Inspiring Books 13 November Nov 2017 1100 13 November 2017

Robots and technical schools, missing factors in the “Theory of the Lower Class”

Raffaele Alberto Ventura’s book proposes an original approach to the generational issue of today’s young adults aged 20-30 years. But it lacks insight into the future. Especially, regarding changes that could be wrought by the advent of new artificial intelligence technologies.

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What happened to an entire generation of people aged 20, 30 and 40 years? Why are the well-educated offspring of a thrifty Middle Class driven by ambition stuck in an eternal present of fixed-term contracts, VAT registrations and underpaid jobs? Are they too choosy? Does class dysphoria deprive them of a realistic approach to the world of employment?

Raffaele Alberto Ventura, 34, attempts to answer these questions with the essay “Teoria della classe disagiata” [Theory of the Lower Class] (Minimum Fax, 2017), a generational manifesto with extensive and almost systemic scope. Ventura, Marketing Manager for a leading publisher in Paris, provides a detailed description of the frustration and contradictions of a category of creative individuals with precarious employment in the cultural sector. They do their utmost to persevere amidst challenging ambitions and the spectrum of an impending downgrading process.

He presents an informed description of these subjects, and rebukes them especially by criticising their foolish ambition (we are always the country where more books are written than read). However, his “successful” (semi)insider view makes him too partial and not sufficiently analytical. For instance, he narrows intellectual employment to the small group of creative jobs, which are much longed for and under paid, But those who market their intellectual skills account for a large portion of the workforce, and only a very small number includes aspiring publishers or conceptual artists.

Ventura’s book especially lacks insight into the future, such as, for instance, the pending introduction of artificial intelligence to production processes. And we still have no idea of what the outcome of this process will be.

When he blames humanistic education and, in a broad sense, a schooling system that is too closely bound to the 1968 Middle Class, he overlooks, for example, the inability of technical and vocational schools to attract students and provide high standard training. In fact, as the economist Stefano Micelli explains, «We have a very specific problem in creating figures that possess an advanced technological culture. In other countries, such as Sweden, technical high schools count almost 800,000 students. Instead, Italian technical high schools only record 10,000 students». And again, he does not adequately develop a macroscopic aspect, such as the IT revolution and subsequent technological disruption, underestimating the role of the old princely contracts with their multitude of security clauses.

Despite the many interesting citations and references, Ventura’s book presents some historical deficiencies; however, it especially lacks insight into the future, for instance, about the imminent introduction of artificial intelligence to production processes. We have no idea what the outcome of this process will be.

He has the undeniable merit of opening the debate. However, blaming Freud for the errors of the fathers and overcoming consolatory self-denigration, what we need is rather a practical investigation underpinned by precise data to pave the way for a study of the labour market focused on the future, with a predictive approach that, if intelligently channelled, could allow lower classes to find their place in the world.