First Eurispes Workshop on human capital

This content is also available in: Italian

The Eurispes Workshop on Human Capital held its first meeting.

 

“Human capital infrastructure.”

 

Friday, February 19, 2021

 

Speakers include:

Gian Maria Fara, President of Eurispes

Daniele Manca, Corriere Della Sera’s Deputy Editor

Ferruccio Resta, Rector of Milan Polytechnic and President of CRUI

 

Coordinating Officer:

Benedetta Cosmi: journalist and author.

 

 

Cosmi:

Welcome to the Eurispes Workshop on Human Capital’s first meeting. Today’s speakers will undoubtedly be able to provide insights and stimuli on a wide range of topics: President Fara, Ferruccio Resta, and Daniele Manca Angelo Caliendo, a lawyer and member of the Institute’s Board of Directors, has arrived to greet you.

 

Caliendo:

Thank you. I’d like to thank Rector Resta and the Deputy Director of Corriere della Sera for participating in this webinar, as well as the excellent Dr Cosmi, who will coordinate this new, important, and fundamental Workshop on Human Capital for Eurispes. Work and training represent our country’s future, and bringing together the leading players – the public and private sectors, businesses and workers – is an essential task, in alignment with the Institute activity.

 

Cosmi:

I’d like to start with a question for the Rector: he was elected President of Crui – Conference of Italian University Rectors last year, so he has a broader territory than just the excellence of Lombardy and the Milan Polytechnic, of which he is Rector. Your perspective is invaluable in understanding the area’s inequalities as well as its excellence. I’d like to ask you about the supply chain you envision for human capital infrastructure. What are the elements of this chain that should be linked together and made to work in tandem?

 

Resta:

On February 20, 2020, I was elected President of the Conference of Italian University Rectors. I returned from Rome when I heard on the news about the first case in Codogno, the infamous Patient Zero. Today marks exactly one year since that fateful day, as tomorrow marks 365 days since those world-altering events. Everything I imagined when I announced my candidacy for President of the Conference of Italian University Rectors – programmes, teaching innovation, projects – has been completely rewritten by the events. So, to answer the question, I’d like to broaden the theme beyond education. Society is a living organism with many systems, including the nervous system, the circulatory system, the muscular system, and the skeletal system. Similarly, society is composed of the human capital formation system, the (natural, economic) resource system, the infrastructure system – whether housing, roads, or connectivity – and, of course, the entire world of work and finance. To consider society as a weak organism in one of these systems is to miss the fact that society is inextricably linked. When we were discussing Phase 2 of the restart (in May/June) and looking for starting rules – the school must organise itself in this way, work according to Ateco codes, mobility according to other criteria – we failed to consider the fact that society is deeply interconnected and that, naturally, we cannot think of strengthening one part of it at the expense of the others. What is required is that we consider human capital infrastructure to be linked to all of the aspects that define society in some way. Of course, the supply chain begins with primary and secondary schools, which have faced significant challenges this year and, despite the many critical, willing, and generous initiatives of some managers, teachers, and headteachers, have not been able to organise themselves and seize the opportunity to transform themselves as a structure. The much-discussed issue of wheeled desks demonstrates that it was the only option that did not interfere with no lobby, it did not ‘step on toes’ and that we arrived at that solution because we were unable to reimagine ourselves. As a result, I believe that the issue of training should be reconsidered. Indeed, the school must be redesigned, particularly concerning tertiary education, with particular attention paid to the entire point of guidance. We complain about the lack of boys and girls enrolled in STEM subjects; we complain about a mismatch between supply and demand in the world of work. Still, we fail to recognise that the vocation for university, the vocation for the profession, occurs during secondary school. Thus we must begin from there to redesign what will then be the moment of work choice. In terms of tertiary education, we must make a significant reflection: as is often the case, we are divided between those who emphasise the importance of having many professional figures, ITS, and professional degrees and those who, on the other hand, emphasise the importance of higher education. Germany has four or five times the number of PhDs as Italy, and this is a country with a typical manufacturing structure, similar to ours. We perceive these two areas – university degree and professional figures, university and doctorate – almost as competitors, even though they are part of a single design, and we proceed without any actual planning, without defining how many will be, not only doctors, but also engineers, life science graduates, and philosophers. We are hesitant to use the closed number because we perceive it as a constraint on our freedom, but we must remember that we must plan, and now is the time to do so. Finally, we arrive at the final stage of the chain, that of entry into the world of work, which, of course, is changing. There is no longer a precise moment, no longer a clear-cut transition from the phase in which we have completed the cycle of studies to the degree to which we have turned the page and entered the world of work, with more or less success. This divide between these two stages of life will almost certainly disappear; it will be replaced by a path of continuous training as a result of the evolution of society and technology, which will have such rapid dynamics that we will be forced to keep ourselves constantly informed and trained. These are the pillars upon which the training chain should be rebuilt and reset.

 

Cosmi:

Certainly, Dr Manca is not unusual in “inhabiting” the theme of lifelong learning (we are accustomed to reading his articles in L’Economia on Mondays). Lifelong learning, or learning throughout one’s life, also involves adults and places that are viewed as a space for the preservation of goods, whereas it should be a vital and active circuit – I’m thinking of English libraries, where start-ups could be activated. I now turn the floor over to Deputy Director Manca.

 

Manca:

 

Obviously, I am not an expert; I have a peculiar job as a journalist: when things go well, you take information and place it in context; when things go wrong, you even invent the information. Of course, I can only speak on the basis of my impressions. In my opinion, precisely because we are discussing human capital, we must take a step back and avoid thinking of human capital in the way Adam Smith understood it. This term, “human capital,” irritates me a little. One of the primary causes of our country’s problems stems from the fact that the media has not done its job properly, for example, when discussing human capital, which, in my opinion, makes sense to the extent that we agree on what this expression means. However, because we in Italy do everything except agree on the premises, it is probably better to use other expressions – such as workers, students, and so on – that bring us closer to the real challenge, as stated by the Crui President. What exactly is the real challenge? It is to be successful in ensuring that the people, the citizens of this country, have a role that is different from the one they have had up to this point. Citizens have had a very passive role over the last twenty years and have only been able to express themselves through voting. Citizens’, workers’, students’, and other groups’ voices have gone unheard over the last two decades. Words are important because, without them, we lose sight of what has happened and is happening in our Country and throughout the West, which is a progressive loss of people’s roles in various stages of their lives. The decline in the importance of organisations such as Confindustria, trade unions, and so on has not been accompanied by the emergence of new voices; instead, there has been a loss of identity. I say this because – and this brings us right up to date – with the Draghi administration, people suddenly began to say, “here we are back in the competence phase,” and once again, we do not agree on the premises. What exactly is meant by competence? Who knows someone with a degree? I repeat that words carry weight, and when it comes to human capital, I am perplexed because I would prefer that we make it clear what we mean. And this is perhaps the most difficult task that Eurispes has undertaken, through this new Laboratory coordinated by Dr Cosmi: to explain and comprehend what is meant by human capital. Before we can do this, I believe we need to define what competence is. When we look at the CVs of those who have been called to the Government by Draghi, as well as Draghi’s own CV, we see something that is often overlooked in Italy: competence is often equated with knowledge, but we forget that it is actually the result of a fusion between knowledge, expertise and the ability to do, to act. Competence is null and void in the absence of this final characteristic. So, with all due respect to President Conte, if we place a law professor at the helm of the government, we should be aware that the law professor, as such, will have a limited understanding of government. If President Conte is listening, he should understand that my issue is not with lawyers in particular but with a concept of competence that does not combine the ability to do and knowledge in general. So, if we look at Draghi’s resume, we can see that he is not Prime Minister because he is an economist, or because he studied with Nobel laureate Franco Modigliani, or because he taught at Princeton. He will most likely be able to do a good job as Prime Minister, or so we hope because he was Executive Director of the World Bank in 1986 and had the opportunity to apply his knowledge to know-how. This aspect, in my opinion, is frequently overlooked. I’m not sure if you remember when some families complained that their children went to work at McDonald’s during the schoolwork alternation, not considering that that could be the best experience for a student because McDonald’s has the best service chain imaginable, thus the best stage where expertise should be applied to something complex but, at the same time, simple. As a result, a young person would do well to go to McDonald’s to do schoolwork, so much so that when you read in the curricula that a person who has taken 110 with honours also has other experiences in addition to the academic one (volunteering, sports, etc.), they immediately enter the spotlight of companies. This, in my opinion, is critical: creating competencies as a set of knowledge, concrete experience, and ability to do. Another thing that needs to be said is that we are moving towards a knowledge-based economy, and we are all convinced that we are. But beware, there is another stumbling block here as well. We are inclined to believe, as Professor Resta also stated, that there is a need for STEM degrees because there is mismatching, there is a need for science – in the sense of mathematics, engineering, and so on – but there is also the trap of youth. We are a country that is accustomed to not valuing experience; instead, we “burn” people. On the contrary, it occurred when we were able to use roughly the same people from seventy governments for the first 50/60. Because of the revolving doors, Andreotti served more than seven terms as Prime Minister and was a minister somewhere else during many others. Instead, in recent years, we have discarded skills and know-how due to a misunderstood youthfulness, only to discover that the United States is entrusting itself to a 78-year-old gentleman in order to get the American system back on track. This makes us realise that as a country, we are not making use of our experience. We risk making another mistake if we fail to recognise that the knowledge economy cannot function without expertise (defined as knowledge and know-how) and experience. We live in a country that is terrified of new experiences. If we are to make the transition to the knowledge economy, we will undoubtedly require competence and know-how, but we must be careful not to lose all of the personalities who have acted thus far. Consider the Prime Ministers we’ve had in the last ten years, and you’ll see that this Country isn’t making use of them.

 

Cosmi:

In reality, this is a country that underutilises many aspects of its potential; consider the number of young people who go abroad, as well as those who stay and have few opportunities to express their abilities and skills. Again, I’ll turn the floor over to Ferruccio Resta: what is the university, which conducts research, forced to do in this inability to focus on potential? To experiment, to play the “not seen before” card? Otherwise, there is a danger of repeating systems and schemes that have not always yielded positive results.

 

Resta:

The University system is a bit of a mirror of Italy, so you can find the country’s lights and shadows exactly in the university system. There is a university that is close to its territory, and because the territories are diverse, the universities are diverse as well – as they should be. There are universities that, as President Fara says, do not manage to break free from tradition and the inability to change, to intercept change. There are universities, on the other hand, that have put themselves on the line, that compares themselves, and that attempt to be part of an international circuit in some way. Comparing the Italian university system to the European one – if we focused on systems in the Far East or the United States, we would be dealing with very different situations – I find that they are comparable in terms of governance, evaluation (we are evaluated every year by an evaluation agency), and, in some cases, public administration. We dumped nearly a billion dollars in building investments on the ground at the national level last year, and we were perhaps the only area of government that truly understood the concept of “procurement unlocking.” We are certainly not very European in terms of size, with a low number of researchers and a low researcher-to-student ratio, and we are certainly not very European in terms of rule simplification. Today, in order to create a new degree course, we must follow directives issued twenty years ago, despite the fact that we are discussing degrees that serve to identify those profiles that are useful for meeting tomorrow’s challenges. In the best-case scenario, an undergraduate who enrols today will graduate in three or five years, so we need more flexibility and autonomy. Daniele Manca, in my opinion, used an extremely interesting key to interpretation because, throughout his speech, one word remained and ran through him in a transversal way: the concept of experience. In this regard, I’d like to bring up two points. Firstly, this year has taught us that we are fundamentally ignorant and incapable of dealing with complex situations. What exactly is complexity management? Is there a way to quantify complexity objectively? Of course, the answer is no. I am confident that I can manage a public administration of ten people because I did it twenty years ago; then I was Director of a department of 200/300 people (for nine years), and now I have been Rector of a university of 40 thousand students and 5 thousand employees for six years. I have the experience to manage it up to this level of complexity because I did it for six years, but I don’t necessarily have the skills to manage something ten times this size; we should not take it for granted. This example only applies to the size of an organisation; however, we must also consider disciplines: if I deal with mobility and infrastructure, it is not guaranteed that I can deal with sustainability, the environment, and energy. Even if I have studied the Messina Bridge for 20 years, I cannot necessarily speak about hydrogen with knowledge and skills, even if I am an industrial engineer. Experience entails having done something and knowing how to do it. This webinar would have been face-to-face if it had been organised a year ago, and we would have talked about the need to develop soft skills, to have soft skills lessons, but these skills (managing a complex situation, human relations, leadership skills, problem-solving) are acquired through experience. No one graduates with those skills; one must be able to develop them more or less well by facing difficulties and living formative experiences. There is a path of growth that must be taken gradually and cannot be accelerated too much because today’s students are very good, different, but they are essentially the same person I was in 1980 when I went to university. They are more informed, more mobile, possibly more fragile, and less ductile, but the container remains the same, and we cannot significantly accelerate their training. So, we need knowledge, we need solid foundations – whether STEM, humanities, or social – we need foundations, and we need to build on them. Finally, we need to start exposing people to experiences that are becoming more international, project-based – whatever they are -, and diverse; we need to create knowledge contamination. The second thing we discovered was that the problem with Covid-19 was not one of health, organisation, or technology. We failed in every way: we failed to track it, we failed to properly organise a plan for the administration of flu vaccines – let’s not talk about the others because we’re all still crossing our fingers -, we failed to contain the virus’s spread, to manage outbreaks, and we failed, in some ways, to predict it. The level of complexity is extremely high.

 

Cosmi:

In terms of knowledge contamination, on an old blog of Corriere. It, there was an article of mine about how, for example, in other countries, students can choose their own courses of study. There is a variety of addresses available, and you can select individual subjects because each person is unique and may have different needs. It is also possible to better reconcile the possible demands of the market, companies, the territory, the family, the student, and the teachers in this manner, whereas, with the rigidity chosen upstream by the Ministry, which imposes the courses of study, I could never arrive at a complete offer that meets all needs. From this vantage point, we have this rigidity.

 

Resta:

If you consider a data engineer of the future – dealing with Artificial Intelligence or ethical algorithms – who has not studied sociology, behavioural analysis, philosophy, and ethics, it is obvious that he or she will not be able to face the challenges of the future at all, just as I believe that a humanities career that does not address the potential of Artificial Intelligence will not be able to face the challenges of the future at all. It is not true that if we impose constraints, the market will wait for us. The market will continue to evolve, professions will shift, and if our sons and daughters, our students, are unable to fill them, someone else will. We are not preserving ourselves with these constraints and rigidity, and we are not providing our future young men and women students with any resources they may require to face the future. We are depriving them of resources.

 

Cosmi:

Schools, for example, have frequently been merged: under the same headmaster, there are now very different addresses, so it would be very easy to abandon the possibility of more personalised and individualised courses, because you have all the skills, potential, and teaching in the same Institute, with the same staff of teachers. This imbalance can also be seen in some newspaper articles, where some students are quoted as looking like geniuses because they want to obtain three degrees in order to compete with their American, foreign peers, who, in order to have that kind of qualification, had introduced some specific subjects into their studies, whereas in Italy it is necessary to follow three different faculties in order to obtain that kind of qualification. In this regard, a collaborative effort – possibly with Eurispes – to understand the feasibility and demand would be extremely beneficial.

 

Resta:

In Italy, a student cannot enrol in two universities at the same time because otherwise, the Ministry’s database would not be able to associate him with an A or B university.

 

Manca:

My daughter, who now lives in France, is a doctor and wanted to enrol in a degree course in International Relations in Turin and was unable to do so. In France, they allowed her to do it, and now she lives there.

 

Cosmi:

So this is not even an ideological choice but a database. Once again, public funds, which are supposed to help the institution of education, are actually a brake on innovation and keeping up with the times.

 

Manca:

I give an example close to me: the Master in Journalism at IULM. Obviously, it is a master’s degree based on multi-platforms, because information now travels on platforms of which the media are a very relative part. The Master is, for 70%, based on multi-platforms – from Google, through Facebook and so on. Looking at all the courses at the university, there isn’t one that deals with journalism in the digital age or something that explains journalism in the digital age to young people who want to be involved in communication (IULM specialises in that). So I went to Rector Gianni Canova to propose my idea. He welcomed it positively but specified ‘you do it, on a contract basis. Tell me how many hours you want, but that’s between you and me. I can’t even think of starting to set up a chair because, first of all, once you’ve done it, you keep it, and then because we’ll probably get there, who knows when”. This is the issue: if the Milan Polytechnic, when setting up one of its courses, had looked for the existence of some law that would have hindered its creation, it would certainly have found it but, fortunately, they would have gone ahead despite any problems that might have arisen. The other issue, in my opinion, if we are talking about people, workers, students, professionals, is that of accountability. That’s why we have to stop talking about human capital because otherwise, we give it an economic bias. Let’s give young people a good course in soft skills, then add a bit of school-to-work, some other training experience, and we have the human capital for Italy in 2030.

 

Cosmi:

Professor Resta, we have reached the end of your first year as President of Crui, and I would like to ask you: what aspect of your project have you been forced to give up, at least temporarily, because of the emergency that has emerged?

 

Resta:

What I have missed the most is presence. I am really starting to suffer from this flat digital screen, which somehow keeps us apart; it has been a beautiful life jacket in a stormy sea, but one that we really need to get rid of sooner or later. Presence is very important, especially to get to know our colleagues – the rectors of all 84 universities in the Rectors’ Conference – and to visit their universities, enter their classrooms and get to know their areas. In some case,s we even managed to do something more than I had planned; for example, the whole issue of innovation in digital teaching, which was being discussed, was speeded up. What was missing was certainly the whole international aspect. From this point of view, campus abroad programmes were suspended, programmes in which it was no longer a question of individual universities but of networks of universities trying to build international projects. Together with the universities of Bologna, Rome, Naples and Florence, we wanted to create the first Italian University in the Horn of Africa; we had already carried out two missions to establish ourselves there, but the procedures were certainly slowed down by the pandemic. The other issue that is very close to my heart is innovation, technology transfer and relations with businesses. I can contribute to the enrichment of the conference with this topic, which is part of my background, because, clearly, having been Rector of the Polytechnic,c it is almost taken for granted that this type of experience is part of our DNA. I also believe that in other territories, there is a need to build a mission for the individual university, linked to a territorial vocation; that is, we need to exploit the many territorial differences, whereas trying to standardise them would be a disaster. Think of universities located in areas that have great potential in terms of tourism and history; they could be great academies, unique in the world – I am thinking of Sicily and Matera. In order to try to develop their potential to the full, they must seek a specific vocation, both disciplinary and educational. In my opinion, this is a design that could and can be attempted. Clearly, all this is made a bit complicated by bureaucracy. I have been Rector for four years and two months, and I have seen six ministers. Somehow, I have managed to do everything I hoped to do during my tenure at the Politecnico di Milano, despite the fact that I changed ministers every eight months. It’s natural that some ministerial continuity would help from this point of view, or not, I can’t say for sure.

 

Cosmi:

You, Dr Manca, what do you think about the Next Generation EU? Will it help us unblock the situation and move in the direction indicated by Rector Resta? Or are there so many priorities that you won’t be able to make room for them?

 

Manca:

In my opinion, no, because from the insights that have emerged from this meeting, it is clear that there is not a problem of resources. The Next Generation EU is a programme in which the number is more important than what is written in it. Not everyone in Brussels is a fool. They know that our Country needs numbers and resources, but they also know that this is not the problem. We have been given 209 billion but, in fact, how much will be used? For this reason, in my opinion, the Next Generation EU does not really count. In Italy, we are very nominalistic, and in some cases, we tend to forget the importance of the substance. We must, to some extent, get out of the clichés (lack of resources, lack of laws, lack of reforms, etc.) and completely turn the table to the solutions side. Let’s avoid making ‘revolutions’ – which the only risk creating more problems -, let’s do things that can work. Even when we talk about human capital, this must be our compass: let’s take care of the things we have and see that they are done, then there is always time to fix them. It may seem superficial as a discourse, but in the land of TARs, it’s not.

 

Cosmi:

I like Ferruccio Resta’s approach because, in looking at the international dimension, it deprovincialises the territories, provinces and universities of the various areas. In this way, Italy becomes an attractive country, which has a fair exchange between those who come and those who go.

 

Resta:

I fight, on every occasion, the concept that we have in Italy, according to which when we talk about an international projection, we necessarily want to indicate abroad as if they were synonyms: international means outside the Alps. This is not the case. You can be international in Milan, and you can be international in Rome or Palermo. You just need to have international relations, a multidisciplinary, multi-ethnic, multi-social community. It is necessary to include our country and our cities in an international network – after all, it is these cities that act as drivers – which will be the international poles of attraction for their territories. Each city should try to understand what its main strengths are and concentrate its human, economic, planning and creative resources in those areas and sectors. Perhaps some cities will have more, others, smaller ones, a few less. In any case, in my opinion, this is the way forward, relying on all the institutions, of which the university is a fundamental part because it is the pole of attraction for the future; if a city is unable to attract young people, the problem will not only be that specific university’s in the future. For example, when Milan’s universities are no longer able to attract 200,000 young people to Milan, the problem will not only be one for the universities but also for businesses, institutions, traders and the city as a whole. In order to prevent this from happening, it is necessary to identify the main strengths, plan specific partnerships and give a boost to development.

 

Cosmi:

I would like to close this meeting with Professor Gian Maria Fara, President of Eurispes, for an overview of what the Institute’s objectives are, the activities carried out by the Permanent Observatories, the Italy Report which every year gives us a snapshot of the country.

 

Fara:

I must confess that I am deeply disappointed because you have managed to mortify my natural polemical vocation; unfortunately, I agree with you on everything, which makes me feel really embarrassed. At this point, the problem I pose to you is another: since the University, information and research are in agreement, how is it possible that this country cannot function? I would like to highlight a few passages. Your conversation, your intervention, was a lesson. I had the opportunity to learn, and I totally agree with the idea of trying to overcome this concept of human capital because I am not so keen on it either. We have to be able to find something to replace it, maybe come up with one of those slogans that can stand the test of time for many years. We will try because we at Eurispes are good at this, we manage to do good things. I agree on the concepts of experience, preparation, and on the fact that it is not so important to know but rather to be able to do, and this is held in low esteem in a country that has the degree certificate, the qualification in the lead. Our mothers, as soon as we are born, think about how to make a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer out of us, whereas if they had opted for a maître d’hôtel or a sommelier – who earns three times more than a university professor – they would have done their children good. Experience and preparation are not taken into account to a great extent, and we, too, bear some responsibility for this, especially the information system. Over the years, we too have upheld the idea that one is worth one, that we are all equal: you can be President of Eurispes, Deputy Editor of Corriere della Sera, or President of Crui, no matter what. Another of the flaws that could be attributed to the information system is that it has bowed too easily to the idea of simplification. We have not managed to get the message across that this is a complex society and demands complicated and complex explanations. Instead, the information system has accustomed us, in recent decades, to simplification, to sport, to slogans, to trying to explain the theory of relativity in 140 characters – which I think is obviously quite difficult. We should also rediscover a culture of complexity, rejecting simplification. In this respect, it is true that both the university and the world of information, as well as the world of research, will have to assume a certain responsibility. Returning to the subject of know-how, as you can imagine, the Institute receives hundreds of curricula from young sociologists, economists, lawyers, in short, anything and everything. I mainly take into consideration the curricula that begin with “I have been a babysitter”, “I have been a waiter”, those curricula that “confess” to having carried out manual work during their studies. I usually call those who have the ability to ‘confess’, I talk to them and I must say that, in this sense, I can be a very good talent scout because the ones I choose in the end always give very good results. On the other hand, I don’t really agree with Professor Resta’s idea that, for better or worse, today’s children are the same as those of the past. You are young, but I am the oldest of the lot. When I think of the children of my generation, I think of those who studied Latin from the sixth grade, who, as it were, were subjected to the declension of rosa rosae, who were invited to go deeper into classical culture. I believe that an eighth-grade boy in the 1960s is equivalent, in terms of knowledge, to a university student today. There was a different approach, a different curiosity, the educational system was probably different, but we have succeeded, over these decades, in demolishing everything that could be demolished. The very figure of the teacher has changed: the teacher was a tutor who took you from first to fifth grade, he was an educator, in fact, he knew his pupils, he knew their strengths and weaknesses, their vulnerabilities. In short, he was helping them to grow in some way. Now, children go to school and have many teachers: the actual teacher, the substitute teacher, the support teacher, and so on. So I don’t really agree with the idea that one generation is the same as another. We should instead make a great effort to give back – to information on the one hand, to schools on the other – the right weight and, if you like, the right vocation. I very much agree that all these universities in Italy do not make much sense. I fully agree with what the Rector said, namely that, yes, there can be universities in the area, but they must be excellent universities, which are closely linked to the vocations of the area and then become international. Another thing, and with this, I would like to conclude: I have always said – for the last twenty years – that the great problem of this country, the great unresolved issue, is linked to its difficulty in transforming “power into energy”. This is a country that has enormous potential, enormous capacity, and enormous intelligence, but it is unable to transform this immense potential into energy, and if it is unable to do so, it is like living a hundred metres from a power station but continuing to light the house with candles. In my opinion, the effort that this country needs to make is precisely this: to make use of its capacities, its potential, to succeed in exploiting it and transforming it into energy. There have been times when the country has succeeded in this – I am thinking of the immediate post-war period, of Italy’s transformation from a poor, backward country into a modern industrial democracy, and of its inclusion among the world’s top ten economies. We should be able to find the strength – I call it ‘restorative strength’ – and try to imitate at least what our fathers did. There’s a thought that tortures me: if we think of how long it took them to build the Autostrada del Sole, from Milan to Naples, and the fact that today it takes us fifteen years (if that) to build one kilometre of road, we get the idea of a country that has come to a standstill. This is a country blocked by an asphyxiating bureaucracy, by too many laws, by too many delays. Italy must free itself from the ties and strings of which Einaudi spoke, and it must free its own potential and energy because, in my opinion, it is a country that still has much to say and much to do. The problem, in the end, is the plug of politics on the one hand and bureaucracy on the other, but also a general deficit of the ruling class. I believe that this is our great problem: in this country, there is no ruling class. When I speak of the ruling class, I mean all its articulations: the university, research, the world of information, the economy and politics. The latter often ends up being used as the scapegoat for an overall crisis in the country’s ruling class, which has become a little more selfish than it was in the past, a little more closed in on itself, a little more self-referential. I am also being self-critical, and I hope that this workshop can be a drop in the ocean of change. I have no doubts about this; the direction in which we need to work is precisely this. In one of the last Italy Reports, I pointed out this separation between the System and the Country: once upon a time,e there was talk of a Country System that no longer exists. Now, the System on the one hand and the Country on the other are separated at home, living together, more or less loving each other, depending on the time of day, more or less insulting each other. This separation calls into question the very perspective of the whole, so we must try to recover this fracture, where each side ends up blaming the other for the malfunctioning of the whole.

 

Cosmi:

Certainly, starting from what is not lacking, we will continue together to mend these fractures that have been there but that have the possibility of being healed, looking where perhaps we have not looked and aiming to unite the individualities that are present in the ruling class. In all this, in order to succeed in recreating a Country System, perhaps it will be necessary for all of us to feel part of this “alternative way” that aims to work in a synergistic manner to change for the better all those aspects that we have spoken about during this meeting. I am thinking of one of them all, which is the analysis you have made on the issue of knowledge, on what I call the “confetti knowledge”. Perhaps, in this case, the possibility of being flexible in one’s path should be given, in a country that has instead made contracts flexible, in some cases, but not training paths. In this country, flexibility has not arrived; we have created a structure by a regime that has left too much “aut aut knowledge”, certainly, this imposition is not good for anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

This content is also available in: Italian

Social Network