness of the project of development, the differentiation, the local
systems of government.
The convergence and reciprocity between ecologist politics and
local development ,then, has a strategic importance with an unquestioned value of
"survival", both in political terms as answer to urgent problems and as
contribution to the development of unitary cognitive processes.
As a matter of fact, the contradiction between these new
cognitive models, which provides a new logic to the processes of development and the
theoretical and practical models linked to different theories of growth, appears as almost
The Social and Urban System Between Disorder and "New"
The same metropolitan territory is crossed by the structural
contradictions of the society defining it: in the configuration of the contemporary
industrial cities, it becomes possible to read the historical and political functions
assigned to the spatial regulation of the territory.
Therefore we can now interpret the "strategic" use
made by the dominating classes. The "urban machine" acts in order to separate:
the territory of the city separates the social groups from each other, organizing the
spaces of social life, the dislocation of the centres of production and exchange,
pre-arranging the definition of the places where the political power is exerted. In the
same way, as the social relation divides the producers from the product of their work, the
city from the country, the intelligence from the production, the territory separates its
inhabitants in different spatial ambits. In the same way as there is a differentiated
possibility of access according to the social wealth produced, there is also a different
enjoyment of the urban space.
The ground becomes a commercial good linked to the value in
exchange and the speculation.
"The fact that the space is submitted to the exchange acquires a
growing influence in the transformation of the cities; architecture itself depends on it,
because the form of the buildings derives from the division in lots and the purchase of
the ground, which is cut in small rectangles. Tardily, but in an always more precise way,
the building sector becomes submitted to the big capital, dominated by its (industrial,
commercial and banking) firms having an output attentively pre-established under the
appearance of the organization of the territory." (H. Lefebvre, Il marxismo e la
The politics of housing development, as well as that of the
exploitation of the ground, is going in this direction.
"Therefore the urban house becomes more and more
the equivalent of a merchandise and a consumption, while its function of usual instrument
reduces itself, and we lose the meaning of its essential aim, that is to be a necessary
and somehow revitalizing place to satisfy ones own natural and cultural needs"
(M. Gaglio, Essere o malessere, 1975)
But the city, the social and urban ecosystem, is , as a matter
of fact, a set of sets constituted:
- not only by all the specifically urban phenomena,
- but also by all the social phenomena,
- and all the bio-geo-climatic phenomena which are located in it.
All these elements and their interrelations are absolutely vital
and constitute and confirm the ecological character of the urban environment.
The order of the social and urban system, that is the
capacity of the system to evolve through the modification of its function, depends on the
respect of the nature of logic and of the order of the different systems interacting in it
(man, society, nature).
It is what Tiezzi calls the relation historical and biological
A lack of balance between these two levels brings all the system
towards the disorder, that is towards a growing consumption of energy to achieve
its aims, with a consequent increase of entropy or, in other words, of unavailability of
the same energy.
It is not by chance that the logic of growth and technological
development of the capital follows this principle defined as the law of the decreasing
outputs: a bigger quantity of energy for the same product. But the disorder may not
bring towards the collapse of the entropy of the system, because it contains its opposite
- that is the presence of perturbations and agitations, which mean that the instituted
order is no more suitable to satisfy human needs, to support the evolutionary processes of
Every revolution-disorder contains and states in advance a new
Thus, the models of growth focused on the research of the
optimum and the exploitation of the resources keep on disproving their validity on a
historical plan, where their postulate is summed up and reduced to a research of the
optimum and exploitation of a single variable. This inevitably ends up to coincide with
the "output of the productive process".
In their logic of survival, the strategy of these systems is to
keep the human society in a state of continuous deficiency, whose most dramatic and
important aspect has always been war.
The poverty, the disadvantages, the lacks of balance and the
destruction of the resources appear as irreducible structural realities of the system: the
system reproduces them by reproducing itself.
While facing, then, an increasing level of consumption, we have
to cope with new diseases, new troubles, the progressive non-adaptation of large social
categories, the increase of social risks of poverty, the decrease of the physical output,
the psychic depauperation, the lowering of the quality of life.
From here derives the exigency of the system to have big plans
of "social emergency". They can be seen as a way of the society to assume the
responsibility to solve different individual problems, to apparently recover some rights
such as health, life, the fruition of social services, a balanced relation with nature
and, therefore, with ourselves and the other.
In this sense ecology, too, becomes the object of a plan of
social emergency, after all a new sector of economics to plan and exploit or, in other
words, a "business".
When, later on, the ecological intervention turns into a
defensive expense ("if you break it, you pay"), the deceit is complete and
The ecology of society offers a double trap:
- a theoretical one, where ecology is seen as an analysis of the ecosystem,
that is what the social actors determine in a given environment seen as an object;
- a practical one, where ecology is seen as a technique, a repairing
intervention, a defensive expense.
"New ecology", then, cannot be a discipline (a science
or a technique) in the traditional meaning, that is a way to analyse the modification of
an object depending on a series of factors.
Ecology is not a science of the relation of dependence, of cause
and effect, but one of interrelation among opened systems of a different nature, able to
get in touch, acquires and expresses its own nature and, at the same time, the nature of
Each part, each element has a sense if brought back to the
whole, in the same way as it is equally right to say that the laws of the micro-world (the
part) are after all those of the macro-world (the whole).
This new viewpoint gives to reality the nature of complexity,
where all the elements get in touch with a logic pertaining to systems. In other words,
they undergo or determine constrictions, regularities, cycles, complementary elements,
antagonisms, etc., whose union is an ecosystem for all the system included in it.
In this sense, where the universal and the local are elements
showing the same nature and a part of the same evolutionary intention or project (it is
not by chance that the universe has the meaning of one, unity and one direction), the
local level can be the starting point for an action of renewal and overcoming of the
existing contradictions and lack of balance between historical and biological times.
The motto "acting locally and thinking globally"
cannot represent the translation of these new possibilities, if it ends by transposing
mechanically the valence and the methods inherent to local experiences at a more general
level, where the word "local" does not acquire a different conceptual meaning.
As a matter of fact, the concept of local needs, as already
said, a new epistemological definition, in order not to refer to theoretical and practical
models (belonging to the administrative, economic, cultural and experimental field) which
could be reduced in any case.
The convergence and reciprocity between ecologist politics and
local development has, thus, a strategic importance with an undiscussed value of
"survival", both in political terms as answer to emerging problems and as
contribution to the development of a cognitive unitary process.
That is why the process of "occupation of the
territory" must be stopped even before the acceleration of the processes of
homologation of local spaces and times in the hyper-space of technology might bring to the
constitution of that "global village" (McLuhan) that inexorably represent the
denial of all places (a-topia).
We must then open a horizon of projects able to transform the
"production of the territory" into a commodity producing the form, quality and
style of human installation.
Making development is an operation which cannot be separated
from the production of a new territoriality, the latter being put in existence only by a
The widening of the inhabited territory is in fact the condition
to invent models of space and time
- producing space, whereas the quantitative growth of the congestion destroys it,
- producing time, whereas the quantitative civilization of the congestion
- producing an aesthetic added value, or better symbolic points of reference always
charged with a semantic effectiveness that could keep an affective memory of its own
- finally, increasing the value of the qualitative richness and the plurality of
the places of time and space against the disappearance of human space and time produced by
the hyper-speed of the means of communication.
In this way, architecture, too, becomes a subjective and
inter-subjective experience of space, loses its conceptual and abstract character, its
being an idea, and acquires a value in being an instrument of personal and collective
An architecture that wants, then, to respect this thought must
- more oriented to the organic order and less to the geometric one,
- more interested to the small scale than to the big one,
- more addressed to the social and less to the profit,
- better disposed to be modified or projected step by step and attentive to the
temporal variations of the needs, and less to the finished work,
- more sensitive to the place and less to the realization of an abstract thought,
- more finalist and less mechanistic,
- more linked to the everyday living and less to the rational object of its study.
An ecologically oriented architecture acquires, then, as its
object, a complex object such as the "space of the living", corroding so slowly
in the lived space that it presents itself with a richness of details unsuspected for the
subject. It also could widen the space of memory and feeling, enlarging the meanings
appearing again on "the theatre of our intimate life".
In this sense, Hoederling has spoken about "politically
inhabiting the ground", that is the necessity to break the logic, the rationality of
the calculation of the capital, the calculation of man upon nature in order to free those
potentialities, those expressive and creative modalities of relation bringing us back to
the memory of the mythical unity between man and nature, man and world, to such a point
that the world should really be our world.
Economics and ecology, Eco-Sustainable Development
The scientific viewpoint that we have assumed and developed
till here inevitably brings us to a complex definition of "natural capital",
intended both as the whole of the natural systems and as the products of the ground, the
harvests, the territory and the artistic and cultural patrimony (see E. Tiezzi, Fermare
il tempo. Una interpretazione etico-scientifica della natura). Now, the "natural
capital" belongs to a logic type different from that of the "productive
capital". To understand this, it is necessary to go back to the logic of the systems
far from balance, the systems which are complex in their evolution.
The approach to the natural capital must only be evolutionary
and not conservative.
If Matthias Ruth is right (Integrating Economics, Ecology and
Thermodynamics, 1993), and therefore the economics are opened systems contained in an
eco-system (the biosphere) which we exchange matter and energy with, we will say that
"both the economic systems and the ecosystems find themselves in a
stationary state, far from balance, and only dynamic evolutionary models, based on
quantity and irreversible and not conservative functions, will be able to allow the
understanding of the complexity of the interactions between "natural capital"
and "capital produced by the man", between the biosphere and the productive
system, between nature (which we integrally belong to) and the economic activity" (E.
Tiezzi, Fermare il tempo).
Therefore, if we accept the viewpoint assuming that the
natural capital and that produced by the man are complementary because the productivity of
one depends on the availability of the other, the concept of "sustenance"
appears as the number of relations among human activities, their dynamics and the
biosphere with its evolutionary dynamics (H. E. Daly, Lo stato stazionario, 1981).
It is in this sense that we can affirm without lapsing into any
"ecological reductionism" that
cannot accept the absolute biophysical bonds which the closed thermodynamic system where
we live involves" (E. Tiezzi, Fermare il tempo).
On the contrary, and this
is the reality of the present situation, today we live according to the logic of the
"economic imperialism", and so it is the economic system that incorporates the
ecosystems, putting the fluxes of matter and energy under the regulatory influence of
But the ideology of the perpetual growth has been in crisis for
some time in the same way as the viewpoints and the politics intending to manage the
crisis as it was a passing perturbation.
The same perception of the present economic crisis on a global
scale is one of the most relevant stake for the human society.
All the dominating ideologies seem to form a coalition to
prevent us from see the crisis as the end of an era, the industrial one, and the possible
beginning of another founded on a different rationality, on a new vision of reality.
For this passage, what remains central is the possibility that
will be offered in order to have access to a way of post-industrial and post-capitalistic
production without being obliged to afford before the generalisation of the relations
founded on the wages and the production of goods for the market.
The present economic crisis, more than being an interruption of
the process of growth began immediately after the Second World War, is the consequence of
it, the global result of the counterproductive and perverted effects of an organization of
the work and the production and a consequent technical progress, guided only by the
principle of the micro-economic income, without considering the macro-social rationality
and the long period regardless of the externalized social and ecological costs.
In comparison with the strong long-term decline of the rates of
the yield of capital, the big firms, already developed to cope with the growing
competitiveness on a multinational field, have begun to consider more the national systems
of regulation of economics and the contrasting relations with the work power as obstacles
to the growth of profits, considering the cut of the labour costs and other expenses as
the solution to the problem.
According to this viewpoint we can read the present process of
global extension of economics and market considering it as a progressive phase of
re-structuring of the big capital, or better of the big firm.
This re-structuring process includes.
- the shift of the productive activity towards places (countries) with lower costs
(the so-called offshore production). Between 1985 and 1989, for example, the countries of
Southern, Eastern and South Eastern Asia have coped with growth rates up to 37% per year.
The Asiatic South East alone has received 48% of all the foreign investments directed to
the developing countries,
- the transformation of the organizational structures to make them adequate to
global economics being strongly competitive (it is the case of the "slim firm",
which limits its internal activities to the fundamental competences and lets out in
contract the remaining operations, also beyond the national boundaries, to firms joined to
it by means of a network linking different firms of different sectors, regions and states,
"a combination of centralization of control and
decentralization of production" (B. Harrison, Lean and Mind: The Changing
Landscape of Corporate Power in the Age of Flexibility, 1994),
- the construction of a new world government
of economics able to support its own choices.
This is the "new Program of the firms" which found
supports with many labels such as that of monetarism, of deregulation, of the
laissez-faire, of the new free trade, of economics, of the offer, of the development of
On an institutional plan this program, as we said, found the
support of consolidated and strategic international institutions such as the Monetary
International Found, the World Bank, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and
of more recent institutions such as the G7 (the group of the most industrialised seven
countries), the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the WTO (World Trade
The politics adopted by these international institutions allowed
the big firms to lower their costs through precautions such as the limitation of the
measures of protection of environment, of consumers, of health and workers, the reduction
of the fiscal charge on firms, the facilitation of the transfer to zones having low cost
manpower, the tolerance of the use of blackmail of such transfers towards the employed
workers, the promotion of the expansion of markets.
Symptomatic is the role of the WTO (World Trade Organization)
founded in 1994 by more than one hundred countries representing four fifths of the world
The new organism ( it has a juridical legal status and so its
decisions are binding for its members) re-defines the "free exchange" as the
right of the firms to go where they want and to do what they want, facing the smallest
number of obstacles, wherever they come from. The WTO, which is defined as an instrument
intended to eliminate laws and regulations preventing or limiting the freedom of firms has
a statute composed by a good 22,000 pages, a text giving form and substance to a
government of the world economics dominated by the giants of the entrepreneurial sector,
without providing a parallel juridical and democratic normative allowing its control (see
J. Brecher, T. Lostello, Global Village or Global Pillage, 1995).
But the expansion on global terms opens new contradictions and
arouses decisive problems such as that of the discussion or the questioning of the
sovereignity of the national states. The national governments have surrendered much of
their power to the "new institutional trinity" (affirmation by Luis Fernando
Jaramillo, chairman of the group of 77) formed by the International Monetary Found, the
World Bank and the WTO fixing and imposing the rules inside which each nation must operate
and co-operate for the success of the "Program of the firms".
The new system of the global economic government has been put
into service of the emerging global firms and is supported by them; it is not obliged to
explain officially its decisions including itself (the only power of veto is entrusted to
an almost improbable unanimous decision of its 100 and more members).
Thus, the new system of the economic government defines itself
as an instrument operating in the sense of the "invisible hand" of the market.
"Like the absolute states of the past, this system
of global government is not based on the agreement of the governors, does not provide for
institutional mechanisms making it responsible towards who is invested by the effects of
its decisions, and it is certainly for this reason
that it cannot work out those functions of the modern governments which benefit the common
people. We must not then be astonished by the fact that, like the monarchies of the past,
this new system of antidemocratic power could produce insurrections (J. Brecher, T.
Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage, 1995).
The process of global expansion thenpresents itself as
further and final confirmation of the contradictory logic guiding the growth of the
capital which, incapable of eliminating the causes of its own contradictions, pushes them
to always wider levels.
Further news of the present crisis lies also in the nature of
the technological innovation by means of which capitalism looks for solutions for its same
The technological innovations (with the centrality of
microelectronics) allow growing quantities of goods to be produced with rapidly
diminishing quantities of capital and work,
accelerating, at one time, destruction of capitals and
the rise of unemployment.
It is also true that these reduced quantities of capital can be
much more profitable than in the past. But in the automated factory
the quantity of manual labour tends to zero the income from work represented
Automation, then, abolishes the workers but also the potential
Any solution adopted to solve this problem (few employed workers
maintaining a mass of marginalized unemployed without rights, or an instalment is used to
remunerate the consumption of goods), in the presence of a technological revolution
allowing a growing volume of goods to be produced with decreasing quantities of work and
capital, the modalities and the aims of the administration of economics cannot be those of
capitalism (or one of its historical variations like socialism) and the social relations
of production cannot be founded on the selling of work power, on the wage-earning work.
Every analysis and every political choice which do not admit the
fact that there can no longer be a full time wage-earning employment for everybody and
that the wage-earning work can no longer keep its centrality (in the productive dimension
and in life), appear to be mystifying and conservative of an agonising system.
Unemployment, now, is no longer an accidental phenomenon, the
sign of an incapacity of government: the political system where unemployment and the
unemployed are treated as if the permanent full time job continues to represent the rule,
The alternative between full time employment and unemployment
denies the real decrease of the socially necessary working time and share out this
diminution in the most unequal way penalizing the non workers but, at the same time,
keeping the nature of the social relations of production between employers and employees.
The conservation of the institution of full time tends
fundamentally to preserve relations of control founded on the ethics of income, and brings
necessarily to a dualistic division of the population (the active, the unemployed, the
temporary employees) by means of which who exerting the right to a permanent job which
then becomes the actor of a conservative role of defender of the constituted (social and
The problem that the leading class must solve, if it does not
want to cause processes of regimenting and segregation of the temporary employees or of
frontal contraposition between employees and non employees, presents itself as disposed in
- that of producing a demand for the industrial production of goods,
- that of providing to the people expelled from the production, because of the
technological innovation, forms of occupation which are not in competition with it,
- that of remunerating these occupation so as to make the demand resolvable.
In short people must be remunerated to consume the supplied
production (the consumption must become an occupation assimilable to a work meriting
"Goods buy their consumers in order to let them
become, through the activity of consumption, like the society needs them to be" (A.
Gorz, Les chemins du paradis, 1983).
This model is considered by Jacques Attali (Lordre
cannibale, 1979) the outlet of the crisis which tends toward the capitalistic society
keeping, in reality, only formal similarities with capitalism itself.
The remuneration of citizens holds the appearance of wages, the
products that must be consumed hold the appearance of relations of goods, but these
appearances are void. What is preserved is no more the capitalistic system but the system
of control of capitalism whose wage-earning employee and market were the cardinal
The production, in fact, no longer has and can no longer have as
purpose the accumulation of capital and its valorisation: now, it has as a main purpose
controlling society and its supremacy.
The apparatus of production and control become the same thing.
Now, the right to an income apart from a job does not really
assure freedom, equality and safety for the people. In the present circumstances it keeps
a conservative meaning and its purpose is not to abolish indigence, unemployment,
inequality but to make them socially tolerable, at a minimum cost, for society.
The security of an income being independent from work will not
be a social transformation bringing individual freedom if it does not go with the right of
everybody to work, that is the production of a social reality, of socially necessary
resources, of free co-operation among subjects and of development of the individuals
In comparison with the fact that the production of the
necessities, what individuals need to live in their social and cultural context, requires,
as a trend, a decreasing and minimum quantity of work, the security of an income,
independently from the occupation of a stable post, represents the inalienable right of
the citizen as a counterpart for his/her contribution of work provided in order to produce
a part of what is considered socially necessary.
The guaranteed income will no longer be found on the value of
work. Its essential function will be that of dividing among all the members of the society
the richness produced by the whole productive power of society itself.
On the individual plan, the "right to work" will no
more run the risk of being confused with the right to a wage-earning job, but it will
constitute on one hand a resource for the stable access to what is socially necessary and
on the other hand the right of access to means in order to produce and create goods which
cannot be socially programmed, but instead be an expression of an individual need or of a
micro-social, local reality, beyond the market.
The latter is the field of autonomous activities opposed to the
dependent ones defined within the limits of what is collectively established as a socially
necessary production. It is the field of production of values of use released from the
economic logic of the capital and from its definition of value.
It is exactly the dialectics between dependent and autonomous
activities, the "positive synergy" between them, which represent for Ivan Illich
(Némésis Médicale, 1975) the overcoming of the possibility of supremacy of man
over nature, of man over man. It is certain that this "positive synergy" between
the two ways is possible only on determinate conditions. When certain critical thresholds
are overcome, the dependent production generates a complete re-organization of the
physical, institutional and symbolic environment which could paralyse the autonomous
"It is thus the beginning of that vicious circle
called by Telich counterproductivity: the impoverishment of the links joining the man to
the world and to the others becomes a powerful generator of demand of commercial
substitutes allowing the survival in an always more
alienating world and reinforcing at the same time the
conditions that make them necessary. The paradoxal result is that the more the dependent
production grows, the more it becomes an obstacle to the realisation of those purposes
that we think that it should achieve: the medicine destroys health, the school makes
stupid, the means of transport immobilizes and the communications make deaf and dumb"
(J. P. Dupuy, Ordres et desordres, 1982).
Together with the wage-earning employment, it is the
central role of economics to be put in question: the importance of this sphere where all
is done in consideration of an equal exchange with another thing and nothing has a value
of its own, because it does not constitute a purpose of its own.
It is exactly reducing everything to economic categories and
universalising them that capitalism has manifested itself as anti-humanism.
Industrialism has made the work a purely functional activity,
separated from life, estranged from its cultural dimension, disconnected from the web of
The work has stopped being a way to live in the present, in
order to relate with the others and with the world and the working time of matching with
the times of life and nature. Money has become the main purpose motivating the productive
and working activity.
The pleasure of making and being, of giving and receiving
without any counterpart were tensions of a cultural dimension which integrated work with
life and made them a way to live endowed with meaning where every relation with the other
constituted a mutual enrichment and an extension (which could be cultural, physical and
social) of ones existence.
The overcoming of the capitalistic economic model puts in a new
light other than the relation dependent activities- autonomous activities the relation
between the costs of production and the social costs.
The development of capitalism and of the big market production
made a number of infrastructures, networks and public services supporting the good
functioning of the productive apparatus necessary. We are dealing with "the
organization costs" of the capitalistic development assumed by the community and
transformed in "social costs".
The development of social costs has followed the development of
the capitalistic growth with greater increases of the production in its whole.
It is difficult to impute this increase to the responsibilities
of politicians and to the misgovernment. The inflation of the social costs is, of course,
linked to the material and infra-structural costs (organizational costs) of capitalistic
development, but it finds its principal reason in the fact that the political stability
and the treatment of problems caused by such development require social interventions
which are always more expensive and marked by the law of the decreasing yields.
The public undertaking of social costs has a function which is
rarely made explicit:
it produces order, legitimacy and political stability.
The effectiveness of the networks and the collective services
cannot, then, be measured in relation with the cost of what they produce, because what
they produce is, often, less important of what they prevent from happening. On the public
undertaking of the social costs depends on the acceptance of the social effects of the
capitalistic development and the political stability of the system. The principal function
is once more that of social control more than the one addressed to the satisfactions of
autonomous collective needs.
On the other hand, the breaking-off of the economic model does
not consider any more the social costs (in the same way as the environmental costs) as
external to its production but as an integrating part of it, as internal to the
calculation of the output of the same productive process:
We can say that in comparison with a socialization of the
decisions of production a social administration of the production itself occurs and it
includes as essential factors the environment and natural resources.
It is the concept of the "economics of services"
announced by Albert Téroédjrè (La pauvreté richesse des peuples, 1978) and no
more considered as the outcome but as the source itself of the development.
Re-inventing economics, going beyond the system of the capital
means making the economics consubstancial to a social level and to nature. Therefore the
announced concept of "sustainability" more than as a technical element as a
vision of reality, the whole of relations between human activities and their dynamics, the
biosphere and its evolution.
We can thus see that the social criterion of the success of this
re-arranged economic model does not feed any more on the commercial and financial success,
but on the possibility of the subject to make all the reality the basis of his/her
experience, to be the actor of culture and pedagogical promoter of an existence where
there could be, at one time, social transformations and individual becoming.
We rediscover, in this way, irreversibility and time no more in
the figure of utopia and of the predetermined project, but in the proliferation of the
evolutionary and biographical courses, nature and history interwoven in the infinite
stories of complexity.