Chapter 5: The Club of Rome and the Limits to Growth

7. Full Employment in the Service Economy
The third report on “full employment in the service industry” published in French in 2000 with a preface by Denis Kessler benefitted from a favourable combination of circumstances. Ricardo Diez Hochleitner had become the President of the Club of Rome and in 1998 a Bilbao Regional bank wanted to celebrate the anniversary of its founding with a book on the subject of employment. It was an opportunity to reflect on the service economy in relation to this fundamental problem and there was enough to pay an assistant for a year. I had the good fortune to find him thanks to a casual conversation with a German friend who worked for Bosch: he knew a capable young man, Patrick Liedtke, and he it was…. *
Patrick Liedtke had the advantage of being perfectly bilingual in German and Spanish, to the point of changing tone of voice and gestures as he passed from one language to the other! The original text had been edited in English and I supplied him with a series of notes and articles on the service economy and some ideas on the subject of employment.
We did not find a good English publisher, instead the Spanish edition was published twice and the German one in particular appeared on the economics “bestseller” list in Germany for a few months. My new collaborator was very efficient and even appeared often on television, not to mention articles in the German press, conferences and also a few debates with some leading German politicians.
In the next chapter I will return to the contents of this report and those of the others. For now suffice it to say that it proliferated.
Actually another member of the Club of Rome, Mircea Malitza, a Romanian scientist and a very cultured man, had the idea of linking some of the ideas put forward in the report on work with the subject of university training and continuing education in our society. To him we owe the idea of “The Double Helix” (the famous definition given by Cricks and Watson to the structure of DNA that is the biological basis for all living beings), applied, however, to the fact that in today’s world, work and training are destined to be combined and developed symbiotically for every one of us throughout our entire life cycles.

8. Specialisations Brought Under Discussion

The problem of life cycle and education requires an in depth debate, not only about teach­ing methods and techniques but also on the subdivision of knowledge into specialised disciplines. If it is important that everyone be a specialist in at least one subject or sector, it is even more indispensable that they be open to every contiguous subject or specialisation. After all, the wine in a bottle is the result of a collaboration between the glass industry and wine production. Every house is the result of the contributions of dozens of trades. Technology raises the level of complexity of every system, often modifying them at various levels in line with innovation. It is essential that education be better directed to the solution of problems, something that together with specialisation requires an ever greater capacity for acquiring data and external knowledge. From this arises the need to organise education that uses modules which have a direct reference to the solution of problems. This will decide the sequence of modules, not authority in the name of discipline.
Specialisations and all the interdependencies are constantly brought under discussion. It might be a good idea that every ten or twenty years diplomas should automatically be considered obsolete, then be reconfirmed only after a series of tests and checks. In this scenario the combination of work experience and training would become increasingly closer. Taking technical possibilities into account the report suggests some concrete means of dealing with the situation.
All of these problems are particularly important when it comes to lengthening the life cycle. We are talking of a great social plan aiming to open up every possibility of insertion through education and work for all, at least until 80 years of age. It’s about the psychic and physical health of everyone and the health of society as a whole.**

9. Globalisation and Management of Uncertainty

The 1970s opened a first act on the subjects of globalisation, vulnerability and the management of uncertainty. The new millennium began the second act in which the same subjects were faced, in a more or less in depth manner. At the time of the first report to the Club of Rome the members on the whole were in agreement in believing that, given the capacity for destruction that man had developed, along with that for creation, the level of vulnerability was no longer established at city, state or national level, but at the planet level. During the Cold War period, the nuclear deterrent was pretty evident, but the majority of observers still thought that it was a case of a single exceptional phenomenon.
Subsequently the debate on the environment made it increasingly clear that in this area interdependence was inevitable and could lead to global vulnerability and risks, if one thinks about the consequences of a significant climate change.
Paradoxically, in recent years the reactions of the “no global” movements, which nevertheless act on a global level, have contributed to reinforcing the idea that we are all on the same boat. Sometimes we arrive at the reality of globalisation using hindsight, but we arrive at it in any case out of sheer necessity.
Faced with this prospect we are also confronted with two kinds of reality linked to human nature and its social organisation: the question of power and that of the legitimacy of institutions.
The current world continues to suffer from the disease of the hunger for power which often overcomes the essential survival instinct. Power, though necessary, should be at the service of human freedom (which cannot be total). Not the contrary. We still have a long apprenticeship period ahead. We still haven’t come out of the age of brutality, based on group, nation and even interpersonal relationships. Wars always break out like an explosion and a freedom from binding ties and from badly lived and badly managed frustrations. The rule of law is a key means of progressing in this field and of keeping destructive instincts in check. Men learn to get around the rule of law which is only partial, and only a hint of which is apparent, above all at the international level, when it comes to limiting damages. The race is already underway between the capacity to harm and destroy and that of avoiding any kind of holocaust, in order, one day, to succeed in building a truly civilised global human society.
Of course, it is also a question of a struggle with the human character and its inclinations. It is necessary to warn against every idea, even those put forward by the most honest and well-wishing intellectuals, subjecting all of them to constant scrutiny. Too often, even good ideas, by becoming ideologies no longer help to solve problems, but rather become weapons for obtaining power for its own sake. Here is a job for the politicians of the future.

10. From the Industrial Revolution to the Service Economy
The question of legitimacy is connected to the problem of power and its effects on the fair running of society. To what extent are economic institutions considered legitimate? In the atmosphere of the passionate debate that followed the first report to the Club of Rome, several violent reactions demonstrated the fear that the legitimacy of the industrial system had been brought into question. In my opinion this shows the need to check the aims and means of economic activity using an economic discipline or “science” capable of being cred­ible. It goes from the “civilised” development of society, which becomes increasingly more difficult, to subjecting to dictatorship, as the last means of social control. The contemporary economic world needs stability, consensus and participation.
Certainly it is difficult; but we are dealing with an essential passage, and the widespread growing level of training makes all this even more necessary. Of course so called negative economic activities exist, such as the sale of drugs, corruption, theft and fraud in their various forms: an economic system founded on those bases, and considered “realistic”, would, in the end, produce only injustice and poverty for the majority of the population.
Winning the battle for economic and social legitimacy means contributing, over time, to wealth and wellbeing in all their forms.
This is why I tried to put forward the idea that a better economic legitimacy could be based on awareness of the passage from the Industrial Revolution to the Service Economy. It was my way of “being Club of Rome”.

* In Italian: Come lavoreremo”, Franco Angeli, Milan, 2000
** “The Double Helix of learning and work”, Orio Giarini and Mircea Malitza, UNESCO-CEPES, Bucharest, 2003

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7