Domenico De Masi developed his paradigm by studying philosophies of teachers such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Carl Marx, Frederick W. Taylor, Bell, André Gorz, Alain Touraine and Agnes Heller, getting to original contents thanks especially to research focused on the work domain.
De Masi made his ideas known through books, essays, articles, university courses, seminars, conferences, TV and radio programmes.
To follow a summary of the main points De Masi’s paradigm is based upon: the post-industrial society, the social-economic aspects, the emerging needs, the new social types, creativity, work, remote work, creative idleness, leisure and social business paradoxes.
For a clear description of De Masi’s paradigm, there are three books to read: “La fantasia e la concretezza”, “Il futuro del lavoro”, “Ozio creative” all published by Rizzoli.
The beginning of the rural society dates roughly 6000 years back in Mesopotamia, founded on farming and handcraft.
During the Enlightenment period in the 18th century, time of bourgeois revolutions and primary accumulation due to the colonies’ exploitation, a new way of creating richness was put into place combined with a new type of society: the industrial society, mostly based on a large production of commodities dominated until about 1950s in the Western world, in particular in England and the United States.
At the start of the second world war, a new historical change happened, which related to the combined effect of technological progress, organizational development, globalization, mass media, widespread education , the Russian revolution and the second world war.
We hence got a new world-system that we commonly call the post-industrial age founded on the production of non-material (services, symbols, values, aesthetics) and characterized by new standards for economy, work, culture and living together.
In the post-industrial society three different types of countries coexist: first world countries that produce patented ideas, emerging countries (Bric and Civets), that are becoming the greatest producers in the world; third world countries that survive by underselling raw materials, labour, and political-military subordination.
In the first world countries, the services sector contributes to a great percentage both to employment and GDP.The media and the globalized economy create a standardization of life models as well as political arrangements.
In 20th century Communism tried to distribute richness without being able to produce it, whilst Capitalism tried to produce richness without being able to distribute it. When the Berlin Wall fell, the cold war ended, Communism was defeated but Capitalism never won. Because it is impossible that a limited and globalized world keeps growing without end, the development of emerging markets affects a diminishment in growth of rich countries: this diminishment can have disastrous repercussions, be it unforeseen or planned in consideration of all its aspects.
These days people’s life expectancy after 50 has become longer and longer, but society is not ready yet to enhance the value of this reality. Interpersonal relations and culture tend to be commercialized. Economy tends to win over politics and finance tends to win over economy. Standardization tends to win over identity, virtuality over reality, hybridization over separation.
In the industrial society needs related to rationalization, efficiency, specialization, synchronization, productivity, economy of scale, hierarchical order in businesses, urbanization and consumerism were the predominant ones.
In the post-industrial society, there are other values that are predominant such as: intellectualization, creativity, ethics, aesthetics, subjectivity, emotionality, androgyny, time and space destructuring, virtuality and quality of life.
The quantitative needs of power, money and success are replaced by other qualitative ones like introspection, solidarity, friendship, love, play, beauty and conviviality.
In factories manual work used to absorb in full a worker’s physical energy, who also used to undergo harsh checks by one’s bosses, and one had no free time.
In his biography, Henry Ford writes: “When we work we have to work. When we play we have to play. When work is over we can play but not before then”.
In the post-industrial society two thirds of people who work, as have already seen, carry out intellectual activities, often in a creative way. In many of these activities the product’s quality and quantity do not depend on the control exercised over the individual, but they depend on one’s motivation and one’s possibility to work in that happy condition that De Masi calls in a provocative way “creative idleness”.
It is not about laziness or lack of commitment, but it relates to that state of grace that many intellectual activities have in common and that takes shape when the fundamental dimensions of our active life – work to produce richness, study to produce knowledge and play to produce well-being – get mixed and allow to give birth to a creative product. It is the state of mind that matters.
It is what an artist feels when he produces his masterpiece, a child when he builds a sand castle, a manager when he leads his team towards an innovative idea, a scientist when he runs his research with method and determination.
If the conditions for the creative idleness are created, the individual at work loses the concept of time and expands his/her life beyond any possible resistance. Artur Rubinstein, to those who invited him to rest, used to reply :“Rest? What for? When I want to rest, I travel and I play the piano”. And Joseph Conrad used to say: “How can I explain my wife that when I look outside the window I am working?”
The concept of creative idleness is well mirrored in the Zen thought: “Those who master the art of living make little distinction between their work and leisure time, between their minds and bodies, their cultures and religions. It is hard to know what is what. They simply follow their vision of excellence in whatever thing they do, leaving the others to choose if they are working or playing. They always think they can do both things together”.
De Masi dedicated much research to creative activities and especially to group creativity. He defines “creativity” as a summary of imagination (with which one elaborates new ideas) and sense of reality (through which new ideas are put into practice).
He defines “genius” a person having a great imagination and who is at the same time very realistic. He thinks that because geniuses are rare, their role can be carried out by “creative groups” gathering strongly imaginative individuals (even if not much realistic) and very realistic individuals (even if not very imaginative).
To allow imaginative and realistic individuals to co-operate in a creative way, it is needed they share the same mission, that they are motivated to achieve it, and that are led by a charismatic leader capable of giving enthusiasm to the group.
The performance of intellectual activity does not depend on time or workplace, but companies refuse to change working structures.
In consideration of new technologies, the resistance to remote work is one of the paradoxes highlighted by De Masi as well as others. The professor indicates also how to put a remedy to any single paradox. As said before, life expectancy becomes longer, but the amount of years dedicated to work decrease: people start to work when older and finish work at a younger age than in the past.
Women live longer than men but they retire earlier. Job offers lower and work demand rise, but the working hours are not reduced: we could all have a job and work less hours, but parents work 10 hours a day whilst their children are unemployed.
There is more and more gender freedom, but companies make more and more discrimination between men and women. The education level is higher, but small jobs require less and less intelligence and do not allow people to develop a proper career.
The production of ideas needs autonomy and freedom, but companies’ bureaucracy becomes tighter and tighter. Intellectual work requires motivation, but it is managed mostly by controlling patterns.
Women are better than men in their studies and at work, but they can progress less in their careers. The cultural differences between employees and senior managers are less and less, but the difference in salaries is bigger.
In life the role of emotionality has become more and more important, but when at work rationality is what matters the most. Meritocracy is praised, but lobbies dominate. Managers need to be more and more aware of the economic context, the market, clients’ tastes and emerging values, and so they spend more and more time in the office, hence neglecting their families, neighborhoods, society, culture and politics.
The employee is required to fit in within the company the best of one’s abilities, but then one is cut out by badge swipe systems, checks, office bullying and layoff threats. Co-operation is required but competitiveness is demanded.
Because the production of assets and services increase by using always less human work (jobless growth), after the end of slavery and freedom from hard work, it is possible to foresee a great work freedom.
In OECD countries, a third of the staff carry out creative intellectual activities, another third accomplishes intellectual executive tasks and the last third is made up by workers and farmers that produce assets and services through physical and repetitive work.
The executive intellectual and the worker produce work; the creative intellectual expresses his ideas.
These three categories have the privilege to produce as well as consume. Around this descending block, there is an increasing number of people who are not employed, unemployed and retired that consume but that are out of the production cycle, hence exposed to boredom, depression, despair and deviation.
Work, reduced to a seventh of the adult life loses its central role; the work force becomes made of women; work organization requires more motivation than control, more creativity than bureaucracy, more ethics than astuteness, more vital balance than overtime, multitasking and availability round the clock.
Another category explored and then spread in Italy by De Masi through research, essays and consulting services is remote work. Today, a great share or repetitive, boring and dangerous tasks can be carried out by machines, so most employed people (about 70%) have to perform mostly intellectual activities related to processing specific information. Much of this work can be done at any given time and place thanks to modern technologies.
Hence the opportunity to work remotely, by working from home or from another place chosen by the individual, and take care of that specific workload that normally is dealt with in the office daily, where the individual goes out of habit.
The concept of destructuring time and space is new and it is a new lucky opportunity that allows to mix work and leisure, by focusing on goals, by saving time and space, by decreasing micro conflictuality, pollution, traffic and street maintenance as well as accidents at work and on the road.
NEW SOCIAL TYPES
The gap between new “digital” individuals and old “analogical” individuals.
People of the first type are more optimistic about the planet’s destiny and satisfied with the ubiquity allowed by modern technology.
These type of people feel they are world citizens, and accept gender equality, birth control, and a multi-racial, multicultural and globalized society.
“Analogical” people are reluctant to accept innovation, they fear demographic development, immigration, a multi-racial society, mistrust new technologies, reject multiculturalism, birth control and euthanasia. They consider violence, corruption and wars as unavoidable increasing scourges; they are afraid of the future and make a myth out of the past.
Today a person in their twenties has about 500.000 hours of life ahead. If one carries out intellectual activities, only a seventh of all these hours will be used to work; all the remaining time will be used to look after one’s body and leisure. So, in the post-industrial society leisure is more central than work.
However, family, school and business values are still focused on the preparation to work, a dominating element in our industrialized society. In fact, earning, prestige, security, material and cultural consumptions depend on one’s job.
Because of the effects of the industrial experience, leisure, despite being quantitatively predominant, still stays a marginal category and citizens are not trained to use it correctly. Its bad management, left to sheer chance and advertising spots, can lead to consumerism, depression and deviation.
In a world where adults are hyper-occupied, young people are not occupied and elderly people are retired. This lack of balance can be avoided only through four main actions:
• Push the automation process so that all brute work is done by machines, leaving to human beings only flexible and creative activities;
• To abolish a compulsory retirement age which is the same to anyone, by allowing any person to negotiate the end of their working life with his/her own employer;
• To reduce the daily number of executive working hours and spread it over the person’s work life
• To improve the culture and organization of free time
• To boost the importance of longevity, creative idleness and serene growth
• To distribute evenly work, richness, knowledge, power and guardianships
•To give a central role to ethics and aesthetics.