I produce if I am a person

One of the great pillars of the market economy, in particular the labor market, is the idea that the company does not buy people but working hours.

by Luigino Bruni

published on Città Nuova n.10/2011 on 25/05/2011

One of the great pillars of the market economy, in particular the labor market, is the idea that the company does not buy people but working hours. It is because the labor “market” was considered a particular market: on one part work is not merchandise but on the other work performance suffers and is subject to the law of supply and demand. Hence the importance that each country has been attributed to the social mediations (unions) and policies in this market.

Recently, however, we are witnessing a major change: businesses not only will buy working hours but are looking to buy (and often succeed) the person, especially the youth with this line of reasoning: "I will pay you a lot, I promise you a brilliant career, but time does not exist, there are no limits.” 

This change also depends on a deeper transformation of our society and economy, namely the knowledge that if a worker does not put all his passion, creativity and intelligence in his work performance, businesses will not go forward. It is why one thinks that by paying more one can buy the person, including the heart, mind and passion. But in this operation a worm is hidden, a virus of our capitalist system: the illusion that once the boundary between work and life (because work becomes your life) is eliminated, that person can continue to flourish and mature over time.

In reality, the most important quality of a person is nurtured and grows also and mainly outside the company. And if the company buys me, it removes the possibility of cultivating these outside of work dimensions.  In fact, it is drying up wells from which I draw energy, passion and heart, finding myself completely empty after a few years, no longer useful to the company and often submerged on the rubble of familiar and relational. So if a company wants and needs to look for the best that its worker can give, it must make sure that there is always a surplus of life at work, that is, it needs to protect the space outside of work.

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