“Work” is a word you wouldn’t think would need an explanation. But are we sure we know what it means? For most people, actually, “work” only means “practice”, and a lot of nuances are lost. In addition, for the first time in history, an anti-work propaganda has come to the fore, the result of which is to think that real life, endowed with meaning, is only the one that goes on outside of work. Hence the need for a “work education manual for young people”: more than two hundred pages that try to make young people fall in love with “good work”. Written by Dario Nicoli, professor of economic and labor sociology at the Catholic University of Brescia.
What is the use for young people in society and at work? You end your book with this question and we’ll start from here.
It’s simple: young people are needed because they give warmth and a future to society, which without young people dies of cold and lacks a future, doesn’t look ahead, but merely maintains what it has. Civilization is a living body, with a fundamentally generative character: putting young people on stand-by, civilizations actually stop living. On the contrary putting young people to work means allowing them to add their novelty to our society. “Work” is not only the production of goods and services, but also the progress of civilization, the carrying out of the promise / mission that every civilization has, the manifestation of love for life.
What does this mean?
Work is the design part of the soul of society. When a society “feels” something, this feeling manifests itself in the way it works. Ours, on the contrary, is a society basically blocked because it no longer feels anything. And in fact for the first time in history the denial of work has become explicit. We are in the midst of a cultural crisis that feeds skepticism regarding our identity, so much so that on the one hand our youth unemployment is at 26-27% and on the other we have companies that already know that they will not find 250 thousand people by 2025. The bottom of the crisis is not economic is all about meaning: meaning and identity. We want to invest the young with an old perspective, with the prospect of “a life on vacation”. The message is “you are not expected”, we do not know what to do with you, there is no need for your contribution: try your best to survive, consume what is there as long as it is there and try to enjoy it. Listen to your needs, which are the only truth. There is no task for you, the only possible mission, if anything is to be indignant.
Ours is a stuck society because it no longer feels anything and actually, for the first time, denial of work has become explicit
Why do we need a “Workplace education manual for young people”?
Following the crisis, the need for a new competence came out to an unusual extent: knowing how to adequately place oneself in front of reality. In these years of crisis, young people are likely to be entrapped on the one hand by skepticism and on the other by the idea of having to follow a mistaken idea of a dream, of a fanciful dream. Work, on the other hand, works on the basis that what one feels must be a response to someone else's need. This is what work is, putting the talents of each in relation to the needs of the other: otherwise it is simply an isolated artistic act, an aesthetic of existence. Today there are so many young people like this, who pursue a dream that is nothing but an exaggerated interior dialogue, a projection of pure subjectivism: but others have the truth and reality is the relationship. The structure of work is service. What can I do for other people? How can I contribute with what I can do? This is the question to ask. But there are a great many kids – not 14 years old but 18 or 25 – who have ideas about their future that work out individually but which are completely detached from reality and the relationship with other people, and among other things lacking imagination. So a textbook is needed for four reasons: to learn to ground their dreams; to look for someone to give their own contribution; to distinguish between good and bad precariousness; to change project when they realize that it’s not working out or that another opportunity has come up.
With the crisis, the need for a new competence has emerged with a vengeance: knowing how to adequately put oneself before reality.
Much of the volume traces and delves into the meaning of work, in all its nuances, throughout various historical periods. What is work not, on the other hand (or not only)? And what meanings have we lost? “Work” is not just doing something, an activity – whatever – functionally to bring home a living. Because then life has meaning in spare time, when we’re not working. Life isn’t suspended during my work hours, which I comply with to have the money necessary to live as I want in my free time. Nor is it a ship that sails when no one knows where it goes, meaningless. To work you have to make sense of things, it must have a connection with your personal world. It isn’t either, as we have already said, the projection of an individual's dream, an agitation of civilization in which individuals try to manifest themselves. The first meaning of work is the mystery of the relationship between the individual and the community: how is it possible that in the face of so many needs and jobs, someone will find “their own”? It may take years, but the “good” job is to grasp this mystery between the individual and the community. The meaning of a community where everyone works for the good of everyone has been lost: the individual gains recognition from working, which in turn gives consistency to its ego.
“Work” is not just a functional salary activity. Because that’s when life is only meaningful in your free time.
What makes a job “good”?
It is good when it provides a real benefit to people, to the community, to the relationship with nature, whatever. When it brings with it a broadening of the good, when it contributes to making life better. When it is done in a workmanlike manner: in this day and age it’s very complicated, because there is a world of issues to respect, ecological, privacy, health … When it is reliable, that is when it contains a relationship between people: nowadays if you have a problem, you can get lost in the jungle of FAQ and voice instructions, you might never talk to someone. When doing the things you do, you learn. When there is correspondence in terms of money with the value of the contribution you have given. When there is a growth in salary proportional to your professional growth. When you go to bed aware of having done your part. When you can have interests that are not work.
How can the youth be educated to work?
First of all, we have to admit that the guidance tools we have used haven’t worked, so much so that we have young people who, at 25, fail to answer the question of who you are, where you are, what you like doing … They are “uh kids”, victims of the daze of our time. We need a new guidance: engagement. We must get them engaged with more rotations and more active teaching. But also with “work placements” for young people, especially for those who don’t know what they want and for those who have dreams are not realistic: an educational movement that gives them opportunities, paths of entry guided by an adult who knows what to do and who cares about their growth. This is what being lucky means today.