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work human for a human development


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Diario de Navarra, El Día, El Diario Montañés, La Provincia

Ana Marta Gonzalez

Professor at Philosophy and director of the work, Care and development

Every year, in addition to demands more closely linked to the economic situation of the moment, the first of May becomes an occasion for a broader reflection on work: the place it occupies or should occupy in our lives, the way it structures the whole of social life and intergenerational solidarity.

Recalling the original reason for this celebration ̶ the strike of the Chicago workers in 1886, demanding an 8-hour work workshop ̶ takes us back to a stage of economic and social history to which we associate above all a painful vision of work, almost as a necessary evil to sustain one's life, which in passing consumes it. The strong roots of this vision of work is corroborated by the etymology of the word itself: the "tripalium" designated an instrument of torture.

By contrast, one of the most significant achievements of modern thought was to illuminate a more positive vision of this human reality, which had barely had a chance to emerge: if Adam Smith identified work as the engine of the wealth of nations, Hegel drew attention to the way in which work itself constituted for the subject a means of acquiring a peculiar awareness of himself and his relationship with the world. Working, we not only notice our capacity to transform what we have in our hands, but also the way in which labor activity is shaping ourselves. With this, the work appears not only as a means to something else, but as an active principle of identity staff and a factor of culture.

In order to constitute a positive principle, however, the work must be presented as meaningful in the eyes of the person who performs it, not as a simple external imposition that, instead of enhancing the development staff , contradicts it. And it is precisely this that seems to be most lacking today: the demand for "meaningfulwork ", which can be seen in phenomena such as "the great resignation", reveals that what is at stake in the contemporary world of work is no longer just economic claims, but existential ones; what Hartmut Rosa would describe in terms of "resonance" with the world.

Certainly, economic demands will never cease to be present: after all, we work to live, to support ourselves and our families; that is why we expect a fair wage; moreover, the work that we carry out gives us a place in the world, a concrete way of inserting ourselves in social life, which also shapes our identity. But, in the midst of all this, we hope that the work we perform does not fall into the void, that it is not a holocaust to the god of an increasingly incomprehensible progress, but that it makes sense in our own eyes and in the general whole of our life: ̶ and much ̶ matter ̶ the professional skill and productivity, which objectively qualify our work; but it matters even more not to sacrifice to them what makes the work performed human: the ability to take responsibility for certain tasks and actively contribute to their performance; the attention to the relational and cooperative dimensions involved in their development; the solidary contribution to humanly meaningful goals.

Indeed, work is not simply an abstract factor in the production process; in this respect, many jobs are already being replaced by technology, even if the indefinite multiplication of human needs always gives rise to new jobs. It should be kept in mind, however, that the technical or technological elements are always integrated into a collaborative praxis, aimed at satisfying human needs, and that this is what we strictly speaking call "work", in the genuinely human sense of the word. Thus understood, work has as its protagonists concrete people, who have a greater capacity to contribute to the extent that they know they are supported by their families and colleagues.

Undoubtedly, a healthy work environment generates "relational goods" that favor worker productivity. Hence, as Donati points out, the progressive robotization and "hybridization" of work environments should not be to the detriment of their human components. Keeping in mind the relational goods that support and are generated around work, also allows us to underline the importance of thinking in solidarity with the world of work and care. The fact that care today is distributed among families, the state and the market should not make us forget to what extent the efficiency of the productive fabric, and the human quality of our societies, depends on satisfactorily meeting this need. For this reason, placing a human concept of work at the center of our social model is a way of reorienting the social development towards humanly sustainable parameters.