It is now clear that an increase in collective wellbeing deriv-ing from a planned increment in demand is impossible, and that cer-tain groups will be excluded from the area of significant consumer-ism forever. One realizes with horror that this area has been narrowed down along with a reduction in the State’s capacity to provide ac-ceptable standards of living. Wider and wider strata are pushing from the confines of the empires, making short-term recipes precipitate in periodic failures hastily repainted with slogans of hopeful possi-bilism. Grandiose programs reveal themselves to be the lowest kind of political swindle. Not only are they unable to solve the problem of poverty through great works of social restructuring, they have no in-tention of doing so. The richest country, the United States, are thus prospecting a sad future for their proletarian masses, now well down the road of desalarisation and emargination. The discrepancy be-tween rich and poor is increasing in a world that is becoming the cir-culation of news and the management of information, and this abyss is visibly greater in the solid monolithic States where the process of decentralisation is still to take place. An immense universe of dere-licts is spreading like leopard spots, marking with poverty even areas once considered the centres of business and the circulation of the ideas of the developed world. The metropoli are becoming the ex-treme point of rupture in this concentrationary universe, amidst the continual movement of communications. One thus finds oneself alone in the midst of everyone, alone in the desert inside the global village.
This is not simply a question of economic wellbeing. The failure of all the promises of freedom, all the hopes for a final affir-mation of man’s dignity regardless of race or social condition, is also important. The values of the global village are anything but universal. They are the values of separation, ghettoisation, and an infinite repe-tition of all the banalities that build barriers and make forced cohabi-tation possible. In fact, the argumentation from both right and left is that universal values are out of place. Concepts such as equality - real and not artificial - are stigmatised with little discernment. On the other hand, affinities that might solidify into adequate reaction be-yond the old class models are derided, whereas false differences such as those between nations and peoples are exacerbated, sometimes with arguments that it was thought had disappeared forty years ago. A strong centralised State project is unacceptable in this great melt-ing pot, and people have finally become aware of this.
One of the symptoms, and perhaps one of the causes, of this breaking up of the State can be found in the crisis in humanist cul-ture, the traditional basis of all strong States. The unbelievable lower-ing in teaching standards also in the universities is reaching unfore-seen levels, precisely in the humanist faculties, in the most highly developed countries. This is in no way compensated by the techno-logical culture, which, even if it is identifiable in a model of life and ideas in the same way as the old humanist culture was, could never be suited to a strong unifying State.
This breaking up of the idea of the State would be very inter-esting for anarchists if they were capable of emerging from the his-torical fetters of an outdated concept of revolutionary aggregation. On the other hand, this condition is becoming the field for a prolif-eration of political movements evolving around single issues that are incapable of supplying a global vision of life and society in the way that anarchism does. Many political referents nevertheless operate in the field of the renunciation of the traditional State, with the aim of accompanying the profound transformation of world capitalism into the area of public affairs.
But this is threatening to become another story.
a) Relations between inflation and employment
Inflation has been defined in many ways that could be summed up as the tendency of price levels to increase generally.
For neoclassical economic thought (up until the Twenties) the idea of inflation was restricted to the case of total monetary collapse (for example in Germany after the first world war), where prices in-creased beyond all measure. The normal course of prices was consid-ered to be that of a re-equilibration of the market where periods of sudden increases were balanced by phases of diminution.
After the second world war price increases grew uninterrupted, parallel to the increase in wages. The neoclassical economists thought that, in spite of the continual imbalance and departure from levels of full employment, a spontaneous tendency to equilibrium existed within the system, thanks to a series of automatic mecha-nisms that acted as correctives. Among these mechanisms they theo-rized the effects of price movements. They said that in an economic system with a high offer, and consequently with unemployment on the increase, a fall in prices (following the increase in the offer of products) would lead to a return to full employment (following the reduction in wages).
In reality things were different. The flexion of prices led to a re-duction in economic activity, hence a decrease in demand (due to the reduction in available wages, i.e. the increase in unemployment), which did not restore employment to optimal levels, but, on the con-trary, led to more serious levels of unemployment.
Keynes was the first to believe that the situation could only be corrected by State intervention. He pointed out the relation between demand, income levels and employment. He maintained that by act-ing on employment there would be a consequent effect on demand, which would then have a propelling effect on production, setting off a mechanism that would lead to full employment.
Keynes’ theories were developed before the events that af-fected the capitalism of the Thirties. At that time mass unemploy-ment occurred in a context that gave the bosses no prospect of future investment, even with a considerable lowering of costs (low wages, lowering of interest tax on loans), because they could not be sure that they would be able to sell their products.
Today unemployment is very different to that of the Twenties. Due to the presence of institutional mechanisms (collective contracts, trade union struggles, etc) that have slowed up the process, it is no longer necessarily linked to a decrease in wages and reduced worker combativeness. On the contrary, it can develop as a consequence of the bosses’ fear of not being able to control the situation. For exam-ple, excessive trade union power can cause the counterpart to stop employing labour, leading to an increase in unemployment. In such a case – as happened in the first half of the Eighties – Keynes’s recipe for sustaining demand no longer fits.
The strange situation occurs where contractual labour power, initially passed off as an instrument for strengthening the weaker side, but in fact aimed at sustaining demand, obtains the inevitable result of lowering investment due to lowering capital’s expectations of remuneration, thus reducing production and leading to an increase in inflation.
Capital has two ways of facing inflation. The first assumes that the capitalist system contains an intrinsic mechanism that takes it spontaneously towards the balance of full employment, an optimal situation where individual wellbeing would correspond to the collec-tive one.
The second considers capitalism to be intimately contradic-tory, so a situation of equilibrium is impossible. In this way the solu-tion is that of obtaining – in the medium term – the maximum profit in absolutely incompatible situations of conflict.
In the first case inflation is considered an anomaly, a more or less transitory evil that can be cured, which strikes the system when it approaches full employment or moves diametrically away from it. Responsibility for the mal functioning of the system is identified in behaviour that does not conform to the rules of one or other of the economic categories (bosses, unions, workforce, etc) who should act to start the process of restoring equilibrium.
In the second case, inflation is considered to be a condition of development itself, part of the whole context of problems of capitalist accumulation. In this way a precise economic category – the bosses – are individuated, who make decisions concerning investments. In this perspective inflation is seen as one of the instruments used in the in-terests of the dominant side. It is no longer an illness to be avoided, but an unavoidable event in the tormented life of the capitalist sys-tem.
Inflation of demand is the classical kind of inflation. It is caused by an excessive demand for goods and services, leading to an increase in market prices.
If this is protracted over a long period of time excessive de-mand leads to an increase in the money in circulation (which, more-over, is derived from a nominal increase in income and so from the start inflation from demand is linked to that of costs, as we will see right away) which results in decompensation with the productive lev-els of capital and the level of products available. Clearly it cannot be established what increases first: market prices or wages, so it is im-possible to establish a net difference between inflation of demand or inflation of cost.
However, I want to briefly point out that it is only possible to talk of inflation in demand when faced with an autonomous expan-sion of demand not linked to an increase in production costs (in the first place wages). When economic policies of sustaining demand according to Keynes’ recipe are followed, this corresponds in a way to a kind of redistribution of earnings in that can only be realised by the State’s having recourse to the national debt, given that taxes and duties are never sufficient. Now the national debt is composed both of sums that the capitalists, great and small, and the savers, lend to the State, as well as paper money that is printed and put into circula-tion. Theoretically the first part does not lead to inflation, but in prac-tice it does because it solicits demand and therefore competes to rais-ing market prices; the second part of the national debt is undoubtedly a thrust for inflation (by increasing the quantity of money in circula-tion, prices also increase).
Price inflation comes from a rise in prices consumerism due to a direct or indirect increase in the cost of production (labour in the first place). Basically, the increase in prices of raw materials also has an inflationary effect, but these are increases that it would be more correct to take back to the original increase in wages concerning the industries that produce the raw materials.
Now the labour market is not a competitive market, but is monopolistic in nature (as it is based on trade union wage contracts). Competitive elements in cost inflation of leading one to suppose the existence of a hypothetical mechanism of re-equilibration do not therefore exist. Here the mechanism is of quite a social and political nature.
This inflation is therefore social conflict due to the way it is possible to distribute the national income based on the repeated at-tempts of a number social groups to increase their availability (and therefore their consuming) faster than others, with the abstract con-cept of general economic stability. That leads to constant price in-creases and to a spiraling prices-wages and wages-prices relation.
There have been constant increases over the past few years in conditions that would once have led to a lowering in prices. Now, so long as there is a substantial increase in productivity, this does not cause further price increases, in that the rise is covered by the favour-able course of the economy. In fact, the increase is seen as a favour-able contribution to production because it puts off or avoids (never completely, however) the always feared crisis of overproduction. But sooner or later these increases have an effect on wages in the wider sense (including the wide sense of recomposition of the workforce in the general conditions of advanced if not exactly postindustrial soci-ety today), especially in the absence of a parallel increase in produc-tivity capitalism. It derives from this that constant wage increases become necessary, thus affecting the cost of labour and, conse-quently, industrial profit. Of course, this last step can be delayed by various factors (capacity for self-financing of firms, markets in ex-pansion, scarce dependence on the financial market, etc.), but, no sooner does it bait, it ends up by spreading rampantly as inexorable cause of cost inflation.
The international causes of inflation are economic and politi-cal factors which determine price increases of raw materials else-where which, imported into the countries, cause the bait of a infla-tionary process of great dimensions.
That leads to a number of consequences in terms of expecta-tion, conflicts, defence within the social body and therefore the work market. The monopoly situation of wages prevents political interven-tion in the capitalist sense and exposes firms to backlashes of inter-national inflation which cannot be softened by a drastic reduction in wages or employment. The only road the capitalist can take is there-fore that of price increases.
What do the capitalists do to resolve the problem of inflation? The left support an incomes policy (always in the name of capital obviously). Their aim is not so much to affect inflation, as to affect unemployment, so that, by modifying the first, the second is also modified. It is certain that some cases the politic of sustaining em-ployment in the (also recent) past, has led to affecting the relationship between real wages and productivity; in other words it has led to a worsening of the conditions of production and therefore to a reduc-tion in profits and consequent reduction in investment.
Now the first effect of inflation felt by the workers is the re-duction in real wages, so they fight for wage increases, employment remaining the same. On their side, the bosses are pushed to restrict-ing the demand for work as they try to rationalise production any way possible. All that leads to rises in purely monetary wages, but leaves the problem of employment and productivity unsolved. The only so-lution left is to transfer any increase in costs on to prices. Hence a constant reduction in real wages (in the wider sense seen before) and a quick response with further increases in nominal wages.
As far as employment is concerned, let us look at the preced-ing situation (industrial economy), in a traditional economy many elements affect employment. In particular increase in retiring age, a request for higher qualifications, more women’s work, an afflux of labour from the country in cities in situations of reduced capacity of industrial absorption all increase unemployment.
Wage increases also lead to an increase in unemployment. Companies move towards saving work by modifying investment (the first attempts at factory automation are realised), the work pace is increased (overtime, measuring time, etc). Restructuring makes it possible to reduce work, so increases unemployment.
In this phase – which existed in Italy between 1973 and 1980 – a large strata of non-employed, which cannot be defined “unem-ployed” in that they are not looking for work but simply get by or refuse work, and all the procedures that give access to the unem-ployed in search of work.
In this climate of recession economists realised that the sys-tem does not move spontaneously towards equilibrium as happened in the initial phase of economic development that emerged from the pathological economic situation caused by the war and the need for reconstruction.
After the crisis of 1973 economists understood the re-lationship between inflation and unemployment better.
In fact, within certain limits, there is an inverse relation be-tween variation in wages (so also in the level of prices) and unem-ployment. With increase in wages and the consequent demand for goods (thereby decreasing unemployment) there is a growth in the level of prices (i.e. inflation).
The first consequence of this discovery was the realisation that Keynes’ theory of social stability as a result of full employment was an illusion. Increases in employment lead to a rise in prices, so to an unstable economic and social situation.
But this had practical consequences that led capital to the edge of collapse at the end of the Seventies, which it recovered from with the passage to the postindustrial phase. These obstacles were: trade union index-rating, limited work mobility, rigid investment, the illusion of full employment, lack of market information and, finally, workers’ struggles.
Friedman, with Modigliani and Tarantelli close behind, al-ways maintained that the support of demand caused an increase in unemployment, not a decrease as Keynes thought.
For Italy, the post-industrial about-turn can be seen around 1981. Whereas the Italian economy once privileged a system of pro-gressive adjustment in the face of internal and external inflation (for example, in the face of the increase in the cost of petrol) far harder and more effective processes of adjustment were employed after that date.
Struggles practically disappeared. The road of union conflict was blocked, even in formal terms. All the talk of the “terrorist” threat contributed to breaking the final resistance of autonomous worker struggles. A climate of intimidation and criminalisation lead the capitalists to carry out these long-lasting adjustments.
Reduction in employment grew considerably and extended all over industry. The huge industrial complexes became obsolete. In Lombardy after 1981 the annual fall was 7 per cent. Not only was the level of employment modified, but also the very class structure itself. The absurd dreams of the marxists, old and new, disappeared. More recent theses of organised autonomy also disappear.
The Italian economic world began to change for two reasons. First due to a crisis in production which lead to considerable flexibil-ity in the use of industrial plants. Second, due to a growth in produc-tivity following redundancies that began with the women and older workers, which later extended to the younger and middle-aged strata. The work market changed as a result. The most combative nucleus of the working class disappeared as a consequence of the use of instru-ments to stabilise the productive cycle, in the first place redundancy. Wages were frozen and the phenomenon so common ten years before that saw wage increases even in periods of reduced production, no longer occurred.
Jobs are no longer defended by rigid trade union contracts and, principally, unemployment no longer scares as a threat of autonomous struggle beyond trade union indications and recuperation of the CP. No longer a threat to capital, employment became less rigid in relation to the productive cycle.
The first positive results for capital appeared on the horizon. In a rigid work situation the capitalists could only the take the road of increasing prices to solve their problems of production, thereby in-creasing inflation. After 1981 the Italian economic system picked up again. Inflation slowed down. The index-rating of wages had a lesser contractual power and therefore render more smooth capital’s ma-neuvers. Productivity grew through external work mobility. A fero-cious use of the instruments of stabilizing of incomes (redundancy) was underway.
The working class are on their knees. The unions, who were living on the real capacity for struggle with the sole aim of control-ling it and certainly not enliven, are also on their knees. In this way new forms of controlling the work market are being experimented. In particular, Fiat and Montedison are proceeding towards a different system of control of hiring and towards a liquidation of the surplus labour based almost exclusively on sackings.
So productivity is growing not due to an increase in the use of new productive factors (technological improvements and increase in employment), but due to a more rational exploitation of those already in existence.
The unions see themselves obliged to make proposals that they would have considered absurd a few years earlier such as con-tracts of solidarity, training schemes for the young, reduction in hours, all attempts to spread employment (something that is quite doubtful, in practice, in that Italy is at the lowest level of use of an-nual hours of its own work force).
From 1983 they began to understand in the big factories, that a simple under-use of plants was not enough to solve the problem in the medium term. Projects of renewal therefore widen themselves to restructuring and innovation.
For their part, the State and unions have every interest in cre-ating a policy of inventing jobs. Once again the interests of the capi-talists identify themselves with those of the unions and the State. The first are very worried about a future excessive replacement of work-ers (otherwise there would be too strong a contradiction of the de-mand for goods); the second and third are worried about possible so-cial disorder, and have now lost all illusions of a spontaneous absorp-tion of labour.
In this way the tertiary sectors are widened by imposing State investment, with the help of the unions which now making spread the variable of worker mobility and to the joy of the capitalists who, pre-cisely from this sector, find fuel for the structural stoking of their firms.
The State is told that the monetary maneouvre alone is no longer enough for reorganising the productive efficiency of the firm. Outlets for financial investment are necessary. So an economic policy based on public spending widened industry to allow for technological innovation, a credit policy and retrieval of capital on the stock market favourable to low interest rates. Simple financing of industry is no longer requested, but a general economic climate (from the stock market to the obligatory one, from the changes to the State debt) ca-pable of creating conditions favourable to the innovations.
Electronics are spreading everywhere.
This situation, which has remained constant at least until 1981, has critically highlighted the policy of employment based on supporting demand (and therefore has put the neo-Keynesian econo-mists in crisis). That has caused a limited redistribution of income, but principally has caused a reduction in the contractual strength of the unions, torn between supporting the workers demands and be-coming load-bearing elements of the inflationary process, or sup-porting the capitalists’ requests and figuring as traitors of the interests of the class of producers.
The monetarist politic is the classical choice of the conserva-tives and technocrats. It is based on the supposition that control of the amount of money in circulation and the speed of exchange can con-tribute to keeping the level of inflation within limits that are accept-able for capitalist development.
That necessarily leads to unnaturally high levels of unem-ployment. But this is a sacrifice that needs to be made in order to avoid greater damage. The wage-earners are to realise the benefits they have from a slowing down of price increases and the fact that these benefits come after a certain amount of time and not right away.
A third way– on the basis of the analyses of Modigliani and Tarantelli – maintains that no net separation is possible between these two roads. The two economists (to tell the truth the second no longer does, having been killed by the Red Brigades) maintain the need for sustaining demand and therefore employment but, at the same time, talk of the need to reduce real wages. Modigliani has also maintained that the only way out, to avoid the total deflection of profits, some-thing that destroys all incentive to investment, is to reduce the exces-sive cost of work. So, stop pay rises and lay people off. The first as-pect of the recipe allows for a re-equilibrium of productivity, the sec-ond a faster restructuring of the industrial sector.
The old worries about eventual repercussions in terms of so-cial disorder have been shown to be partly unfounded precisely by Modigliani and Tarantelli, who have long been insisting on the fact that resulting benefits in terms of political stability make it possible to avoid social disorder. People feel better governed, see that prices take longer to rise and everyone convinces themselves that they are getting short term benefits, that they are living in a situation of eco-nomic and institutional recovery
b) The new working professionalism: flexibility
Work professionalism is requested from the productive system in a different way today. It is not a question of a simple absence of pro-fessionalism, or of a wider range of professionalism. Considerable problems exist concerning flexibility. Making lots of things in a su-perficial way corresponds to the concept of horizontal specialisation, a concept opposed to the vertical specialisation required by the pro-ductive world of the past.
To understand the problems relative to this new kind of pro-fessionalism that the productive system is asking of the educa-tional system, we must understand, briefly, the conditions in which these requests are made, the ways of making them and the possible replies.
The general situation of the productive system is that of a deeper integration between technological component and socio-organisational component. Technical instruments have increased in quantity and quality. And the men who are leading them now have different roles requiring a different kind of professionalism.
It is therefore possible to say that the entrance en masse (and in quality) of technology into the productive system has led to a profound modification in the social organisation underlying it.
This modification can be specified in two aspects:
a) a quantitative aspect, given by a considerable diminution in employment, so that the relation between inormatisa-tion and employment is far more difficult than a banal equation between increase on the one hand and decrease on the other;
b) a qualitative aspect, given by a profound modification in the way professionalism is used.
The first of these aspects has consequences on the second in that it represents pressure at the level of endogenous choices to the productive system which then transform themselves into signals addressed at the educational system. The latter’s choices only later become orientative both on the part of those who elaborate study programmes and by students themselves. This ends up producing a new “model” of professionalism, which has become quite widespread. Basically, the problem of the near future will not be so much that of unemployment, therefore of possible social (revolutionary) disorder linked to it, as the problem of a separation of knowledge, of the crea-tion of a cultural wall that is absolutely insurmountable be-tween those who possess an operative and decisional profes-sionalism and who only possesses an executive pseudo-professionalism. The second aspect, the qualitative one, is therefore emerging in all its importance. The change concerns the nature and content of professionalism, as well as its distri-bution in the various levels at which it articulates itself, the productive unity. That has obvious consequences on its per-manence within that unit, upon which once were once based what were defined “career possibilities”. Today this possibil-ity has been greatly reduced, hence the importance of flexibil-ity. But we will return to this argument later.
The lowering of professionalism comes from a system that has been built inside the productive whole. It is a ques-tion of a “closed” model or one that is trying to close itself according to an abstract ideal of automation. The human op-erator is the physical reality that transforms itself, non pos-sono “insersi” due to a computerised system of regulation and control. This system is based on mathematical logic, on which it models the productive process through a series of informa-tion that reaches operative terminals in real time. It is there-fore the intermediate system of automation between man and reality that comes to incorporate “technical competence”, that the productive process is requesting. Man is left the task of supervision and control of exceptions.
The new “professionalism” therefore has very different char-acteristics to that of the past, not only in the ambit of traditional pro-duction (the industrial or factory sector), but also in the wider dimen-sion of the productive system that also includes so-called “free pro-fessions”, from artisans to the independent professions.
Schematising, this new characteristic can be specified as follows:
a) Processes of visualisation. These are essential and require an education of the eye and a response of the visual stimu-lous at a speed that could not have been grasped by the optic apparatus only a few years ago. The reading of a video is a very complex fact which visual adaptation only manages to reach by degrees through an “education” or, if you prefer, conditioning, that takes years. Programmed reactions must also be included in these processes of visu-alisation, i.e., on everything that follows from the simple visual impact. In other words, after “reading” video there is the elaboration of a mental schema capable of giving the subject indications concerning the process in act. Not so much the single elements of this process, but a global idea that indicates, largely, the greater or lesser adequacy of the process to a schema capable of fixing the levels of exception. Some of these levels are in fact discretionary and would not be easily attainable through a simple mathematical elaboration in that the resolution of the rela-tive algorithms cannot even be faced easily even with modern computers.
b) Processes of conceptualisation. This is a question of ele-ments of evaluation that the subject must elaborate through mental schema. Here you see the effective decline of the capacity to conceptualise, i.e. to transform the prob-lems posed into ideas in order to make decisions, that is the co-ordination between the will and an aim to be reached. The limits of discretionary power of these proc-esses of conceptualisation are very rigid. Here the subject dies. His autonomy disappears at the very moment in which all the technology is available for resolving the great problems that hampered him in the past. The less he needs to do, the less he wants to do. Slowly the thinking subject transforms himself into a subject that selects the best solution within a schema that is functional only to the aims of reaching a goal beyond his desirability. The scale of values on which such a process is based is fixed for ever beyond the desires of the individual. By elaborating information the calculator dissects the man.
c) Processes of comprehension. These are also receding. Fewer possibilities of ideas, lesser possibility of under-standing anything at all. No one can understand beyond the concepts that elaborate distinction. From here the fact that the less there is to understand, the less one is able to understand. Now, if there is less to understand one has the illusion of understanding more, and better. This gives a sense of security typical of the people who know little and delude themselves that their modest amount of knowledge is more or less “all” knowledge. Doubt, and the relative torment, belongs precisely to those who are widening the confines of their knowledge and, in this very dangerous work, realise that they are discovering new limits, that are always further away.
To sum up, the “new” professionalism has very reduced con-tents which accompany themselves to the perfecting of some “facul-ties” and the definitive disappearance of others. Among these facul-ties which are being re-evaluated, in the first place, there is attention. This is an ability that can be developed and that consists in maintain-ing constant – within certain limits of frequency – the perception of the process and its transformation into mental schema. This con-stancy tends, obviously, to a reduction in frequency, due not only to tiredness but also to the repetition and the various thrusts of desire and memory. Recovery from these falls (within the limits of toler-ance), recovery which must come about in a very short space of time, characterises attention, which, as one sees, qualifies itself now as a mental faculty based on the speed of intervention in the face of a stimulous of anomaly. Here, at the verification of exceptions in the behaviour of the process, attention must manifest all its capacity of return to normality.
Even the sense of responsibility, which is counted on in the consideration of the levels of new professionalism, is not so much (or at least, is not only) an ideological conditioning of given values (the good functioning of the productive system), as a true “faculty”, quan-tifiable in the same way as attention. In fact, sense of responsibility comes to be taken into consideration by those who evaluate the dif-ferent levels of “professionalism” of the operator from the point of view of the capacity, in a given unit of time, to intervene in a given series of choices, and make the choice that leads to the best possible functioning of the system. It would be mistaken to think of this as something technical. The contents of a sense of responsibility, once taken under examination individually, annul themselves and de-nounce their true ideological essence.
Bearing these considerations in mind, a different distribution of professionalism in the traditional factory and in the post-industrial unit can be outlined.
a) In the traditional factory a wide range of differentiation in tasks and cultural levels exists. The traditional productive system absorbs less the low and high professionalism, while the request for workforce rises a great deal at the in-termediate level. That means that the factory of the past required (and continues to) average professionalism rather than for extremely high or low levels.
b) In the post-industrial productive unit, on the contrary, there is a constant request for low professionalism, and very little for medium professionalism, then a request for high professionalism (which nevertheless remains well below the request for low professionalism).
In this situation the possibility of passage or mobility within the same productive unit is annulled. In other words, it is impossible to pass from a low to a high professionalism in that there is a narrow-ing in the requests of the medium professionalism. This narrowing, which tends to increase to the point of becoming a real cultural wall, with the passing of time will render the internal structure of the pro-ductive unity always more rigid and therefore only an interstructural mobility will be possible. Hence the enormous importance given to flexibility in terms of accepting work that is always different. How-ever, the profound separation between the areas of low and high pro-fessionalism remain stationary.
Before leaving this problem we must remember that although the concept of new professionalism is aimed at emptying the individ-ual operator of content, intensifying only a few of his faculties, the idea that the difference between low and high professionalism is not exclusively a question of intensification of fewer or greater single faculties, but also that of restoring content, including the traditional or cultural one in the narrow sense, is still valid. It is moreover logi-cal that this restoration come about exclusively in the ambit of high professionalism, which still has the task of proceeding also to the elaboration of the ideological conditions that consent the acceptation, on the part of the strata with low professionalism, of their real situa-tion of exploitation.
Flexibility, as has been seen, is one of the leading concepts that were developed in the period between the Seventies and the Nineties.
The end of the Seventies, the period that of the most spectacu-lar process of involution of the “old style” capitalist system, can be remembered as a period of rupture where the certainties of a distant and less distant past collapsed. The first of these certainties was the programming of the capitalist project, based on the progressive ac-cumulation and the flattening of conflict through the coupling of the State as producer, not simply the gendarme. It is no longer legitimate to talk of “crisis” (in inverted commas) this can only be done by also drawing economic theory itself into this concept, not simply the pro-ductive structure. It was precisely these theories (both neoclassical and managerial in the strict sense) that maintained that it was possi-ble to put order in the multiplicity of phenomena and reach a line of programming of the development of capital that were overcome, at the end of the Seventies. It is precisely this the situation that affects not only the structure, but also all the theories that wanted to make reason prevail over the force of events.
The first discovery made at the beginning of the Eighties is precisely the lack of order in economic realitywhich is undoubtedly a discovery of the situation of crisis, but is also a new theory that clari-fies the old meaning of crisis, turning it into a point of strength for going forward. Companies operate in situations of extreme uncer-tainty and instability. Control over the industrial situation is practi-cally lost. Turbulence has become a constant reality.
The elements of this turbulence can then be theoretically iso-lated with great accuracy: the trade union movement of the Sixties, the high level of occupation, inflation, monetary instability. The the-sis that this turbulent reality can be regulated is developed. The plu-rality of the forces at work therefore only b ecomes comprehensible within short-term situations. That requires a new capacity of the pro-ductive firm: flexibility , i.e., the possibility of knowing how to adapt to this situation of perennial instability and turbulence, contrary to what happened before when they claimed to adapt the contradictions of the productive system to the rigid structure of the individual com-pany.
So flexibility is carried to the maximum degree, both in deci-sion-making, and in the organisation of the productive cycles, both in the use of workforce, programmes, and ideology.
In such a sense the decentralised organisational structures, the bureaucratic aspects (accounts, tax, etc) try to lose their eternal fixity, encountering in this operation package of labour moves itself, which it considered very dangerous, with less resistance than imagined. The risks, (including that of social perturbation) insert themselves within market strategy and here they find their resolution through restructur-ing (i.e. the sudden subdivision of production units). In a turbulent and hostile environment, the productive unit adapts and becomes flexible. Like the soft bulrush it leans to let the tempest blow over. What was once rigid comes to be ordered in stable forms that strug-gled, without succeeding, against the constant adversities of an envi-ronment that it had considered fixed by definition, now breaks up in a thousand ways in a hundred productive structures, in dozens of dif-ferent mentalities and multiple aims. Pluralism makes its entry into the world of production and discovers that it is basically the only element that can connect harmoniously with a political situation of a democratic structure. Authoritarian ideologies and the repressive practices of the past become no more than a vague memory. The great to do that everyone is giving themselves to combat so-called “terrorism” (including the comrades who use this term with indiffer-ence not realising that they become functional to precisely those they want to fight) contributes to fuelling this new form of possibilities in white coats. The “wicked” are put aside, but not in a brutal way (there is always much talk of the limits and the danger of repressive decisions based on the idea of “emergency”).
Was it purely by chance that the road of flexibility was cho-sen to overcome the situation of the Seventies, precisely at the time when technology was making available specific apparatuses that were capable of making firms become flexible? Certainly not, and, just as certainly, it is not possible to fix the terms of this relation, that is how much technology has influenced these choices, and these choices the development of technological research. This, and much more, happened in these years. We will never know to what an extent technology is pushing the productive and social system as a whole towards choices of a flexible nature today, and how much these choices – now become indispensable – are looking for technological discoveries always more able to realise organisational flexibility.
Irrationality is now at the base of the theoretical project of the economy, supplanting the old mechanistic mythologies of equilib-rium. That takes the neoclassical theory back into the ambit of the most recent developments of science which, obviously, are far from the eighteenth century mechanism. But this, although interesting, is quite another problem.
c) The world of school
The time when school could be considered a closed system, with its own problems, which it had to bring out and insert into a wider context (living area, school, etc) is now over. School is now fully projected into the general conditions of the social conflict. Only that, although being projected in fact, the students (and teachers) are not necessarily conscious of or share this reality.
In practice, school absolves very precise functions that are always adjusting to the productive reality.
1) Qualification. The function of producing qualified workers has been greatly reduced in that the productive system does not need vertical specialisation characterised by high qualifications and lit-tle capacity to adapt, but on the contrary, requires horizontal spe-cialisation with people who know how to do many things, with low qualifications, and therefore more disposed to adapting to changing jobs or even simply spending long periods looking for work.
2) Indetermination of the contents taught. In substance the cultural content of qualification is always available and, given the consid-erable scientific progress, at all levels, instruments exist that are far more accessible for the decantation of these contents (for ex-ample, text books, audiovisuals, computers, films, tapes, etc). Only the passage does not come about and, when it does, it real-ises in a very partial way. The general context is not stimulating. Teachers are not sufficiently qualified. Moreover, they realise that there are no real outlets for their efforts. From here a reduc-tion also in the minimal effort of transmitting these cultural con-tents which, pure, would be available. There results a general cul-tural pauperisation of school corresponding to capital’s need to construct a mass of “excluded” with lesser cultural attributes.
3) Democratic mentality. It is a “new” function of the educational system. An individual to be flexible, adaptable, mobile, cannot be educated in an authoritarian manner. They must learn to partici-pate from an early age. From that the wide use of the assembly process and the disappearance of the old authoritarian and based on facts conception.
4) Contribution to the solution of the problem of employment. This consists of the attempt to preventively “address” the future work force towards sectors that run less risk of unemployment. That is not so much through having recourse to “closed numbers” in the faculties or secondary schools, but simply by developing a differ-ent ideology and a changed scale of values in respect to the tradi-tional repartition of human activity.
5) Social protection. School reduces tension and social conflict sim-ply by blocking future pressure on employment levels, in an insti-tution that has become a kind of parking place.
6) Producing consensus. School uses various processes for bringing about this aim. Some have an “objective” nature, that is are real-ised simply because school has become obligatory up to a certain age (that, as we have seen, carries considerable benefits to capi-tal). Others are specifically desired and programmed. These are:
a) A positive evaluation of the capitalist cultural model through the re-elaboration of the concepts of savings, work, property, family, God, State, etc.
b) acceptation of the economistic model of society, hence the best solution is always that which produces the best re-sults with the least effort;
c) prevent “deviant” behaviour, but having recourse to dis-cussion and critique and avoiding – as far as possible – brutal repression;
d) acceptation (critical) of the hierarchical model, in that hi-erarchy exists because it is the best solution to the prob-lem of social functioning. It, therefore, is not imposed but accepted critically (something that is far more effective);
e) construction of a bridge between the economic system and the scholastic one, something that guarantees a better cor-respondence of school activities to the requests of the productive situation in general;
f) diffusion within the school of more burning social prob-lems (“terrorism”, mafia, drugs, etc) because here they can receive suitable “treatment” for becoming as many elements of ideological uniformity and therefore social consensus;
g) supplying of a generic capacity of adaptation, which will allow the future labour force to survive even in conditions of profound occupational changes.