Traces N.1, January 2012

A Work Within Work

Certainly, the wave started far away, long before the recession; we have been seeing changes underway for years, increasingly pressing. But if there is a sphere in which the current situation bears heavily, to the point of changing its features and shifting weights and measures, it is in the world of work.
It is not just a question of economic mechanisms, as one might have thought until a few years ago, of mutations in labor and delocalization, technological evolution and new job insecurity.
It is a fact that goes deeper because work means more than numbers and balance sheets: it reflects what we are and is our way of understanding ourselves and our relationship with reality. It is “expression of our being,” as Fr. Giussani often reminded us.
It is there, “in action,” in front of office paperwork or kitchen cleanup, that we see clearly our point of departure for living; we see what hypothesis we have in facing reality. For this reason, it is there that the recession challenges us, in certain ways, more than anywhere else.

So then, how is our gaze on work changing–or how can it change–in this period? What does it mean to enter into this decisive aspect of our days, putting to the test the judgment that we are giving in these weeks, that is, that the recession is, above all, “a challenge for change”? Is work–with all the new, very concrete insecurities it brings, like cuts, unemployment, and income at risk–something that suffocates, or is it an opportunity? A worry or a provocation?

We are betting on the second hypothesis, and it is not an abstract bet. We do so with an itinerary of readings that examines the changes of the world of work: the market, offers, structures, what is needed, and what is not. But we also do so telling stories that document that itinerary and reveal all its truth and concreteness. In some way, they give faces and soul to that idea that is echoing around the world: reality is positive, even now. The recession is truly an opportunity for change, as long as we take ourselves and our desires seriously, not censuring our humanity. In short: getting down to work–on ourselves.