The new sense of Utopia

The Construction

of a Society based on Justice

1. The advancement of our research into utopia and the emergence of justice.

It is during our research into utopia, its history and its meaning, that we encounter justice and the just society. We had already discerned that literary utopia alone could not provide us with any answers to this phenomenon since it is far greater, more grand. We had already seen the signs of this in present-century stories of utopia (starting with Mumford, right up to the Manuels and beyond) which centred on the literary, but which inevitably evoked and briefly contemplated facts of far greater historical importance: Jewish Messianism, millenarism and Christianity. We already had the backing of Mannheim and Ernst Bloch’s significant interpretations of utopia as an historical factor (a subversive factor for Mannheim), as the most essential element in the dynamic construction of history itself, as the historical process par excellence. And yet Bloch was unable to satisfy our intuition or our – and others’ – experience, what with his historical-dialectical materialism, which was typical in that he was Marxist and yet atypical; with his subject matter and its evolutionary and constructive force of which man was part and which fired the entire process to its extremities: the end of alienation, the disappearance of contradictions, and that obscure "true democracy".

Besides, Bloch had never influenced our intuition or our research, rather we had been spurred on by the consideration of the history of utopia I mentioned above. Our research had unearthed and replotted a course which followed the trail of those movements, the "religious salvation movements", starting with Jewish Messianism, from which the evangelical message sprang, whilst millenarism had already come into being two centuries earlier, right up to Christianity, in which Mediaeval and modern heresy developed, which, with Puritanism and its transposition of the religious design to a political one, was to trigger the second series of movements, the "modern revolutionary movements". Both these sets of movements embodied the utopian design as the design of the society based on justice, and later of the fraternal society.

We had already briefly encountered justice in the previous and prehistoric phase: the myth phase, the gold myth, the golden age at the dawning of humanity, or at least, that is, in the works of poets like, for example, Hesiod, Catullus and Ovid. Later, however, justice was to become a dominant category in Jewish Messianism. Thus in Jeremiah the "Messiah", the consecrated one, the Redeemer, was known as "Jahveh-our–justice"; His city was known as "justice city"; throughout prophetism He was heralded as upholder of justice for His people who were oppressed by other peoples, especially by the great empires of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Alexandria and Rome. He was also seen as the founder of a jus society which would be free of tyrants and oppressors, where the weak – the poor, the orphans, the widows – would be protected. It is also significant that the charismatic and prophetic figure who founded the Essenian Movement was known as the Master of Justice. Furthermore, throughout Messianism justice was never simply considered in the fundamental biblical sense of the transcendent perfection of God in Himself and in relation to His creation (a perfection which the man of faith strives to imitate) but rather justice as a fair relationship between men, in society and in the city.

For this relationship to be fair it had to be one in which the dignity and the rights of man were respected. This was the concept of justice that came to light: justice as the reciprocation of the dignity and rights of man, of every man to every man, in his own existence and in coexistence, since man is, by constitution, a coexistent being in that he is one of a species, a model which exists in multiplicity, an unlimited potential totality of individuals (and yet people, not merely a species but a soul-species - soul, a word which is often avoided or rebuffed but which is crucial), through conception, then growth and maturity up to independence; a process which takes place in coexistence, in extremely intimate moments such as intercourse, pregnancy and nursing, but also at school and at work, in short universal human co-operation. Consequently, reciprocation of man and to man in himself and in all spheres into which his coexistence extends: the family, love, friendship, association, school, the church and the factory. And last of all in his relationship with the polis, the state, which through man’s surrender of rights becomes a principle of rights. This involves mutual reciprocation, of the polis to the individual, of the individual to the polis.

Hence Ulpian’s famous definition, "stabilis et perpetua voluntas (speaking here of virtue) ius suum cuique tribuendi" may still be relevant if we attribute this "ius suum" to man as man, not to one of his particular prerogatives, such as material possessions, class, intelligence and culture or economic and social status.

This concept of justice taking root and flourishing in man is, of course, rebuffed by the post-modernists and post-metaphysicians. They either slight anything which has the substance of being, or they deconstruct it until – or at least they think – it loses its substance, leaving us with man as the partner of speech, since the whole reality is reduced to speech, as the "narrative unit of a life" (as described in a short essay by P. Ricoeur, "Esprit", March-April 1990, pp.115-130). However, I have already spoken at length about the philosophical alienation of the post-modernists and their "destructive thinking" in my book on utopia (L’utopia. Rifondazione di un’idea e di una storia, Bari, 1997), as I have too of Rawls with his mental portrayal, his justice made of liberty and inequality, his ideological theorization of the bourgeois system.

Thus if justice is reciprocation of the dignity and rights of man in his existence and coexistence, then its essential elements must be liberty, equality and solidarity. Liberty coincides with man’s dignity and rights and this dignity lies in man’s self-consciousness, his self-determination, his self-construction, his autonomy. It is here that his rights take shape and prevail, allowing nobody to interfere but requiring everybody to acknowledge, respect and reciprocate such rights, albeit within the bounds of ethics governing the individual. Equality basically involves every human being enjoying equal dignity and rights simply by virtue of being human, but with everything such dignity and rights bring with them, in material possessions, spiritual and cultural assets and even social assets. Solidarity is to be found in coexistence, in co-operation, in the great human undertaking in which man is procreated, grows and matures to the historic levels of needs and culture; the necessary reciprocation of each individual, the active commitment of every man.

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2. The course of construction: the religious salvation movements, the modern revolutionary movements.

Research into utopia, which throughout the present century advanced from the literary to the historical level and then to the peoples’ movements, uncovers a course which hinges on justice and matures in time to construct the society based on justice. I have spoken above of two major streams of these movements which have spanned nearly three millennia: the "religious salvation movements" and the "modern revolutionary movements". There is, however, a previous phase which spans this whole stretch of history, that which we call the "implicit popular project" phase, which concerns the conditions of people, above all of peasants (and to a no small extent townspeople): conditions of hard labour, scarcity, ignorance, subordination, exploitation, oppression and widespread poverty; conditions of injustice where man’s dignity and rights are violated, and later still conditions of servilism and slavery; conditions which embody a conscience, a tending towards justice, the just society, quite simply the implicit popular project. The existence of this project is corroborated (as well as by utopian myths, which I will not go into here) by three sequences of events: the popular revolt, which is endemic throughout the history of mankind; the processes of democratization (Athens, Rome, the Mediaeval free cities); the modern revolutions. But I will not expand on these events here, as I have dealt with them in my book quoted above, L’utopia, especially the modern revolutions, including the so-called "bourgeois" revolutions, whose motive power and more advanced design are popular (§§ 9 and 25-29).

Thus, if the two streams of popular movement mentioned above chart a particular course through history, one which was eventually to lead to Western civilization, the Jewish-Greek-Christian and later European sphere, that of the implicit popular project and particularly popular revolt is one we might rather call planetary, even though it was restricted to civilizations (not including the so-called "primitive" cultures) which instituted forms of oppressive and despotical power.

So we have seen how the society based on justice has its antecedent and together its permanent site, we might say its most profound historical upholder, in the conditions, conscience and popular tension of the "implicit project". This project comes to light in the first of the "religious salvation movements", i.e. Jewish Messianism, and throughout the prophecies several essential elements stand out: justice, of course, as described above; peace (including peace with the animal kingdom); peoples united in worshipping God and in justice; prosperity. And this is no longer merely a project but rather a prophecy, the foretelling of a future reality, of a justice which will be achieved, albeit with the help of faith.

Then we come to millenarism, a movement which is not very well-known but which is of considerable historical importance in that it runs from the 2nd century B.C. throughout the entire Roman Christian period, the Middle Ages and modern times, with its zenith in America in the 1800’s; a movement, moreover, which always finds much popular support, which is indeed mythical but which expresses admirably how people tend towards justice (see the acute, suggestive work by N. Cohn, The Pursuit of Millennium, London, 1957). Its utopian design is the same as that of Jewish Messianism from which it derives, although often with a far stronger earthly, material emphasis: justice, peace, prosperity, the unification of mankind which are, however, reserved only for the righteous and the elect, who are first and foremost the poor, since the ungodly were all wiped out in the eschatological battle. Here we sense a strong spirit of resentment and revenge.

It is in the evangelical message (an expression preferred here to "Christianity", which is a far too complex and contrasted phenomenon), which stems from Judaism but alters it drastically, that we acquire the design of a society based on justice, even though it is transcended in a far higher design, the "fraternal society", the law of love. We seldom come across the word justice, except in the transcendent biblical sense mentioned earlier, but its principle and spirit are acquired and exalted. Above all, in the proclamation of the gospel to the poor, in their blessedness which also becomes their earthly and material redemption, as we see in the primitive apostolic community described in Acts where possessions are communal, where those who have share their possessions according to each individual’s needs, so that "there was not a needy person among them" (2, v. 42-47; 4, v. 32-35): earthly redemption for the poor, therefore the end of poverty. It was also the end of wealth in its expropriable, discriminative sense: the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the exploiter and the exploited, the oppressor and the oppressed; the all-time extremes of an unjust society. The evangelical message demolishes wealth and power since they are forms of evil, forms of discrimination and oppression. Wealth is "unjust", a wealthy man may not receive God’s "kingdom", that is to say the society of salvation, the fraternal society: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God", as the famous quotation goes. But this is no mere saying, snubbed by ideological tradition, the tradition of a society and a church governed by wealth, rather it is one of the main themes throughout the evangelical message. When it comes to the might, the unilateral power of man over man, the evangelical message is radical. It allows no form of superiority, social prestige or doctrinal intellectual moral power (one may not be called lord, father or master, occupy the highest seats in the synagogue or the best seats at dinner). Instead man must use his prerogatives as gifts to serve his brothers.

The evangelical design puts an end to every form of human discrimination, starting with economic discrimination which is the greatest and which has, to a certain extent, given rise to and sustained all other forms: between the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the master and the slave, servant or subordinate (here the wage contract comes in). It brings the end of all kinds of religious, ethnic, social and sexual discrimination. As Paul explains, there is no difference between Jews and Greeks, between Greeks and barbarians, slaves and free men, between men and women, there is only brotherhood which contains the highest form of justice.

So if Jewish Messianism was prophecy, then the Gospel is proclamation and foundation ("I will found my ekklesìa", my ecclesial assembly, community); it is the construction of the fraternal society which incorporates and transcends the society of justice. This construction is marvellously elevated, it is an historical novelty, but it does not last because it immediately gets entangled and lost in the webs of power and hierarchy of society in its attempt to alter it, even as early as the apostolic era, as we see in the Pastoral Epistles, the last in Paul’s corpus . It then continues to get lost in the webs of power and wealth until it finally goes adrift in the "imperial model": the pope, emperor and superemperor; the bishops and princes; all coming together in the long-lasting feudal system. A model which basically still lives on today. There had been, however, some form of construction: that of the community.

Next we come to Mediaeval heresy, as it is called, a term we too shall use for the moment (although strictly we should speak of alternative ecclesial movements and leave the question of orthodoxy for the time being), which is nothing other than an attempt to return to the evangelical message in its authenticity, the ecclesial community in its original, unaltered state. This is why poverty is so important here (the poor of Lyons, of Arnold and of Lombardy), as is the "spirit" (in Gioacchino da Fiore and throughout the "spiritual" stream) and the lay state; redemption of the poor, of the people. It is an attempt to carry on building what Christ and his Apostles began, i.e. the just and fraternal society, since the fraternal society embodies the just society at its highest level. Thus we have a whole chain of movements spanning five centuries, starting in the 11th century, in 1056, the year which saw the rise of the Milan Pataria, all of which are immediately wiped out by opposition only to regroup and start all over again. This chain continued up to the days of Wyclif, Hus and Bundschuh, to 1517, the year of Luther’s "theses", reaching the age of modern heresy and therefore Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anabaptism and Puritanism, its pillars, if we can call them that. However, with so many complex movements, the design inevitably modulates and swings on its axis. Nor can we say that Luther or Calvin fight for a church of the poor; the former enjoyed the support of princes and was a fierce opponent of the "peasant war" and the latter was backed by the bourgeoisie, yet both strive for a people’s church. But it does not matter that the design oscillates. What does matter is that its substance remains intact until we reach English Puritanism in the 1600’s, when it moves from the religious into the political, triggering off and shaping the first of the modern revolutions, the first sine addito revolution. There are no revolutions before modern times, no global subversive movements by the people for freedom, which is the meaning of the word revolution in its strict sense.

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Here we are talking about four revolutions: the English Long Parliament Revolution, 1640-1653; the French one; the Russian one; the student revolts of the Sixties and Seventies. Their design is the same: the society based on justice. However, we seldom encounter this term in debates or in "charters", unlike other words such as liberty, rights and equality, though, as we have seen, these are nothing other than factors of justice. What we do come across are the structures of the just society, its progressive construction. Therefore, if the "religious salvation movements" phase is the design phase and the attempted abortive construction phase, in alienation and annihilating struggle, then the "modern revolution movements" phase is quite definitely the construction phase. Construction begins, proceeds, reaching our times and continuing through our disheartened sceptical age.

There are various reasons for this pessimism, the historical scepticism of our age, especially this last decade, the end of the millennium. Firstly, the modern bourgeois conscience, modern reason, has reached a crisis point, after much violent exaltation in attempting to resolve the whole of reality in itself. This crisis has lasted a century and a half, bringing with it the death of God, of man, of values and moral obligations, of history, provoking the mythical wait for the end of the West, of civilization and history, and finally nihilism. This is true, at least, in the intellectual, philosophical and literary world. Secondly, we have the two world wars, the persistent rage of peoples against peoples, global slaughter, atrocities, death camps, and then the institution of totalitarian regimes, Communism and Naziism, oppressive and despotic regimes, the surge back of barbarities into and out of "civilized" Europe. In particular, the seventy-year-long duration and expansion of Soviet Communism which becomes a galaxy of police states and attempts to enslave the planet with the brutal death toll of a hundred million (see S. Courtois et al., Le livre noir du communisme, Paris, 1977, p. 14). This is followed, paradoxically, by the collapse of communism and with it of the utopian design it embodied which had, to a certain extent, engendered this communism which was to bring us to the "kingdom of freedom" with the end of alienation and expropriation of human labour, the raising of working conditions and living standards so that man could be a "total man", radical equality and consequently a classless society, all this giving hope and strength to mankind. Inevitably, the collapse of communism brings about a surge in capitalism, the "liberal state", an unjust society with capitalism as its warped soul. At the same time the working class climbs into the middle class and slowly disappears after two centuries of being the historic upholder of the process towards freedom and of the construction of the just society.

These, then, are the reasons for this historical pessimism, but there are even stronger reasons for the optimism, the confident hope in the present-future. These lie in the very process of history I have reconstructed so far, starting with Jewish Messianism in around 1000 B.C., the era of David with the early Messianic psalms, and the religious salvation movements right up to Puritanism and the English Long Parliament Revolution. It is here that construction, the phase of construction, begins. Our task now is to briefly trace and reconstruct this last crucial phase, highlighting its structures.

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3. Construction from the English Revolution to the present day.

We must start with the main ethical principles which reach maturity in the modern conscience: the principle of man which emerges with Humanism in the 1400’s and shines and develops throughout the age through the dignity of man, the dignity of person, dignity and rights; the principle of liberty and liberties (conscience, thought, speech, the press, action, association), of equality and of the sovereignty of the people which comes to the fore in the English Revolution (but the principle of equality is, of course, fiercely opposed by the privileged classes and their ideologists, by capitalists and the bourgeosie, as we have seen in my argument where the bourgeosie is the one holding the capital); the principle of reason and interiority – by which it is man’s right and indeed duty to act according to his inner reasoning – which reaches maturity in the sphere of modern reason; the principle of solidarity which takes shape in the united fraternal struggles of revolutions, as well as in the united struggles of the working class; also in the process of the unification of mankind which possibly begins with the great geographical discoveries, developing with the birth and growth of a universal technological and political practice, one of communication and information which result in ubiquity and collective presence, in the forming of an international community which spans the planet, of a global economy. I touched on the sense of solidarity earlier.

For an historical endorsement of the development and establishment of these principles we have the peoples’ charters: the English Agreement of the People in 1647-49; the Declaration of American Independence in 1776; the First Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789; the Constitutional Charters of America and the French Revolution in particular; and then the other democratic constitutions; the Atlantic Charter, the Un treaty and other Un charters and pacts. This is where we find the mark and seat of the modern ethical conscience and its principles, not in the thinking and writings of philosophers which are often alienated or aberrant, especially since the great crisis I mentioned earlier, which is still under way. As a result of a rejection of the foundations, of powerlessness in the face of an establishment, and of a rejection of truth and certainty, albeit finite (human truth can be but finite), ethical obligations cease being peremptory, "categorical" in the Kantian sense, only to become "weak", valid only if accepted, albeit within the supposedly universal community of speech. Consequently, in the face of so much uncertainty, we need to know whether "not to kill", "not to enslave our fellow men" is a final obligation, one which is inflexible and unyielding, because if it is weak then it will not bind the conscience inflexibly and thus man may kill; if it is not accepted by the community of speech, then again he may kill. But what unyieldingly binding force can the community of speech exert on a person, on his autonomy? If ethical obligations are not categorical then individual judgement comes into play, leaving mankind at the mercy of social chaos. This brings us back to the concept of bellum omnium contra omnes, but no longer as a mere theory. Thus philosophers go on expressing their impotence and defeatism in books and newspapers. Thank goodness the principles and ethical obligations taken up by the modern conscience are securely safeguarded in the peoples’ charters.

Another important stage in the construction of the society based on justice is the democratic model which comes into being with the English Revolution. Fundamental to this model is the law (the will of the monarch or aristocrat is no more); parliament, which acts as a body of the law elected by the people so that the people themselves, through their representatives, are the principle of law, subject only to laws made by themselves; and a single judicial organ which is the same for every man. At first parliament invited little participation by the electorate, especially since one of the Houses was based on hereditary peerage amongst the nobility, but it later broadened until universal suffrage was finally achieved with an upper House based on a hereditary system surviving precisely only in Britain, though only with consultative powers. Otherwise, the democratic model prevails on a global scale.

One of the first major stages in the restitution of power into the hands of the people - though such a process was here only half complete - is representative democracy, mediated control, where the people’s only intervention is as voters once every four or five years (and in referendums in certain countries) with no chance of a prior examination of the candidates, of a set mandate or of an assessment of their work. The representative body is governed by the parties which handle the election side of things by themselves, manipulating the consensus in more ways than one, through both their supporters and mass media persuasion. Similarly, it tends to handle power outside parliament on its own too, taking possession in more ways than one, in every way in fact, so that we end up with the so-called party power whose price we have already paid and are still paying today.

The final stage is direct democracy where the people have direct control of political power at all level through assemblies, the earliest and best example of which is ancient Athens, an unparalleled model, a point of brilliance which has been aspired to ever since. There was already a tending towards the modern democratic process in the political designs of the Peasant War of 1524-25; then again in the English Revolution with Winstanley in particular; in the French Revolution through the Constitution of ’93, in the revolutionary sections of Paris City Council, in the Babeuf movement; throughout the French utopian stream of the 1800’s from Fourier to Proudhon; in the Paris Commune in 1871; in the Soviet Revolution of February 1917, the real start of the Russian Revolution; in the student revolts of the Sixties and Seventies; and finally in the political design of perestroika. Such an insistent return indicates historical and moral tending towards sovereignty of the people, its achievement. The bourgeois theorists – as early as Rousseau - claim this is impossible and scoff at the idea: such an achievement could only be possible in a small country the size of a canton or a province, whereas today’s cities alone are big if not enormous. Ancient Athens was not small, however. It numbered around 500,000 inhabitants, though its citizens, those who had the right to take part in the assembly, totalled only around 30,000, a number which seems quite awesome for an assembly regime to us today. In actual fact, these scholars were so sceptical because they never seriously considered the matter. We, on the other hand, have tackled it and certainly haven’t found it impossible to solve. Big comes out of small (see a project in La Russia e la democrazia. Il riemergere della democrazia diretta, Bari, 1994, pp. 63-153; and G. Schiavone (Ed.), La democrazia diretta. Un progetto politico per la società di giustizia, Bari, 1997). As parliaments fall prey to party power, to lobbies, to corruption and to the greed of political parties, the people begin to show intolerance and disgust for politics and politicians, which is a further sign of a historical tendency towards direct democracy.

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There are still further stages in the construction of the society based on justice. We have the French Revolution with the destruction of the power of the monarchy and the aristocracy which had dominated the entire history of mankind, the beginning of the end for monarchies and empires until by 1848 monarchs are surrendering their power to the law, to parliament. With the First World War we have the end of the continental empires: the Hapsburg, the Prussian, the Russian and the Ottoman Empires. Even the Chinese Empire had ceased to be by 1912, leaving only the Japanese which comes to an end with World War II. It is when at last the colonial empires expire that the principle of the self-determination of peoples comes to the fore. Then in the French Revolution we have the abolition of slavery, its reintroduction by Napoleon, the great despot and butcher, its suppression again in 1815 and subsequently its spread throughout the century. Then we have the abolition of the death penalty in the 1800’s and more definitively in the present century, even though there are still major exceptions and huge delays in countries such as the Usa, despite their claiming to be the moral guide for the human race - a poor claim. The state has no right killing a citizen because its power comes from the surrender of rights of the citizens themselves ("sovereignty and laws […] are but the sum of minimal portions of the private liberty of each individual", as Beccaria forcefully pointed out in Dei delitti e delle pene, 28) and such surrender cannot be total otherwise he who surrenders would be lost; nor can man surrender the right to live or die since it is a right he does not possess .

One of the main stages in such construction, possibly the most important and most crucial in the history of mankind, is the rise of the working class and the improvement in working conditions and living standards in the 19th and 20th centuries: a rise in income, and an improvement in social security, education and culture and general well-being. This process is still under way to this day, even in economically and culturally advanced countries. Indeed labour is still mostly subordinate work, often exploited, and will continue to be so as long as we have the wage contract, until the workers themselves own and run the business. Income, on the other hand, falls due to exploitation and the unilateral profits of the owner and is cut into by illegal uncontracted labour and all kinds of underpaid labour, before finally being devoured by consumerism as we are coaxed into making purchases which are often superfluous and useless. This is the affluent society, a society of material well-being which blows up out of all proportion resulting in waste and causing serious problems of justice, of fair distribution of wealth, problems of resources and of the environment. Social security, welfare and national insurance, have reached a good standard, or at least in Western Europe. Yet there are still major problems, especially with the expansion and quality of health care, with relief for the underprivileged and with fair pensions. A key point here is job security which in recent years has been under vicious attack by technological unemployment under the tendency of capital towards profit in a system which still lacks global provisions by the community for all its members. In particular what is lacking is what we call the "framework society" in which the production-labour-wealth situation is handled rationally (there is no shortage of instruments to this end these days) so that each individual is not only guaranteed a job, but "his" job, one that suits the person he has trained to become. Compulsory, free education, regardless of quality, is still too short-term, consisting mostly of just elementary and middle school, whereas it should at least go up to university level if we want people to acquire an adequate grasp of man’s cultural heritage, seeing as it belongs to them in any case, and if, at this crucial point, we wish to be rid of the all-time disparities, popular ignorance and incompetence regarding a work of art, a Greek temple or classical music. Well-being or prosperity has always been part of the utopian design, of its archetype (cp. L’utopia, quot., § 4); one of the highest aspirations of mankind, of those all-time popular conditions I have discussed which are marked by hard work and destitution.

This economic and cultural rise as part of the construction of a just society is so significant in that it finally overcomes that popular condition for the first time; a condition which saw man reduced to poverty and ignorance, to the hard materiality of labour which consumed all his time and energy, restricting any mental or personal growth, any personal expansion, and yet his potentially marvellous world contained such unlimited potential for expansion. Such expansion, such humanity, humanitas, homo humanus, was available only to a small privileged minority while the majority were trapped in the inhuman. The fact that all this went on in supposedly civilized regimes leads us to conclude that "primitive" conditions must have been better. We need only think of Columbus’ admiration for the "primitive" people he encountered. This is why this process, this monumental transition, is so critical. It marks the beginning of "history" in the Marxian sense, no longer inhuman but human. The beginning: I have given a brief account of what has been built and what, in our limited view, is still lacking, which leads us to conclude that well-being is imbued with ill-being. But I will come back to that later.

At the basis of this rise, of what made it possible, there are certainly the two great inventions of the modern bourgeoisie: technology and capital. Technology, or rather science-technology-industry, is production according to universal models and thus can satisfy universal human needs; "technics", i.e. production of single models and items, could not meet these needs since production remained too limited in size. The process of capitalization through the reinvestment of part of the profits, which results in continual expansion, prepares the material –financial and instrumental– ground for unlimited expansion of technological production, the growth of global wealth and of the availability of goods to meet man’s needs. We would never have witnessed such a rise, however, without the working class struggle, one which involved a hundred years’ fighting and revolution.

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The student revolts of the Sixties and Seventies form the fourth modern revolution which, albeit atypical, brings about the end of the repressive society, a society which acknowledges man’s rights but stops them from being enforced through customs, ideological pressure – false reasoning, false morals – and the law, for reasons of privilege and power: male power, religious power, power of the adult , of the "normal", of a race (a word which is in frequent use but of uncertain meaning) or an ethnic group. With this comes the end of every kind of discrimination and marginalization: the asertion of the dignity and rights of children, women, youths, social outcasts, the disabled and the sick (especially the mentally ill with a really human attitude towards all kinds of mental illness), and also of blacks in a white society (the great struggle for civil rights in America) and of ethnic and religious minorities, while at the same time there is a complete reassessment of sexual morals. Here again we have a monumental leap, even though this process is still under way.

Then we come to the Seventies with the environment crisis which destroys man’s claim to an unconditional rule over nature: a foolish claim in that man himself is a part of nature and cannot live or survive unless he is in a natural environment that suits him. The unconditional instrumental use of technology by profit-making capitalism had led to unconditional exploiting of nature with its potential destruction for profit. So we return to nature as a principle, not because nature is a person, but because nature comes before man and conditions him, until we arrive at the right relationship (not in the sense of justice, but almost) based on recognition, respect and protection, reciprocation in that sense. In particular, respect for animals as man’s younger brothers ("teenage brothers", as Péguy describes them): this is another analogy, in that throughout evolution animals have prepared and developed the advent of man, without catching him up, and man should acknowledge this, he owes it to animals to reciprocate.

Next we come to perestroika with the collapse of the conflicting hegemonic blocs, when we not only witness the end of the arms race but – for the first time in history – arms actually starting to be destroyed and regular armies reduced in size. The will for peace, which had been expressed throughout the century through the various movements and which was sanctioned by the Atlantic Charter and the Un Treaty, grows stronger. The Un Security Council (albeit unjust in its structure and organization of deliberative power) becomes more efficient in its interventions to prevent and resolve local conflicts. We have the dawning of an age of more widespread peace with the breaking up of individual armies to form a multinational peace-keeping force governed by the community of nations.

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Thus far I have tried to paint a picture of the monumental process which begins with the English Revolution and is still under way to this day, in the present-future: the construction of a society based on justice. But before I go any further I must point out several things. Firstly, this construction is still in motion and a long way from completion (though it is impossible to speak of completion when it comes to the finiteness and historicity of human matters) in those very countries where it is most advanced in terms of the economic, political and ethical levels reached. This is the case in Western Europe and North America where there is tremendous imbalance. We need only look at the statistics concerning the poor, for example (around 10 million in Italy, 40 million in the Us – by "poor" we mean with a family income which is lower than half of the average per capita income), concerning unemployment, drugs, neurosis and crime. Then there are the poor standards of education, health and welfare, and inequality with often huge differences in income. In short, innumerable unsolved problems.

Secondly, this construction proceeds at different rates in different continents and nations. The difference in economic and cultural standards is great, often immeasurable. We need only think of Africa or Latin America with their widespread poverty, illiteracy and lack of services, their bidonvilles and favelas, their dictatorships, fundamentalism, conflicts and tribal massacres. Furthermore there are no reasons why these differences cannot be wiped out. Indeed in many nations they already have been, yet elsewhere they live on with disastrous, painful results.

Thirdly, this process is uneven, irregular, except maybe in the global vision of the course replotted by research and conscience. It follows a broken line, bending, stopping and turning back. It is a difficult course because of the complex variety of contrasting positions and forces, of opposite interests, because the past runs back into the present-future and because the whole is marked by mistakes and transgression.

Finally, I should point out that it is not exactly a Western or European process – even though the strictly constructive phase, which starts with the English Revolution, begins and develops mostly in the West – because the first phase of the process, i.e. the religious salvation movements, Jewish Messianism, millenarism and even Christianity, are of Asian origin, from the near East. This is not too important, however, as the process is universal and concerns man as a man. We cannot say that human dignity, liberty and equality only matter in the northern and not in the southern hemisphere, or that the restraints "do not kill" and "do not enslave your fellow men" bind the European but not the Asian conscience. Ethical principles, the democratic model and the structures of the just society are universal, as are science and technology and capitalistic accumulation which contribute to the process, as we have seen.

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4. The meaning of history, the foundation of hope.

The construction of a society based on justice, then, proves to be a procedure which incorporates and unites the entire history of mankind – at first this was merely the intention, then it became a matter of fact – as it takes on universal value, bringing all mankind together into one universal history. We might say that all this reaches maturity in the present day. For the moment we only hear talk of "economic globalization", but the process is deeper, more comprehensive than that. It is a process of universalization which embraces the whole of man’s world starting with ethical principles, the political model, science and technology and therefore industry, the object world and consumer behaviour, the economy, culture, information and communication, resulting in ubiquity and collective presence. It is true that today there are historical cultures that assert their identities by differing from and opposing the West. First of these is Islam with its ethics and laws which are in some ways archaic and unfair (polygamy, women’s subordination in more ways than one and the law of retaliation) and its political models, which are religious and/or despotic, both unjust. However, the injustice of such practices is beginning to become evident within itself.

In short, this process, this construction of the just society, incorporates the entire history of man and gives it new meaning. This meaning is precisely the construction of the just society and, later, the fraternal society, a meaning which is truer than the models of meaning given in the past: the providential one, of human history guided and built by providence (just think of the nodal points of the incarnation and redemption of the Son and Christ, of the presence and actions of the Holy Spirt), a transcendental principle, history made by God not man, accessible only through faith; the modern rational model, a model of reason and liberty which are indefinitely expanding; an a priori principle even in its fundamental truth; or the Marxian, Marxist model, historical-dialectical materialism, history shaped by the evolution of production systems which result in the culture conscience society and all its forms, a model which amplified beyond all limits the role of the economic basis, claiming to draw the entire history of mankind from it. This was where Bloch came in. Instead, the utopian process, the design and construction of the just society through the popular movements, religious salvation movements and modern revolutionary movements, is obtained from history itself, it is simply history: a thread of history which is the meaning of all history.

This history is a foundation of hope, the foundation of our hope for humanity. Hope for the past which is so inhuman but which in this thread of history is redeemed; its inhumanity is transcended by this human tension which is deeper, more forceful; inhumanity brought and provoked by the ruling but unjust marginal classes, while the popular tension towards a society based on justice was human and more forceful, the tension of the vast majority, of near totality, which, by becoming first a design, then prophecy, proclamation and construction, gradually eliminated the inhuman.

For the present, on the other hand, there is the awareness of what has been built over these last three centuries and of what is still being built, through the modern revolutions, the working class struggle, its sacrifice, all the movements and their endless contributions, whose benefits we reap today. We now have an incomparably more human condition, though we cannot deny there is still a lot to do. As a result, it is precisely in our times and among our peoples here in the West that we find it hard to understand historical pessimism and scepticism. Maybe this is because of a poor knowledge and understanding of history or because of the plight and fall of post-modern philosophers and intellectuals. Yet fear penetrates and pervades the popular conscience too. Hope and fear, fear where there should be hope. Nevertheless, there are reasons for this, but contingent reasons, which do not affect the great historical foundations of hope. We can start with the precariousness, the wavering and trembling existence we lead when we have no job security, insecure or low income and poverty. Then in cases where one’s job is secure and one’s income good, other factors come into play, such as organized crime which hounds businessmen and entrepreneurs, petty crime lying perpetually in wait, drugs and prostitution which plague certain districts, the invasion of immigrants (as they are regarded, unfortunately). The fear even penetrates our souls in quieter areas, in small quiet towns; fear more than hope. Why? Who generates this fear? Certainly the mass media, newspapers and television, which feed on fear, on crime, accidents and catastrophes, on anything that attracts attention through fear; they foster evil and neglect good as the latter is not newsworthy. Then we come to the consolidated powers – capital, party power, the church – which are keen on conservation; fear encourages this, holding back and holding fast. It is vital that we fight those who spread this fear through our personalities, our culture, our critical and creative ability, our ability to resist and fight and our will for freedom.

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At the same time this historical course forms a guarantee for the future, a course which has run for three millenniums with three hundred years’ construction. Consequently, it is the foundation of our hope in the present-future, of our confident certainty. The category of hope was introduced by Bloch and it was to hope that he dedicated his monumental work Principle of Hope (Frankfurt, 1953-1959). It was a great intuition which offset the other fundamental category and existential tone, i.e. anguish, the feeling of nothingness in man’s psyche and conscience; this feeling of nothingness was offset by the feeling of man’s very being, his operational and constructive capacity for redemption, by what man has actually constructed and redeemed. This hope, this confident certainty comforts us along the laboured walk of life and history, giving us strength, driving us to and supporting us in our commitment: to a society based on justice which we will build and build in fellowship.