We just publish Michele Borzoni’s new book:
Photography by Michele Borzoni
Design by DISCIPULA
Size of the book: 21 x 27.5 cm
160 pages – Four color printing
First Edition: 700 copies
Published in English – Italian – French
“Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour”, the Italian Constitution decrees. Yes, but how much is labour really worth? For someone born just after the Second World War, who turned thirty in the 1970s, we could say almost two thirds of GDP. At the time, the ratio between total wages and GDP accounted for up to 65%. This means that almost two-thirds of wealth produced annually went to the bodies and minds who physically created it – to a salaried workforce. Today, for a person born in the 1980s, who hit their thirties in the current decade, labour is down to a little over half of GDP. When the founding fathers – and mothers – wrote Article One of the Italian Constitution, they were not referring to these numbers which are, of course, the result of calculations, corrections and assumptions that are not as simple and linear as the phrase, “Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour”
As a value, work came before its measurement and its remuneration. But those numbers tell us something: in dividing up the cake into capital and labour, the slice of the former grew gradually in the latter twentieth century, reached a peak, and then declined increasingly and without interruption. If the value of labour is also measured in monetary terms, in Italy it has lost at least ten percentage points. It may not seem much, but it is a huge step back in the distribution of income. The trend is similar in all Western economies, but in Italy the decrease has been among the most noticeable.
From this uncomfortable position, the workforce took the brunt or the impact of other external forces: the Great Recession that began in 2008 with the subprime mortgage crisis and all that followed; the third and fourth industrial revolutions; globalization. And a slow, irreversible internal change, with the army of women demanding paid work and pushing back the primary objective when the Italian Constitution was written: full employment. The expression must be explained. No one said so, but “full employment” really meant “employment for all adult males” at a time when the Great Depression was barely over and John Maynard Keynes, the economist who imagined the EconomicPossibilities for Our Grandchildrenand dreamed of the human race free of economic need, influenced political agendas and aspirations. Now, when we say “employment”, we hope it means men and women. Then we need to consider the qualifier “full”.
“Full” brings to mind “for all”: everyone should be able to have a job. But it also evokes employment that fills lives, giving meaning and identity. Not only that: it evokes workplaces full of people, machines, tasks. Faces, tools, sweat, soil, iron, masses of blue- and white-collar workers, and colossal machines scroll before our eyes during one of the last century’s great reportages on work, which the French government commissioned from François Kollar in 1931: La France Travail[Working France].
During Michele Borzoni’s exploration of Italy at work today, we encounter crisp, white spaces; clean when they are home to the will to work, the polish of smart machines, even when they are in disuse and in disorder. Empty spaces roll before our eyes: places where work was and is no longer; the cold boxes of industrial sheds; aseptic automated spaces. They remind us of the empty spaces in the labour market – 34 per cent inactive, 10 per cent unemployed, 25 per cent young NEET. And we turn blank pages still to be written of jobs cancelled and being substituted, those that for some will make it possible to distribute the dividend of progress among all, with the utopia of liberation from work in a world in which the only pre-occupation will be how to spend your free time. For others, a prelude to the dystopias of the few-winners-take-it-all, in political and economic power as well as in dividing up the few remaining “decent jobs”. The endlesswaiting while the quest proceeds, relying on old rites – the competitive examination with its massed crowds challenging statistics, when one in a thousand will make it – or, more realistically, a journey of returning domestic and international migrants. Here “full” is back, that is to say full of people looking for a way, a struggle, a solution; who are working for their future.