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Risposta a Bell / Modernità ed economia di mercato

Modernity and the Market Economy

Anno XXIII, n. 103, ottobre-dicembre 1988
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

In reply to Bell's hypothesis on the nature of modernity, the author begins by stressing that not all monetary economies (in money Bell sees a source of personal freedom) are market economies—as can be seen, for example, in the bureaucratic system of ancient China. Money, therefore, is not sufficient by itself to set the modernity machine in motion. What really makes this possible is the market.
The history of classical Greece provides us with some illustrations: the birth of philosophy and therefore Man's first exploration of the "world of possibilities" and his appearance at the threshold of modernity occurred typically in the open and mercantile societies of the Magna Graecia colonies, while Sparta—well known for its closed society—remained wholly extraneous to this movement. In fact, philosophy was able to take off and develop only in those places where religious tradition had lost its controlling force and where individuals, owing to the distance from their motherland, could free themselves from ancestral beliefs and could, and had to, have recourse to reason—to elective rather than prescribed choices—to decide the objectives on which to base their lives.
After the re-mythisizing of the world by the Christians, this phenomenon was repeated with very similar traits starting with the rebirth of the market economy in the free cities of the medieval period.
The creation of markets did not, however, only means the freeing of homo naturalis and his reactivation, that is the revenge of the worldly over the sacred. It also meant the irruption in society of a formidable dissociative force and the transformation of society into an enormous mercantile system in which everything became an object of trade: ideas, values, sentimens and even men themselves. Indeed, the conciliation of the solidarity principle of Gemeinschaft with the individualistic principles of Gesellschaft is the great debate of our times—a debate that has been only partially solved by the social democratic compromise between the state and the market.