The Many Characteristics of the Market

The Many Characteristics of the Market

By Giampietro Parolin
From "Economy of Communion - a new culture" N.31 - May 2010

N31_Pag._26_Lethos_del_mercatoLuigino Bruno has been researching the nature of human relationships for some time. He did this as economist, looking at the different forms of reciprocity that touch on economic happenings. He amplified the gaze of the social scientist onto the relationship between economy and happiness. He launched himself forward in that dark but also luminous territory of fully involving relationships that touch on all sectors of life, trampled on by wounds and blessings.

The reader that has not followed the intellectual journey of our author through some of his more notable texts - The Economy of Happiness and the Others (2004), Reciprocity (2006), The Wound of the Other (2007), to name a few -  will find a sort of compendium of his production in this selection.
Starting from the title, one can intuit that "ethos" and "ethics" share the same Greek root, but while "ethos" means "basic moral attitude of people", "ethics" instead means the theory regarding moral attitudes. Therefore, speaking of market ethos means employing oneself in the characteristics of the market, its temperament.

The journey that is offered to the reader is that which touches upon different characteristics of the market and, naturally (!), of people. In an historical perspective that recognizes the wealth of theories and past human experiences, the book offers a wide vision and perspective on the workings of the market as institution and as meeting ground for people and institutions.

If, in preceding texts, the author's attention was mostly turned towards single relationships, in this work the author moved the focus onto institutions, using interpretive keys that he has been able to mature over time as a scholar and attentive observer of reality.

May the perspective of various forms of reciprocity - eros, philia, agape - become in this work the imprint of as many institutional forms, of as many characteristics of the market. In this investigation, there is an interweaving of the most optimistic perspectives and the most pessimistic ones regarding human behavior, all contributing to forge the civil and economic institutions that we know: states, markets and the different organizations of which these are composed, including businesses.

In recent history, the ideas of Hobbes' "uomo lupo" and Smith's "self-interested" homo economicus have prevailed. They are ideas that have generated Leviathanian institutions. Don't N31_Pag._26_Gian_Pietro_Parolinbe startled by the term, it deals with institutions where a third - a contract, the state, the hierarchy - acts so that our relationships do not become conflicts or that such conflicts be healed. The crisis of political, social and economic modernity give the author the cue to explore different forms of institutions, among which the market, and different attitudes of persons.

The recuperation of fraternity as "characteristic" of institutions and of persons seems to me to be the most intriguing and innovative part of the volume. This is also because the author does not limit himself to good wishes, but rather looks to ancient and recent experiences to find support in this arduous exploration.
What is convincing is the fact that fraternity not be seen as a characteristic that excludes the others, as much as a possibility to develop starting from the forms of relating and from current institutions.

As he did for interpersonal relationships, where he showed and suggested that fullness of humanity is reached by living different forms of reciprocity, from contract to agape (disinterested love) through friendship, Luigino Bruni now supports the need to do the same for institutions.
Opening up spirals of conscious fraternity is the great challenge that the author proposes to institutions and persons that project them and govern them. This challenge is much more important for those institutions, such as EoC businesses, that explicitly wish to bring fraternity into economic life, everyday life, within and outside of the business. It is an arduous challenge that requires preparation and sagacity of the explorers.

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